‘Risk-taker’ in finals of entrepreneur contest

Gali Gaon Segall was told her business idea would never work. Now the Sea Point resident finds herself among the finalists of an entrepreneur of the year competition being run by Sanlam and Business/Partners

Ms Segall said she felt very proud and honoured to have been nominated as a finalist in the competition.

“It feels like the hard work is starting to pay off and when I look at the list of the other entrepreneurs I feel very proud. I’m a risk taker so for me to be acknowledged as an entrepreneur … is very nice.”

The winners of the competition will be announced on September 1 in Johannesburg,

Ms Segall said she was originally a manager at her sister’s spa before they opened a bigger spa in Mouille Point, after which Ms Segall went solo.

She decided to open a nail bar, pop-up kiosk where people could get their nails done with no appointments. They opened one in Canal Walk shopping centre, at Cape Town International Airport and now she has six nail bars. “The whole idea is to accommodate people on the go, and understand that people have a busy lifestyle and can’t plan to have their nails done next week. They want it here and now and that’s how the business is based.”

Her Yemaya shop was in Mouille Point for 10 years before moving to the Point Shopping Centre in Sea Point two years ago. Ms Segall said it was not easy being a female business owner. “It is tough … when I go to management meetings at shopping centres. Being young, they will ask me ‘oh did your daddy buy you the businesses?’.

“People don’t take you seriously and can’t believe that a woman would be in charge of 87 staff and 10 businesses. I’m very proud of the other women (on the list) and we need to pull it together and show the world that women can do it.”

She said all the knowledge she has gained from being in business she learned through trial and error. “If you fail you know not to do that again.” She believes her confidence to go into business at a young age, was inspired by the example set by her parents who are both entrepreneurs.

“They’ve always had their own business and believed that if you work hard, you might as well eat your own fruit. They’ve never wanted us to work for others. The motto was to work hard but to work for yourself.”

Commenting on young people’s work ethic, she said many do not follow through with ideas. “They want to first enjoy life and then work hard. Unfortunately success doesn’t come without hard work. To own your own business means that you have to be on call 24/7.”

Ms Segall said the first step to opening a new business was market research so that the risks were minimised.

“After you’ve calculated the risk and see the demand for what you want to do, you need to have a business plan.” And, she said, you need to have the vision to follow through.

“When we phoned Canal Walk five years ago and told them our idea to open a nail bar in the mall to accommodate walk-ins with no appointments, the woman thought we were crazy. She said who’s going to sit in the middle of the mall, take their shoes off and have a pedicure. For the first few days it started being the cool thing to do. We took an idea that was never in the South African culture and made it happen.”

She said they were looking to expand their business and they have a lot of shopping malls making requests for new stalls. “Because of the demand we have decided to franchise and we’ve just finalised that. We are franchising our first store in Canal Walk which is our flagship.”

Ms Segall said her business had also won a tender with Sun International Hotels to open spas at GrandWest. “We have also started importing our own brand and hopefully at a later stage will manufacture locally.”

She said she had three children who can see how hard she works. “I drill it in them every single day. You have to work hard if you want to get somewhere in life and things are not just going to fall in your lap.” She said she would definitely back her children to open their own businesses one day as well. “Business have to be managed and when people open businesses that they haven’t worked to get, 90 percent of the time it doesn’t work.”

Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year Competition, said, there had been a steep increase in the number of entries received this year in comparison to last year’s competition. “We are thrilled to announce that we received 213 entries this year, which is one of the highest numbers recorded to date, and an impressive increase of 40 percent compared to last year.

“The large number of entries has certainly raised the overall standard of the competition and is testament to the thriving level of entrepreneurial talent and success present in the country.

“We would like to congratulate and commend all entrants, as these are the individuals who bring about positive change and fuel job growth – helping the South African economy and communities to grow.

“We are delighted at the consistent growth in the number of entries from female entrepreneurs which reached a new high growing to more than 38 percent of the total participant pool, up from 29 percent of entries in 2015. Female entrepreneurs are also particularly well represented in the group of finalists, making up 60 percent of the entries that are through to the final round.”