Wendy Norman, MD of cosmetics company J Strickland Africa, was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug while growing up among a family of entrepreneurs.
The 58-year-old Westville resident studied at Stellenbosch Academy for Beauty Therapy and was one of the first people in South Africa to be awarded the Comité International d’Esthétique et de Cosmétologie qualification. She was raised in Zimbabwe and later relocated to South Africa at the age of 16.
She began her beauty career as an in-store consultant with Innoxa, a dermatological company, in Zimbabwe in 1976. Thereafter, she opened a beauty salon in Durban and joined Lancome as an area manageress in 1982.
Norman lectured students in Beauty Technology, Aesthetics and Art in 1985 at the then Technikon Natal and later formed Glamour & Glitz International in Durban which is in the business of ethnic hair-care.
SA needs more contract manufacturers
In 1994 Norman was appointed an agent for J Strickland & Co USA – now trading as J Strickland Africa – to sell its cosmetic products.
‘During my career I realised the dire need for high-quality and professional contract manufacturers. Hence, the decision to venture into contract manufacturing. We are in the process of negotiating with large multinationals,’ she says.
Norman believes providing a product that allows women to feel confident about themselves permeates into their daily lives and families which also empowers them to succeed in the future.
‘Empowering people with business skills helps to uplift the community as a whole and provides a sense of self-worth, confidence and motivation to be a better person.’
The impact that Norman wishes to create is a world in which every individual feels confident and realises a sense of achievement by encouraging an agenda of peace and harmony within communities.
‘On approaching the Department of Trade and Industry about exporting opportunities, we were referred to Trade & Investment KwaZulu-Natal (TIKZN) who was exceptionally helpful right from the beginning.
‘TIKZN helped us to get our finances in order and imparted technical advice and knowledge on where to set up our plant. Assistance also extended to training our staff and keeping up-to-date with what’s happening in the export market,’ says Norman.
She says the company was additionally introduced to the PUM Programme which was most beneficial.
The PUM programme is a collaboration between TIKZN and the Netherlands. PUM Netherlands is a global mentorship programme that brings well experienced retired business leaders to South Africa to mentor exporters to grow their markets. TIKZN assists with the selection, recruitment of exporters as well as the facilitation of the application of this programme.
Addressing diversity in the industry
Norman expressed that the current business environment which is largely dominated by men, has limited opportunities for women and this must be addressed by women continuously demonstrating their self-worth.
She says women, like their male counterparts, needed to be valued as equal contributors to society and the economy.
As a single mother and career woman, she faces a myriad challenges which she ultimately overcomes through persistence, endurance and a positive attitude.
She advises young and aspiring career women to never give up and to pursue their dreams and goals with great vigour.