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12 of South Africa’s Top Women Entrepreneurs

12 of South Africa’s Top Women Entrepreneurs
July 2, 2020 gnuworld
Women entrepreneurs

According to The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Africa now has the highest growth in businesses started and run by women. In many fields, women entrepreneurs are leading the way.

At The Workspace, we love seeing this in practice. The women entrepreneurs among our members do everything. They offer tax advice to manufacture personal protective gear, build business software systems, run catering businesses, manage important NGOs and much, much more.

We’re also proud to have capable businesswoman, Colleen Mansour, as our CEO.

Towards the end of the ten years that the African Union has declared as African Women’s Decade, and in time for Women’s Day, we profile some of South Africa’s top women entrepreneurs.

Zeenat Ghoor: Director of Aspire Consulting Engineers

Zeenat Ghoor

Source: Standard Bank Top Women

After studying civil engineering at UCT, Zeenat Ghoor gained experience across the spectrum of civil and structural engineering projects.

Undaunted by the challenges of operating in a traditionally male-dominated industry, Ghoor started her own construction and consulting engineering practice.

Working primarily with skilled disadvantaged artisans, she began by doing new builds and renovations for home owners. Today, the company attracts projects worth hundreds of millions.

Ghoor believes in:

  • commitment to excellence
  • self-development; she notes that in engineering, you learn something new every day
  • employing “SWANs” – people who are smart, hard-working, ambitious and nice


  • Standard Bank’s Top Woman National Entrepreneur of the Year, 2019
  • 2018 Highly Commended Engineer.

Dineo Lioma: Co-founder of Incitech, CapeBio Technologies and Deep Medical Therapeutics

dineo lioma

Source: Queen’s College Cambridge

Not yet 30 years old, Dineo Lioma has already co-founded three innovative companies in the biotechnology sphere.

In cooperation with IBM, Deep Medical Therapeutics is working on artificial intelligence (AI) systems for helping doctors determine the best therapies for drug-resistant diseases, like TB.

CapeBio Technologies manufactures laboratory reagent enzymes for use in molecular biology research.

Incitech is developing a device for faster diagnosis of HIV.

Lioma believes it’s important to:

  • create meaningful solutions that will impact the status of health care in Africa
  • benchmark products against the best in the market
  • remember the commercial aspect of science.


  • Chosen as one of Forbes Africa’s Top 20 Wealth Creators
  • Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans List

Ntsiki Biyela: Founder of Aslina Wines

Ntsiki Biyela

Source: Wikipedia

Ntsiki Biyela grew up in a rural KwaZulu-Natal village – and after matriculating, she worked for a year as a domestic worker.

Then, in 1999, she was awarded a scholarship to study winemaking. She went on to become South Africa’s first black, female winemaker.

Biyela was appointed head winemaker at Stellekaya Wines and, in 2016, she founded Aslina Wines. Today, Aslina’s premium wines are distributed worldwide.

Biyela believes that:

  • it’s important to stay grounded; she notes that when she goes home, “…I’m not a winemaker. I’m a daughter, a child, a sister, a cousin”
  • you don’t have to be perfect – be yourself
  • it’s about passion, excitement and drive.


  • in 2017, listed in the world’s top 10 most Innovative Women in Food and Drink by Fortune’s Food & Wine
  • South Africa’s Woman Winemaker of the Year in 2009
  • two-times finalist for The Most Influential Women in Business and Government.

Monalisa Zwambila: Riverbed

monalisa zwambila

Source: Entrepreneur

Monalisa Zwambila founded Riverbed, a through-the-line communications agency, after leaving her position as managing director of a large communications company.

She took the leap to grow her company by buying another agency, Chillibush Communications, with a solid client base.

She has succeeded in growing her business’s turnover from R18 million to R80 million per year.

She believes it’s important to:

  • employ the right people, who believe in your company’s culture and vision
  • have a purpose that you share widely
  • be decisive and stand by your decisions.


  • Regional Business Woman of the Year 2017

Nneile Nkholise, Founder & Director @ iMED Tech Group

nneile nkholise

Source: Venture Burn

Nneile Nkholise established the iMED Tech Group in 2015, while completing a degree in mechanical engineering. The Group’s aim is to provide innovative medical solutions to improve healthcare delivery in Africa.

Nkholise uses her experience in 3D printing applications in the medical field to develop custom products.

She believes it’s important to:

  • make a social impact
  • create a strong collaboration between engineering and medicine
  • believe women have the power and potential to run businesses in the medical technology sector.


  • member of the Harambean, an alliance of entrepreneurs focused on building Africa’s future
  • SAB Foundation Social Innovation Award
  • Africa’s top female innovator at the World Economic Forum on Africa
  • one of the 100 entrepreneurs at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in 2016
  • ranked number 13 in Forbes Africa’s 30 Under 30 Technology List for 2018.

