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Unconventionally Successful: Four hero female entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship is hard, but if successful, the rewards are so great. We found four unconventional female entrepreneurs who have shown that thinking outside of the box and hard work can lead to great success.

1. Sibongile Sambo, founder and managing director of SRS Aviation

When Sibongile tried to follow her dream of becoming a flight attendant, she was turned down because she didn’t meet the height requirements. But this wasn’t the end of it for her. She decided to open her own aviation company, and that’s how SRS Aviation was born.

SRS Aviation, the first 100% black, female-owned aviation services company in South Africa, launched in 2004. SRS provides private aviation services including VIP charters, tourist charters, and helicopter services to destinations worldwide, as well as maintenance, sales and fleet management services to private jet owners.

Sibongile is also a motivational speaker, a mentor, and is committed to creating opportunities and empowering women from previously disadvantaged backgrounds.

2. Anne Wojcicki, CEO, and co-founder of 23andMe

In 2006, Wojcicki co-founded 23andMe with Linda Avey. 23andMe is a human genome research company that decodes DNA and gives customers more information about their health, traits, and ancestry. Customers send their spit sample to 23andMe, which is analysed to identify genetic changes at 700,000 different locations in their genomes – which contain six-billion DNA base pairs of code. They then receive a basic report about some genetic differences and their ancestry.

In 2018, pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline started a partnership with 23andMe to develop new medicines. This partnership will see GlaxoSmithKline invest $300-million in 23andMe for the four-year partnership.

3. Molemo Kgomo, founder of Ntombenhledolls

The idea for Ntombenhledolls was born in 2005 when Molemo couldn’t find a doll celebrating her heritage and skin colour for her toddler. While she did see dolls available overseas, none of them celebrated Africa, so she decided to make African dolls for Africans.

However, a lack of strategy and marketing meant her start was slow and she nearly gave up on the business. This all changed in 2015 after she spoke to a friend. She relaunched, rebranded, and set up the digital side to the business. The online store changed her business reach so much that they sell internationally now as well.

4. Shreya Misha, CEO and co-founder of Flyrobe

Known as the AirBnb of fashion, this Mumbai-based start-up is making waves online. Flyrobe is an on-demand apparel rental platform that provides premium designer wear for special occasions. You’re probably thinking why you didn’t think of that, what a brilliant idea.

After visiting the AirBnb office in 2012, Shreya came up with the idea of renting out designer gear, and in September 2015, Flyrobe was launched along with two other co-founders, Pranay Surana and Tushar Saxena.

The app, as well as a few stores, provides a service to those who like to purchase expensive clothing for special occasions, but hardly wear them after. Eliminating waste and saving them quite a bit of money.

According to Forbes India, the Flyrobe founders claim to have clocked an approximate revenue of $2-million in 2018, which they expect will increase three-fold in 2019. While 65% of their business is generated online, the rest comes from brick-and-mortar stores. The company has raised $11-million from Sequoia Capital, IDG Ventures, GREE Ventures, and several angel investors.

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