Exploring the success factors of affluent women entrepreneurs in South Africa
On the 20th of February 2020, as the President Cyril Ramaphosa took to the podium to deliver the 2020 State of the Nation Address, many South Africans watched in eager anticipation to hear what the country’s “number one” had to say about the future of a nation struggling through a myriad of woes. This mixed bag of challenges includes a shrinking economy, a soaring unemployment rate, spine-chilling gender-based crimes, shameful state capture and corruption revelations, load shedding and the energy crisis, political turmoil, and the list goes on and on. He opened up his speech by paying homage to the gallant sons of the soil who fought to liberate the land and then he swiftly moved onto the meaty issue of the grappling economy: Our country is facing a stark reality. Our economy has not grown at any meaningful rate for over a decade. Even as jobs are being created, the rate of unemployment is deepening. The recovery of our economy has stalled as persistent energy shortages have disrupted businesses and people’s lives. Several state-owned enterprises are in distress, and our public finances are under severe pressure. It is you, the people of South Africa, who carry this burden, confronted by rising living costs, unable to escape poverty, unable to realise your potential. Yet, at the same time, there is another part of our reality.” Women entrepreneurship is “another part to our reality”. A powerful instrument that can be harnessed to bring about much needed significant socio-economic development. This study aims to explore what factors may enhance the success of women-owned businesses by focusing on a sample of South Africa’s affluent women entrepreneurs. It is time the success story of the woman entrepreneur is told. Who is a successful woman entrepreneur? How has she succeeded, where so many have failed? Thereby recommendations may be put forth to assist sustainability and foster the strategic gesture of current and future women entrepreneurs. By applying an exploratory, descriptive qualitative research approach, twelve successful women entrepreneurs within South Africa were interviewed using a semi-structured interview discussion guide. The data-driven inductive method and the deductive templates of codes approach were engaged in the data analysis process. Eight themes emerged from the empirical data analysis, namely: motivation, perceptions of success, measures of success, attributes of success, contributing success factors, challenges to success and recommendations. Women are motivated to enter entrepreneurship by a myriad of factors. The women in this study were pushed into entrepreneurship by family obligations, dissatisfaction with employment, job loss, and the desire to escape poverty. The research participants were pulled into entrepreneurship by the desire for independence, the desire to succeed, the desire to travel and see the world, the desire to make a difference, the opportunity to be creative, business opportunity and the opportunity to partner with their husband. When women enter self-employment, they are confronted by various challenges. The challenges the research participants highlighted are categorised as firm-level challenges (financial capital, business competition, socio-economic environment and staff), individual-level challenges (social capital, socio-economic bias, separation of business and owner, and work-life balance) and gender-based challenges. The focus of the study is to capture the essence of successful women entrepreneurs in South Africa. Entrepreneurial success is a complex, idiosyncratic, heterogeneous construct which can be conceptualised on both the individual level and the firm level. Both these forms of success have tangible/objective/monetary considerations as well as intangible/subjective/non-monetary considerations. The contributing success factors noted in this study include information management, money management, support, education and continual learning, sound business practice and spirituality. The attributes of a successful woman entrepreneur include certain personality traits, having a vision and planning accordingly, constant growth and innovation-oriented, prioritising good relationships with customers, cultivating social capital and practising the collaborative leadership style.