Erna Basson | Build a Powerful Sellable brand Fast
Erna Basson is a South African Multi Award Winning Entrepreneur who has sold several companies before the age of 30. She has spoken on stages across the world on woman empowerment & building a profitable brand. We caught up with Erna in this exclusive interview
1. Can you give us a brief background of your history? Where you grew up etc
I am an Afrikaans Freestate girl, all the way from Bloem, currently staying in Port Elizabeth. I went to school at Sentraal high school and was a netball player my entire high school term. I was fortunate enough to receive my provincial colors in netball throughout high school and in my final school year we won the super14 SA netball cup, which was one of my biggest highlights in school. I also experienced one of my biggest disappointments in my final year when I missed my SA netball colors due to a terrible netball injury in my lower back and I had to undergo severe physiotherapy and rehabilitation with a bio kineticist and physo costing my SA colors. I studied at Kovsies ( I am a very proud Kovsie) where I completed a 4 year Bachelors degree in 3 years with 18 distinctions while working 3 jobs. So I know what hard work is, what sleepless nights feel like and being completely exhausted but still pushing through to do what needs to be done in order to achieve my goals, but I also made time to enjoy my student life. Whilst studying I was dancing for the Cheetahs rugby team (the years when they won the Currie cup against the Bulls) and also for the Pro20 Cricket Tournament.
I sold my student vehicle to start my first company at the age of 22, it was a marketing and events agency. I had no investment capital or bank loans, I only had the R30 000.00 from selling my car and a Bachelors Degree, but I was hungry for success and I build that company into a multi million rand company and increased our profit by 100% year on year. I then started my second company at the age of 26. I sold both companies in the last 6 months. I now have 8 companies in my business portfolio and the 3 major ones being a hair extensions company, business coaching & speaker company & I am business partners with JT Foxx who is also my business coach and I have him and his amazing team of coaches to thank for my change and growth in 2017
2017 has truly been the highlight of my career as I have achieved so many accomplishments, personal growth and business growth. Some of my highlights for 2017 includes:
· nominated for Africa’s most influential woman in business award. The award ceremony will be on the 3rd of August.
· First South African woman to be featured on the cover of Global woman magazine
· Established a partnership with Ndaba Mandela
· Opening speaker at a leadership conference in Cape Town
· MC’d one of the biggest events in Jhb – Tycoons of Wealth
· I will be a mentor for the Nelson Mandela 100 entrepreneurial program starting in 2018
2. How has your background shaped who you are today?
I am extremely blessed to come from a very loving family, not that I just got what I wanted but my parents especially my father taught me that I need to work for what I wanted. My father rewarded hard work and high achievements and that has shaped me into the person I am today. From my university days I knew that I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives and that I was going to be an entrepreneur. My first experience to this, was actually selling my study notes for a business law subject to my fellow students at Kovsies (and I am sure it is making the rounds to this day). My background and how I was raised has shaped me to the person I am today; hard working, never give up, always trying to see the positive side in life and just being myself, no one can beat you at being you. Authenticity is something I value and will take with me throughout my journey.
3. What are your core principles as an individual?
· Never say no to an opportunity
Success is all about creating opportunities and taking risk. You will learn, that once you say yes to one specific opportunity so many other opportunities will present itself.
· Embrace change - How you change is how you succeed
Change is good, scary I know, but good. You need to be willing to change who you are for who you want to become. Your values need to be aligned with your vision that you have for yourself.
- Get out of your comfort zone
You need to go out there and create the life you have envisioned for yourself and the only way you can do that is to get out of your comfort zone. If you have a goal you are reaching that takes you out of your comfort zone, you will discover abilities that you never knew you had!
· Proper preparation prevents poor performance
If you are 100 % prepared for a business meeting or a pitch you are 80% on your way on winning the battle. The more prepared you are for something, the easier the task will be
· Be passionate about what you are doing
Stop chasing the money, stop thinking about what is in it for you and start thinking on how many lives you can change, how many people you can help. Once you do that, the money will come.
