Business Blitz: Lesley Donna Williams Consulting (PTY) Ltd
As a self-proclaimed advocate for the future of business, Lesley Donna Williams is on the fast track to changing the entrepreneurial space in South Africa.
Amongst her many successes, Williams is also a member of the esteemed Obama Foundation leaders.
We sit down with Williams to understand the work that goes into running her impactful venture, Lesley Donna Williams Consulting (PTY) Ltd.
Tell us more about your upbringing?
I grew up in Eldorado Park, which is on the other side of Soweto. I also come from a cross-cultural family. My family is traditionally coloured but many family members also married into various race groups. So, I was one of the lucky few in South Africa that was raised exposed to various identities.
How did you come to conceptualise Lesley Donna Williams Consulting (PTY) Ltd?
I have always been passionate, and still am, in what the human potential looks like and means. I think there are a lot of people that are depressed and bored in corporate jobs even though they are earning well. There are also people in townships and rural areas who have a similar frustration where they are also not living their full potential.
So I’m passionate about creating spaces for dialogue where people are inspired but also have the tools to get to work. Part of that is also meeting people from various walks of life where you can build your social capital, meeting like-minded people but where you can also peer-mentor each other in creating opportunities.
What sets your business apart from your competitors?
I spent many years building intentional communities, since the age of 13 I have been a part of or creating clubs networks and movements, listening and telling people’s stories, connecting relevant dots for them. Those networks have been from a very basic community level through to building pan-African and eventually international networks.
Have you experienced any major setbacks and how did you overcome them?
I am the initial founder of Impact Hub South Africa and there is a general lack of understanding in what social entrepreneurship is, so I had to educate the market on what it’s about and build the business with very limited resources.
I couldn’t find local financing, so I poured all my savings and made a loan from a client in the US. When I finally got the business running and got decently successful I got a debilitating burn-out.
I shut down the business and it took quite a long time to get partners on board again to re-launch it, which I have done. Impact Hub is now run by other people and I have moved on to running another company for Wits University.