Woman entrepreneur talks about having guts in business

Kamille Padayachee is the founder of thoughtFIRE Events, a South African events and media management company that offers its clients a wide range of public relations services. This year she has made the finalist list for the Sanlam/Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year award in the emerging business category.

Kamille Padayachee

How we made it in Africa caught up with Padayachee to talk business.

If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?

I wish while studying at university I cared more about my future (instead of having fun) and did some part-time work at a corporate so that I was more equipped to handling this on my own. When you start off in your own business much of what you learn is by trial and error and I wish I had more experience to make less errors. But by the same token making many of those mistakes helped me become who I am today and taught me to be more flexible and resilient. I wouldn’t do much differently except be more responsible about my future. I don’t think anyone should be held up by regrets.

In your opinion, what is the best way for a business to achieve long-term success?

  • Flexibility: to know that in the tough times you have to do things differently to make that deal. The more rigid you are, the more likely you are to fail.
  • Endurance: to stay tough, level headed and strong
  • For everyone to share the same goal – from the intern to the accountant to our service providers

Is there anything you struggle with as an entrepreneur?

Yes of course. Although I love that I have the freedom to make quick decisions without needing to follow a strict procedure or hierarchy, it can be very overwhelming to know that the buck stops with you, and you alone, at the end of the day. The pressure of having staff that you need to pay at the end of a bad month is also a lot of responsibility to have. I do sometimes question if I am doing the right thing? Should I just join a big company? But I constantly have to motivate myself and stay focused to the end goal. I know that hardships and struggles right now are preparation for where I want to be in five years and where I want thoughtFIRE to be. It takes a lot of strength and to be honest, sometimes a good cry, but you have got to persevere.

What has been your greatest business mistake and what did you learn from it?

I’ve learnt over the years that in order to manage the business effectively I need to put aside my emotions especially when managing a team. Sometimes, more so when the business is yours – you tend to get very emotional about decisions. I try now to understand that I am just a small part in a big wheel and although I’m not perfect at it yet I am making a concerted effort every day to remind myself of this. I want my team to be motivated, ambitious and driven and by getting too emotional in the past I realised I was actually hindering this process. I think when you create bad vibes in a team nothing can be more damaging to a business.

Why do you think there are so few women entrepreneurs today?

I think women in [South Africa] are still afraid to reach their full potential. It isn’t an easy decision to start your own business but you have got to have the guts to literally just “go for it”. I was lucky being raised by a strong, single woman who wasn’t afraid to make sacrifices to give me a better life and I was raised to always reach for my dreams and go for it. I was also raised to be very independent – not to rely on anyone but myself to provide the life I wanted. I think if all the young girls were raised the same, things would be a lot different in a couple of years.

The Sanlam/Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year winners will be announced on 6 September 2012. Over the next few weeks How we made it in Africa will feature interviews with many of the finalists.