Thobekile Ndlovu serves as a standard bearer on how women are progressively shattering the proverbial ceiling to achieve stunning success in the male-dominated construction industry.
On one occasion, Ndlovu faced industry gurus during a pitch for the design and construction of a multimillion-rand project and these ‘lions’ could not hide the fact that they expected her to fail spectacularly – just because she was young and a woman.
Such blatant chauvinism propelled her to up her game and, in the end, she was the proud winner.
This was to be one of over 50 multimillion-rand projects that Thobethulani Trading, the design and construction company she founded and is managing director of, was to complete not only within the deadline but also within budget.
Ndlovu is a go-getter who made her first million rands at the tender age of 26. What sets her apart from other business people is her compassion for the less fortunate.
“I was raised watching my parents assist people in our community any way they could. It taught me that we should never be defined by our assets and that we can never consider ourselves successful unless we’ve helped others,” says Ndlovu.
She is the founder of Great Impact Lifestyle, an initiative that seeks to empower young entrepreneurs and students by equipping them with essential business skills, exposing them to potential mentors and helping them secure investments.
“I encourage young people to work hard to conquer whatever fears they may have in joining the business world and creating employment for others. You can choose to start small and work your way up. But do not quit. Do not give up,” she says. “Take a leaf from entrepreneurs like Richard Branson. He makes sure that he learns something every day and that is what young people should be encouraged to do.
Her advice to young people who want to venture into business is: “Never quit, be ethical in your business practices, show respect to other people and be humble.”
Ndlovu is in the best place to dish out such advice to the youth. She is a game-changer and from an early age, she showed the streak of being a hard worker with a knack for innovation.
Ndlovu has made a great impact in the General Building and Construction industries so much that she was honoured with the Best Woman in Construction Award in 2015 by The Master Builders Association. Armed with a National Diploma from Natal Technikon, Ndlovu is a Qualified Interior Designer and Project Manager.
Her parting shot for young game-changers is from a book by Stephanie Althoff: “Don’t stop jumping just because you hit a couple of rocks. Every sea is peculiarly different and there’s one that’s calling your name with the waves crashing on shore wondering just when you’ll grace it with your presence. Try. Fail. Try again. The great thing about failure is that we all learn from it, regardless of the stupidity we feel and the despair we endure in the process. Life is a giant game of risk — nothing more, nothing less.”