For the past 12 years I have been the team leader and CEO of Elim Spa Products. As an intrepid innovator, I develop new products and ideas. I am on a mission to discover my own latent knowledge: things I knew I already knew, but that suddenly just make sense.
I studied journalism and psychology at university before completing a post-grad in Knowledge Management. After graduating I worked for my professor for a year and then took on a role at Educor. After 6 years, I gave in to my inner entrepreneur, embraced the challenge and started my own business.
In 2015, I was awarded the Western Cape Entrepreneur of the month award. In January 2016, I was awarded the National Gazelle Award for 2015, an award for the 40 most promising, high-potential entrepreneurs in South Africa.
As a speaker, I tell stories that come from my own experiences. My love for travel and my passion to understand the body are a continuous source of learning that fuel my insights. I present the audience with a narrative journey of the world: what I have discovered, the wisdom that has been unveiled to me, what I think, and what I believe in. By sharing my observations into the wisdom of the body, I encourage my audience to tap into their own innate wisdom to find the truth.
Q & A with Shantelle
What ignited the spark in you to start your own business 12 years ago?
I think I was born to be an entrepreneur, so I cannot define one single moment. It is the way I am wired and I always look at something as an opportunity to build.
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
I didn’t trademark my business name when I started and it caused a lot of problems down the line.
I assumed that I knew the international market and that it was similar to South Africa. I made many mistakes because of this assumption.
I sometimes lose focus and start working independently from God. Every time I do this, things come tumbling down. If I consult with Him on the hour, we sail smoothly.
How long do you stick to an idea before giving up?
I never give up. I once read about the Englishman who dug for 7 years and then gave up. Then someone came after him and dug for 5 days and discovered the gold in Johannesburg. After reading that I don’t believe in giving up. Anything will pay off with enough persistence.
I must add that I don’t invest in things that I don’t research. Once I decide to do it, I go all the way. The important part is deciding whether I really want to do it.
What motivates you?
God; my husband (who is my biggest fan) and my staff who are always excited about new things.
If you had the chance to start your business over again, what would you do differently?
I think I would sell food. No, I am joking…I would do nothing differently. I made every mistake in the book. I stepped into every possible hole, and that built my character. It made me who I am today and this is the reason I can help others when they start. If I didn’t learn the hard way, I wouldn’t have any experiences to share.
How do you generate new ideas?
That is a difficult one, but we try to look at what is missing from current offerings. We never give the industry what they already have and, for example, just add different fragrances.
Innovation takes time and often this is a hindrance because you do not typically produce 10 new products annually.
What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
Fear comes when you assume a situation is going to go a certain way. I try to look at things realistically and caution myself when I make an assumption.
Fear is usually like a shadow at night; once you switch on the light it disappears, but it can seem very real when you are in the dark.
How do you define success?
In product manufacturing I would define this as reaching a stage where people ask for your product by name.
What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
You need a good idea or a good product. You need innovation and you need to prepare. You cannot have success with a hit-and-miss attitude, thinking you might strike it lucky. You need to have a strategy and a vision for your products and for your business, and of course for the people in the business.
How did you build a successful customer base?
I started 11 years ago with my little Hyundai Atos, driving from salon to salon, telling people about my products. Up to this day, every time I drive past a salon I take a picture of the salon and the contact details and I save it. If you do this for 11 years, you have a great customer base.
What makes you happy?
Seeing my children laugh.
Who has been your greatest inspiration and why?
My husband, Ben. He has stopped me on many occasions when I wanted to give up, or when I threatened to sell the business. He believes in me and thinks that there is no one more perfect than his wife. When you have someone standing on the side of the field constantly cheering you on, you can only succeed.
What has been your most successful moment in business?
When the Bulgari Hotel in Knightsbridge, London called me I felt on top of cloud nine.
Watching my staff grow can also be defined as a great success. They often start off in the office and because of the business needs they learn everything from accounting to graphic design in the first 12 months.
How do you go about marketing your business?
We have never marketed the business, we only recently started advertising. It has always been word of mouth. We do a lot of free training in schools and these students filter into the industry and take us with them.
What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Creating trust in our products and delivering quality.
How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?
I have a friend who always says “it is what it is”. It happens, we fix what we can, and we learn. There is no manual to do this. And of course I pray…A LOT.
What are you hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
I started piano lessons again at age 40 and take an hour class every week to improve my rusty skills. Sometimes I sit and talk to my teacher about beautiful music I heard or we enjoy beautiful music together. I love classical music. I have two sons who love doing boy-things so it gives me a lot of free time to play. I don’t like shopping and I am no Sporty Spice.
Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire most and why?
Takealot has managed what no one else in SA managed before. But when it comes to innovation, of course Apple. And I love how Armani and Aston Martin have managed to protect their brand.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I love what I do and I think I will continue doing it for a long time. I hope to have more free time for music.
When the oldest Comrades runner passed away, his trainer said that Mr. Rabinowitz had such great plans for the future – I think he was 107 years old! I don’t think I will stop at 60 and retire.There are too many people with undiscovered potential we can still help.