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Lifting Hurdles Even A Crane Can’t

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The cool highveld breeze snaps the corner of her neon-yellow safety waistcoat as she steps out of the office building into the yard, the white hard hat sitting comfortably on her head.

Fortunate Mdanda takes confident strides in the male-dominated world of metal and machines. There are other women visible through the workshop doors, setting off sparks as they wield welders and grinders.

Under Mdanda’s watchful eye as CEO of Smith Capital Equipment, there is an internship program for women, and the company actively recruits female engineers.

Her background is not in engineering, but her corporate experience in business strategy, process and finance has amply equipped her for the position. If you have a mind for business, there is no need to feel restricted to more traditionally female pursuits.

“I’ve never looked at industries based on gender. I’ve looked at what one can contribute. So it’s a consolidated effort of all the right skills within the business that makes it successful,” she says.

When she with her husband Sipho took ownership of Smith Capital Equipment on November 2, 2015, the management and workforce were in for a major culture change.

After over two decades of democratic governance in South Africa, the company was still caught up in an apartheid time warp, with separate amenities for the races.

With racial and gender barriers swept aside, there was yet another sweeping change. The company’s 84 employees became shareholders.

“We created a shareholding for both management and staff, across race, across gender, so it’s inclusive, it’s a very exciting space for all of us at Smith Capital,” says Mdanda.

But change always comes with some growing pains.

“I must admit at the beginning it is a new concept when people are told they are shareholders. It comes with excitement, but they’re sort of sceptical. What does that bring? Is there money into our pocket immediately? So it took us a while to communicate the upside of being a shareholder and the responsibilities that come with being a shareholder,” she says.

“But now we’re at a space where we all really understand and are excited about being shareholders. People don’t just come in, do their work and walk out. There is transparency, there is excitement in terms of where the business is going, everyone shares in everything, the strategies of the business, the prospects, and we all share in the excitement and the challenges that we face as a business.”

The core business of this 43-year-old company is the manufacturing of on-road aerial platforms and drilling rigs used for water well and hard rock surface drilling in the mining industry and pole planting for new infrastructure. Equipment is locally designed and manufactured, with drilling rigs and aerial platforms boasting over 90% local content.

Then there is the import side of the business, with truck-mounted cranes brought in from Italy, as well as the ongoing service aspect of the business.

Through a recently-introduced rental division, the company encourages local contractors, who experience financial barriers to entry and cannot afford upfront procurement of the necessary capital equipment they need to deliver on contracts they obtain.

Repairs and maintenance as well as regular load-testing are other important facets of the business.

More black industrialists are emerging with encouragement from the government. The biggest barrier to entry has been funding.

“Now with the DFI [development finance institutions] being open to assisting entrepreneurs growing into being industrialists, I see endless opportunities being presented,” she says.

What is important here is that it goes beyond more than purely facilitating funding, but in providing support in skills-training, and opening business opportunities and new markets.

“Sometimes you find you have the best product but you can’t put it out there, you can’t export it because you find every process when it comes to structured processes that you need to go through are actually barriers to making one successful.”

The Gauteng Provincial Government and the City of Ekurhuleni, where Smith Capital Equipment is headquartered in South Africa, have made efforts to make it easier to do business.

Although the company had been exporting for years, it hadn’t been a major strategy.

“Now we’re turning that around, we’re sending units into Africa, which is very impressive. We’re getting enquiries, a lot as well, because our products are African products, not South African products. They are designed for the African terrain. It is different to sending a product anywhere in the world. So we understand what Africa is about, we understand the terrain and we understand our neighboring countries as well, so doing business with them is quite interesting and exciting and there is actually an increase in opportunities that are being presented.”

Smith Capital Equipment falls under the umbrella of Isipho Capital Holdings, which is wholly owned by the husband-wife duo. Their first acquisition was Kholeka Engineering, a manufacturer of truck bodies and trailers, based in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa.

