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Starting a business is always hard and being an entrepreneur is not always as glamorous as Instagram would have you believe. While you may have secured the cash injection you need to get the idea of the ground, many new entrepreneurs have a tendency to underestimate what it actually takes to build a successful start-up, particularly when it comes to the softer skills. Today I am sharing what I believe an entrepreneur (and team) need to possess internally to make it as an entrepreneur. 

You need a good sense of humour

“A sense of humour is part of the Art of Leadership, of getting along with people and getting things done.” – Eisenhower 

Sense of humour is often mistaken as the ability to make others laugh easily, and while that important, having a sense of humour in business is a lot more multifaceted. It is the ability to laugh at yourself, not take everything too seriously and the recurrent reminder that not everything can be perfect the first time around. You will fail and fail and that is what it takes to succeed. Entrepreneurs are always taking risks and sometimes they do not pay off. If you cannot laugh off your mistakes, you will soon stop taking risks and the moment you stop taking risks, you’ll stop moving forward. By the point, you may as well go back to work in a corporate.

You genuinely care about what you are doing 

In the entrepreneur/start-up world, slow and steady wins the race. Starting a business is a marathon, not a race and takes a lot of perseverance and love. Suffice to say that you will not be able to build a business that can last if you are only in it for the money. An entrepreneur needs that intense feeling of conviction about his or her idea to push it past the initial idea phase. Running a start-up can wear you down, it is full of stress, and setbacks so you must love what you are doing to get past every obstacle. Your business idea needs to be something that drives you, and you must have a brand story that you are passionate to tell to the world. 

You understand you’ll face obstacles and challenges often 

Successful entrepreneurs know how to learn from and get over failures. They should be resilient and keep in mind that failure does not sign permanent trouble, but simply a nudge in a different direction to the path of success. Not only must an entrepreneur be resilient, but their team should be too. When hiring new employees, there is one thing that I always ask and it is this – “How do you deal with setbacks?” You may have a fancy CV, but that will not show me how resilient you are. I want to know about a time in that person’s life when someone told them an idea would not work, but they pressed on anyway. 

Finally, you handle risk well 

“Risk more than others think is safe. Dream more than others think is practical.” – Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks. 

The first risk most entrepreneurs have to take is the decision to leave their jobs to pursue their dream careers. At crunch time, can you make that decision to focus on the one thing that matters to you? The uncertainties can be scary but to be a true entrepreneur, one must take calculated risks to be successful. There is no way around it: starting your own business means taking a risk. For many, it is a leap into the unknown, with only instinct and determination to guide you and make it work. So ask yourself this – how much risk are you willing to take to pursue your dreams?

The bitter truth is this - most entrepreneurs fail to get their businesses off the ground but every insanely successful start-up has a story of challenges and obstacles they had to overcome. Ultimately, entrepreneurship is a leap of faith, the only way to ensure that you succeed is by; showing resilience, overcoming obstacles, taking the time to laugh, and taking the risks that nobody else would take. 

Supporting women when they need it most.

Penny Parolis – the doyenne of luxury lingerie in South Africa – opens up about what it means to be a woman in business today.
When it comes to the future it is unapologetically, unequivocally and unquestionably female.

As the co-founder of Inner Secrets Lingerie, Penny Parolis brings her own brand of strength, resilience and femininity to the luxury lingerie boutique. By placing emphasis not on how her customers look in their lingerie but rather how they feel, Penny has succeeded in making Inner Secrets Lingerie an inclusive space where each unique facet of the female form is celebrated.

Through hard work and an unwavering dream of bringing quality, heritage lingerie to South Africa, Penny has set the benchmark for women in the workplace. Conquering the niche market by ensuring that Inner Secrets Lingerie clients are correctly fitted for bras and shape wear, Penny’s policy is that no woman would leave any of her stores feeling less than fabulous.

Inheriting her mother’s dedication to furthering the feminist cause, Penny started out with a career in education – the basis of which has aided her in teaching the importance of a well-fitting bra. Using her fight with breast cancer as the catalyst for driving home Inner Secrets Lingerie’s ideology, Penny has striven to provide her clients with a unique shopping experience that uplifts their mood and leaves them with a better understanding of what suits their natural shape.

