Confidence, my million-dollar asset
By Lela Struga
Erna is a young woman, very determined toward her success. When she became a mother of two young children it would have been easier for her to give up and say “You can’t be both a mother and have a career”. In fact Erna has a high expectation from herself and for herself. She knew that she could achieve whatever she puts her mind to and grow her confidence while investing in her personal and professional development. Erna is the first woman from South Africa being interviewed for the Global Woman Magazine, and perhaps the youngest one. This interview shows how a woman like her can be a great role model for many others.
You are a serial entrepreneur and have overcome many challenges – what helped you to be who you are today?
God has truly blessed me in my entrepreneurial journey. Prayer and belief is the firm foundation I base my success on. I have a wonderful support system at home and I am surrounded by like-minded people in my life. I do not allow negative people to influence my way of thinking – negativity is draining and I do not have time for that.
What motivated you to go on the entrepreneurial journey and how do you remember the beginning?
I always believed that I have something unique to offer, and never thought of myself as average. I have always pushed myself to new heights – I can always be better, I can always achieve more. I have completed a four year Bachelors’ Degree in three years with eighteen distinctions while working four jobs and that inspired me to never settle, to never accept an outcome and always push for something better – that is when I knew I am going to be an women entrepreneur and I believe in no excuses, if you really want it, you will do anything to achieve your goal. The beginning of my entrepreneurial journey feels like yesterday. The first company I started was a below the line marketing agency. I sold my car in order to start my business from the ground. I had more than 500 people working under my company name monthly throughout South Africa. I have built this company into a multi million Rand company and sold it in 2016.
I believe in no excuses, if you really want it, you will do anything to achieve your goal.
What are the biggest obstacles you have faced as a woman in the world of business?
Balancing business and family life – I think this is a major obstacle for all “momtrepreneurs”, we feel guilty when we do not spend enough time with our kids and family, when we need to get those extra working hours on a weekend or attend events in the evening but I firmly believe in quality over quantity time with my kids and family. When I spend time with my kids, it is 100% of my time, no phones, no laptops and no working! The fear of failure and self-doubt – I am extremely confident and focus on succeeding, but I am human. Sometimes self-doubt, the fear of failure, the feeling of I do not belong and I cannot do this makes its way into my mind. Instead of those feelings getting me down, I use it as a motivating mechanism; You are your only competition, and we need to strive to be better than we were yesterday, that is how we grow. Stereotyping is a major obstacle that I had to overcome. When you walk into a boardroom filled with men and they see you are a young and motivated woman who speaks her mind, you are in for a very long meeting, especially if they are much older than you. How did I overcome this challenge? Kill them with kindness, know what you are talking about, 90% listening and 10% talking, confidence is key!
Being a mother and wearing many hats, how do you balance your life?
Balancing business and family life will be a never-ending obstacle we as “momtrepreneurs” will face. Our schedules keep on getting busier and the more your children grow up the busier their schedules will be – school, rugby, swimming, playdates with friends, the list goes on. In order to be successful, you need the right strategy and the right system (that is what JT Foxx says). I apply this to my family life too and it has made such a big difference. My time with my kids is very special, when I am with them they have my undivided attention. Children grow up so quickly and we need to treasure our time with them. Time is the one thing you could never get back and it cannot be bought, so spend your time wisely.
How much time do you spend with your children and how do you manage your time?
My daily schedule will start at 4.30am in the morning – this is when I will communicate with my suppliers abroad, conference calls on new product launches etc. 5.30am is when things get interesting, I call this the “crazy hour”. That is when I need to get the kids ready for school, get them dressed, make breakfast, pack lunch boxes etc. My kids are at school by 6.45am and that is when I rush off to the gym to do my one hour workout for the day (I train six days a week). I am at work from 9.00am until 4pm, then I need to rush off to pick up my kids from school. I spend most of my time with them in the evening and over weekends. They are in bed at 8pm and that is when I will push in a last hour of work, and I will read a business book for an hour every night (The latest books that I have read are: Millionaire Underdog, Talk like Ted and Ted Talks). My day ends between 10pm – 11pm and the next morning we do it all over again.
