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ALDINE DALLAS is living her best life. Three months shy of 50, she has risen above adversity to achieve significant success, and is devoted to helping others transform their lives from the inside out, her motto: Turning hearts not heads.

Her passion and determination is unmistakable. "So many people are wounded or completely broken; perhaps from physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or being dismissed as worthless or unimportant, often from as far back as childhood. They don't recognise their value and find it hard to have a positive view of themselves or their lives, bringing negativity into their personal and professional relationships. It's my vision to help these people heal their lives and build wholesome, happy and respectful connections. And it starts with building a healthy relationship with themselves."

From the outside Aldine's life looked amazing. By the time she'd finished primary school she was a seasoned television performer, having danced on a show for eight years and starred in numerous commercials and had generated an income from modelling from the age of six. She was also an academic, head prefect and a top sports achiever.

She studied public relations and found a great job in advertising straight out of college. Her career blossomed across operations and new business development and she landed her first directorship and shareholding at 28. "But I was an over-achiever and had never dealt with my childhood brokenness, and I had taken on too much too quickly." With life and work pressure escalating, depression set in. Her marriage ended after only two years and a downward spiral ensued. After 10 years and many poor judgement calls, she found herself stuck in a violent relationship and hit rock bottom.

But she didn't give up. She walked away from her career, moved to Durban from Johannesburg and went into a rehabilitation facility to start the inward journey of healing, and began a new chapter of her life.

The best you

Aldine explains: "I finally built a healthy, nurturing relationship with myself. Through self-exploration, learning from counsellors and coaches and connecting with God, my transformation was dramatic. I realised I could make a difference and in 2008 my journey to help others began. My vision was to take what I'd learnt about brokenness; the importance of forgiveness and being accountable, to encourage people who are hurting to stand up with boldness and courage and step into healing and wholeness."

One of her projects was a workshop for female inmates at Westville Prison. "I have a special passion for broken women, as I can identify easily with them." Aldine points out that there are many reasons that women end up in prison, but that childhood trauma, a lack of self-respect and unhealthy relationships like co-dependency are often a common thread.

Aldine has run her digital marketing agency for many years and is also a qualified life coach. "I help clients become their best selves, and my deep desire was to do this on a bigger scale." She launched her production company and developed, Over 40 and Fabulous, a reality TV show as a platform to help others nationally and potentially, even globally.

"My vision for Over 40 and Fabulous is to neutralise gender, cultural and racial tension. Our commitment is to turn hearts, not heads. We have a team of experts to help our participants holistically to overcome issues that have held them back. We'll guide them into wholeness and help them establish a strong identity, and an authenticity in how they present themselves, so they can pursue healthy relationships. And if they're single we'll even help match them with potential partners, who will be coached as well. I want to uplift and change South Africa one person at a time!"

Inspired by Oprah Winfrey and Steve Harvey, Aldine describes how they overcame poverty and childhood abuse and chose not to buy into negativity. "They rose above adversity and went on to become two of the most powerful people in the media world. They have given a voice to the broken and underprivileged, investing emotionally, spiritually and financially into the lives of others. My mission is to invest love and time, and whatever resources I can amass, into the lives of South Africans."

Finding the balance

Unconvinced by the concept of work-life balance, Aldine points out that work is an important part of life, not a separate entity. "You need to find a balance in your life, and for me that includes attending to my digital marketing clients, consulting with my lifecoaching mentees, working on the production of Over 40 and Fabulous, exercising, salsa dancing, writing books and relaxing with friends and family. Balance is important, but I don't compartmentalise my life, I
prefer to take a holistic approach."

She mentions her 2007 book. "I highlighted that if life is a rocket ship, then every engine has to be equally and consistently fuelled." Referring to areas such as finance, health and fitness, family and parenting, nutrition, emotions, personal character, spirituality, love, career, intellect and education, social, quality of life and life vision, she advises, "Focus energy in each of these areas and your rocket ship will soar to incredible heights!"

Hang in there

Asked what advice she'd give her younger self, Aldine is positive. "Well done on hanging in so magnificently. You got up each time you were knocked down and I am so incredibly proud of you. Never be ashamed of your past - there's way more to you than that, you are defined by who you have become. Be resilient and always remember that adversity doesn't have to hold you back, in fact it strengthens and propels you onward and upward."

Aldine Dallas

Her passion and determination is unmistakable. "So many people are wounded or completely broken; perhaps from physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or being dismissed as worthless or unimportant, often from as far back as childhood

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BARBARA NJAPHA is the managing director of Performance Solutions Africa (PSA), a consulting firm in Durban that conducts performance enhancement interventions. Best practice programmes are offered to organisations in the private and public sectors, involving the training and coaching of leaders and managers. PSA's major focus currently is delivering school management programmes in the education sector, and to date these have been delivered in over 2000 schools nationally.

