By Chandrea Serebro
When Israeli-born Maya Mallah made Aliya back to Israel 15 years ago, she arrived to the country of her birth only to discover that the reality there was so different to what she had enjoyed in South Africa for so many years, being a housewife who also enjoyed domestic help. She realised that she needed to uplift herself in order to contribute to the household, and took herself off to study beauty for two years, which turned out to be “the best years of my life”. Maya found her passion, as well as a proficiency at beauty. Little did she know then that this life makeover would not only prove to be the inspiration for her success in business back home in South Africa, but also become the name of her new business – Makeover, a beauty salon which is making great strides in the beauty business.
Missing their friends and family and life back home in South Africa, the Mallahs decided to move back to South Africa, and soon afterwards Maya began practicing as a beauty therapist from a small room in her house. “After ten years of this small but stable business, I realised that I had a large clientele and that, in order to fully accommodate the services I could offer them, I needed to grow my business accordingly.” Maya knew what so many Estate Agents have for so long, that location is everything, and she began looking for a shop in a good area. “Hashem blessed me with a shop right in the heart of the Jewish hub of Glenhazel, where most of my clientele spend much of their time.” Despite a long line of people vying for the shop, Maya’s authenticity, honesty, and gentle way won her the shop. She called it Makeover – for what she could do for her clients, but also for what being in business had done for her.
She began offering manicures and pedicures, massage and beauty treatments, and the increasingly popular gel nail manicure, all at competitive prices, which saw her clientele grow to over 2 500. “I love every minute of my job, and I enjoy working with people and doing my best to give them the best service that I can.” Soon Maya felt the tug of growth again, wanting to go beyond the successful operation she had built up and was enjoying. After much research, Maya took the plunge on a costly laser hair removal machine imported from Germany, to add laser hair removal to the litany of treatments offered at Makeover, for a price far more competitive than other service providers, but with proven results. “In business, particularly a business such as beauty, you have to keep up with the times. Technology is changing so rapidly that the old paint and polish way of doing things in the past is now almost defunct.”
Only two days after purchasing the expensive laser machine, Maya was diagnosed with breast cancer, the most devastating and unexpected news she could have received. “Just as I was going forward with success, now I found myself wondering how I was going to carry on, how I would manage with all the chemotherapy treatments I would have to endure.” She became depressed, but with the support of her husband, her family, and her kids who always stood by her in every endeavour, “I got back up on my feet, inspired to continue to work every day and fight this terrible disease.” She refused to allow her sickness to affect her motivation to keep her business and continue making a success out of it, which she did with the help of her professional staff members and the support of her family.
“Today I’m cancer free, and I still love doing what I do. I give everything I can to my clients, offering them the best services and prices.” Maya’s business strategy has always been to keep moving forward, and never to forget the support of the people that help you to get where you are. “It is not just me. It was also my husband and my family, my children, my amazing clients who supported me all the way and helped me build the successful business that I have today” that made Maya’s own personal makeover and Makeover a success in every way.
Leonard Shenker and Dan Wagner, founders of walletdoc, understand that there is nothing worse than going into municipal and utility offices or telecommunications retail outlets to settle those nagging bills on their credit cards. Most people leave them until the threat of final notices gets them into action. Since 2015, walletdoc, South Africa’s first mobile and web-based bill presentment and payment platform, has made it possible for users to make such payments from the comfort of their mobile phones. This is done via walletdoc’s IOS and Android app or via a PC using a web portal. And in addition to the payment of bills, consumers can receive their bills in real-time, reminders when bills are due, and digital online storage that eliminates the need for manual filing and retrieval of bills. “Having started off as a specialised bill payments company in the municipal, telecommunication, and utility industries, we realised that businesses of all shapes and sizes across all industries were in need of more efficient payment solutions,” say the pair.
