Sibongile Sambo wins top empowerment award

Thomas McLachlan

Thomas McLachlan

Last week 32-year-old Sibongile Sambo, founder of SRS Aviation, was awarded the prestigious role of top empowered female entrepreneur at the Fidentia Top Empowerment Awards celebration in Johannesburg.

One holiday, when Sambo was a young girl at boarding school in Durban, she flew home to Nelspruit, where her parents collected her from the airport. This was her first experience of aviation.

"I fell in love with it then and got my parents to let me fly to and from boarding school every holiday," said Sambo.

Little did she know that this would lead her to pin her entrepreneurial flag to the charter flight market, an area in which she became the first black woman to own 100 percent of a charter company. Her company, SRS Aviation, has a turnover of R50million a year, just more than a year after it opened.

But it has taken time and many years of dealing with corporate politics for her to achieve her dream.

At first Sambo would attend airshows with a good friend, who was in the airforce at the time, just to keep her passion afloat. This she did while working in various human resources posts at companies including Telkom and DeBeers, which she finally left at the end of 2004.

"I would get frustrated when I had ideas, but nobody could implement them," she said.

"I didn't know I wanted to be an entrepreneur. It was only in 1999 that I realised that I needed to work for myself, so in 2000 I registered a company, but had no idea what I would do," Sambo said.

In 2004 Sambo researched the charter market before taking the leap and leaving her post at DeBeers to pursue her dream, which she certainly does not regret.