What we learnt from the South African Chamber of Commerce Awards

By Kenda Macdonald | Speaking Events

Jun 12

There is nothing like a strong community to make a Ninja happy.

And boy did we stumble upon a community.

On the 16th of May we were runners up for the South African Chamber of Commerce Rising Star award.

If you’re wondering why were even there, then don’t forget I’m  a born and bred South African, from the beautiful coastal area of Cape Town. It’s why I talk funny. And possibly why I’m often called “aggressive”…

The South African Chamber of Commerce UK is all about supporting South African businesses in  the UK, or UK businesses that work with South Africa. And hence…we wined and dined at a sumptuous awards dinner.

My amazing team nominated me for the Rising Star award, which is for ​​​​​​​”An individual who displays great potential in new or existing business or industry; who has shown to recently stand out from their peers as a result of their personal effort.”

Being nominated for an award is amazing – it’s a tip of the hat that we’re doing good. To be a finalist, well… that’s a level up indeed.

I’m fiercely competitive so of course I immediately felt like I’d be a complete loser if I didn’t win, thank fully, Mike reminded me that it’s fine, we could still do the networking thing and go home with some connections.

It’s all about the connections

Even if we didn’t win – it’s about the networking right?

Well that’s where the SACC blew me away. Connections were the least of the value that we left with that night.

There were famous opera singers, a renowned pianist, an amazing group of singers, a band, delicious food from home, good wine, and a rad goody bag to take home (with Biltong in it!!).

To spare you the suspense, unfortunately we didn’t win. But being a finalist (runner up? We couldn’t tell), out of all the submissions was awesome.

We even got a beautiful certificate and a photo in front of those cool banner things:

We were winners that night, not of a nice little certificate that made me feel less like a complete loser (very very competitive) – but rather, of a raffle. We won two tickets to a private screening of Life Is Wonderful: Mandela’s Unsung Heroes.

But still, that’s not what got us really going – in the end it was the community, and the message that community was carrying.

Watch out – I’m about to get a teeny bit political here.

For a long time I have dealt with a sense of shame for being a South African. I love my country deeply – but I am expected to carry the shame of my ancestors for Apartheid. It’s not my shame to bear. I feel very strongly about that. I don’t want to dwell on the past, I want to learn from it – make sure it never happens again. I don’t want to be made to feel different because of the colour of my skin.

Then of course, there was the shame of having Jacob Zuma as a president. The scandal and the corruption. I’m proud to be a South African, but it’s always been a defiant proud. I am proud despite what my country wanted me to feel, and where it was going. I’m proud because we are so much more than that.

Here’s why I feel like I can just be proud now

Tembi Tambo, the High Commissioner, called on all of us to be South Africans first.

She asked us to respect our history – and then move forward as one nation. Undivided.

And those of us living overseas can help give back be being united. Giving back to South Africa through experience and value.

This struck me at the core of my pride for my country. Yes, I am a South African CEO of a British company. But Ninjas aren’t stopped by borders.

And ah, those raffle tickets. A private screening – to Sir Nicholas Stadlen’s “Life Is Wonderful: Mandela’s Unsung Heroes.”

His speech at the end of the evening was profound and deeply enjoyable. We can not wait to attend that.

Ultimately, we made a few connections, we got our certificate, we won our raffle. All these things are amazing, and we’re ever so grateful for the opportunity to have these things.

But they aren’t our biggest take away from the evening, rather it was connecting with home again. Being proud to be proud. Being a South African first. Reigniting the passion for entrepreneurship.

Thank you very much to :

Her Excellency, High Commissioner – Tembi Tambo for her inspiring message.
Sir Nicholas Stadlen – for his inspiring speech.
​​​​​​​The lovely Pumela Salela – for being an amazing master of ceremony.
And last but not least Sharon Constançon Chairman, South African Chamber of Commerce UK for putting together a phenomenal event.

The finalist spot was an amazing pat on the back – it’s recognition. It’s way more than some people ever get.

We went in hoping for an award and some connections, but we left a part of something much bigger, a community of entrepreneurs with passion.

This is our opportunity to do good for something that is bigger than us – and we’ll proudly be flying our flag throughout that journey.

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