The daily newspapers Die Vaderland´ and “Ðie Transvaler”  published a supplement on women in business on 5 August 1988 and it contained an advertisement with the title “MET ‘N VROU AGTER DIE WIEL HET DIE MOTOR BEKEND GEWORD” (With a woman behind the wheel, this vehicle became popular).

This referred to Bertha Benz, the dapper wife of Karl Benz, who got behind the steering wheel of his car on a summer’s day to start a journey to Pforzheim, with her two sons.  She became the first person to drive an internal-combustion-engine automobile over a long distance, field evaluating the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, inventing brake lining, and solving several practical issues during the journey of 105 km. The brakes, made from wood, had to be fixed by a cobbler and she also cleaned a blocked fuel line with her hat pin and used her garter as insulation material.

She overcame several other issues, like finding a pharmacy where she could get fuel, and gave a full report of the trip with recommendations on how the automobile could be improved.  The well-known brand had its first test drive thanks to a courageous woman!

Milka van Dyk, then the Executive Director of 62 companies, remarked that women should risk more. She said women are often uninformed and over-cautious where investments are concerned.  She acknowledged that she needed to enter a male-dominated world to access development and smell success.  Success was her driver! She said that the biggest lesson she had learned was that property was the best investment of all.  Vision, integrity, and attention to detail all became part of her recipe for success.

Isa Carstens, the founder of the ISA Carstens Academy, taught the youth the science of beauty!  The Stellenbosch Academy that she opened in 1978 provided 1000 hours of training within 12 months to students. Her course, which is a two-year study, now included 3200 hours of training.  Isa reckoned that the time has gone where people can find a profession with a minimum qualifications.  She believed that treatments with the bare hand were the best – human touch had a calming psychological effect that cannot be replicated by a machine. Isa Roos became the owner and Managing Director of the ISA Carstens Academy. She describes herself as follows on her LinkedIn profile: “I am a self-motivated and dedicated business woman in the Wellness, Health and Skin Care Industry. I focus on developing and implementing training programs for improving the standard of health and skin care therapists in South Africa.”

Matty Reid, a doyen of the modeling agencies and fashion promotion enterprises in Johannesburg, always wore a hat and dressed in black and white (her favourite colours). In 1988 she already had a successful career of two decades behind her.  Three of her models owned their own agencies.  A fashion expert from the former Wool Board said that if you see models with good footwork you can be sure she was trained by Matty. Matt believes that to be successful in your position you needed to be a leader.

Koekie Erlank received apt advice from her son-in-law when he told her she was wasting time with a farm shop.  The time was right for her to open a general store when the butchery on Pongola closed its doors.  In 1988 her Junk Shop One, Two, and Three was a successful business with 25 different divisions.  She also had exposure to people from diverse cultures, which gave her a clear understanding of their needs.  Being able to speak Zulu empowered her as well.  She attributed her success to the fact that she loved people and also cared about people.

All of this is still applicable today!

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