When asked what it takes to be a woman in entrepreneurship, Ninky of Johannesburg, South Africa, took a moment to gather her thoughts, and answered with a sure, calm nature.
“Patience. Lots and lots and lots of patience. And tenacity.”
An eloquently-spoken businesswoman and entrepreneur, Ninky is passionate about providing safe water solutions in her corner of the world.
Ninky grew up in Soweto, Johannesburg. She later went on to university in Cape Town at the University of the Western Cape, where she studied research psychology. Upon graduation, Ninky worked in several companies in research positions, studying and producing data on consumer and social behaviours. Her last full-time job was working for The Coca-Cola Company as Research Manager for several countries in Africa. Through her research and work for different organizations, Ninky has been able to experience and understand much of Africa as well as the needs of families –women and girls–in particular.
A Harsh Reality
“For women in a lot of countries in Africa to cook a meal, they need to go out into the forest, gather wood, bring it home, make a fire, and prepare a meal. It isn’t as simple as turning on a stove. For rural women, this is what they face every day.”
This burden of ‘unpaid work’ falls on women and girl children mainly, resulting in loss on income generating activities and school-work time. She described how the crux between water and cooking exists as well: much of the water is collected from natural sources and must be boiled before use, which creates a need for fire. For the majority of the world, women still have to depend on naturally-sourced items to provide for their family’s needs.
“Wells, rivers, harvested rainwater, stuff like that.”
Another aspect of harvesting water is the parallel between schooling and hygiene. Girls on their menstrual cycle also have a tough time keeping themselves clean. Without clean water to wash themselves, upkeep is nearly impossible and most girls would thus miss school for that time.
Ninky has seen much of what lack of basic resources like water can do to families in rural South Africa.
“I think the one story that particularly moved me from rural KwaZulu-Natal, a video was sent to me of a young lady who was just going to get water, and it was basically from a hole in the ground. You could see in that particular hole, there had been animals like cows and sheep drinking the same water, from the same source. She just walked and drew the water with a bucket, drank some, carried her bucket and then went home.”
This harsh reality touched Ninky and sparked a desire within her to do something about the daily problems women and children face. Around 2017, she met Darin Fey, our Global Director, who was showcasing a VF100 Water Filter at a clean energy expo. Ninky was impressed by how simple yet effective it was and bought a few. She registered an entity named Village Water Filters South Africa, eventually, becoming one of our top distributors of the VF100 model in South Africa.
Wonderfully enough, Ninky was able to provide one for the lady competing with cattle for water.
A Woman of 54
Ninky heard of the Woman in Africa 54 (WIA 54) Award through newsletters and online publications she subscribes to. When sharing about how she heard about the initiative she laughed and said that an invitation to participate just showed up in her inbox and she responded to it. With another chuckle, she said that she forgot about it for many months. That was in March 2020.
The Women in Africa 54 Award is an initiative set up to support women entrepreneurs in Africa. It selects women from each of the 54 countries who have demonstrated industry success in areas like agriculture, health and creative industries. Upon being selected, women receive training, mentorship, networking opportunities, as well as international exposure.
Ninky eventually heard back from Women in Africa 54 and proceeded to complete an interview and other requirements. A few months later, they contacted Ninky that out of 4,000 applicants continent-wide, they’ve narrowed the selection down to just 10 per country, a total of 540 companies. Ninky was selected to be one of those women, representing South Africa.
It gets better: the WIA 54 initiative had another stage of narrowing. Ninky went through more sessions and seminars. They then selected only one woman per country from the 10, narrowing the pool down to 54 women total. Ninky was named.
“Our company was chosen… we will be receiving opportunities to receive mentoring, network, training, as well as opportunities to pitch to investors.”
Besides patience and tenacity, Ninky has learned that entrepreneurship requires a long-term view. With a sly smile, one that could’ve been born out of experience, Ninky provided that success doesn’t happen overnight.
“It’s super stressful. There are months where you don’t have any (profit) at all… but telling yourself that in a few years that this is where you want to be, and having a plan–that’s what it takes.”
Being first-in-market is another valuable asset for Ninky and the VF100. For South Africa, Ninky has shared that there is no product quite like it. Being the first to hit the market with any product contains risk. Luckily, for a need like clean water, it is a venture that assumes less risk. Furthermore, Ninky’s outlook on marketing something totally unknown is that it requires extra effort and outreach.
Ninky’s approach in sales has been challenged by the economic disparity in these rural communities. There is certainly a need for the product she distributes, but affordability has been an obstacle for many of the families interested in the product. A challenge is that of maintaining a balance between addressing people’s needs and a profitable business.
She also has realized a niche market within South Africa, in the outdoor and camping community. These are a market of people who take their caravans out into the bush or spend multiple days hiking and backpacking. VF100 sales to this segment of the market have allowed Ninky to keep working towards her goals.
Another area of sales is that of governmental aid and private sector companies. Ninky approached these organizations with a call-to-action, describing the need for access to clean & safe water in rural areas. Utilizing social responsibility programs, these institutions have the capital to greatly impact families needing these water filters. Access to resources through price subsidization has helped many families.
Altogether, a Woman of Power
Inspiring and resilient, Ninky’s story tells not only of business success in distribution, but also devotion to changing human lives. As a woman of power, she has used her empathy to drive her ambition in the world of marketing and sales. And with patience, she has proven that finding equitable solutions to the water crisis can be achieved.
A Challenge to You
At Business Connect, we support those that want to support others. We can help to form a foundation for anyone interested in joining our network of distributors. If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a Sales Representative, Regional Sales Representative or Country Distributor for us, click here. We also encourage members of our network and audience to sponsor an entrepreneur like Ninky. If this suits you, visit our sponsorship page here.