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The Covid-19 pandemic was a difficult time for everyone. But for Siyamtanda Hlobo the enforced lockdowns also saw her personal interests develop into a life-changing technology start-up called Eleglam Business and Digital Solutions.
Her company became one of the ten finalists in the R1 million MTN Women in Digital Business Challenge and Hlobo walked off with a R100 000 prize to take her business to new heights.
Explaining how Eleglam came to be, Hlobo says, “While at home during Covid-19, I decided to use my time to learn a new skill and took an online web development course. While trying out what I had learned by designing free sites for people I knew, I was then contacted by a woman who wanted a website for her family garage business.”
This minor contract in her hometown of East London, South Africa launched Hlobo’s new career. That first job led to her designing a site for herself to interact with customers online for the first time. Happy customers only resulted in even more business, leading to the formal launch of Eleglam.
“Seeing that many small business owners didn’t understand online opportunities, soon I was not only designing websites but also advising small business owners on how to use social media, create content, and engage with customers online.”
Explaining further Hlobo says, “For example I helped a sanitation services company that was finding it difficult to market their services as they had no tangible products to show potential customers. This meant that any business proposals involved drawing up a company profile and spending hours answering individual questions. I developed a site that had a messaging service and automated catalogues. It was a call to action for customers and helped build their business.”
While Covid-19 was still impacting lives, the next break for Hlobo occurred when a former East Londoner working in Johannesburg developing sites and apps contacted her about joining forces.
This brought a new stream of business and customers from across the country.
But Hlobo says when Microsoft contacted her with an offer to become part of their preview customer relationship management programme, she knew Eleglam had arrived.
MTN became part of her life in 2021 when as one of an identified 50 promising ICT companies, she was offered the chance to upskill herself in terms of business knowledge. “The MTN offer had tremendous benefits. I was able to identify my weaknesses and was shown how to make the changes I needed to build my business.”
From there it was onto the MTN SA Foundation’s Women in Digital Business Challenge. As one of the ten finalists and with her R100 000 prize, Hlobo has jumped at the development opportunity. She has hired a business development consultant and is building an app to assist prospective students during the annually fraught and stressful university registration period.
Speaking of her immediate ambitions Hlobo says, “I have a few modules to complete to graduate with a Unisa diploma in accounting science, and I want to get new customers in cities like Pretoria and Johannesburg.”
“The Eleglam success story is a perfect example of what the MTN Foundation wanted to achieve with this programme. It was designed to help set ten small female-owned ITC companies on the road to success. We have helped them by assisting with the finance, mentorship and business support resources needed to get their enterprises to the next level,” says Angie Maloka, senior manager: community programmes at the Ffundation.
“Hlobo is typical of the women who have succeeded in the challenge. She identified a business opportunity and developed a viable ICT business despite the difficulties of Covid-19 and a tough economic environment.
“Our ten finalists are examples of what can be achieved by women in a competitive industry. We look forward to hearing more about them as they help change the operating face of business in South Africa,” Maloka concludes.