Being a woman at the helm of a logistics enterprise comes with its fair share of challenges, but Nonkosi Dyantyi, CEO of Lebama Group Logistics, wouldn’t have it any other way. Despite having to defy the expectations of a male-dominated industry on a daily basis whilst juggling the demands of motherhood, Dyantyi’s irrepressible fighting spirit has helped her beat the odds and pave the way for others looking to follow in her footsteps.
“I love the challenge,” says Dyantyi, who founded Lebama Group Logistics in 2021. “And yes, there have certainly been days when I’ve wanted want to throw in the towel, but I work towards winning, and thanks to the support received from other strong females in the industry, I’ve managed to dispel my own self-doubts and put myself in a position to succeed.”
Heading up a logistics fleet might not have been what Dyantyi had in mind at the start of her professional journey, but after spending time at Sasol, Total and Goodyear working in their respective communications departments, during which she met numerous transport and logistics business owners and grew to understand the demands of running a business, she realised that there could be space for her at the top too. Even if she had to carve it out herself.
“I’ve always been one to do things a bit differently,” says Dyantyi with a wry smile. “My mom was my first role model, who for many years was a domestic worker, before becoming a teacher and changing her life entirely. She inspired me in countless ways, and taught me to break down barriers and believe in myself no matter what. And whilst I knew I perhaps didn’t have the same technical knowledge as some of my male counterparts, I was confident that my drive, experience and commitment would see me thrive in this sector. And I was right.”
Leading by example
While the road to success hasn’t been without its share of speed bumps, Dyantyi has been able to navigate the ups and downs of entrepreneurship with the help of trusted mentors and fellow women leaders in the industry, with whom she has collaborated and formed strong bonds.
“A critical part of this journey has been the amazing help I’ve received along the way,” explains Dyantyi. “I am fortunate to have a fellow female entrepreneur and friend who I have on speed dial, who gives me day-to-day advice and helps me to fill in the gaps in terms of my industry knowledge. She’s been in the industry for longer, and has provided guidance, sub-contracting opportunities and moral support. Before putting in a tender, I sit with her and go through projections and ask for input, rather than immediately running to male counterparts. As women, we have to be more prepared and really know what we’re talking about if we want to secure funding and projects, as we tend to be met with skepticism initially. So it’s been amazing to learn the ropes from someone who has already had to deal with these challenges.”
Cover is key
One of the primary challenges Dyantyi has faced during this initial phase of her entrepreneurship journey has been a financial one. Not only is it increasingly difficult to secure funding without long-term fixed contracts in place, but she has also had to deal with the pitfalls of managing a fleet from afar, an undertaking that comes with its fair share of risks.
“At any given time you have millions of rands worth of assets in transit all over the country, which are entrusted to drivers,” explains Dyantyi. “Sometimes our vehicles break down in the middle of nowhere, and you could find yourself in a situation where a mechanic demands R50,000 to repair the vehicle! Initially it was difficult to navigate, as I wasn’t able to argue and didn’t have a great understanding of industry speak, so some service providers took advantage of that. For me, it’s been critical to get the right kind of insurance in place to understand the ins and outs of risk management, and so that I don’t compromise my working capital.”
Having the correct insurance in place is key for those managing a fleet, says Jason Mellow, Head of MiWay Business Insurance. “When it comes to cargo, having to fund a loss from your own pocket can be crippling for a small business, and can cause many to go under. It’s vital to understand your risks and ensure that you are covered for the correct amount. Many insurers offer specific cover tailored for the needs of entrepreneurs like Nonkosi, and provide access to a network of trusted repairers and other suppliers so as to minimise the financial impact of unexpected setbacks.”
Juggling the pressures of parenthood and the stress of starting a business has also been a tough obstacle to overcome for Dyantyi, who battled initially to find a balance between the two.
“It’s been difficult, and yes there have been precious moments that I’ve had to sacrifice with my children, but I know at the end of the day that what I’m doing is for them,” says Dyantyi. “I want this to be their legacy, and to set an example as my mother did for me. At school we are taught to be employees, not entrepreneurs, but I want to instill this mindset of ownership in them from the get-go. It’s why I’m living it, pursuing it now.”
“It’s really encouraging to see so many women succeeding at the helm of small businesses,” says Mellow. “Stories like Nonkosi’s really highlight the need for strong partnerships, both personal and professional, when taking on a challenge like this. Not only is it fundamental to have great role models, who pave the way for others to succeed, but it’s also vital to ensure you partner up with suppliers and service providers capable of making the road to the top a little smoother.”