Phenomenal Woman: Founder and Managing Director of BLAQUE PARTNERS – Dineo Mondlane

I have known this Phenomenal Woman since we were youngsters. We both attended St. Barnabas School and unbeknownst to us our parents knew each other from the University of Fort Hare.

After we matriculated from school, Dineo and I reunited again when we worked together at Unilever, and became neighbours in Durban.

Dineo, whom I fondly call Dudu, has always had the ability to put a smile on my face. Like me, she started her own business and I am proud to call her a Phenomenal Woman.

Here is her inspirational story.

  1. Who is Dineo Mondlane?

I am a South African born and bred entrepreneur who is a Founder and Managing Director of BLAQUE PARTNERS, a match-making service for B-BBEE driven enterprises partnerships. I am a proud wife and devoted mother of two! I feel privileged to pursue my dream of contributing meaningfully to my country, especially after a 20-year career in corporate.

BLAQUE PARTNERS is a platform that connects black businesses to public and private business opportunities in order to impact meaningfully to the country’s transformational agenda. I am particularly passionate about entrepreneurial empowerment and facilitating access of black enterprises to business growth opportunities in South Africa. I have always felt compelled to make a bigger and more profound contribution as a black woman in South Africa and ultimately make a difference, even in some small way.

Becoming an entrepreneur comes with many tradeoffs and sacrifices, but the time it has allowed for me to see my kids grow and influence many aspects of their lives has been incredibly rewarding.

  1. Why did you think it was important to create an organisation specific to empowering black enterprises?

I am particularly driven and determined to provide guidance and support to black women enterprises that do not yet receive adequate support within the broader socio-economic transformation ecosystem, which tends to be more male oriented. I believe that black women-owned businesses, given the right support, have the ability to contribute even more meaningfully to the South African economy. Black enterprises, in general, have the ability to become high-growth businesses and create much needed employment in South Africa. It is a space that is important to me and I believe I can make a tangible business therein.

  1. Have you seen a change in the socio-economic impact black businesses have on the South African economy?

In the short period of my entrepreneurial journey, I have certainly had the privilege of seeing and being part of some great success stories of black enterprises and their significant contributions but, believe that there is still room for more given the right support.

Although many of the black enterprise success stories do not make the headlines, you will be pleasantly surprised to see the kind of contribution that these enterprises have made in terms of creating jobs and growing the economy. Unfortunately we certainly do not have enough of them. I believe that there is enough of the ‘right’ energy to start seeing an even bigger impact and that’s where BLAQUE PARTNERS aims to make its contribution.

  1. Are black enterprises receiving business growth opportunities they deserve?

Absolutely not. We really need to start seeing black entrepreneurs beyond micro-enterprises – perpetually in training or as part of incubation programmes. We need to see black entrepreneurs as highly skilled professionals and many of them having sacrificed promising corporate careers to make a real difference to the country, by addressing real issues of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

  1. As the winner of the Best MBA student in Women in Leadership & Strategy and General Management from GIBS, how important is it to further your education as an entrepreneur?

The importance of education can never be over-emphasised. Our country is in desperate need of a skilled and an educated workforce but even more critically, entrepreneurship can no longer be seen as an available option for the less educated. I do believe that as an entrepreneur, one has to think differently. You need to ask even more provocative questions and your approach to business really requires a great deal of creativity. This is what education helps you do.

As an entrepreneur, one has to consistently think about a ‘future that is yet be made’ that speaks to effectual rationality versus thinking causally that requires pre-determined goals and the finding means to achieve the goals. Entrepreneurship on the other hand, requires an inverse of causality. Entrepreneurs have very little choice but to start with a given set of means or resources and let the ultimate goals evolve. The entrepreneurial journey unlocks interesting discoveries that help define where one is heading, and that is why education not only gives one a little more options, but facilitates the ever increasing need for creativity.

  1. Being an entrepreneur yourself, what’s the biggest challenge you have faced?

Within the numerous challenges I’ve experienced, my biggest one has probably been myself and my own mind-set. Despite my numerous career successes and accolades, believing in myself was an area I needed to develop despite my formal and informal education. I find women, in particular, tend to stand in the way of their own success, often thinking of the glass as half-empty instead of half-full.  This creates a big psychological barrier despite one’s educational background or competency levels.

My next biggest challenge has been the multiple roles that I have to play, especially between home and career. When it comes to managing my time, almost every minute of the day is worth money. The adage of: As an entrepreneur, what you put in is what you get out, has never been truer.

  1. Any advice to women looking to start their own business?

Entrepreneurship is very interesting with many twists and turns. It is not a destination but a journey that can be testing emotionally and mentally. The trade-offs are real, requiring a deep understanding of who you are and clarity on personal purpose. You may need to unlearn a lot of what you thought you knew and make way for new adventures. It is not a short term alternative to dealing with your current challenges, but a real opportunity to unleash that which lies deep within yourself, your personal power, strength and resilience. It gives you flexibility, some choices but most importantly renewed respect of what is possible if you give it your all. It is hard work with a lot of responsibility, more than Corporate, but the most rewarding part is that it allows you an opportunity to determine your own future.

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