We are largely defined by where we come from, our education, our environment and also who we choose as our role models. I have always veered towards personalities that define the norm against all odds or can speak out for the voiceless and can hear their inner voice loudly. When I last wrote I spoke about my meeting with Jenna Clifford and her larger than life personality. The next personality I would like to speak about today is Wendy Applebaum.
Please note; I speak with a reference coming from GIBS (Gordon Institute of Business Science) and being part of the 10 000 Goldman Sachs global entrepreneur programme. However, when our partners and I started the journey at Unimedia, I quickly recognized how different the real world operates and how we see the world through what we learn from text books and other influences. This harsh reality at some point made me lose confidence and perspective in everything I had learnt. I do understand the difference in theory and the practice, but it’s definitely not the case of throwing the baby out with the bath water. It is not always the business aspect that drives us, but what my spiritual teacher calls the 3 C’s; Connect, Consciousness, Continuity. So when I do meet these amazing and very successful characters of which we learn about in our entrepreneurial circles, I do hone in and want to know more, especially the essence of their being.
I recently met Wendy at our Little Pace Challenge, which took place on the 2 August as part of our Women’s month celebration in golf. The start was tense (or so I thought)……when she was handed her golf apparel for the day, she immediately came back wanting another size. As we ran out of this particular size, I started panicking as after all this was Wendy Applebaum, the lady I had heard so much about in my marketing lectures…..thinking on my feet, I immediately removed mine as it was the size she needed. This could have horribly gone wrong as she could either be very offended or empathise with the situation. She did the latter and I silently knew she understood, after all I was dealing with one of Africa’s most active philanthropists, also a woman who constantly makes it to The Forbes top millionaires list in Africa.
So yes I was very curious as I also knew about her philanthropic activities that made me want to connect with her. In 2012, Wendy learned that garnishee orders had been obtained against her workers on her wine farm, with nearly 80% of their monthly income being attached. She took up the fight and took the whole matter to court. She had this to say in a Radio 702 interview; “I did an in depth investigation into garnishee orders and realised the entire thing is sick and rotten. This is a fight for human dignity!
She has undeniably demonstrated the power of philanthropic involvement in defending citizen rights and has also made a difference in the eradication of the ‘dop’ system. This evil system saw farmers compensate farm workers for their labour with part salaries in rations of low-grade alcohol. Thankfully this practice is almost defunct but with various interventions by her philanthropic work, it has vastly improved. These are just some of the stories I have read about her that makes me further understand what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur. So back to my first point in the beginning, I come from the Western Cape region, the Cape Flats to be specific so Wendy’s philanthropic work would resonate with me.
I too am involved in philanthropic work but the impact too small to measure against these gigantic figures. However after interaction with entrepreneurs of this calibre, I am forced to change my belief system in seeing the glass half full rather than half empty. I know that resources on every level are key and my mantra each day is, “I have all the resources I need” I am blessed to know that the sum of all my experiences has brought me here and in the now, and meeting business women such as Wendy Applebaum inspires me further to want to be successful as it in turn means I can assist more underprivileged women.
To end with a quote from Wendy: “The more you have, the more responsibility you have to share it with those who don’t.”