Jeanne Groenewald of Elgin Chickens

jeanne groenewald

Source: Startup Grind

In 1996, Jeanne Groenewald started raising free-range chickens for her family and friends.

She took the leap, starting Elgin Chickens, in 2002. Today, Elgin Free Range Chickens is the largest independent free-range-chicken operation in South Africa.

She believes it’s important to:

  • focus on high standards
  • delegate to allow people with different skills to help with more ideas and solutions
  • understand your employees’ needs.


  • Top Producer for National Markets in the National Female Farmer of the Year Awards

Mayleen Kyster, founder of Africa Steel Holdings

mayleen kyster

Source: Inspired Africa

Mayleen Kyster founded Africa Steel Holdings during a difficult time in the local steel-making industry.

Her leap paid off and she is now trading in raw, manufactured and fabricated steel for several major construction projects. These include projects involving energy, dams, bridges, buildings and roads.

Kyster expanded her business by joining forces with Reinforcing Steel Contractors and Stefanutti Stocks.

She believes it’s important to:

  • empower yourself with knowledge and skills
  • find profitable work, even if it is low volume
  • keep working capital as low as possible.


  • Recognised by the Steel and Engineering Federation of Southern Africa as the most transformed company in steel for an employer of fewer than 100 people

Beverley Gumbi: Isivuno Container Business

beverley gumbi

Source: SME South Africa

Beverley Gumbi started the Isivuno Container Business in Pinetown in 2005. The company offers refurbished shipping containers can be erected quickly almost anywhere.

She took the leap and established her own company after visiting China. There, she saw what can be done with containers.

She believes it’s important to:

  • meet the needs of the private and public sector
  • contribute to local economic growth and socially sustainable development

be innovative to meet customers’ needs.


  • Judges’ Prize at the Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS awards
  • SAB Kickstart Business Competition
  • Regional Business Achievers Award of the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa

Arlene Mulder: WeThinkCode_ and Toybox

arlene mulder

Source: Twitter

Arlene Mulder resigned from her job as an investment banker to start WeThinkCode_, which focuses on developing top talent in technology. She also co-founded Toybox, a platform for helping people with great ideas bring those ideas to life.

Mulder is currently a global ambassador for the organisation, She Loves Tech.

Lessons she has learned:

  • if I can dream up a solution, I could just actually build it
  • it takes a bit of time to create the first solution, but you can theoretically do this a million times with no additional time spent.


  • Forbes Woman Africa Technology and Innovation Award

Dale McErlean: Co-founder and Director: NTSU Aviation Solutions and AfricaUSC

dale mcearlean

Source: The Bulletin

Businesswoman Dale McErlean co-founded NTSU Aviation Solutions and AfricaUSC. These businesses offer specialised services to the unmanned aircraft systems industry.

She took the leap after working for the industry regulator, forming her own business and working with companies in mining and protection services.

She believes it’s important to:

  • encourage development, job creation and sustainability
  • use available technology to make things better and create wealth.


  • One of 10 Women to Watch in UAS 2018 in Las Vegas, the only woman from Africa

Sarah Collins: Wonderbag

sarah collins

Source: Lionesses of Africa

One of South Africa’s favourite women entrepreneurs, Sarah Collins started the Wonderbag brand during a bout of load shedding.

The Wonderbag is a powerless, heat-retention cooker. Using insulation, it allows food that has been brought to the boil to continue cooking for up to 12 hours, without using additional energy.

She has learned that:

  • it’s better to try not to borrow money for start-up funding
  • partnerships are an essential part of growth.


  • Fortune Magazine’s Top 10 Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs
  • Oprah’s African Heroines
  • Women’s Economic Forum Woman of the Decade for Entrepreneurship
  • Climate Change Leadership Award
  • Eskom Innovation Award
  • Time Magazine 50 Most Genius Companies of 2018.

Hayley Eagle, owner of Jamsco Automotive Assemblies

haley eagle

Source: Jamsco

Hayley Eagle took the leap and formed Jamsco in 2012. This was when she was selected to join the Automotive Industry Development Centre’s (AIDC) Incubation Programme, partnering with an international first-tier supplier.

Jamsco provides labour, supervisory, management, safety and quality control services to Sodecia, for the production of welded assemblies. These are then supplied directly to the Ford production line.

As a female businessperson, Eagle has learned to:

  • hold her own in a male-dominated industry
  • form strategic partnerships with more than one customer to remain sustainable and profitable.


  • Nedbank Business Accelerator with Radio 702 finalist

What we offer entrepreneurs at The Workspace

We offer affordable, fully serviced offices and coworking, and all our members have access to meeting rooms, boardrooms and a range of business services. Many of our branches also host regular networking events, ideal for entrepreneurs looking to grow their businesses.

For more information or to book a tour of one of our branches, call us on 087 059 7777 or contact us online.

Happy Women’s Day to all our women entrepreneurs, at The Workspace and across South Africa!

Contact us to find out more

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