JOHANNESBURG – Being retrenched from a comfortable banking job has helped a promising businesswoman to venture into entrepreneurship.
Ruth Mthabine, 43, says she was retrenched from Absa where she worked as a risk consultant in the IT department in 2012.
Not knowing what to do, Mthabine, who hails from Bushbuckridge in Mpumalanga, founded and registered Masigide Consulting, a firm assists women-led small enterprises in rural areas with mentorship and training, and other business advisory services, among other support programmes.
In 2015 she became a business development service provider for SEED, a non profit organisation providing enterprise development to eco-inclusive enterprises in rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
Mthabine, who has worked for the City of Johannesburg and Wits University, says they are targeting the niche rural market because it’s generally neglected and underserved.
“We are mostly in rural areas because people there have great ideas but they don’t know where to go. I guide them and demonstrate that their ideas can be turned into great businesses,” she says.
“I also teach basic things such as customer service, how you take order, and how to package orders to make them look nice.”
Mthabine says her experiences of growing up in a rural village has made her to focus her energies on uplifting women in similar circumstances.
“I focus on women because they are breadwinners. I know firsthand the kind of challenges they face in rural areas.”
Mthabine renders some of her services to big corporates including South Korean electronics giant Samsung, Bushbuckridge Local Municipality and South African Breweries.
She says the seven years she has been in business have been very tough. “When you are a black woman you have to prove yourself 100 times in order for people to do business with you.”
Mthabine, who holds a public management and administration degree from Unisa, says there are days she wanted to throw in the towel.
“But I just remind myself of why I went into business in the first place and also reflect on the impact that I’m making in people’s lives.”
She says her aim is to empower women and is unapologetic about that. “I don’t want any woman to say my business couldn’t take off because I couldn’t get the support that I needed.”
Mthabine wants women to take charge of their destinies. “Let’s be the change that we want to see, one woman at a time. That has been my approach. You don’t need a whole lot of women to make an impact.”
Looking into the future, she says she wants to grow Masigide Consulting across the country through establishing significant partnerships with like-minded stakeholders.
“Want to grow into a space where women support each other, and to make sure that we all grow together.”
She says: “Mostly we support women who are in eco-friendly businesses. Your business should take care of social issues, it shouldn’t be about taking profit and go. Solve problems in community and take care of the environment. We are more eco inclusive enterprise development.”
Looking back, Mthabine says venturing into business could not have come at a better time as she felt vulnerable when she lost her job.
“There were massive retrenchments taking place at Absa at the time. And it hit me. I was never prepared for it,” she says.
“I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t have a Plan B. However, the calling that I should go into business was already there but, you know, having a job gave me a sense of security.”
Mthabine, who lost her 16 year old son Akhona in 2017, founded Akhona Teens Leadership Foundation in his honour.
She says the foundation is Christian faith-based and exists to provide underserved teenagers with educational resources and workshops to prepare them for successful navigation of the adolescent years, because “The boy child needs to be taken care of as well”.