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ELLE BOSS ALUMNI: ZAMA KHANYILE

ELLE Boss 2016 Alum Zama Khanyile provides funding solutions to black entrepreneurs looking to start new, grow existing, or to buy into existing businesses as well as business support (through mentorship, etc.) to ensure that these ventures are successful.

On the challenges of corporate environments:

Being undermined because of your age, gender and race remains a challenge. The only way to deal with that stereotype is to be competent and to learn to ensure you are heard. The latter becomes easier with time, experience and confidence. I’m fortunate to work in an organisation that’s led by women, and where women are given ample opportunity to prosper. It’s embedded in me that women need to support other women. Those ahead should continue to kick down doors and create a space for younger talent to thrive.

On the ELLE Boss Experience

The energy in the room that night was positive and powerful. It also
felt great to be recognised for the milestones I had achieved. We developed strong, genuine bonds.

On why you should enter:

It’s a great opportunity to get to know other amazing women and make friends with like-minded individuals, which you otherwise would not have had the opportunity to meet. It’s a fantastic opportunity to tell your story with ELLE’s voice and platform to inspire others.

On lessons learned:

Take up opportunities. But remember, sometimes opportunities come dressed as challenges. I have learned not to be afraid of hard work.

On failure:

Failure is an inevitable fact of life and an integral part of one’s learning curve. The trick is to learn from
it, to be honest with yourself about the lessons learned, and adapt your approach knowing what your areas of improvement are.

On the best advice she’s received:

Learn to forgive yourself, but you can only wallow in your sadness and disappointment for a limited amount of time; thereafter you must put your big girl panties on and move on with your head held high.

On the future:

I always tell high school and university students about enduring short-term pain for long-term gain. And post graduation, I believe
we are all like pencils. We need frequent sharpening in order to… well… stay sharp and relevant. All the opportunities that were given to me stemmed from education. It’s the most powerful tool to elevate your life and it opens doors.

These answers first appeared in a print edition of ELLE.