· Do whatever it takes
You need to be willing to do whatever it takes to achieve your goals and to be successful. You have to know what your “why” is, as your “why” will push you when you can’t push yourself. Your why is what will get you through the tough times & sleepless nights
· Never give up
Failing does not mean that you have failed, it just means you have found a way that it won’t work so just shift your focus to a new strategy until it works, but if you quit you have failed. Failing is temporary but quitting lasts forever.
I have learned to never quit, to never give up on what I want and what I want to achieve. Failure is a learning curve and it is part of success
4. You are Fast Company’s top entrepreneur under 30. What does this mean to you?
I am grateful, humbled and extremely blessed to have been named Fast Company’s top entrepreneur under 30 for 2017 (just making it by 4 months, might I add). This is by far my top highlight of my career and I am looking forward to use this platform to help and inspire other fellow entrepreneurs that they can too achieve their goals if they set their mind to it. The sky is the limit, embrace change, look for opportunities and whatever you do never give up! Failing is ok, it is part of success and it is temporary, but if you quit however, quitting last forever.
5. How much value do you place on hard work, perseverance and just never giving in?
That is the firm fundamentals in my everyday life – work hard, perseverance and never give up. There might be people that has more money than me, or come from privilege where parents can give them a hefty investment in their companies but no one will outwork me, I do whatever it takes to be successful. I firmly believe hard work gets rewarded and what you put in as what you will get out. So if you are giving an 80% effort do not expect a 100% result, because you won’t get it. I never give up, yes I fail, but failing is part of success and as long as you learn from it and don’t give up it is ok, but if you give up that lasts forever.
6. You have coached several successful / start-up Entrepreneurs and small business owners. Can you give us a few examples and how your advice and influence made a difference?
Most of my coaching clients are females in SME and start ups, and the biggest difference I see in them after our coaching session is the increase in confidence and their mindset change that they believe they can do it and they too can have the freedom to spend more time with their family and children. It saddens me to see so many women denying themselves of success and their dreams because they feel they are inadequate or that they are a mom and cannot do everything, limiting belief is a huge problem I see amongst women and that is what I want to change and help with. Another thing that I saw in women is that they are too nice and that they don’t ask for the business, if you don’t ask for the business you won’t get it. If I can give a tip on asking for business before going into a meeting is that you need to visualize how the meeting is going to go and you need to know exactly what you want before stepping into a meeting and of course you need to be prepared – proper preparation prevents poor performance
7. You specialise in creating entrepreneurs by teaching them the science behind building a successful company. Can you tell us a bit more about your methods?
My passion is entrepreneurship as I am a firm believer that entrepreneurship is the key fundamental to any country’s economy and what will help the economy grow, and the more entrepreneurs I can help, starting and growing their business the more lives can be changed. Before taking on a new coaching client I analyse the background of their business, how big it is, how many employees, annual turnover etc and then I look at what they are currently doing and why it is not working. Once completing our session together my client is equipped with an action plan, on how to increase their revenue, market and position their brand better and the biggest reward for me as a business coach is to see my clients succeed. I am all about the results my clients get. More Profits | More Growth | More Freedom
8. You own several companies that you have started from the bottom. Can you tell us more about some of these companies?
My first company that I started at the age of 22 was an event and below the line marketing agency. We were servicing national and international well-known brands and the growth we showed was amazing. The biggest highlight for me was when we developed a state of the art custom CRM & ROI system that increased productivity in the company by 400%. We also created so many job opportunities for young people (on some weekends we had more than 250 young people working for us). The biggest reward for me was that I could give knowledge and experience to young people as young people are the future of our country. The other company I started was an online wedding directory purely started at frustration as being engaged myself and I couldn’t find any service providers for my own wedding, so I thought “wouldn’t it be great if there was a website where I could find service providers on one platform” and that is how that company started. This company has grown into an online wedding planning platform where you can plan your wedding online, from the guest list to online invites and seating planners. It also evolved into a monthly wedding magazine. The company I currently own is a hair extensions company ( www.erabellabeauty.com) with branches in Hong Kong and New Zealand and soon to launch in the US, Aus, UK & Europe. We are launching a new style hair extension in a few months (tape in hair extensions and Brazilian hair), an online and one-on-one training academy and our line of hair care products that will be distributed globally. This company was created purely to make women feel more confident in themselves and to make them feel more beautiful by enhancing their inner beauty. All women deserves beautiful hair
