Updated: Jun 22, 2021
Seipati Mokhuoa is the Founder of SAWIL and Regional Director/Partner at Board Academy Africa. She is a formidable and influential thought leader on issues of gender equality, transformation and diversity in the workplace.
She has extensive experience in implementing meaningful opportunities with great focus on women who are prospective senior managers and executives. A consummate professional with more than 15 years working experience, a decade of which was in various leadership roles in a leading pan-African investment, savings, insurance, and banking group.
We had a Q&A session with Seipati to capture her amazing journey as a business leader and entrepreneur. Please enjoy the read.
Hello Seipati and thank you for participating in this Q&A interview session. Please give us some insight into your background and your entrepreneurial journey to date?
Seipati: I am a seasoned professional with more than a decade of experience in the Financial Services industry, eight years of which were in various leadership roles. I spent the first three years of my career in the banking sector. In 2009, I was head-hunted by one of South Africa's leading Insurance and Investment companies where I would spend eight years specialising, providing leadership and developing the Personal Finance Advice and Wealth Management Division.
A formidable and influential thought leader on issues of gender equality, transformation, and diversity in the workplace – is how I see myself. I have extensive experience in implementing meaningful strategies and opportunities with great focus on women and youth across Africa. With great determination in 2014, I founded two companies: Strategic African Women In Leadership (SAWIL), and HenDal Holdings (named after my sons: Henry and Dalitso) which now houses (HD Afrika: HD Media, HD Innovation Hub, HD Freelancers, HD Market, HD Flight Rentals, and HD Events).
Before I left the Financial Services sector in November 2018 to focus on the growth and demands of SAWIL and Hendal Holdings, I was Area General Manager overseeing the company’s administrative duties in three Provinces; Mpumalanga, Limpopo and North West in South Africa. A major part of my role involved leading and directing a diverse team of 11 Managers, over 120 Financial Advisers and eight admin staff members. Being the first woman and African to hold these positions in these regions was a great feat for me.
This environment, due to its untransformed and male dominated legacy, propelled me to self-introspect. I had to think on my feet and find creative and productive solutions to introduce diversity and inclusion initiatives.
As an entrepreneur and business leader, what would you say has been your key drivers and motivators?
Seipati: I am driven by two things only: purpose and impact. I do not do anything unless it's going to change and transform lives.
What key challenges have you faced as a business leader and entrepreneur? Additionally, how have you navigated or capitalised on these?
Seipati: I have not had challenges as an entrepreneur, only lessons. I am extremely fortunate to have spent over a decade in the corporate sector before fully transitioning to entrepreneurship. I have also had the opportunity to watch and learn from my late dad, an avid businessman, who unfortunately made many mistakes that I vowed not to repeat.
Having landed my first leadership role at the age of 24, looking after teams of people who were twice and sometimes three times my age, taught me a lot. I also had great mentors and senior leaders who invested in me, which most entrepreneurs do not have. Key characteristics such as tenacity, agility, and discipline come in handy in the entrepreneurship space, and I am fortunate to have had the right set of circumstances to learn these in my previous roles in the corporate sector.
Has your entrepreneurial journey been influenced by any current or past business leaders, and how?
Seipati: Oprah Winfrey's illustrious journey has been my compass in relentlessly and unapologetically pursuing my true north.
I have several businesswomen and men, both locally and internationally, that I look up to. However, in terms of direct influence, I would have to say my mentor Chief (Kgosi) Lediga, who is the founder, former Chief Executive and Chairman of Legae Securities (Pty) Ltd, the first Black owner-managed stockbroking firm in the South African stock market. He has walked the journey with me from my last year in Varsity up to today. There is a not a career decision I consider or make without consulting with him.
Phil Knight, co-founder and chairman emeritus of Nike, Inc., is also a significant influence. I read his book in December 2018, a month after I finally left the corporate sector. Two people who are significantly close to me but do not know each other had read his book: Shoe Dog, and both kept insisting that there were several similarities between his entrepreneurship style and mine. And they were not wrong.
How much support have you received during your entrepreneurial journey?
Seipati: I am quite fortunate to have a solid global network of successful entrepreneurs, making it relatively easy to get support when needed. As they say:
"your network is your net-worth".
What advice do you have for female entrepreneurs, especially those in Africa?
Seipati: Do not underestimate the power of networking! Connecting with the right people for the right reasons will take you far in life. Lastly, do not be shy to ask for help; successful and secure people are usually readily available and quite keen on assisting noble people.
You originally founded SAWIL and it has grown into one of Africa’s biggest networks for female business leaders. Where did the idea for SAWIL come from and what was the inspiration behind it?
Seipati: Being the only woman and sometimes the only young Black person in the boardroom in my twenties always left a bitter taste in my mouth. Also, in both the companies I worked for, I was always part of the Employment Equity Committees. Subsequently, I was privy to the statistics from an overall companies' perspective and strategy. In a country where most of the population is Black, it didn't sit well with me that the stats did not resemble the country's demographics in these organisations. Thus, it slowly became my mission to influence, challenge and change the status quo directly. That is, in a nutshell, how SAWIL came to being.
Since you left your role as CEO of SAWIL on February 2021, what have you been up to in the business and entrepreneurial ecosystem? If you have started any new enterprise or continued with an old one, please identify these and their value propositions.
Seipati: The Executive Chairperson role is surprisingly just as demanding. The expansion to the rest of Africa and the Diaspora requires that I remain hands-on until the entire vision and strategy is in motion. I have also taken over an additional role (Regional Director for Africa) with Board Academy, a European-based company that specialises in board training and placements. Together with the CEO, Guido Happe, we have since established its subsidiary: Board Academy Africa, which aims to bridge the gap between Europe and Africa by sourcing, training, and placing board directors in the two continents.
HD Afrika, especially the innovation hub, also keeps me terribly busy with the latest ventures, acquisitions and collaboration with our UAE based network. Our upcoming Impact Invest Forum - Africa Edition, co-founded with Innovate4Good, has been one of the most fulfilling projects to put together for the continent. With our first edition gaining the support of big players in the investment and startup space such as African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (AVCA), AfricInvest, Africa Development Bank Group, African Energy Chamber, Abu Dhabi Global Market, C3, Grosvenor Capital, Stratecis and our media partner Startup Africa Magazine, it is sure to be an impactful project that we hope to host annually from now on.
We have come to the end of the interview and would like to thank you Seipati, for taking the time out to participate in this Q&A session. We wish you all the best and hope to have you back at some point in the future.
Seipati: Thank you so much for having me, I really appreciate the platform and the work that you are doing. Wishing you all the absolute best as well.
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