Home Inspiration Personal Development 5 South African Women Entrepreneurs’ Success Stories

5 South African Women Entrepreneurs’ Success Stories

Maria Ramos

It’s not easy being a female entrepreneur, but that didn’t stop this list of great women from going above and beyond in order to reach their goals. Here are 5 South African Women Entrepreneurs’ Success Stories.

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1. Maria Ramos

Maria Ramos is a Portuguese South African businesswoman who today is the CEO of the ABSA group. She first moved to South Africa from Portugal with her parents, where she later became a citizen. After university, she primarily worked in finance and banking, taught economics, and served as an economist, which is just the beginning of this successful businesswoman story. Maria would go on to become one of the most successful businesswomen in South Africa.

She was appointed the country’s director of general finance, from which she moved to the position of CEO of Transnet in 2004. There she began to transform the country’s economy by reorganizing the debt-ridden company. As a result, she was ranked by Fortune magazine as one of the most powerful women in international business for four years in a row. It’s no wonder that Maria Ramos tops our list of female entrepreneurs in South Africa and well known South African entrepreneurs in general! As one of the most successful businesswomen in South Africa, it was essential to mention Ramos’ many impressive accomplishments. As a learned economist, innovative businesswoman, and dedicated leader, Ramos is a perfect example of a successful businesswoman in South Africa.

2. Basetsana Kumalo

Basetsana Kumalo, also known as Bassie, was part of the beauty pageant circuit since the age of 16, where she was crowned Miss Black South Africa and Miss Soweto. Four years later, she was crowned Miss South Africa. While still having the crown, she shifted her career by starting to work for the TV program Top Billing. From here, Kumalo’s impressive successful businesswomen story began to emerge. 

She became a 50% partner of Tswelopele Productions, the company which produces top billing, and executive chairperson of Tswelopele Group and Tswelopele Publishing. This partnership alone was enough to prove Basetsana Kumalo’s merit as one of the most successful South African female entrepreneurs. Her pivot into the media industry is nothing if not impressive. But that’s not all; since then, she has developed a clothing line, sits on the boards of five companies, and endorses a Revlon Hair Product. With all of these impressive achievements—and her tireless dedication to helping to improve the economy – Basetsana Kumalo is not only one of the most well-known South African entrepreneurs, she is also one of the most influential female entrepreneurs in South Africa.

3. Khanyi Dhlomo

Khanyi first started gracing magazine covers by the age of 15; she went on to be a radio newsreader at 18, television newsreader at 20, and editor of True Love at 22. After this short rise to the top and eight years at True Love, she decided to move to Paris to run a South African touring campaign, before studying at Harvard. For many, this would have been more than enough to make a successful businesswoman story, but Khanyi Dhlomo was only beginning her career as a successful businesswoman in South Africa. 

While at Harvard, she struck up a plan to publish her own magazine. After returning to South Africa, she launched Destiny, a magazine that combined business content and lifestyle. Since then she became a director of the Foschini Retail Group and CEO of Ndalo Media. Dhlomo has also launched her magazine into the digital space—leading the industry by example and continuing her impressive record of innovation as one of the most successful South African entrepreneurs. Dhlomo is now recognized globally for her efforts and achievements—serving as a wonderful example of what is possible for SA entrepreneurs if they continue to work hard and follow their dreams. 

4. Wendy Luhabe

Wendy is a South African businesswoman that has pioneered many initiatives in attempts to provide economic empowerment to women. Wendy got her first exercise in social entrepreneurship in 1995 after she founded Bridging the Gap. An impressive start to her successful businesswoman story—but it isn’t even close to being the end of Luhabe’s wonderful endeavors and achievements as a successful businesswoman in South Africa. Since then, she went on to find the Women Investment Portfolio Holdings (Wiphold) and was listed as one of the 50 Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World.

She is now the Chair in the Women Private Equity Fund and on the board of the IMD Business School. Recently she was also appointed by the US Secretary of State to the Council on Women’s Business Leadership. Wendy Luhabe has already achieved so many incredible accomplishments as one of the top South African female entrepreneurs—primarily due to her innovation and tireless efforts. Although she has already done enough work for a lifetime to stand among the well-known South African entrepreneurs, Luhabe continues to strive towards greatness – leaving us excited to see what we’ll see next.

5. Felicia Mabuza-Suttle

Known as the South African Oprah, Felicia started by being born into an entrepreneurial family in Sophiatown. Although this factor alone would have been enough for many pursuing a successful businesswoman story, Mabuza-Suttle wasn’t satisfied with good fortune alone. She was determined to make her name as one of the successful South African female entrepreneurs by working hard and dedicating countless hours towards her dream. After studying at a University in America, she entered the television industry, working her way up to an executive position at Houston Public Television. It was during her time with the Huston Public Television that she honed her skills and took notice of practices that she would use in her later successes. Mabuza-Suttle started working on ideas that would later go on to become loved by many in South Africa when she concluded that she had spent enough time studying the industry in America. She then returned to South Africa in 1994 where she landed her on the TV show on SABC, The Felicia Show.

She went onto become the executive producer of the Africa Channel and a founding member and non-executive director Pamodzi Investment Holdings Ltd. She also owns a successful restaurant and is a bestselling author of the book Dare to Dream. With so many amazing accomplishments, Felicia Mabuza-Suttle is a fantastic example of what it means to be a successful businesswoman in South Africa. Moreover, Mabuza-Suttle has helped to redefine industry standards in South Africa—helping her to stand out even more among well-known South African entrepreneurs. 

So next time you’re struggling to get through a day of running your business, why not look through this list for some inspiration.

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