On a day to day basis, Barbara is responsible for the overall management of the company, its people, and its functioning. She liaises with clients and the funders of projects and oversees the finances, marketing, new business, staffing, projects, and the developing of specific project reports.

After matriculating from Igagasi High School in Umlazi, Barbara enrolled for a secretarial course at the Mangosuthu Technikon, as she lacked sufficient credits for university studies. Upon finishing the course, Standard Bank employed her, engaging her in their accelerated learning programme, which provided exposure to several banking functions. A year later she was accepted for the bank's "FTUS" scheme, whereby employees could attend university full-time. Due to her interest in people's behaviour, she enrolled for a B.Com (Industrial Psychology) degree at the University of Natal in 1995.

Diverse experience

After completing the degree, Barbara dealt with human resource (HR) matters ranging from training to industrial relations. At the end of 2001, she was employed by ABI as an HR specialist. When she felt that she had reached a ceiling in HR, she asked to be exposed to operations. To her surprise, they offered her relevant training and appointed her as a senior warehouse manager. She commented, "The opportunity to gain diverse experience in human resources as well as operations was a special gift."

When managing the warehouse was no longer a challenge, Barbara left ABI to start her own recruitment company in 2006. Soon afterwards she met with a former work colleague who advised Barbara that PSA was looking for an HR head. Consequently, in addition to running her company, she joined PSA, and became a director replacing the lady who had recruited her. An opportunity arose when the then - managing director moved to Cape Town and Barbara was appointed to this position in 2010, which is the job title she still holds.

Barbara says, "I am not inspired by a specific person, but by the actions of any person that makes a positive change." She admires someone like Nelson Mandela for his vision and ability to look beyond his immediate circumstances, but it is his actions as well as the actions of often unknown people doing something beyond themselves, that inspire her.

Women have an extra load

"Women still have "the short end of the stick" in business," says Barbara. Historically women have often been seen as fit to be in the kitchen rather than business, she says, but things have been improving and women are playing an increasingly big role in business.

"Women do however have a double-load," she says, "because they have to double-prove themselves in business."

As this need is in addition to the load of multi-roles beyond business, Barbara concludes that women are forced to approach business differently, due to the additional challenges of motherhood and caring for their families compared to men.

Achieving a work-life balance

Achieving a work-life balance has been difficult and has often been "a hit-or-miss" Barbara says. There were times when she could not be there for her children due to work commitments, for example when doing a warehouse stocktake on a Sunday. Fortunately, her children were independent at a young age and she appreciates the support she gets from her family. Her husband has encouraged her and became very understanding over time.

"I view work-life balance a bit like a see-saw, because sometimes there is more of it and sometimes less." This is further motivation for her to be in a space where she can do what she loves and have the freedom to decide what she wants to do and when.

The advice that she would give to her younger self would be "education, education, education first" says Barbara. "Because, although some people succeed with little or no education, this is just too risky."

She would then go on to tell herself to make investment savings, learn how to be financially savvy, and to prepare for retirement early on. Lastly, she would tell herself to become independent and only enter into a long-term relationship when she can be whole on her own and wouldn't need to be reliant on someone. "Then you can go and live life, not do what someone else tells you to do, but what you enjoy doing."

Becoming a social entrepreneur

Barbara is happy with most of what she has achieved, especially being able to provide for her children's education, but has not yet succeeded in terms of reaching her goals.

"I want to do something bigger than myself, some-thing I am passionate about, on my own terms."

Her passion is to uplift and empower people in society. She wants to engage in what she terms "social entrepreneurship" which for her means "resolving community-related problems through one's entrepreneurial skills without doing it for profit". When she has become a successful social entrepreneur, she would feel that she has succeeded.

Barbara Njapha

The managing director of Performance Solutions Africa (PSA), a consulting firm in Durban that conducts performance enhancement interventions. Best practice programmes are offered to organisations in the private and public sectors, involving the training and coaching of leaders and managers. PSA's major focus currently is delivering school management programmes in the education sector, and to date these have been delivered in over 2000 schools nationally.

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BONI MCHUNU, managing director at East Coast Radio (ECR) - KZN's No.1 Hit Music Station, is passionate about KwaZulu-Natal and its people.
Boni was born and educated in Pietermaritzburg. She is the youngest of five sisters and after her mother died when she was 10 years old, Boni was brought up by a single dad, who she calls her 'Rockstar'.

Boni credits her success to her father who encouraged her and her four sisters to take their education seriously. "Growing up poor in Pietermaritzburg, my father taught me that I could only improve my life through education. A statement he made had a profound impact on her as a young girl and has stuck with her ever since - 'The decisions you make about education today, must be the decisions you are happy to live with tomorrow'. This statement, she said, encouraged her to do well in school.

