Business

BUSINESSWOMEN’S ASSOCIATION Regional Business Women of the Year Awards 2019

How women juggle career demands, caring for the less fortunate

LOU BILLETT
LOU BILLETT

LOU BILLETT is the chairperson of African Angels.

What do you value most in people?

Honesty, truthfulness and integrity.

What drives you?

To disrupt the unequal access to quality education that exists in South Africa at the African Angels Independent School.

What are your strongest qualities and how do they assist you in your job?

My tenacious and determined nature, and my ability to tolerate high levels of uncertainty in all areas of my life. Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it is done.” I hope to inspire the children at African Angels that if you persist, and never give up, anything is possible, and see them live that in their lives. We are trying to grow good South African citizens at the school, and showing children that giving up is not an option is part of my work.

What were your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them in order to get to where you are today?

I face very small challenges compared to the families we serve at African Angels. However, the challenge for any charity is to remain sustainable to continue the work we do. That is and remains my biggest challenge.

What difficulties have you faced being a woman in business?

None really.

How do you balance work and family life?

I love what I do at African Angels and feel completely privileged to be able to add value and feel needed. Whilst I remain completely obsessed with the Angels, no balance is needed.

How do you relax?

I run every morning with my dogs in beautiful Chintsa, and this makes my head happy at the start of every day.

What is your favourite quote?

The secret to happiness is freedom. And the secret to freedom is courage.

 

ELAINE BRENKMAN
ELAINE BRENKMAN

ELAINE BRENKMAN is the founder of Guardians of Hope Place of Safety.

What do you value most in people?

Their giving hearts.

What drives you?

Being able to make a difference, not just for the babies but also the families I have encounters with.

What are your strongest qualities and how do they assist you in your job?

A mother’s heart that helps me be the best mom I can be for the babies. I have a “try me” instead of “why me” attitude that has really helped me to keep going and to find the positive in the negative.

What were your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them in order to get to where you are today?

It was not easy to start Guardians of Hope as there was some resistance as to why another home was needed. Through talks and showing the need, I have managed to win over the hearts of those who were against it.

What difficulties have you faced being a woman in business?

It is perceived that as a woman I can be “mom”, but running the business would be a challenge. I have worked hard as a businesswoman to not only make a stamp on Guardians of Hope but also in my ability to run the home successfully and professionally.

How do you balance work and family life?

This has been difficult, seeing that my work is a 24-hour commitment as the babies are in my home 24 hours. As a family we make “us” dates and spend quality time together away from the home.

How do you relax?

I absolutely love a long bubble bath where I can just be and find myself again.

What is your favourite quote?

“Alone we can do so little, but together we can do so much,” Hellen Keller.

Anything else you would like to tell us?

On July 2 Guardians of Hope celebrated their second birthday. It has been an incredible journey and I am so touched by the goodness of East London. We have some amazing people out there who care so very much for our community. Thank you East London.

MARLENE NEUMANN
MARLENE NEUMANN

MARLENE NEUMANN is the founder and director of the Buckaroo Sterilisation project and Marlene Neumann Fine Art Photography.

What do you value most in people?

People’s passion for their work and towards life, their commitment, loyalty and trust.

What drives you?

The fact that I must end my day knowing I have truly done my best. I have used every single minute of the day wisely. Love drives me – love for my work, spiritual life and love for what I bring to this life. ‘What do I add’ is the question I often ask myself.

What are your strongest qualities and how do they assist you in your job?

I am a multi-tasker which allows me to get a lot done. I juggle my photography business plus think of what the needs are for those less fortunate than me, while arranging to get a sick dog from A to B. Passion is what drives me. I become very focussed and committed. I am a visionary and can see the big picture. This enables me to see opportunities for the Buckaroo project. I have a strong intuition which I have learnt to trust and this guides me. My compassion for people and animals has allowed me to be of service to the community.

What were your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them in order to get to where you are today?

I think one of the greatest challenges I have had in my life is being a right brain creative person so it sometimes feels like I am swimming upstream against the left logic brain. I have had to overcome this so many times in maintaining a balance between my creative side and the logic side. This inspires me to teach the balance. I overcame a health issue at the age of 38 that allowed me to delve deep within myself, which has given me great insight into who I am and people in general. Because of this holistic and spiritual aspect in my life I am able to work with people and animals. I now have a much more fulfilled life.

What difficulties have you faced being a woman in business?

First of all my profession, which is photography, was always a male dominated world, and my soft feminine side had to step up and become strong, yet remain soft, courageous and compassionate. I had to show the world that being a woman in photography took a lot of inner courage. The Buckaroo project is about recognising animals in distress. I found myself once again in a situation where the corporate world did not recognise the needs of animals. I have braved this imbalance by offering Buckaroo Corporate Team building experiences. It is a humbling experience to be able to stand up in a world that sometimes does not care about the needs of animals. It can be quite ruthless. Nevertheless I have persisted, as I know who I am and what I stand for. Animals matter.

How do you balance work and family life?

I don’t know if I always succeed at this. One wins over the other. The important thing is to try and make ‘me’ time, even if it is a half an hour in the day, to reconnect with my inner self.

How do you relax?

I walk on the beach and spend time with my own animals. My dogs, bird called Sophie and my cats. I enjoy working on my books. I will be publishing my third one shortly. I also enjoy gardening, especially my bonsais.

What is your favourite quote?

“To see a world in a grain of sand. And a heaven in a wild flower. Hold infinity in the palm of your hand. And eternity in an hour,” William Blake.

Anything else you would like to tell us?

One of the things that drives me is I know we are not going to be here forever. The realisation of one’s own immortality.

There were times when I was working in the townships with the dogs and realised I wanted to share this sensory experience.

You go from highs to lows. It is exhilarating to depressing all in a matter of minutes.

Doing the work with the dogs expands your emotional awareness. I reckon a day’s work in the township with the dogs is worth five self-development workshops. This has added to my life.

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