Meeting people energise me – I think it’s addictive!
I love people and the stories they tell. I also like to tell the stories of others. And therefore, I studied Journalism. Hanlie Delport, Gauteng Provincial Leader, has always been keen to learn new things. Besides being a journalist, she also handled tours through the printing press for students and scholars. Throughout her career she was involved in the organising of events – whether fun or formal.
It was therefore no surprise when she started a career in the exhibition industry with the Transvaal Agricultural Society (former owners of the Pretoria Show) as special events coordinator. Hanlie eventually became the manager of what was then the biggest commercial and agricultural show in the Country. This is where she realised that this is her passion – events.
“In 2009, a friend approached me to start a business with him. We had big dreams but when our first proposal to a big corporate was unsuccessful, he decided to remain in the safe space of a corporate career. I was ready though to get out of my situation at that time and decided to push through,” she explains. Hanlie Delport now has full ownership of a small events company, Siyakula Events based in Centurion.
“Our focus is mainly on corporate events, conferences and exhibitions. I simply love the sensation of seeing and empty venue being transformed to something magical, “ says Hanlie. A dislike of routine steered her in the direction of the events industry where almost no two days are ever the same. “I love the variety, the diversity of the delegates and attendees and the unique requirements for each event”.
Hanlie believes that success in business will come when you open yourself up to continuous learning. “I will never know everything, but the more I learn about this industry, the technology available and people the more empowered I feel.”
Her biggest challenges were to find a work-life balance, to convince people that her small company was indeed capable of doing the job and to play in a big-league game as a small company. But the rewards of being in business were far greater than any challenge. “I could enjoy my children and attend their sport events, I could take off when I needed it and I could enjoy the glory of success that I have worked long hours to achieve,” she says. Hanlie is married to Steve and they have three young adult children. “It was such a privilege to have the luxury of time when the children were in high school to see them grow up.” She missed a lot of their primary school years because of her work as manager of the Show.
If she could turn the clock back, she would have found a mentor or strategist to help her in the process. She says however she would have perhaps started the business when she was more business mature. “But with hard work, growing a thick skin and finding a niche market for yourself within the bigger industry anyone can succeed,” she advises.
During the months of lockdown she focused on what could be done remotely – she upskilled herself in the digital events arena, learned to understand the delegate response to online meetings and events and is currently in a wonderful venture with a digital events team, hosting several events online in the foreseeable future. “Part of my strategy to cope with all of what was happening, was also to read all the notes I have taken during workshops and motivational sessions. It was inspiring to finally activate all these learnings in my life and work space,” says Hanlie.
She wishes that she knew that it was okay to make mistakes when she started out in business. “I was always very hard on myself, driving myself too hard and trying to always have everything perfect. I now know that it is not good to make mistakes, but it is good when you find a good solution for the situation. Often the solution is better than the original idea”, she adds.
To grow the business Hanlie Delport says that she will need to bring in a partner. As a small business owner, she believes you operate on maximum capacity all the time and that having a partner will mean that both partners have a shared responsibility. “But growth is also dependent on the strength of your network. You should spend as much time building your network as you are on growing your business. People do business with people they know, like and trust. So, take the time to network and build the trust relationships. Business will follow”, she concludes.