The best marketing experience

After matriculating in 1997, Boni enrolled at the University of South Africa to study marketing. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in marketing, a diploma in business management and diploma in project management. Recently, Boni attended the international executive leadership development programme at Wits and London business schools.

Her first job was with ABSA and her responsibilities related to marketing the financial services of ABSA. This was followed by working for another corporate giant, Unilever. Of her time there, she says, "I believe it was some of the best marketing experience anyone can get, as I worked in different categories from home, personal care to foods."

Before joining ECR, Boni was part of the executive team at Tourism KZN. The opportunity to work for the provincial tourism authority, representing KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa, she says was one of the highlights of her professional career.

Notably, she got to travel to more than 72 countries around the world and in her own words, "The experience cemented the fact that South Africa is the best country in the world and solidified my pride in being proudly South African."

Influencing people's lives

Now as, Boni says that she absolutely loves that East Coast Radio has so much influence in the lives of the people living in the province. "I consider this opportunity as a privilege that I will cherish for as long as I live."

"ECR gives us the platform to make a difference in people's lives by influencing and connecting KZN to the world, and we bring the world to South Africa, particularly to KZN. We are proudly KZN as we are a brand that considers ourselves as a fabric of KZN that binds people together. KZN's social matters, matter to us, whether funny, sad, social, or lifestyle, are all important to us."

"Growing the station's brand awareness is my career highlight. The ECR brand awareness is above 90% across all demographics in KZN. I am glad that the work I've put into making it more diverse, in terms of listenership, has paid off. This is evident in the growth of our audience, largely due to our brand's association with all things related to KZN. I look forward to continue growing the brand even further."

Business is business

Apart from being a successful businesswoman, Boni is also a superwoman to three kids of her own, and a wife to her loving husband. Boni says that that despite the usual everyday challenges at home, at work and in the community, the greatest challenge that she has faced has been seeing people judging her based on her gender and race. She does not let this get to her and her biggest career highlight is that she has been able to move from different industries with ease.

"The experience gained from all these industries has been enormous for me, but most importantly, the experience has taught me that business is business, regardless of the different industries." As a woman in business. Boni says, 'I learnt early on that prospective employers care about whether you've got the ability, willingness and right mindset to do the job at hand."

"As women, we all need to believe unconditionally that our passion can create the life we really want. We have the in-built ability to do whatever we put our minds to and need not wait for things to fall into our laps. Opportunities exist and we need to seize those opportunities and make things happen for ourselves, rather than waiting for society's approval."

Remain true to yourself

However, Boni says that discipline is a bridge between her goals and achieving them, "In everything I do, I believe focus, attitude and discipline has brought me this far." She adds, "I believe in simplicity, authenticity, straight talk and sustainability in everything that I do. Sustainability for me refers to putting systems in place that will build myself and companies that will compete for the future, with or without me. You must remain true to yourself, find mentors for every area of your life and don't waste time on negativity."

In reflecting on her future goals Boni says, "One thing I would like to do in this lifetime, is to create a Boni Mchunu Foundation that will assist the underprivileged kids, especially from the township I grew up in, Imbali Township."

Boni's motto in life and in business is that failure is merely incomplete success, to be persistent and be grateful for what you have, so good things can manifest. "I believe in positive reinforcement, not letting your past or present situation in life define your future."

Boni Mchunu

BONI MCHUNU, managing director at East Coast Radio (ECR) - KZN's No.1 Hit Music Station, is passionate about KwaZulu-Natal and its people.
Boni was born and educated in Pietermaritzburg. She is the youngest of five sisters and after her mother died when she was 10 years old, Boni was brought up by a single dad, who she calls her 'Rockstar'.

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BRENDA HORNER, is the founder and director of the Gap Academy which provides school and university leaving students the privileged opportunity to realistically assess, discover, plan and create for their future career and life paths.

A Greytown farm girl, Brenda has lived most of her life in the KZN Midlands and attended high school in Pietermaritzburg. After school, she studied a four year degree in food and clothing technology and a physical education degree for high school teaching. Brenda has followed an interesting and diverse career path from teaching, lecturing, and designing and manufacturing of wedding dresses, clothing and soft furnishings, to owning her own consulting and manufacturing interior design company for 27 years. During this time, she compiled also an interior design course for a correspondence school, raised two children and played competitive sport.

As a parent and an ex-educator, she was deeply disturbed by the number of students leaving school who did not know what they wanted to do, or were not prepared for the 'real world'. She was equally concerned by the high numbers of students making the wrong career choices and not completing their tertiary studies, and the many students wanting to study but unable to do so due to financial constraints.