You seem to be very goal oriented – and you achieve whatever you focus your mind on; Is there any formula that you can share with our readers?
There is no formula to success but there are principals you can apply to achieve success. My passion is the fuel to my success – I am extremely passionate about what I do. If I have to share a few thoughts on my “formula” it will be:
- You need to be willing to change. Do not expect different results by doing the same thing – this applies to all aspects of your life – business, relationships, body image etc. You cannot expect to lose 8kg’s if you are not willing to change your eating habits, you cannot expect to grow your business and take it to the next level if you are not willing to change the way you think and run your business.
- Get out of your comfort zone, if it makes you feel uncomfortable then do it! Growth lies at the end of your comfort zone! In the past I have settled into a comfort zone but did I grow? Absolutely not! The minute I decided I wanted change and pushed myself out of my comfort zone was the moment my life changed. Like Damien Elston has said (CEO of the JT Foxx Organisation): Feel comfortable feeling uncomfortable; business is about making tough decisions.
- Your character and passion will define your success; We should always strive to be authentic, no one can beat you at being you. The moment you have found what you are truly passionate about is the moment you will be successful. Achieving my goals is what drives me, but my passion is what fuels me to achieve my goals.
- Persistence & Passion – Your “why” should be so strong that you never give up. Your “why” is what will push you through the toughest time. Be persistent, giving up does not exist in my vocabulary and it shouldn’t be in yours either.
- Confidence – if you believe in yourself and act as if you belong, you will be unstoppable. You would feel confident in the decisions you make, the risks you take and most importantly, you will have confidence in yourself to achieve great things. Someone with low self-esteem or lack of confidence will fail to take risks, will doubt every decision he/she makes and you will prevent yourself from being successful.
After having your two beautiful boys, you gained 24 kilograms in weight per child, then made a decision to change in 2016 and have undergone a complete transformation. How did this happen?
Both my pregnancies were high risk pregnancies, as I had gone through two miscarriages previously. I could not train at all while being pregnant. This placed me in a comfort zone and I ate every craving I had (my biggest craving was chips with plenty of vinegar). I gained a whopping 24kg per child. After having both kids, I remembered that I looked myself in the mirror one morning and said “what are you doing”. That is the instant moment I decided enough is enough – I wanted change. I started with the USN 12 weeks body transformation challenge in South Africa, and the results I received were amazing. I lost 14kg in twelve weeks. I am also happy to reveal that I made the top thirty for this competition, and the winners will be announced in March/April 2017. During my transformation, my results were so amazing and my confidence went through the roof so I decided to enter a fitness bikini competition. I ended 2016 with four competitions and a podium finish at every competition. Competing in bikini fitness shows teaches you dedication, hard work and commitment. This was such a great experience.
After having both kids, I remembered that I looked myself in the mirror one morning and said “what are you doing”. That is the instant moment I decided enough is enough – I wanted change.
How do you remember your childhood?
I grew up in a small city in South Africa – Bloemfontein (The city of roses). I had the most wonderful parents that taught me hard work gets rewarded. I have always been an athlete (netball player and track athlete) throughout school. I made the provincial team every year and my parents never missed a netball match or a national sporting tournament supporting me. I also experienced my biggest disappointment in my final year of school as I sustained a terrible netball injury that cost me my national colours, and my life crashed instantly. It was a long road to rehabilitation for me and during my rehab with my physios and biokenetikus I realised a setback is a set up for a comeback. I worked so hard to get back on the netball court and I am happy to say that although I didn’t make the national team, I made the provincial team, and our school team won the national netball tournament in South Africa. Life is not about how many times you have fallen, it is about whether you are willing to get back up, and only you can make that decision.
Who has supported you on this journey and how did you turn your challenges into advantages?