9. How do you come up with entrepreneurial ideas? What is your biggest motivation?
Every day life is my motivation. You need to look at what the market needs and the bigger problem you are solving the bigger the reward you will get. It is not about what you want but what your customer wants and needs and the value you can add to your customers. All the companies I have started was started with the fundamental of helping people and solving problems and seeing a gap in the market. You need to see the gap in the market and establish how you can monetize on it. Take the focus of yourself and start thinking of how you can service your customer the best way.
10. What is your key to success?
There is no I in success
I would not be able to achieve my goals without the team I have. I truly am blessed to have an amazing team that I work with and my success is their success, without them I will not be where I am today, I will not be able to achieve what I achieve so for me I see the success as a team effort. You need to have an amazing team and great support structure that will enable you to achieve your goals. You need to surround yourself with like minded people, people that supports you and people that has the same vision as you.
YOu need to have a business coach
You are only as strong as your business coach. All great athletes and business people have business coaches and you as an entrepreneur or small business owner should too. You need to have that one person that holds you accountable and believes in you, and that is exactly what we as business coaches do
You need to have the right mindset and attitude in order to achieve your goals. You need to believe in yourself first before others can believe in you.
Never say no to an opportunity
Success is all about creating opportunities and taking risk. You will learn, that once you say yes to one specific opportunity so many other opportunities will present itself.
Bottomline - Never say no to opportunities, like Richard Branson says, even if you don’t know how to do it, say yes to it and figure out later how to do it.
Never give up
Failing does not mean that you have failed, it just means you have found a way that it won’t work so just shift your focus to a new strategy until it works, but if you quit you have failed
I have learned to never quit, to never give up on what I want and what I want to achieve. I am extremely determined, when I put my mind to something I will surpass my goal with massive action. . Failure is a learning curve and it is part of success
Take the focus of yourself
It is never about you, it is about your audience/customer. It is about how many lives you can change and how many people you can inspire through your message. Your main purpose is adding value to other people’s lives, what you can do for other people, how you can improve their lives. Once you take the focus of yourself you can serve your customer so much better.
11. You are a renowned international speaker. What has been your best experience and why?
The best experience for me is to see the value that I add to people after a speaking engagement. Getting positive feedback from audience members on how my presentation inspired them to step it up and how they feel empowered to achieve their goals and reach for greatness. The highlight of my speaking career will be when I step on stage in L.A in November and speak in front of 2500 people and sharing the stage with Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple), Hugh Hilton (Hilton Hotels), Charlie Sheen (famous actor), Mark Whalberg (famous actor) and JT Foxx (World’s nr1 Wealth coach)
12. What are your views on innovation, collaboration and thinking out of the box?
Being innovative and thinking outside of the box is what will set you aside from the rest and what will make you unique, you always need to think how you can be different , how can you be unique and what is your USP (unique selling proposition). If you want to stay ahead of the market you need to lead the market and the only way to do that is to be innovative and constantly think outside of the box. You are not merely selling a service or product but you are selling value and the more value you sell, the more you can help people and change people’s lives the bigger your reward will be. You need to have a creative strategic brainstorming session everyday on how you can better your value, what can you add to your product line and what can you do differently that your opposition is not doing. Having great ideas is great, but they will remain ideas if you do not implement your ideas quickly, speed of implementation is everything. Being unique and adding value is what sells.
13. You have developing an entrepreneurial educational program in South Africa whereby you host workshops around the country on sharing knowledge and giving current and up and coming entrepreneurs the tools on how to start and grow their companies successfully. Can you tell us more about this?
