Pietermaritzburg-born businessperson Wendy Nwankwo is proof of how a combination of perseverance, wit, hard work and the ability to recognise opportunities is very much the key to success when pursuing career goals.
Growing up in Sobantu, she didn’t think she would be an entrepreneur but rather had her sights on completing her studies and finding traditional employment. Her plans were halted during her first year of university when her father was retrenched, leaving her no choice but to seek full-time employment so she could support the family.
A year later she was able to return to tertiary studies and completed a BTech in management at the Durban University of Technology. She also did a postgraduate diploma in management, specialising in monitoring and evaluation, at the University of Witwatersrand. However, it was completing her MBA at the University of KwaZulu-Natal that sparked her interest in entrepreneurship.
Nwankwo, who is also a mother and wife, wanted a career that gave her flexibility and enabled her to balance her work and family, specifically being able to spend time with her children, so starting her own business seemed like the obvious decision.
She is now the founder of The Living Collective, a full-service and self-catering accommodation rental company with properties in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. Her company offers a unique selection of modern and luxury homes and apartments catering to clients with medium- and short-term leasing needs.
Speaking on the various challenges she has faced since embarking on her entrepreneurial journey, Nwankwo said that her biggest challenge to date has been finances. “No matter which institution you approach they still require you to have your own equity as contribution towards whatever financial assistance you require, so you can have a great idea but property needs you to also have equity, and not a lot of people can access the available financial opportunities due to lack of equity,” said Nwankwo.
“The country does need more entrepreneurs to secure South Africa’s economic growth. The government also needs to step up efforts to create an enabling environment for businesses to succeed so they are able to contribute towards the reduction of the unemployment rate,” said Nwankwo.
The Living Collective has properties in a tranquil estate called The Gates in Hilton which offers guests a sophisticated experience in the countryside. It also has 24 apartments in Pietermaritzburg which cater mostly to professionals.
With the business gaining popularity fairly quickly, Nwankwo appreciates the journey but admits that it didn’t all happen overnight.
“It has not been an easy journey, but it is a fulfilling one. When people are getting excited for month-end salaries, the entrepreneur must worry about all the overhead payments of the business. It’s definitely not my favourite part of the month but it’s worth it in the end.
“It’s important to be patient with yourself and your growth as an entrepreneur. Success doesn’t come overnight.
“I feel it’s also important for businesswomen to pave the way for others to participate in the industries or the spaces that are male-dominated. Know that you will fail but don’t be discouraged. Get up and start again,” she said.