When Ande Muofhe graduated with her first degree, she found herself stuck between a rock and a hard place. Despite being a qualified geologist, there was a lack of jobs in her field. This, coupled with the high unemployment rate among graduates, led to her starting her own telemarketing business.
“I had no prior learning related to business or call centres,” recalls Ande. “But while a student, I took on part-time jobs to sustain myself. That’s when I was first exposured to the call centre industry.” Ande worked as a brand ambassador, then promoter, sales agent, tracing agent, and call centre manager, eventually managing seven people while she juggled her studies.
“My first client was a law firm,” she says, recalling how she didn’t even have an office to work from when she set out on her own. “I used to make calls from a car in a parking lot using my tablet!” Ande's company, Vogue Exchange, has come a long way since then. The business currently employs several staff members and also offers a full range of training, from life skills courses to business training and call centre orientation.
Running a telemarketing business may seem like an unlikely fit for a qualified geologist, but Ande says being an entrepreneur has always been in her blood. “My mother had a spaza shop where I spent all my childhood time on weekends and after school,” she explains. “The shop helped me understand the basics of business and, from a young age, I was able to run the shop well.” This, and the inability to find a job in her field of study, made Ande more determined to create opportunities for herself – and others.
“I’m a firm believer in poverty alleviation through youth empowerment and employment,” says Ande, adding that Vogue Exchange focuses on empowering young women. “Call centres in South Africa are growing fast and have the potential to employ lots of people at once. I try to empower everyone that works around me so that they, too, can be leaders wherever the path might lead them.”
When asked what is Vogue Exchange’s greatest achievement to date, Ande says she is proud of the fact that her business has survived and is growing. “Statistics show that most businesses fail within the first two years,” she says, describing some of the challenges she faced launching the company – from old, decrepit equipment and having to manually dial thousands of phone numbers, to being kicked out of her premises – and even having to sell her car to pay staff salaries when clients failed to pay her.
“I was able to survive the most difficult stage of building my business’ foundation. That makes me believe that nothing else will stop me.”
Her advice to young, aspiring entrepreneurs is to learn from the inevitable challenges that come with starting your own business and look at these as a bedrock upon which to build your company. “You always come back stronger after successfully navigating challenges, and can build on that,” she says. “Never give up, even if it gets difficult.”
Author: Rebekah Funk