I have several people that supported me throughout my journey, but the first person that needs credit is my husband. He has always stood by my side, in business and my fitness journey. My business coaches, mentors, and family has been of great value and I cannot wait to see what 2017 will hold for me.
How difficult has it been for you to ‘validate’ yourself as an expert and professional woman?
Self-doubt and critique was an obstacle I was faced with daily. I am my toughest critic, I criticise myself on everything and when I start criticising myself, self-doubt makes its way into my mind. I am very hard on myself as I know what I can achieve and I know what I want in life. The first step for me to validating myself was to accept myself (accepting doesn’t mean settle). I accepted who I was, my character and my strong and weak points. After identifying that, I asked myself “Who do you want to be?”. I have extremely high standards and goals set for myself and my business and I am going to do whatever it takes to achieve them
What are the biggest lessons you have learned while growing your business?
Business is about relationships – Relationships create loyalty, loyalty from customers is what build empires. If you look after your customers, they will look after you. The 3 P’s to success – Passion, Preparation & Persistence – this is the foundation I apply in my businesses. Making mistakes does not mean you have failed. Learn from your mistakes and use it as a learning tool. You have not failed, you just found a way that it won’t work, so change your focus and direction. A setback is a set up for a comeback, use it to your advantage. Invest in yourself – the best investment you can make is in yourself. Get a business coach – this was one of the best decisions I made in 2016, as I joined the JT Foxx family.
How important has it been for you in having a coach/mentor?
I am lucky enough to have a mentor and a business coach. My mentor has become a close friend over the years we have been working together. I met Mimi Rupp after I was a top three finalist for the Business Achievers Award in the Emerging Entrepreneur category for the BWA (Business Woman Association). Mimi is an amazing woman, she was named South Africa’s most influential woman in business and government, she always made time for me in her very busy schedule and we sat for hours strategising to overcome certain obstacles/problems that I was facing. I first met JT Foxx in October 2016 in Johannesburg at his Mega Speaker event. After the event I knew I wanted to be part of this organisation. I then went to his house in Thailand with 30 other entrepreneurs from all over the world to be coached by JT and his team and this experience was life changing. I am now part of the JT Foxx organisation and it has made a direct impact on the person I am today, even though I have only recently joined. If you want to succeed in business, get a business coach and mentor!
You will be the MC for Tycoons Of Wealth in February 2017 in Johannesburg and you will be sharing the stage with Randy Zuckerberg (Mark Zuckerberg’s sister). How does that feel and what will it mean to you?
It makes me feel very uncomfortable but I have promised myself, in 2017 if it makes me feel uncomfortable I am going to do it! I was given this opportunity by JT Foxx, and I will be forever grateful for that. The second he gave me the opportunity I accepted it, but five minutes after that, the reality of the situation started sinking in – me, on stage, in front of a two thousand strong audience being the MC for one of the biggest events in Johannesburg – talk about butterflies in my stomach and sweaty palms! This is one of the biggest opportunities that has come my way and I am going to do whatever it takes to make this a success.
What is your biggest goal for 2017?
I have several goals for 2017. I want to:
- Speak on stage at the JT Foxx Family Reunion Event in the US – this is one of the biggest events of the year.
- Speak on an international stage about the effects confidence has on women, and how you can improve your confidence. My passion is to inspire and motivate women and to help them be the best version of themselves they can be.
- Establish my beauty & cosmetics company with distributor channels and resellers in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and in the UK
- Write my own book this year “7 Secrets to life changing confidence”.
- Launch my fitness app – sweat365 – a fitness app, created by a woman for women.
The app is a programme that understands the female body and the challenges we as women face, a programme designed by a woman that went through the challenge of changing her body and understanding how difficult it is to do that. This programme will be customised to each individual goal with workout plans and eating plans – I will be with you every step of the way, encouraging and motivating you to reach your goal. After the app launch we will embark on a worldwide tour spreading the word of fitness and confidence!
Character and passion defines your success. Be Passionate. Be Authentic. Be You.
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