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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.

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Champagne And Caviar In Private At 30,000FT

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The glamorous world of private jets is no longer the domain of the super-rich. Private aviation is set to soar in Africa as business keeps checking in.

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Why Nigerian Doctors Grab Opportunities Abroad

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In a recent encounter with a Nigerian doctor, when in hospital recovering from an illness, it emerged the owner of the soothing voice that aided one’s convalescence was unhappy. Not with her patient – a challenging case no less – but with her career in her country of birth.

And she is one of the more fortunate ones. As a doctor in a private hospital in a highbrow area of Lagos, she was relatively well-paid. And judging from what one garners from those long hours of forced idleness when admitted in hospital, this particular hospital gets a number of cases.

Imagine the irony: whereas the individual hopes to suffer less afflictions, if at all, the doctor’s joy comes from a case worth his or her time. The more complicated, the better. Still, a doctor’s experience, even in the best teaching hospital in the country, pales in comparison to that of lesser professionals in Europe and elsewhere.

Money is also a huge motivating factor. Still, whether in the United Kingdom (UK) or the United States (US), the experience does not always turn out as dreamed of. Racism is usually a problem. And career mistakes are punished severely. Nonetheless, those with some training in these parts (West Africa) beforehand are able to easily bank on a coping mechanism honed during their grinding student days.

Whereas other professionals, in financial services, law, and so on, could easily keep abreast of developments in their sectors, whether they are in their country or abroad, the peculiarities of the medical profession and rapid technological advances in the sector mean practitioners not adept in the most advanced and recent practices would find themselves no more than quacks over time.

Ironically, being initially trained in Nigeria allows for mastery in the old-school ways of medicine that tend to come in handy where practitioners have become “spoilt” with various technological aids. And in fact, the continent is wealthier by the experience garnered by its medical professionals abroad, who often give back in the form of free surgeries and so on.

How many Nigerian doctors actually seek greener pastures abroad? More than 60% of registered Nigerian doctors practice abroad. Most of the remainder who grudgingly ply their trade locally plan to cross the seas at the slightest opportunity. And despite the backlash against migrants in Europe and elsewhere, doctors and other advanced professionals are actively courted. Not entirely. The UK put a cap on the migration of skilled non-EU workers recently. Short of medical staff, the government has reversed itself. Now, migrant doctors with firm offers from UK hospitals do not have to worry about getting a visa: they will get placed. No doubt music to the ears of many aspiring Nigerian doctors.

READ MORE: The Waste Of Doctors Waiting On Tables And Answering Phones

The exodus comes at great costs for the country, though. There is one doctor for about 4,000 Nigerians at the moment. With more doctors heading abroad, that statistic would only get worse by the day. Quality healthcare is out of the reach of those that need it the most. The privileged, who can afford healthcare anywhere in the world, are ironically the ones with the means to avail themselves of the best locally.

To be fair, the authorities are not insensitive to the problem. A compulsory health insurance scheme for Nigerians in paid employment means almost anyone with a job would be able to afford basic and secondary medical care. Of course, it is another matter if the ailment is more advanced and requires extensive, sustained care; and perhaps more abroad. A newly-instituted patients’ bill of rights also means that any Nigerian, of any means, would not be subject to the gross abuse that many poor patients, who also tend to be ignorant of their rights, get subjected to with impunity. What would prevail in practice is another matter, though.

During my recent forced interaction with the medical world, each stage of treatment was presaged by a business executive brandishing a point-of-sale terminal: swipe your card, get treated. Quality medical care in Nigeria remains exclusive.

– Rafiq Raji

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Lights Camera Connie!

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Connie Ferguson’s success on the small screen has won her millions of fans. She is now looking for billions in the business world.

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