“We funded it from our own savings. All we wanted to do was to have the skin in the game and to ensure that we can prove to ourselves that we can work hard and turn the business around. That happened and then came the Smith Capital deal. A few other deals are in the pipeline, so it’s quite exciting,” says Mdanda.

Because Smith Capital Equipment required considerable investment, the Mdandas secured a loan of R41 million (around $3 million) through the National Empowerment Fund (NEF). The company has since been identified as one of the 100 Black Industrialists by the Department of Trade and Industry, has established strong BEE credentials and is ISO 9001 registered.

Looking at the day-to-day operations of Smith Capital and the commitment and enthusiasm of their 84 shareholders, the dreams and plans for an expanding Isipho Capital Holdings seem bright and achievable. The future will tell if this is the birth of a new African business dynasty.

While there is much to do in running the business and creating and building an inclusive culture, there is much industry networking to be done as well.

“Sadly, engineer-run businesses are inward looking, that’s how Smith Capital was. But, with our experiences from corporate, you learn that business doesn’t come to you, you go look for business. You go make your presence felt.”

While she has achieved much in the business arena, she defines as her biggest achievement her and Sipho’s two teenage children – 18-year-old son Luyanda and 15-year-old daughter Noluthando.

No doubt Mdanda is a great role model to Noluthando, as she actively supports the development of women in her industry. Her advice for young women wanting to break into any previously male-dominated industry is to be positive and prepared to learn.

“Open yourself to learning and embrace the opportunities. With anything you do there will be challenges, but if you’re open-minded and positive about it and put in the hours in terms of the hard work, it works out well,” says the CEO who has proven this mantra for success, time and again.

Entrepreneurs

From The Arab World To Africa

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Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi; image supplied

In this exclusive interview with FORBES AFRICA, successful Dubai-based Emirati businesswoman, author and artist, Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi, shares some interesting insights on fashion, the future, and feminism in a shared world.

Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi wears many hats, as an artist, architect, author, entrepreneur and philanthropist based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). She currently serves as the CEO of Paris London New York Events & Publishing (PLNY), that includes a magazine and a fashion house.

She runs Velvet Magazine, a luxury lifestyle publication in the Gulf founded in 2010 that showcases the diversity of the region home to several nationalities from around the world.

In this recent FORBES AFRICA interview, Hend, as she would want us to call her, speaks about the future of publishing, investing in intelligent content, and learning to be a part of the disruption around you.

As an entrepreneur too and the designer behind House of Hend, a luxury ready-to-wear line that showcases exquisite abayas, evening gowns and contemporary wear, her designs have been showcased in fashion shows across the world.

The Middle East is known for retail, but not typically, as a fashion hub in the same league as Paris, New York or Milan. Yet, she has changed the narrative of fashion in the region. “I have approached the world of fashion with what the customer wants,” says Hend. In this interview, she also extols African fashion talent and dwells on her own sartorial plans for the African continent.

In September, in Downtown Dubai, she is scheduled to open The Flower Café. Also an artist using creative expression meaningfully, she says it’s important to be “a role model of realism”.

She is also the author of The Black Book of Arabia, described as a collection of true stories from the Arab community offering a real glimpse into the lives of men and women across the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

In this interview, she also expounds on her home, Sharjah, one of the seven emirates in the UAE and the region’s educational hub. “A number of successful entrepreneurs have started in this culturally-rich emirate that’s home to 30 museums,” she concludes. 

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Entertainment

Kim Kardashian West Is Worth $900 Million After Agreeing To Sell A Stake In Her Cosmetics Firm To Coty

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In what will be the second major Kardashian cashout in a year, Kim Kardashian West is selling a 20% stake in her cosmetics company KKW Beauty to beauty giant Coty COTY for $200 million. The deal—announced today—values KKW Beauty at $1 billion, making Kardashian West worth about $900 million, according to Forbes’estimates.

