Divine Ndhlukula together with young business entrepreneurs who participate in the ITP-programme Strategic Business Management in Sweden. Participants (from the right) are from Moldovia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Ukraine and Georgia.
Photo: Åsa Jarskog @ Jarskog Konsult
She transformed the male dominated security industry in Zimbabwe
Divine Ndhlukula is one of Africa’s most successful women entrepreneurs. She started SECURICO in her home in Zimbabwe, and is the boss of over 4000 employees in one of the country’s largest security companies. For Sida, she tells about how she came to transform the male dominated industry, the road to success and why her participation in the Sida financed International Training Programs (ITPs) were a decisive factor.
She embarked on the male dominated security industry in Zimbabwe when she started SECURICO with four employees in her humble backyard in 1998. Today Divine Ndhlukula is the Founder and Managing Director of one of the country’s largest security companies with over 4000 employees – out of which 900 are women.
At the time, the Zimbabwean security sector was ruled by just a few companies, by people with low self-esteem who saw their jobs as transit jobs. They did not need to make any efforts because they knew the jobs were theirs, says Divine Ndhlukula. She noticed the gap in the market and came to transform not only the face of the industry but also the industry itself:
“I hired women for economic reasons, because they brought in a whole new element of professionalism, quality and a humane face. That made the difference. We taught all aspects of business, PR, what it means to be professional and proud in your work. If you are secure in your role, you do a better job. We were different than what the customers expected. This was noticeable on the market and we grew.”
Today SECURICO is the company that employs most women outside of government in Zimbabwe. But the way there has not been easy. As a start-up business, Divine Ndhlukula met a lot of prejudices and male consumers that did not want to work with female security guards. It took a lot of convincing from her side for the female employees to be confident and secure in their jobs. They were the game changer, what was essential to overcome the prejudices in society:
“The market was not receptive to me as a woman without any background in the security sector. But if you work as an underdog, you always do your best – and become the best. The challenges eventually turned out to be the best thing as it brought out the best in us. The clients realised soon that we were ahead of everyone else and could deliver better services.”
”Sida’s programs put me right where I needed to be”
Today she is ranked one of Africa’s most successful women entrepreneurs by Forbes magazine. Her company was the first in Zimbabwe to be granted ISO (International Organization for Standardisation) certificate thanks to the use of cutting-edge technology.
Divine knew right from the beginning that she aimed at the top of the market. Today her company delivers services like guarding, cash management, alarm systems and training of guarding dogs to customers who wants only the highest quality.
A meaningful part of her work is to ensure that her employees have opportunities to develop their skills and competences. In order to succeed it is important to align with their personal goals through training, she says:
“My employees can build careers and develop from being an operator to an officer, to middle manager and senior manager. I’ve seen their lives’ transform, especially the women who in the beginning wasn’t sure of themselves but who are now high-flying and confident, single mothers who have become owners of cars and houses and can send their children off to universities.”
Her goal is to see more of women economic empowerment in Zimbabwe. She is proud of the impact she has had on young female entrepreneurs who dared taking the step into starting and building their own businesses.
In order to be successful it is important to keep learning, widen your horizon, sharpen your skills and competences and to know the environment and new technology, says Divine. She has a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Midland State University and a MBA from Women’s University in Africa, and participated in the Sida financed International Training Programmes (IPT): Start Your Business, Expand Your Business and Strategic Business Management (SBM).
“Sida’s programmes took me right where I needed to be. Especially the SBM-programme allowed me to build a network with people from different regions and countries, which provides perspective. Then when you return to your home environment, you find that you are way ahead of others because you are more knowledgeable, more skilled and have a better view of how to deal with certain problems. That has been very important and valuable to me.”
She spends a lot of her time mentoring young entrepreneurs, including today’s participants in the SBM-programme:
“My advice is always that you should implement something for the team that make a difference for your company. Firstly it is about learning all the tools you have got. Then you need discipline to manage the financial affairs: if you start making money, it’s the business’ money.
“When you’re successful, you can’t afford not to succeed”
She feels honoured and privileged to be back in Stockholm in the other week as one of the awardees of this year’s International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge (IWEC) – an award that recognizes women entrepreneurs around the world.
Her company has received over 20 national and international awards over the years, not least Legatum Africa Awards for Entreprenourship in 2011, which secured the position as a serious global player within the security sector:
“This means that I can no longer afford not to succeed. For me it was a challenge to continuing expanding the business and doing all the right things to continue growing. We have accepted the position to be winners, and we will always be winners.”
This is not just business as usual, she explains:
“We really need to push the boundaries. But how can I expect people to push boundaries if I don’t push boundaries myself? There’s no way I can ask people to be ethical if I’m not ethical. I have to set the example and the tone when it comes to our work culture, valuing honesty and ethics. It is so important to be exemplary, and that’s how I’ve always tried to lead.”