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The University Drop Out Who Built A Beauty Business

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Nompumelelo (Mpoomy) Ledwaba is the darling of social media. In a mere 12 months, she has grown her Instagram following to close to 100,000.

The 24-year-old was first introduced to the media-crazy masses when she married South African Idols finalist and recording artist, Brenden Praise (Ledwaba). It intrigued thousands and generated quick clicks, likes and follows. She is today an influencer in her own right.

It is a warm Friday afternoon in Melville, a hip suburb in Johannesburg, South Africa, when we meet Mpoomy and Brenden at their nail and coffee bar located on the bustling 7th Street. The salon is packed with women getting their nails done for the weekend. The room is painted grey and decorated in white and spurts of pink and yellow.

Stars such as Mapaseka Koetle-Nyokong, Mmatema Moremi, Jessica Nkosi and Thickleeyonce come here for nail pampering.

This is a world away from where it all began in Middelburg, a farming and industrial town in eastern South Africa where Mpoomy was born. She moved to Johannesburg to study accounting at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). In her second year, she took on a job as a banker at Investec to pave the way for a career in corporate.

“It was a busy year. I worked from 4PM until midnight or from midnight till 8AM. In between, I had classes to attend. It was fun at first until I got bored and frustrated,” says Mpoomy.

It marked the beginning of a journey that broke and built her.

First, she quit her job.

“I didn’t diagnose it as depression but now because I understand what depression is, I know it could have been that,” she says.

Then, she did something no one thought she would.

It was in one of UJ’s exam halls where she was scheduled to take her finance exam. On this day, she says she was well-prepared. The examiner gave students 10 minutes reading time before the exam started. During this time, students plan their answers to the questions but Mpoomy says she was planning a business.

“When the examiner said ‘you may start’, I hadn’t read through the exam questions. I tried to page through it but I just couldn’t start. I stood up and I left the room and I never went back,” she says.

READ MORE: The Man In The Beauty Business

It was a brave move. She had no money, no experience and she knew her parents would not be impressed.

“I went home to my parents immediately. I think my mom knew this could happen. She wasn’t shocked but she was hurt… My dad was upset. I stayed home for a day and my mom told me to go back to Johannesburg to write my exam and I refused but still went back to Johannesburg.”

Her father cut her off financially. It was time for Mpoomy to fend for herself. The road to entrepreneurship was cold, lonely and frustrating.

“I didn’t even ask my dad why he wasn’t sending me money anymore. I knew I had lost the right to do so because I had decided to be an adult by making that decision. He didn’t owe me anything. I was hurt and upset but I’m grateful that happened because it gave me the push to hustle. I even tried to borrow R10,000 ($703) from my mother to do a nail course and she refused,” she says.

Although the plan was not clear and everyone around her said she was making a mistake, Mpoomy says she had faith her dream to open a nail business would one day come true.

“I spent my days crying and praying. It was a tough time. I knew I had made the right decision but everyone and everything around me tried to break me,” she says.

According to Mpoomy, Brenden, her then boyfriend and now husband, is the only one who shared the same faith.

“He was there with me all the way no matter what. He supported me and told me everything will be ok,” says the now-pregnant Mpoomy.

While trying to find her way, she joined a modeling agency. Her first job was a billboard and a TV advert that paid her R22,000 ($1,546). Following in her father’s footsteps, she invested it in a cleaning business.

“My dad’s business started as a cleaning company. He was a hustler trying to figure things out. Now, he manufactures various cleaning products and has a safety line…one day, when I was home, my mom was reading a magazine and came across an article that listed 10 businesses that require no startup capital and she showed it to me and I knew I had to start,” says Mpoomy.

She made a flier of her new-born cleaning business and posted it on WhatsApp groups. She found her first customers. She ran it for a year until she had to clean client homes herself.

“In December, all my helpers went home for the holidays and I had to clean for our clients. It was tough and I learned you can’t start a business in something you don’t know or you are not passionate about,” she says.

In January 2017, she got married and Brenden gave her R15,000 ($1,054) to go to nail school.

“He had just paid lobola and we had just gotten married which didn’t come cheap and now he had just invested in my education. Although my fees were paid, we didn’t have money for transport. At our wedding, someone gave us an envelope with R2,000 ($140) and that is what we used,” says Mpoomy, her eyes watering.

Life got tougher.

“We sacrificed everything we had to get started. We had financial problems at the time. It was the first year of our marriage and we had so many things to do. We just worried about getting through the day. I remember there was one time I didn’t know if we were going to have food for the rest of the month,” she says.

After three months, she was ready to get working experience but no one would hire her. She then mounted a poster on her car advertising her services and started a mobile nail salon.

“I did my nails every three days. We would go to a restaurant every week because they have a lunch special for R50 ($3) that comes with unlimited wifi. We would download videos so I learned how to be better.”

The mobile salon grew and she started making about R1,000 ($70) a day. She knew it was time to grow, open a shop and employ staff. With the help of a mentor, she opened Aneno Nail & Coffee Bar.

Mphoomy Ledwaba. Photo by Motlabana Monnakgotla

“A week before our opening, I asked a family friend, who is a celebrity, to help me by coming to my nail bar and have her nails done for free and advertise on social media so I can get clients, but she undermined me. I could tell from the way she looked at me. She told me she works with big brands…I was hurt but I understood that you don’t need anyone to make something successful. God is the one who makes things happen.”

Today, she employs six people and plans to get into the hair industry, create a nail product line and then franchise the business. This is definitely not the last time you hear about this small-town girl with big dreams.

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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