Yasmin Britow and Nabilah Diedericks are two extraordinary entrepreneurs living in Cape Town. Yasmin has systemic sclerosis and Nabilah is autistic. They open up about the challenges they face, why they chose entrepreneurship, and what has helped them get through the difficult times, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
Jazsy’s Bespoke Services
Yasmin Britow is the owner of Jazsy’s Bespoke Services (JBS) in Malibu Village. JBS offers a personal shopping service to help customers live their lives without worrying about running to the store. Think of them as a mini Takealot with a personal touch. JBS listens to its customers, and works hard to save them time and money so they get the best bargain.
“I have systemic sclerosis – an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks itself. It is an excessive production and accumulation of collagen and other proteins in tissues and the cause is unknown. Living with this is challenging, but I have a supportive husband,” says Yasmin.
Yasmin lost her job and her (unofficially adopted) daughter moved back into her home. To save money, she was purchasing goods from a lady via Facebook who lived nearby. Her business ran into financial problems and when she couldn’t deliver, Yasmin saw a gap and took it. “My major challenges are cash flow and dismissive suppliers. I allow my customers to buy on credit and then it becomes difficult to deal with default payers. My suppliers don’t take me seriously, so they sometimes dismiss my order leaving me unable to fulfil my obligations to customers. I really need more reliable suppliers who don’t mind growing with me.” But Yasmin has learnt to be unapologetic, assertive and confident.
“Lockdown was very challenging because all the markets where I usually sell my goods were closed and I could not deliver products to customers due to social distancing regulations. I was also not considered an essential service. I spent my time researching what my clients wanted: everyone was looking for good hand sanitisers, detergents and masks. So, I adapted my product offering accordingly.”
Yasmin’s business didn’t close during lockdown; it just ran differently. “I refined my product range and when the regulations allowed, started delivering to customers.”
Connect with Jazsy’s Bespoke Services on Facebook.
Finz Aquatics and Fitness
Nabilah Diedericks owns Finz Aquatics and Fitness in Grassy Park. Finz Aquatics is a swim school with a difference: they specialise in disability therapy and children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and various special needs. “When I was younger it was difficult to perform any task, my speech and motor skills were very delayed. I started talking at the age of 5. I was diagnosed with borderline ASD. My parents could not afford to send me to a school that specialised in dealing with children who had ASD, so I was held back in class. My teachers told me that I was a failure and my swim coach said I would never make it,” says Nabilah.
When Nabilah was in grade 11, she wanted to contribute financially to the household. Her uncle paid R750 for her to complete a swimming instructor’s course. Nabilah completed the course and started coaching after school.
“I noticed there was a lack of knowledge and understanding about people with disabilities and autism. While teaching at a swim school, there was a child who did not want to get into the water. I managed to calm the child and get her into the pool. I realised I had a knack for communicating with children who were anxious about water.”
For Nabilah, the biggest challenge is when a parent brings their young child to swimming lessons and the child cries during two or three lessons. The parent then cancels the lessons and that’s actually a parent quitting on their child. “Ultimately, that child will get comfortable in the water and learn to swim. You just shouldn't give up too soon. It’s important to understand that learning to be water safe is not supposed to be fun. There are essentials, and you have to teach them. Once those are in place, the child begins to have fun. It is important not to give up.”
During lockdown, Nabilah spent most of her time with her family. She enjoyed it so much that she admits to being nervous about reopening the business. “We were closed for seven long months and could only reopen when Swimming South Africa agreed that we were Covid-compliant. Until then, I updated clients on the new rules and, most importantly, I had to keep my brand alive. I did this by posting updates on social media and giving my students various exercises to stimulate their muscles. Interacting with my client base during lockdown helped drum up interest for when the school reopened.”
Finz Aquatics and Fitness reopened on 1 October. “We have implemented many new rules to allow us to operate smoothly and be compliant. Children and adults now have one-on-one lessons; we have cancelled group lessons temporarily. There are also fewer teachers in the water. Parents have to wait outside until the lesson ends while children with special needs are allowed to have one parent on the pool deck.”
Nabilah says that these rules have taken away the social aspect of swimming. “Our little swimmers do not understand why they cannot give their swim coach a hug after their lesson. This is the new norm in the sports industry, and it looks like it will be like this for a very long time.”
Author: Terrena Rathanlall