“A woman’s self-esteem is completely elevated when she sees the difference the correct-sized bra does to her shape and appearance. With the right foundation wear, a woman faces her daily life with renewed esteem and confidence!”

Penny’s passion for helping others reflects not in her helming of Inner Secrets Lingerie but also how she has risen as a female entrepreneur. Alongside her son Dimitri, Penny begun a distribution company in the early Nineties but soon moved into retail after she discovered her talent for sourcing the best international swimwear, shapewear and lingerie brands and selling them in a female-friendly space.

“The motto of our retail business – which was borne from our passion for this industry – was to make a difference in the well-being of every woman, uplift her psyche and make her feel beautiful.”

In addition to this ethos, Penny sought to train local women as professional Corsetieres – reintroducing the lost skill of correct lingerie fitting and creating an entirely new employment sector for the South African economy. Today, Inner Secrets Lingerie is proud to offer their customers the service excellence and experience that goes with the luxury brands they stock.
For more information contact Kirsten Reynecke on kirsten@kirstenhopwood.co.za / 0827488887

This Women’s Month, Brand Hubb is taking some time to salute all women, from all walks of life, across various sectors and industries in South Africa.

The women like Penny, who are able to juggle a successful and demanding career in the retail industry, all while ensuring to raise and care for their family.


Women who brave the wilderness
Monday 05 August 2019

Women who brave the wilderness

Gemma Linforth, Nibela Lake Lodge General Manager, talks stepping outside of your comfort zone and making it in the hospitality industry.

To celebrate Women’s Day on 9 August, Gemma Linforth, General Manager at Nibela Lake Lodge, set within the pristine iSimangaliso Wetlands in KwaZulu-Natal, tells us about the path she chose, encouraging other young women to follow their passion, no matter where their career path takes them.

Always confident to voice her views, read how, by believing in her potential, Gemma forged an exciting career path, and is urging other South African women to do the same.

Before we talk making it in hospitality, tell us about your background, and your life in those beginning stages...

“I grew up in the small town of Howick. Most of my childhood was spent in game reserves in and around South Africa with my parents and two older brothers. My favourite is Mana Pools in Zimbabwe and, I suppose, this is where my passion for the industry started. Most kids dream of being nurses and firemen or doctors but, I grew up with a yearning to live in the middle of nowhere in a little house surrounded by wildlife, driving my old Landrover, and living off the land. Basically, I wanted to be Kuki Gallmann in I Dreamed of Africa… That was the life I dreamed of.”

How did you get a foot in the hospitality industry door? 

“After school, I completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Education, however, after losing one of my brothers in a car accident, I knew I couldn’t just disappear into the middle of Africa. My best friend’s brother worked in Madikwe, and I accompanied him for six weeks (we would work a cycle of six weeks on with two weeks off) on a ‘working holiday’. I started at the bottom, doing admin, room checks, and spent two weeks in the boiling sun building a rubbish cage. Growing up with a dad who is a mechanic, two older brothers and a man as a best friend, I learnt how to do all the manly things in the world! Standing on the deck of the lodge speaking to guests about their game drive, watching the African sun setting, is how I began to know that this was where I belonged. And, to cut a long story short, I never left. 

“I have worked in several departments during my career, (except the kitchen, because, if you ask my family, I’m not the greatest cook!). I even became an honorary officer for North West Parks Board focused on anti-poaching. Once my son was born, though, I had to resign myself from the dangers of this work.”

Can you offer any advice to other women who want to make it in the hospitality business?

“This industry is tough for women. I am sure it is the same for a lot of other industries. Getting your foot in the door is the hardest part. Fresh out of university/college/school, with no experience, you may find it challenging to find a job that suits your career choice, so don’t be afraid to drop the bar a little and start at the bottom. Take it from me, if you work hard, gain experience, are loyal, and willing to do things out of your job spec, you stand a good chance of getting promoted or moving into the department that you want to be in.

“I think a lot of the time students come out of university expecting to be employed as a Manager because they studied hospitality management. However, just like studying to be a doctor, you don’t just get to step into an operating room… You have to start as an intern and gain the right experience. And, if you haven’t moved into the right position after a few years, you will have gained enough experience to maybe move into that management position at a new company.

