Kay Ndungane from Oak Celebrations and Oak Child

by Claire Minnaar


About YOU and your family

I’m from Joburg and I have a 2 ½ year old baby. I now live in Durban with my husband Odwa Ndungane. I was previously an IT Oracle consultant doing development work. When I moved to Durban I worked for a JSE listed company in La Lucia Ridge doing specialist project work in the CEO’s office. Two years ago I decided to venture in to my own business. I wanted to concentrate full time on the small wedding hiring company I had started. I wanted to grow my business to offer the full spectrum of wedding set-up and coordination.

What is the name of your company and when did you start you business?

I have two businesses. One is called Oak Celebrations which is the wedding services company. And I have Oak Child which is an online store selling children’s clothes. I started Oak Celebrations in 2011.

What inspired you to start your own business?

I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. When we were getting married I was looking for things for my wedding and I couldn’t find anything I liked or needed in Durban. My only option was to bring things from Joburg, so I decided instead to buy what I needed. After that, the items that I created for my wedding, I would hire out. That’s where it started.

What are the challenges you face or have faced being a working Mom and how have you overcome them?

Time! Time is one of the biggest challenges. I always say time is one thing you cannot get back. Sometimes the events can be so time consuming. It’s time you could’ve spent with your family and it’s all gone. The challenge is to get a team of people in your company that you know will deliver the same concept to your client, even when you’re not there.  When you haven’t found that dream team, it just takes up some of the time you would’ve spent with your family.

What is the hardest part or have been some of your struggles starting your own business?

My biggest struggle has been to find the right staff. People buy in to you. If you don’t have the right person working with you, you have to be everywhere. You also have to be really strong if you want to excel in being a wife, mom and businesswoman. I pat my self on the back every day.

How do you balance your business and your family?

You have to set boundaries and rules. If you don’t, it will spiral out of control because clients can come at any time and you’ll say yes to see them and you’ll put your work first. You have to put structures in place. For us, Sunday is a family day, no matter what. We also have dinner at a set time at home. Every night you have to be seated at that time. Saying no to clients can be the biggest challenge, but when there are rules in place, it’s easier to say no

What or whom has been the greatest support for you and your business?

My husband and my staff. He’s there to listen to me moan. My staff are willing to work on to midnight breakdowns without moaning – they’re such a blessing. My parents are too. I send my Mom photos of our work and she tells me how well I’m doing. My parents live in Klerksdrop, so they don’t get to experience events at this level – they’re always very impressed.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I wouldn’t do much differently. For starters, I don’t think I’d wait around trying to find a clone of myself. I think I’d just run with it – I’ve got work, let’s make it happen! Inventory wise, I find I have too many bulky things, so if there’s anything I would do completely differently, I’d get less of the bulky stuff, which would cut down on warehousing and staff. I would do more Perspex items, as opposed to wood because it chips. Now when I buy, I think twice about storage, and the wear and tear of items.

What advice can you give other Moms out there who are starting a new business?

Firstly, it’s not easy. That’s not really advice, I know, but I don’t know how else to package it. Starting a new business is not easy and if you don’t have the kahunas, don’t even go there. You have to have a strong will, you have to be tough and you must have patience. Secondly, try and find sales opportunities that are the most fruitful, and focus on them. Sales is the backbone of your business. For me it was the NWJ Bridal and Events Show in 2013. I had just started and it was my first breakthrough. At that event I got 13 clients. I brought back to my new premises, and I signed them all.  I went there with a positive mind. I wanted my stand to be super hot, I believed I was going to get leads, and that’s what happened.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us that I may have missed?

No. I think I’ve spoken a lot. There’s nothing I could have missed. I aspire to be like Richard Branson. He’s not focused on one thing. He’s got an airline; a finance business; and he has his Virgin Active gyms. This guy looks at the whole industry, in a lifestyle way. He’s built such an empire. I always look up to him.

If other Moms would like to keep in touch, how can they contact you?

You can find me via my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/oak.celebrations and https://www.facebook.com/oakboutique

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