Mentor 20 - Nora Fakude

Be afraid to fail – it helps you succeed

MBOMBELA - Ms Nora Fakude, CEO of Buscor, is afraid to fail. Not so afraid that she won’t start, but so afraid that she won’t stop. “As a mother, as a woman, you have to be there.” She has run the gamut in business in her hugely successful career, and has first-hand experience of going it alone.

Having to fight from the beginning, first to obtain an education, and later to make a success of her business endeavours, she learnt to make the most of the opportunities which came her way. She has learnt to survive. “There was poverty and poverty and poverty. Outof that poverty, we learnt to survive.”

When she left for school, there was nothing to take with her. Instead she started selling the cream she used, to assist her mother in paying her fees and obtaining pocket money just to afford transport home. A general trend throughout her life story remains: nothing is easy. Once she achieved a manner of success it remained true: doing business is difficult. A steadfast refusal to fail, for the sake of her children and her employees has to a large extent kept her going.


As a mentor in the Bring Change Lowveld Programme, she recently shared the 10 most helpful things she has learnt with programme winner Ms Phephsile Maseko. This week, Lowvelder readers get a view into her heart too, as she continues on her journey.

1. Be the leader you are naturally
Women are natural leaders. Fakude remembers the crucial role her own mother played in their family: she was the leader, sacrificing for her children, and teaching them by example. “She held on to her principals, and we followed suit. Women can multitask, which makes them natural leaders.” Multitasking allows you to fulfil the immediate needs of those who depend on you (put food on the table) and go beyond that (dream and work towards that long-term vision).


2. Be determined
Given the range of challenges a person face, as they strive, attain, develop and strive further, you will need determination to keep you going at times. “Business is a scary world, but you can never stop. You need a very strong backbone in order to be firm and focus on what you are doing.” Fellow girls in her generation often didn’t finish their education – for many reasons. Fakude would never yield to those external forces. With very little by way of support of her dreams, it was sheer determination that lead Fakude through school. “I was determined to get my education, and nothing could stop me.”


3. Help others
At the height of her own poverty, she found ways to help others. She used to have kids from her village make handcrafts, teaching them how to do it,  feeding them from food she cooked in her grandmother’s pot, and selling the goods. “At the time I didn’t’ know I was creating a future for myself in business, as it put me in touch with funding organisations and contacts. And the kids that came out of eating from that pot. They went on to become teachers, doctors, you name it.” She still feels she needs to help and assist wherever possible. “Demonstrate appreciation. Help others too.”


4. Share
Sharing is not giving your ten cents. “Sharing is teaching others to make a living. It is giving of yourself, your time as well as adding value to that time you give to add value to people.”


5. Persevere
Sometimes nobody will stand by you. People may say you are crazy and leave you. “You don’t give up because somebody says, “Not you, but rather that one’.” In persevering Fakude has managed to register the first black-owned transport company with the military. She eventually acquired a stake in a foreign company, which enabled to pitch a partnership to Buscor, which she now owns. “You have to stand firm - in a nice way. As a woman and a mother you can’t fail, you have to be there for the people who depend on you.”


6. Don’t listen to your critics
“When people say I can’t, I don’t listen. I focus on what I want to achieve and what I need to do to get there.” There was a time in the history of South Africa when there was nothing worse than being a black woman. “But I would thing, I am complete. I never thought there was something my brother could do that I couldn’t. “When going into business, never be discouraged about this or that being a man’s or woman’s domain. Everything is a human being’s domain.”


7. Go for it
Whatever it is you are doing, it not just an idea which just dropped into your mind. Once you have done your research, and found your idea will work, go for it. “Fight for it, stand for it. Even when it is not going well, don’t give up. “I couldn’t fail. What would I tell the people depending on me? That I failed, while I could still see the possibility of survival?”


8. Innovate
Fakude left teaching to go into business. She was sure she could do it. Her family was furious. They had made sacrifices to enable her to become qualified as a teacher. But she quit to pursue business interests. “When I entered into business, was where the real challenges started. I left teaching to work for a transport company, but there was political strife and the tourists wouldn’t come. She switched gears, buying some goods, shackling herself with huge debt, but she sold it all and paid off the debt. “I had faith, but I had to think on my feet.”


9. Be ready to be disparaged
Once you achieve a little success, be prepared for others not to be happy for you, but to try to tear you down. “Be careful when you achieve success. There are very few who will be happy and excited for you. People will try to pull you down. “Be prepared to be trampled upon and pulled down. As a black woman people will question your success more. Women will point fingers first and withdraw their support. “Men would probable be impressed and say, ‘Who is she that she can operate in that way?’ It may take a long time, but if you persevere, you will be taken seriously.


10. Use opportunities
“At our time there was nothing like a bank loan. If you look at what we have achieved with so few opportunities… “Now companies are forced to bring in black women. Now it is legislated that black people and black women in particular be taken seriously by government and business. It was unheard of in our time.” Yes, she has had bad experiences entering into partnerships. You learn. Keep trying. Keep applying. “With all these opportunities around now, I wish I was 30 years younger. The things I could achieve!”

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