Their acute recognition of where in the market they could benefit the consumer and make a difference is the perfect expression of entrepreneurship, the starting point of any business, which propelled walletdoc from a good idea to a real, successful business. “From a young age I always had ambitions to start my own company. I have always been excited by the opportunities technologies present. Much like a painter, a programmer starts with a blank screen and what he creates is limited only by his imagination,” says Dan Wagner. “We started walletdoc because we had an innovative idea that solved a problem for businesses and consumers.” It was a problem Dan knew intimately – after his wife received a fine in the mail three months late, which made it impossible to have paid on time and get a 50% discount. “Had it arrived on time (via a real-time digital payments platform like walletdoc), I would have been able to pay, saving myself time, money, and stress.”
And this realisation, coupled with the business savvy to watch for trends or gaps in the market and act fast to fill them, inspired the two to develop walletdoc and quickly grew it into an innovative payment solution that offers card payment solutions across multiple channels, all under one roof – including point of sale devices, QR code payments, recurring card payment processing, smart payment buttons and links. “Being an entrepreneur is not easy, but I believe in what we are doing and the rewards far outweigh the risks,” says Dan.
The crunch for the business came when they entered into a strategic marketing agreement with Absa Bank, says Leonard, in addition to entering into acceptance agreements with both Diners Club and American Express. And through joint marketing efforts, the business catapulted to process billions of Rands worth of payments within two short years, he says. “My advice to those considering starting their own business is: start,” says Leonard. And what is more, he says, “launch before you feel ready – there is never a perfect time to launch.” Launching and running a business has been “the most challenging yet one of the most rewarding journeys of my life”, he says, far outweighing the “comfort and stability” of a more traditional corporate role. “Although one needs long-term vision, a constant focus on setting and achieving small incremental goals is a necessity to successfully launch and grow a business.”
The Art Shebeen
If you look around at the Art Shebeen, you see kids concentrating hard, intent on their creation of their choice and the expression of their hidden artist within. You might think that they are serious art students, but, in fact, they are in the heart of Linksfield, while their mother shops at Woolies downstairs or fiddles on her phone enjoying the respite. It is a winning formula, and even more so for Art Shebeen founder Shani Sussman, who describes the journey toward getting to this point in her business as a “special one”.
“The Art Shebeen has outgrown our expectations. But the impact it has had on others has been astounding, and it has definitely brought much joy and creativity to my life.” Shani has always felt a kinship towards creativity, colour, and design, ever since she was little. She studied fashion and interior design, so she was “bound to be pulled into something with the arts”. It was just a matter of how, when, and why.
The Art Shebeen began when Shani’s mother accompanied a friend with cancer to an art studio, and felt inspired to help Shani start a mosaicking shop as their next joint adventure. Within a few days, all was organised, but, at the eleventh hour, they were let down by the landlord. This setback turned out to be for the best. “The Art Shebeen pop-up shop opened in Linksfield Square Shopping Centre in 2014 which later became our permanent home. What we thought would be a relaxing adult’s venue became the most creative, fun, and exhilarating studio in town. A place where not only adults, but children of all ages can come and express themselves without limitations; a place where people can feel comfortable to be themselves.”
A few months in, Shani took over the business. “It was definitely our amazing team and the on-going support from my mother which helped me to bring the business to where it is today. She successfully works with schools, autistic and challenged children and adults, and the many who have become part of what Shani calls her “Art family” – aided in no small part by her assistant, Vanessa, who helps kids create their “magical creations”.
Shani believes firmly in the power of artistic expression to rejuvenate and relax, and when running the business on her own starts to become a little challenging, or after days of hard work spent at the shop, Shani can rely on the joy of the colour and expression brought by the Art Shebeen to both her customers and to herself to get her through it. This was the motivation behind her choice of décor and her logo as well –“paint splashes everywhere – which I feel represents us best because free expression without concern is so important”.
Working with the Jewish community has been “nothing but amazing” – from unity events, charity events, and bat mitzvah programmes, as well as with special needs children and adults. What started out as a purely mosaic studio has, with Hashem’s help, now expanded to offer over seven different crafts with more than 200 items to choose from, and they also now offer lessons, facilitate birthday parties and other celebrations, as well as team building events too. And, says Shani, who has embraced this adventure and is committed to growing so that the art stays alive and doesn’t get old, there is more on the horizon.