Friday 1 March 2024

At the helm

Nobuhle Mthethwa?s business acumen has anchored her as a celebrated businesswoman, whose aim is to empower others as a mentor and coach, philanthropist and thought leader.

NOBUHLE ?BUHLE? GLORIA MTHETHWA is a seasoned businesswoman who paid her dues as an entrepreneur and in the process learnt to invest intelligently. This former Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse from Boksburg, Ekurhuleni, made a professional switch when the entrepreneurial bug bit her just a few years into a nursing career, a field that required precision.

Her meticulous nature in the medical profession stood her in good stead when she launched her own business back in 1997, starting out with successful ventures in the catering and hospitality industry, then in waste management and mechanical sweeping.

Being bitten by the business bug

Mthethwa is salt on earth with defined humility, her warm personality speaks volume as to why she is revered as one of the most successful business mentors and coach in South Africa. This media-shy powerhouse has always been a foodie, who began her full boutique catering service from her kitchen.

?I just enjoyed preparing food for friends, family and associates. Visiting my house meant a feast of varied sampling of African traditional dishes and any exotic bites that caught my attention. One day one of my friends casually hinted that I should take this cooking thing seriously,? she said.

Although she had heard too many times before, Mthethwa was not really paying attention to the advice. That very friend would, a few days later, call her up requesting her catering services after her organisation had been let down by a catering company at the 11th hour. Known for her articulation of culinary art, Mthethwa outdid herself and delivered on time.

This queen of precision would organically evolve into a boutique catering outfit while holding down a nursing job. The orders began coming in fast and furious – first from friends, then extending to their business networks and later to full scale industry hospitality. When she could no longer sustain the dual roles, she made the food business her focus.

That was the beginning of a good business, that would run, along with businesses in waste management and mechanical sweeping, for years under a holding company Kuhle Kunje Investment Holdings which she founded in 1997. She would continue to expand her investment portfolio by partnering with Khuluma Enterprises. The latter took interest in industries that were not housed and trading under Kuhle Kunje. Mthethwa?s key to success has always been ?lift others as you grow?. She runs her businesses with African conscience of Ubuntu.

?You only grow when the community you live in also develops,? she said.

Family of entrepreneurs

When Mthethwa waltzed into business like fish taking to water, it was no surprise to many who knew her family. Her mother Mirriam Ntombincani Mthethwa (nee Khumalo) started it all. For as long as her children could remember, she always run multiple businesses while holding down a full time job. This has rubbed off her children.

The siblings are entrepreneurs in their own right but the key influencer and role model was their late elder brother, who took the business of being the first born in the family seriously.

Lovington Sipho Mthethwa ran successful enterprises in neighbouring Swaziland (now eSwatini). ?My brother was instrumental in broadening our outlook. He brought us up in Swaziland, we had left the country to be under his care, watching him transact became embedded in our DNA,? Mthethwa said.

She, along with her siblings left South Africa during the apartheid era, to be taken care of by their elder brother while their father Alfred Mthethwa, a clerk in the mining industry and their mother remained. Mthethwa says her experience in Swaziland is positively indelible and she has her brother to thank for it. She continues to build on it. ?My brother was pro success, and inculcated in us that hard work, focus and commitment to a cause always yield results,? she said.

Natural-born leader

Mthethwa was recently appointed chairperson of the Black Business Council and also serves as chair of the SMME Development Committee. She previously served, at various times, as president and secretary-general of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nafcoc). Mthethwa has travelled extensively and participated in numerous business chambers in countries such as Turkey, India, Norway, Japan and Brazil. She is one of the most recognisable and formidable businesswoman in South Africa, with board membership experience as chairperson of All JOY Foods (2010-2012) an Altx JSE listed company; chairperson of Tractionel  Enterprise (the company doing overheard electrification of Gautrain, (2004 ? 2013); NAFHOLD board member (2001?2009), NAFHOLD Investments (2006 ? 2013), director/chairperson of AH-Vest Pty Ltd (2011?2012), SA Post Office (2012 ? 2014), and chairperson of Teova Mining SA (2017 ? present).

Her vision

Mthethwa’s vision is to contribute and make a positive change on the continent for generations to come. Kuhle Kunje  is currently supplying industrial and power generating products to different markets. “My Leadership acumen is being imparted in several platforms within the broader societal structures. Regional and global contribution is within my participation at BRICS Business Council.”


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