When you’re looking for advice and guidance on starting something new, exciting and hopefully life changing, where better to go than to the women who’ve already done it and succeeded beyond measure? Dr Nandi Ndhlovu is the founder and owner of The Health and Skin Oasis, Aesthetic Medical Practice in Johannesburg – and she shares her advice for starting your own business.
1/ Describe your journey to successfully starting your own business. Why did you start?
I started my business as a portal to live my passion for helping, healing and transforming lives. I have always known I wanted to be a doctor, but I have also always known my Louboutins and Chanel bags were not “at home” in the hospital corridors. So, I knew I had to fuse my calling and flare for all things beautiful into something I could practise daily, learn from and use to help all my patients. This want took me on a journey of exploring the beautifully dynamic and ever-growing world of medical aesthetics.
Oh, what a journey… From being sent from pillar to post trying to find a mentor who would try charge me an arm, leg and kidney for the opportunity of basking in their priceless IP (intellectual property) to naively purchasing a “thriving medical practice” that almost cost me all my savings and sanity. With this said, though, over the years, the grounding foundation of my business journey is the want to see change. I get teary as I think of the transformation I see not only on the faces and bodies I treat, but to see the confidence that blossoms from that shy little girl who was ridiculed for her “bad skin” and had chosen to hide her inner light. That is my “WHY” and will forever push me to work senseless hours, never stop learning and do my best to understand the intricacies of every case in the pursuit of a happy client.
2/ What were the most important steps you took when starting your business?
Discover your passion
I do not say this lightly. This is the step that could ultimately lead to your demise if done hastily. You need to find “that thing” that keeps you smiling through the fatigue, keeps your mind hungry for more and brings joy and contentment into your life without financial gain being your main target.
Research, research and did I say research?
Find out all you can; the good, the bad and the ugly about the sector you want to venture into before starting your own business. Spend time with people who can show you the ropes and give you insider information on their personal journeys. I was blessed in this regard to have found a mentor who spent six months helping me understand and dispel any preconceived notions of effortless glitz and glam while sharing which courses and articles I would benefit from most.
Do NOT start off with debt
This point is a difficult one as this is the sad reality facing most entrepreneurs because receiving starting capital from family contributions is a luxury known to a few. I started small in a single room and grew as my clientele expanded. Most people make the mistake of acquiring extensive loans without the knowledge that a new business takes time to find its feet within any market. You are already stressed by the fact that you are on your own, doing something completely brand new without the safety net of a guaranteed salary, so the added strain of loan repayments during that time will put you under unnecessary duress. When you start small and grow with your escalating confidence and experience, it guarantees a positive trajectory.
3/ If you didn’t have any experience in owning/running a business, how did you upskill yourself?
This hits home because I truly believe Business Studies 101 should be incorporated into the medical school curriculum. I faltered many times when I started off due to this lack of knowledge, but then again this is where my mentor saved the day. We had frank conversations about my business planning, initiation and progression and I was introduced to an accountant and a business strategist with whom I had monthly reviews to see if all was on track and from whom I received constructive tweaks. Four years later I’m still learning, but making much wiser and well-reasoned business decisions.
4/ What’s the most important thing you’ve ever done for your business?
I’ve never stopped learning and haven’t become complacent. There are constant advances when it comes to procedures, product ingredients and treatments. I am constantly attending medical conferences where such advances are taught and I’m adding to my academic repertoire by completing specialist courses so I may give of my best to my clients. You have to keep up or prepare to be left behind.
5/ How did you overcome any setbacks you’ve encountered?
Many times I wanted to throw in the towel because it was hard to budget on something you were not certain of. These were the moments when I’d go back to the drawing board and remind myself of my “why” – this is my steadfast motivator when the ground starts to feel shaky. It’s also my motivator to constantly be hungry enough to evolve and grow because the sky is not my limit.
6/ What is the one thing you will not compromise on?
Quality. In my books quality trumps quantity ALWAYS. I am not pressured by the need to constantly chase numbers and have endless bookings. An intimate number of quality loyal clientele is well appreciated over fly-by-night numbers.
7/ How do you make sure your business stands out from your competitors?
By treating each consultation as an unforgettable experience. The services I provide can be duplicated elsewhere, but the personal interaction is what creates the long-lasting connection.
8/ Why should women entering the business world persevere when things get tough?
The majority of our homes are headed by single parents, mostly mothers. There are young girls with revolutionary ideas, but who are too shy, too scared to speak up. All she needs is to see it being done; see the impossible being made possible and tangible. By doing this, you are instilling the ability to learn and grow and equipping them with the power to affect change for generations to come. We have no space to even consider giving up when we consider the ripple effect of our successes.
9/ Why is it important for there to be more women-owned businesses in SA?
We must create role models. In the small-business environment dominated by males, women need to be able to look up to – and access – successful female role models with personal experience. The path to success is always shorter when you can learn from the successes and failures of others.
10/ What’s the best advice you’ve received and how has it helped you?
My paternal grandmother, Thandi Klaasen, had a spirit and strength like no other, even after she was robbed of her beauty when she was a stage performer by her best friend organising for her to be burnt alive – she survived that. So, it’s only obvious that she was and will forever be my role model. She always used to tell me this one line that seemed to have relevance in every situation: “Smagadi (my pet name), you must never give up, no matter what. Don’t give them that satisfaction. Get dressed, chin up and go win.” Needless to say, this will forever be the motto that transcends into all spheres of my life, be it business or personal.
Looking for more advice from Dr Nandi and other businesswomen on starting your own business? Get your copy of Women’s Health now!