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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.

Economy

A Bad Omen? Emerging Markets ‘Most Crowded Trade’ For First Time

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Investors made a U-turn on emerging markets, naming them the most crowded trade, in Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s survey for the first time in its history.

This marked a big reversal from last month, when fund managers said “short EM” was the third most-crowded trade – showing how fast the mood can shift in an uncertain market.

It could prove to be a bad omen for emerging markets, though, as assets named “most crowded” usually sink soon afterwards.

Previous “most crowded” trades have included Bitcoin, and the U.S. FAANG tech stocks, which led the selloff in December.

Emerging-market stocks .MSCIEF are up 7.8 percent so far this year, and flow data on Friday showed investors pumped record amounts of money into emerging stocks and bonds.

Emerging-market assets had a torrid 2018. Crises in Turkey and Argentina ripped through developing countries already suffering from a strong dollar and rising U.S. yields pushing up borrowing costs.

But a dovish turn by the Fed at the start of the year, indicating the world’s top central bank would not raise interest rates as quickly as previously expected, sparked fresh enthusiasm among investors.

Major asset managers and investment banks such as JPMorgan, Citi and BlueBay Asset Management ramped up their exposure to emerging markets in recent weeks..

The Institute of International Finance (IIF) predicted a “wall of money” was set to flood into emerging market assets.

However, there are some indications momentum may be waning. Analyzing flows of its own clients, investment bank Citi noted they had turned cautious on emerging-market assets over the last week, with both real money and leveraged investors pulling out funds following four weeks of inflows.

BAML did not specify whether the “long EM” crowded trade referred to bonds, equities or both.

Outside emerging markets, investors’ main concern remained the possibility of a global trade war. It topped the list of biggest tail risks for the ninth straight month, followed by a slowdown in China, the world’s second-largest economy, and a corporate credit crunch.

Overall, BAML’s February survey – conducted between Feb. 1 and 7, with 218 panelists managing $625 billion in total – showed investor sentiment had hardly improved. Global equity allocations fell to their lowest levels since September, 2016.

“Despite the recent rally, investor sentiment remains bearish,” said Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist at BAML.

SECULAR STAGNATION

Investors remained worried about the global economy, with 55 percent of those surveyed bearish on both the growth and inflation outlook for the next year.

“Secular stagnation is the consensus view,” BAML strategists wrote.

Following this theme, investors were most positive on cash and, within equities, preferred high-dividend-yielding sectors like pharmaceuticals, consumer discretionary, and real estate investment trusts.

As investors added to their cash allocations, the number of fund managers overweight cash hit its highest level since January, 2009.

The least preferred sectors were those sensitive to the cycle, like energy and industrials – which BAML strategists see as good contrarian investments if “green shoots” appear in the global economy.

Worries about corporate debt were still running high, with this month’s survey showing a new high in the number of investors demanding companies reduce leverage.

Some 46 percent of fund managers find corporate balance sheets to be over-leveraged, the survey found, and 51 percent of investors want companies to use cash flow to improve their balance sheets. That’s the highest percentage since July 2009.

Europe, one of investors’ least-favored regions, showed a slight improvement. A net 5 percent reported being overweight euro zone stocks, from 11 percent underweight last month.

But investors’ reported intention to own European stocks in the next year dropped to six-year lows as the profit outlook for the region continued to lag.

Allocations to UK stocks increased slightly from last month but the UK remained investors’ “consensus underweight”, BAML said. It has been so since February 2016. -Reuters

-Josephine Mason, Helen Reid, and Karin Strohecker

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Economy

South Africa’s Central Bank To Wait Until May For Next Rate Hike

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The South African Reserve Bank will not raise interest rates again until May, according to a Reuters poll, taken after the central bank surprised many economists last month by adding 25 basis points to borrowing costs.

The median forecast in the poll of 25 economists, conducted over the past week, suggests the central bank will wait until May before hiking interest rates by another 25 basis points, taking its key rate to 7.00 percent.

The Reserve Bank increased its benchmark lending rate for the first time in nearly three years last month, saying the risk of higher inflation in the longer-term remained elevated and that it could not risk waiting until later to take action.

“Risks to the inflation outlook remain to the upside, on possible rand depreciation and above inflationary increases in administered prices, particularly electricity tariffs,” Investec economist Kamilla Kaplan wrote in a note.

She pointed out that debt-troubled state-run utility Eskom proposes to increase electricity tariffs by 15 percent a year for the next three years.

The poll predicted inflation would quicken to 5.3 percent next year from 4.7 percent in 2018.

A separate poll last week suggested the rand ZAR=D3 will erase around a third of the 10 percent gains it made in the past two months in the run-up to elections next May as strong volatility rattles the currency, adding to inflationary pressures. 

However, the Reserve Bank reacts more strongly to any signs of second round effects on its inflation outlook rather than to currency weakness.

Another poll showed analysts are increasingly pessimistic about the prospect of an oil price rally next year, even though markets expect OPEC to cut output. 

Wall Street rises on trade optimism

Brent crude LCOc1 eventually affects local inflation, from factories through to consumers.

South Africa’s Reserve Bank tries to keep inflation in the middle of its 3-6 percent target range.

The South African economy is expected to expand to 1.5 percent next year from 0.7 percent this year. The economy expanded 2.2 percent in the third quarter, taking the country out of recession. -Reuters

  • Vuyani Ndaba
  • Additional polling by Khushboo Mittal in Bengaluru

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Brand Voice

Unlocking Africa’s Trade Potential

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The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has identified intra-African trade as a critical factor for unlocking Africa’s trade potential. (more…)

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