South Africa, 26 May 2020: The national lockdown could be the start of an important change in the way South Africans spend. No longer comfortable with frivolous spending, people are looking to support local businesses that are contributing to communities or aligning with an ethical mandate as part of their operations.
This concept – known as ‘conscious consumerism’ is encouraging businesses to showcase their corporate social responsibility efforts in a more prominent way. As purpose-driven entrepreneurship trends upward, experienced business developers like Patricia Nzolantima believe this will positively impact the future of consumerism and how organisations operate in the long term.
YPO member and serial entrepreneur and founder of Bizzoly Holdings Nzolantima is looking to the future of African enterprise with optimism and hope. As someone who has a comprehensive history of developing projects that empower and support underserved communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, Nzolantima believes that purpose-driven business will have a bigger resurgence in the post COVID-19 era. The crisis is pulling us together and calling for actions that inspire lasting positive impact.
The Africa regional honouree for the 2020 YPO Global Impact Award is encouraging current and future entrepreneurs to see this as a period of significant change that can hold massive potential in the way consumers will interact with organisations. “Entrepreneurs should see this as a real opportunity to make a difference in their communities. Now is the time to make a profound impact. To inspire each other to have more humanity, think differently and take time to listen and reflect,” says Nzolantima.
Before 2020, the trend of purpose-driven businesses had already been growing momentum. The public wants to spend money on companies with a conscience, so calls have grown for businesses to be bastions for social good, deeply invested in the communities they operate in. Nzolantima agrees wholeheartedly with this idea. “People work very hard for their money and will be careful how to spend it. When you show them an opportunity to improve their community as they buy essential goods, you give them more reasons to choose your business.”
Nielsen Media Research found the popularity of a sustainability mindset has grown, with an increased number of corporations disclosing information on environmental, social, and governance (ESG). Before 2013, only 20% of S&P 500 companies reported their ESG activities. In 2018, that number rose to 85%.
Pivoting business to meet new demands is nothing new to Nzolantima. At the start of the pandemic, she was able to merge her women-led taxi service with her fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) company so that essential goods could be quickly and efficiently transported to those in need.
Changing business strategies in the middle of a pandemic can be anxiety inducing. Here is the advice Nzolantima is giving to fellow business leaders around the world to help them create sustainable, purpose-led enterprises:
- Be authentic. The conscious consumer is very aware that they are voting every time they spend their money. “The spirit of purpose-driven entrepreneurship must come from a good place in your heart. The consumer has more time online and can quickly investigate your motives. Your kindness will be in vain if you are only focused on profit.”
- Be a mentor. “You can have a profound impact on someone; help them to grow into a better version of themselves and inspire others around them. You plant the seed, so the person continues to grow even when you are not there. That’s what I want to do; leave a legacy by changing lives.”
- Be fearless: “Don’t be scared. Meditate and consider how you can control the situation. Think about where you want to be in six months’ time. What are the next steps? How can the current situation make you more efficient? How can you really make an impact?”
- Believe in yourself. Right now, it’s very easy to feel discouraged. “People will tell you you’re not good enough. I urge you to know you who are and keep believing in yourself, even if you fail. I love failure! It’s taught me many things including never to take anything for granted. If you have self-confidence, you can rebuild.”
- Be disciplined: “Don’t be swayed by what’s trendy and fashionable on social media. Stay focused on your goal. I didn’t follow the trend; I followed the investment and how it improves lives. Today, I still wake up at 4am to meditate, then I leave work early enough to get to gym. Rituals are important.”
Nzolantima says that the most important attribute is to learn to love obstacles. Why? Because you can learn strength through challenging times! “You meet God through the challenges. That’s when you find clarity and grow.” In this crucial time, she’s calling on the private and public sector to prioritise purposeful entrepreneurship initiatives by providing accessible funding, extensive educational programs, and enabling supportive legislature that will encourage socially beneficial business practices.
Nzolantima is a formidable force. She co-founded one of sub-Saharan Africa’s first ever marketing agencies; is a member of Harvard University African Studies’ Executive Committee; founded Ubizcabs, which focuses on women taxi drivers; started the Working Ladies Hub, she is ambassador of Women In Africa (WIA) empowerment initiatives; began Coding Girl to teach teenage girls to code; and joined the Young African Leaders Initiative launched by the former president Obama.
A person of boundless initiative, she also makes time to mentor businesswomen from around the world. Her goal for the next five years is to create the first women-led digital bank in Africa.