The acquisition, which is set to close in early 2021, will leave Kardashian West the majority owner of KKW Beauty, with an estimated 72% stake in the company, which is known for its color cosmetics like contouring creams and highlighters. Forbes estimates that her mother, Kris Jenner, owns 8% of the business. (Neither Kardashian West nor Kris Jenner have responded to a request for comment about their stakes.) According to Coty, she’ll remain responsible for creative efforts while Coty will focus on expanding product development outside the realm of color cosmetics.

Earlier this year, Kardashian West’s half-sister, Kylie Jenner, also inked a big deal with Coty, when she sold it 51% of her Kylie Cosmetics at a valuation of $1.2 billion. The deal left Jenner with a net worth of just under $900 million. Both Kylie Cosmetics and KKW Beauty are among a number of brands, including Anastasia Beverly Hills, Huda Beauty and Glossier, that have received sky-high valuations thanks to their social-media-friendly marketing. 

“Kim is a true modern-day global icon,” said Coty chairman and CEO Peter Harf in a statement. “This influence, combined with Coty’s leadership and deep expertise in prestige beauty will allow us to achieve the full potential of her brands.”

The deal comes just days after Seed Beauty, which develops, manufactures and ships both KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, won a temporary injunction against KKW Beauty, hoping to prevent it from sharing trade secrets with Coty, which also owns brands like CoverGirl, Sally Hansen and Rimmel. On June 19, Seed filed a lawsuit against KKW Beauty seeking protection of its trade secrets ahead of an expected deal between Coty and KKW Beauty. The temporary order, granted on June 26, lasts until August 21 and forbids KKW Beauty from disclosing details related to the Seed-KKW relationship, including “the terms of those agreements, information about license use, marketing obligations, product launch and distribution, revenue sharing, intellectual property ownership, specifications, ingredients, formulas, plans and other information about Seed products.”

Coty has struggled in recent years, with Wall Street insisting it routinely overpays for acquisitions and has failed to keep up with contemporary beauty trends. The coronavirus pandemic has also hit the 116-year-old company hard. Since the beginning of the year, Coty’s stock price has fallen nearly 60%. The company, which had $8.6 billion in revenues in the year through June 2019, now sports a $3.3 billion market capitalization. By striking deals with companies like KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, Coty is hoping to refresh its image and appeal to younger consumers.

Kardashian West founded KKW Beauty in 2017, after successfully collaborating with Kylie Cosmetics on a set of lip kits. Like her half-sister, Kardashian West first launched online only, but later moved into Ulta stores in October 2019, helping her generate estimated revenues of $100 million last year. KKW Beauty is one of several business ventures for Kardashian West: She continues to appear on her family’s reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, sells her own line of shapewear called Skims and promotes her mobile game, Kim Kardashian Hollywood. Her husband, Kanye West, recently announced a deal to sell a line of his Yeezy apparel in Gap stores.

“This is fun for me. Now I’m coming up with Kimojis and the app and all these other ideas,” Kardashian West told Forbesof her various business ventures in 2016. “I don’t see myself stopping.”

Madeline Berg, Forbes Staff, Hollywood & Entertainment

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Entrepreneurs

Covid-19: Restaurants, Beauty Salons, Cinemas Among Businesses That Will Operate Again In South Africa As Ramaphosa Announces Eased Lockdown Restrictions

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South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation announcing that the government will further ease the country’s lockdown restrictions.

Restaurants, beauty salons, cinemas are among the businesses that will be allowed to operate again in South Africa.

The country is still on lockdown ‘Level 3’ of the government’s “risk adjusted strategy”.

President Ramaphosa also spoke on the gender based violence in the country.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that I stand before the women and the girls of South Africa this evening to talk about another pandemic that is raging in our country. The killing of women and children by the men of our country. As a man, as a husband, and as a father to daughters, I am appalled at what is no less than a war that is being waged against the women and the children of our country,” says Ramaphosa.

Watch below:

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