Sebothoma a good story from Marikana

Refilwe Sebothoma is proud of her achievements as an entrepreneur in a sector she regards as challenging for women. /Supplied
Refilwe Sebothoma is proud of her achievements as an entrepreneur in a sector she regards as challenging for women. /Supplied

Refilwe Sebothoma, 31, gets goosebumps just thinking about where she comes from with her safety gear business.

"I was alone in a garage taking orders. Now I employ 17 [people]," Sebothoma recalls with pride, adding that she has two men in her workforce.

The young entrepreneur from Marikana, North West, said she is driven by the joy of creating employment.

She left for Gauteng to further her studies at the University of Johannesburg where she obtained a national higher certificate in accounting.

She later went to the Wits Business School to study logistics. Once done with her
studies, she went back home to work for Lonmin mine.

She resigned after the 2012 Marikana massacre to go into business. In 2014 she started PBM Creations, trading in industrial protective gear. Her products include gloves, foot wear, head and body wear.

"I was always interested in safety, and working at Lonmin enhanced this interest after seeing how seriously safety is taken at the mine," she said.

Sebothoma said that access into her industry was difficult because it was white- and male-dominated.

"It is a sensitive industry. Customers are not into new suppliers because they've already built relationships and trust.

"When you are a young black woman in a room full of white men, you have to prove yourself."

She added that learning the industry and finding her focus point helped her to
become successful.

Apart from safety gear, PBM trades in corporate attire, gift materials and branded uniforms for smaller operations such as schools and churches.

Her advice to women who want to join the industry is that they should be patient and be wise about the industry.

"Be aware of the challenges and position yourself better. I knew my focus point was going to be customer service.

"You need to know the future of the industry, build trust and relationships and understand that money doesn't always come."

The new mother said it was challenging being a good mom while running a company.

However, she would continue to make her dreams come true by expanding her Pretoria-based business into the country and the rest of Africa.

She also plans to study advanced safety and to open a company that will focus on safety training.

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