This is something that I am very excited about and I have partnered with Ndaba Mandela on this project. My passion is entrepreneurship as that is the future of the country. What is the biggest killer of entrepreneurship? Fear, and why are people afraid? People are afraid of the unknown! we will focus on educating, give the necessary tools to new and current entrepreneurs to start their new business or to increase the profits in their current business. The more entrepreneurs we can help and educate the bigger the success. Their results are our success
14. You have also written a book, all this before 30. Can you please tell me more about this, what is the book title, who is it for and what is it the core content about?
I am actually busy writing my first book – Make your first million! This will be the ultimate book to starting and growing your first business or increasing the profits and growth of your current company. This book is written from my experience and will highlight what you need to do in order to make your first million. From conceptualising your idea for a business, to identifying your niche, how to market and position yourself within your sector, how to brand yourself and ultimately selling your business. This book will be for everyone that wants to start a business or already has a business, if you feel stuck in your current situation or if you want something different and want the financial and time freedom that you deserve.
15. Can you tell us more about your hair extensions company?
My hair extensions company Erabella (www.erabellabeauty.com) was started to make women feel more beautiful by enhancing their inner beauty and to help with their confidence. Every time our clients or as we call them Bella’s wear our extensions the first reaction is always, I feel so beautiful, I feel so sexy, I can’t wait to go out and show of my hair tonight – and that truly for me is everything our brand is all about – empowering women and making women feel more beautiful by enhancing their inner beauty. We sell online and resell to salons. We currently offer clip in hair extensions in different colors, thicknesses and lengths and will be expanding to tape in hair extensions and Brazilian hair. We are also busy developing our content for our online hair extensions academy that will enable people from around the world to become a certified hair extensions specialist and stock our brand in their salon. We will also be hosting workshops throughout SA where you also can become a hair extensions specialist through this one day one on one training workshop. We are also developing our own range of wet hair care products that is sulphate free (very good and nourishing for your hair, especially extensions)
16. What has been the factor to your success and achievements for 2017
The biggest factor to my change, achievements and success was when I decided to get a business coach. JT Foxx has played an enormous part of my success and I will always be grateful for the opportunities and support he has given me throughout my journey and I am happy to say not only is he my business coach but he is also my business partner in a company in New Zealand. Having a business coach is so important and I would like to help you change your life so you can earn what you deserve and create the freedom you want.
30 second bio
1. Favourite Quote: “If you want to succeed as bad as you want to breath, then you will be successful “ – Eric Thomas
2. Favourite Book: Millionaire Underdog – JT Foxx
3. Favourite Destination: Definitely Maldives, (we stayed at Baros, it was magical and unforgettable)
4. Favourite City: This is an easy one – Cape Town, I have visited so many cities around the world, but nothing can compare to Cape Town #proudlysouthafrican
5. Favourite Tech gadget: everything Apple – Iphone, Macbook, Ipad & Ipod – everything just connects so easy! I am a total Apple geek
6. Ideal Day: My ideal day is when it is our date night day! Dressing up, doing effort and spending quality time with my husband is really what makes me happy
7. How do you unwind and relax: Spending time with my husband and beautiful children. Getting ice cream at the beach and just walking, talking & laughing a long the beach. Family to me is everything. Ofcourse finishing off the day in true South African spirit, a braai and a glass of Beyerskloof Pinotage
8. Biggest inspiration: I am inspired by people that defeat the odds and creating a better lives for themselves. People that take the necessary action and push aside all the excuses to achieve their goals. Take Eric Thomas for example – he comes from a terrible background from living on the streets to being the worlds nr1 motivational speaker.
9. Best moment in your life: There is too many, but I can cut it down to my top5:
1. Becoming a mommy
2. Marrying my best friend, the most wonderful and supportive man that any girl can ask for
3. Being named SA’s top entrepreneur under 30 by Fast Company magazine for 2017
4. When I was asked to MC Tycoons of Wealth – one of the biggest business events in Johannesburg
5. Reaching my goal in 2016 to compete in a bodybuilding bikini fitness competition. I ended up doing four shows and had a podium finish at every show.