Wearing Multiple Hats

Forbes Woman Africa
Published 7 years ago

Kitted out in worker boots, hard hats and blue overalls, Iman Mkwanzi and Nene Mboweni are demolishing stereotypes. The owners of Mkweni Groundworks – a construction company specializing in general building, road signage, landscape and horticulture – are glass ceiling-crashers.

Mkwanzi and Mboweni began looking at different avenues for a new business, and discovered a trend – women were thriving in construction.

Inspired by them  making their mark in a male-dominated sector, they decided to get their hands dirty.

“We actually wanted to be in worker boots. We weren’t really fazed by project management, we felt like we needed to change the dynamic a bit and get in there…From the beginning, we’ve had funny reactions,” says Mboweni.

“You’ve got to be street smart – working from the ground upwards. If you know what the dynamic is at the bottom, understanding the dynamic at the top is easier. We’re trying to bring a fresh new mentality into it because there’s huge problems in this industry and enterprises have dominated and monopolized a space. The bigger enterprises grow, you lose contact with the ground but we’re in touch with it,” says Mkwanzi.

Mboweni studies medicine and runs a baking business, Nnüa; Mkwanzi works as a model and has just completed her degree in medical microbiology. For the duo, every day is labor intensive. Their new venture often involves breaking down glass walls and stereotypes.

“It’s male-dominated but if you’re assertive as a woman, you’re just as powerful,” says Mboweni.

“I’ve had stereotypes thrown at me my entire life. I’ve never cared and I’m not going to start caring about other people’s negative opinions – that just brings you down. We’re going to focus on the positive,” says Mkwanzi.

Constructing buildings and building careers – Mboweni and Mkwanzi are on their way up.