"One of the key factors is finding a good recruitment company to help you with the presentation of your CV, and they have the first pick of job openings.”

You recently won Dream Hotels & Resorts’ General Manager of the Year (2018). Tell us how this made you feel, and how you came to work at Nibela?  

“Yes, this year, I was honoured by winning Dream Hotels & Resorts’ General Manager of the Year. As I stood on the podium with three other male colleagues, who are all very experienced and well-respected in the industry, I thought there was no chance… 

“I started with Dream Hotels & Resorts in November 2017, with Nibela being the first property in the group. After 10 years in the Madikwe Game Reserve, I was in a small predicament, needing schooling for my son (the closest formal school to our last lodge was a 2.5-hour drive). I had an initial interview over the phone and a secondary interview at the Head Office in Johannesburg before we came out to see the property. We fell in love. Even though the closest school is 40 km away, we haven’t looked back on our decision at all.” 

Tell us about some of the challenges of the industry.

“‘Expect the best but plan for the worst.’ That is a mantra we live by in this industry. You can plan everything, but we have no control over the rain, the wind, a broken-down delivery truck or a strike on the freeway. So, always have a plan B, or even C, because a guest’s experience can rely solely on your ability to adapt to any situation.

“Having a family in this industry is also tough. You have to be able to juggle… and, again, when you are living in remote areas, this becomes increasingly difficult. When you have been up all night with a sick child, or even when you are feeling under the weather, you have to put on that winning smile for your guests.

“But, every day is different and every day comes with a problem of some sort. It could be small, or it could be massive. You need to be able to recognise a problem and come up with a solution as quickly as possible to ensure that it doesn’t affect your guests.”

What about the highs?

“Of all the departments and positions there are in this industry-, being a General Manager is the highlight. I enjoy not being too focused on one department. As a GM, you are doing a lot of everything: hosting guests, budgets, training, skills development, sales & marketing, human resources, projects, procurement, community development.

I also love meeting new people… by that I mean, sitting on the deck sharing stories and experiences of our lives, having them show me pictures of their new grandson or favourite pet, chatting away like friends, sharing their first elephant sighting or braai. That is what we in the hospitality industry mean by meeting new people. I have guests that I met in my first few years of work which I am still in contact with today. I love hearing about different countries and cultures and enjoy seeing Africa through guests’ eyes, and their experiences of their time at the lodge.

“Another wonderful aspect of this industry is watching families have a good time together. Family is important to me... It is great to know that I, with my great team of staff, was a part of making that moment special.”

Tell us a bit more about Nibela. What does it offer guests?

“Nibela is an amazing lodge. It is one of the only lodges situated right on the northern banks of Lake St Lucia. We are on a peninsula, and many of our guests love the fact that they feel like they are on an island. Pelicans, flamingos, hippos and crocodiles are frequently seen in front of the lodge.

“The birding is wonderful with many rare species; the forest boasts trees that are so big and beautiful and the butterflies are truly special, but my favourite thing about Nibela is sitting on the deck at dawn with a cup of coffee watching the sun rise over the lake. The stillness of the forest is intensified by the morning song of the birds. It really is magical! 

“We are located among 260 hectares of unspoilt forest, with an array of walking trails and a few roads that access different parts of the property, it really is the place to come if you are looking for relaxation and a little digital detox. However, there is Wi-Fi and TVs for those who want to catch their favourite show or sports game.

“We also have activities for guests who want adventure. We have boat cruises on the lake where you can watch the sunset over the water (another one of my favourite things to do), we have quad bikes, guided birding/butterfly walks, fishing, a game viewer that takes guests down to the floodplains to see the flocks of flamingos, mountain bikes and a beautiful tented spa. There is something for everyone, young and old, adventure seekers and those who want peace and quiet.”

This Women’s Month, Brand Hubb is taking some time to salute all women, from all walks of life, across various sectors and industries in South Africa.

The women like Gemma, who are able to juggle a successful and demanding career in the hospitality industry, all while ensuring to raise and care for their family.