Interview with Vumile Msweli, Strategy Executive & Speaker
She currently serves as a non-executive director at the South African Association for Youth Clubs (SAAYC) and Diabetes South Africa. Vumile is a coach, conference speaker and media contributor on leadership; women empowerment; finance and business in Africa. She is an entrepreneur having commenced her first venture at 22 years old and now has business interests spanning property; retail; logistics and consulting. Vumile has won several awards including Mail and Guardian Top 200 most influential Young South Africans (2016) and Gauteng Premier Award for Excellence in Leadership (2017) More on Vumile’s and her work from www.hesedconsulting.co.za
Making impact is clearly important to you. Where did that desire and confidence to do so come from?
When I was younger I heard the story of Mr Nobel whose obituary was erroneously printed in the newspaper. Seeing the summation of his life in print was so shocking to him that he decided to create a new legacy. He was well known for having been a big player in the ammunition sector. It was in this vein that he established the world renowned Nobel Prize. He wanted his legacy to be the celebration of human excellence not death. This story inspired me to live a life of legacy. Long after I’m gone the positive impact of my existence must remain with those whose lives I touched.
You earned success early in corporate life, what would you say young women and women more generally can do to advance especially into leadership positions?
Self-awareness was key for me. In knowing my strengths I could Leverage them to differentiate myself from my competitors. By also being aware of my areas of improvement I could reach out for guidance and accelerate my learning. Having the humility and self awareness to reach out to others and learn has been a critical life skill for me.
Now as a business owner, you’re taking action to advance the youth and Women’s Empowerment business agenda across the continent. What’s the biggest impact you’re hoping to make in this area?
I am a proud African and I believe the solutions to our challenges lie in Entrepreneurship; Education and Women Empowerment. My contribution to these three pillars is the reason for Hesed’s (my company’s) existence. We offer a platform that provides accelerated learning to entrepreneurs by sharing global best practices; driving intercontinental trade and empowering the continent economically.
What factors besides ambitiousness would you say are important for the rising of more women business leaders/entrepreneurs in Africa?
In isiZulu we have a proverb that says “Ingwe Idla Ngamabala” which literally translated means a leopard eats by means of its spots but it actually means each person survives and thrives on the back of their unique talents and gifts. This could not be more true for women on the continent. Women’s femininity, nurturing nature and natural tendency towards collectivism is an advantage. These characteristics are assets that are important for achieving successful businesses of the future.
How did you determine what your gifts are and how are you ensuring you’re putting them to the best use?
I have always found it easy and rather enjoyable to connect with, learn from and teach other people. I discovered soon enough that my ability to share knowledge and my love of learning is the reason why I enjoy social and business interactions so much. That’s probably why I find myself in the speaking and coaching space. Connecting and teaching come naturally to me and both bring me great joy.
You believe that ‘’ a person is a person because of others’’. What do you look out for in the people you choose to intentionally connect with?
I look for authenticity and that for me is for example, when people are themselves, stand firm in the truth of who they are, are honest about their experiences and vulnerable enough to be willing to share. Good conversations with amazing human beings is like interacting with a living, breathing library.
When you say ‘’you are always enough….bring all of who you are’’ What do you mean by that and why is that a good mantra to live by?
Often insecurities and fears stop us from taking a leap of faith. Knowing you are enough and that your value neither increases or lowers based on external factors should give you permission to be your most authentic self and to bring to the table your greatest asset- You.
You’ve received awards, a testimony to not just success but also the challenges that have been overcome. What’s been one of the biggest difficulties you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?
The decision to drop chartered accountancy as a career was tough for me. After having failed my honours twice I felt like quitting it made me a failure and my persistent nature battled with the decision. In accepting that things don’t always go according to plan and that my successes and failures are not a reflection of my worth I was able to walk away from becoming a chartered accountant and towards being a finance expert.
Drawing on your other skills as a Certified Financial Planner and a speaker on financial matters, what advice would you give a young person who has started out in life and wants to practice good financial habits?
I would advise that they set financial goals –short, medium and long term goals – have a clear plan to work towards them and commit to financially healthy habits.