Local finalists are headed for the top

Three businesswomen of the Lowveld are on their way to the finals of the Business Woman of the Year (BWOY) competition next week.

Ms Rachel Jacobs of Graskop Secondary School, Ms Jacqueline Prinsloo of York Timbers and Ms Alison Blair of TwoRedPens will compete against finalists from the other provinces on October 16 in Potchefstroom.

The competition is held annually by the South African Council for Business Women (SACBW) and the national judging level will take place during its national congress. That same evening the winners will be announced at a gala dinner.

The competition was started over 25 years ago to celebrate and acknowledge the success of women in business. There are three categories – entrepreneur, corporate and professional. Those who are chosen have shown exceptional growth and success in their businesses and positions of leadership.

Lowvelder chatted to two of the Mpumalanga finalists, Jacobs and Blair.

Jacobs is currently the headmaster of Panorama Secondary School in Graskop. She has been working there since 2001 and became headmaster in 2003.

In her more than 40 years in education, she has been a teacher at various schools such as Sybrand van Niekerk, Hoërskool Bergvlam, as well as a lecturer at Hoxani Teacher’s College. Her passion is maths and science.

She is married to Willie and the couple has a daughter and two grandchildren. In her spare time she loves doing arts and crafts and photography.

Her personal motto is, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” She says her family is very proud of her and thinks it’s time she told her story in order to inspire others.

Jacobs was chosen as a finalist in the corporate government category and believes it was because she proved that you can achieve great things through perseverance and drive, even if you start out with nothing.

She says she brings innovative ideas to the table to save money and that a governmental school should function as a business. She wants to show that proper management according to rules and regulations will produce definite results of teamwork.

Her vision is to start a unique science and maths centre, partly because it’s her passion and because Panorama focuses on these subjects rather than on sport. All pupils at the school take these compulsory subjects up to grade 12.

Through her participation in the contest she wants to motivate people to have a vision and then actively strive towards it. Even if you don’t have the necessary finances, you can still reach a lot through hard work, saving money, teamwork and perseverance.

Jacobs is happy to be a finalist and says it’s nice to receive recognition after years of hard work. She looks forward to networking with other businesswomen at the national judging round.

Her advice to entrepreneurs and businesswomen? “You have to have a vision to follow as well as perseverance to strive towards it. You should not be afraid to ask for advice or guidance if you don’t know something. Do research and get all available information before you do something. Follow rules and regulations to the letter.”

The other finalist, Blair, started TwoRedPens, a Lowveld advertising and marketing company three years ago. Her motto is, “Don’t compromise your vision, achieve all you can while still being true to yourself”. Blair is a born and bred Lowvelder and went to Lowveld High School.

She studied for a BCom degree in business and marketing and has been in that industry ever since. Before she and her business partner started TwoRedPens she was the marketing manager for Mopani Pharmacy. She was there for five years and says she learned a tremendous amount from her boss, colleagues and customers.

On a personal front, Blair is a single mom with a four-year-old boy. She loves spending her personal time with family and friends, reading a good book and being in the bush as much as possible.

Her family is very proud that she has been chosen as a finalist and pleased that all her hard work has been recognised.

Blair was chosen as a finalist in the entrepreneur category.

She and her partner have been in business for three years.

During that time they have introduced and developed a few key initiatives for the Lowveld advertising and marketing industry.

She believes she brings intuitive problem solving and professionalism to the world of business.

“We strive to add value for our clients, giving them more than they expect,” she states. Her ultimate career goal is to grow, develop and empower a super team to work with them at TwoRedPens.

She feels very honoured to be a finalist and proud to represent Mpumalanga in the competition.

Through her participation she would like to show people that coming from and running a business in a small area doesn’t mean that you cannot compete and do well against people and businesses from bigger areas.

She believes people should showcase that the Lowveld is a thriving community.

She looks forward to learning more about herself and her business during the national round of the competition.

“It was a wonderful exercise to update and again look at our business plan and to implement those actions that will assist us in reaching our goals,” she says.

Blair advises entrepreneurs and business people to have a passion for the industry they operate in and become an expert in that field. She says they should team up with or employ people who are excellent in what they do. “This can only make you look good,” she jokes.

With these two passionate women anything seems possible. They will compete in the final round of the competition on October 16 and Lowvelder will be sure to follow up on their experience (and hopefully success) there.

Ms Hester de Bruyn (left) with the finalists from Mpumalanga, Mss Rachel Jacobs, Jacqueline Prinsloo, Alison Blair and the SACBW president, Melinda Stark.

By Retha Nel | Lowvelder