Identifying the huge void after school, Brenda founded the Gap Academy in 2006 to provide students with a planned and purpose-driven gap year. Students have time to assess their career options and are equipped with knowledge and experience in essential life skills, business and personal finance management and develop emotionally to cope with life after school.

"There's so much going on in matric," she points out, "and the pressure to make a decision about the following year is enormous. It often leads to hasty, ill-informed decisions. Teenagers often have no idea what they want to do. They simply don't have the knowledge, experience or exposure to the realistic information they need to make the right choices."

To attend the Gap Academy, students need to be 17 years or older (there is no upper age limit - their oldest student was 42). "We prefer our students to have their matric," says Brenda, "but it's not essential. They do however require a good attitude to their work and colleagues, and they must want to attend Gap Academy to plan and achieve for themselves!

At the end of the year, our students will have more focus and clearer goals. They'll know what they want to do and have a plan to start the journey to get there."

Inspired every day

Brenda is inspired by her students, both past and present. "Looking at our students, I can see the impact we've made; that we're doing something really needed in our society. I see past students who've gone on to great things and I know we're making a difference. And I can see it in our current students too. I walk their journey with them every day. It's remarkable to see their growth in one short year, and it's wonderful to know we're instrumental in getting them onto the right path. They leave us with goals, plans and purpose. We give them a platform for life, and that's all the motivation I could ask for."

But the Gap Academy has provided another unexpected opportunity too. The business sector and other potential sponsors can see the worth of the Gap programme and get involved by financially investing and assisting students. Lecturers are selected on their reputation and professionalism and invest their time and knowledge in lecturing the students and giving back to the emerging youth.

Finding the balance

"I don't always achieve a good work/life balance," admits Brenda, "but it's probably been easier for me than many women. When I started this business, my children were grown, so I had fewer demands on my time. But I still need to plan for family time and me-time."

Acknowledging that she's very fortunate, Brenda says that her gender has never been an issue for her. "I've never found being a woman a disadvantage; not in my industry." Conceding that it may be more of an issue in male dominated industries, she points out that it's probably more important to be committed and to do what needs to be done. "Whether you're a man or a woman, you need to be at the top of your game to succeed."

Asked whether there's anything that she'd do differently, if she was to do it all over again, she hesitates. "Maybe I should have started this Gap year programme sooner. I've achieved what I set out to do, and I can see the results, so I'm very proud of that and I'm happy. It's great to know that you're making a difference in someone's life."

But she's not done yet. The Gap Academy has provided an invaluable service to students (and their parents) in the Pietermaritzburg area, but there's plenty of potential in other areas too.

Brenda Horner

BRENDA HORNER, is the founder and director of the Gap Academy which provides school and university leaving students the privileged opportunity to realistically assess, discover, plan and create for their future career and life paths.

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BRIGITTE TURNER is head of Harvey World Travel Highway. When Brigitte bought Harvey World Travel Highway 18 years ago, she'd never worked in the travel industry. In fact, she'd built a highly successful corporate career in property development and was managing director of a major national property organisation. Despite the demands of her corporate position, Brigitte was a natural entrepreneur and already owned three other companies when a friend mentioned that there might be an interesting opportunity in a small travel business.

Having thrived in the male dominated property development industry, Brigitte doesn't believe that women need to take a different approach to men to their careers. "Yes, women are still frequently discriminated against, particularly when it comes to salaries in corporates, but women have more opportunities that ever before. Instead of being daunted by your situation," she says, "you need to trust in yourself, believe that there are opportunities because you have something to offer, and be yourself."

She credits her talented and committed team for their huge contribution, and takes guidance from Richard Branson, her "ultimate entrepreneur", in setting high targets for herself. Branson says he never sets a target unless it really frustrates him, and Brigitte agrees that without aiming high, you'll never reach great heights.

Making business success meaningful

"I'm definitely proud of what I've achieved, but I'm certainly not at the end of my career yet," she points out. "There's so much to be done - and not enough time to do it." Inspired by Branson's philanthropic commitment as well as his business acumen, and by Mother Theresa's service to her community, Brigitte knows that everyone can make a difference. "I only wish I could be even half as selfless as Mother Theresa," she laughs.

Business success has allowed Brigette to make a greater contribution to society. As a business, Harvey World Travel Highway supports community events and helps with fundraising projects, but Brigitte feels that this is only part of it. Over the years she's served on the boards of several charities and gives of her time and business skills too. She's particularly committed to her church's social transformation project and headed a business forum to develop business skills for emerging entrepreneurs. "The business forum started as a workshop for three or four entrepreneurs each meeting, and rapidly grew to over 150 people every week, with formal training courses."

But Brigitte didn't just set up the business forum, she trained entrepreneurs herself, spending many a Monday evening in Kwadabeka and Lamontville. She's particularly fulfilled by the real success stories that started in these workshops, and one in particular made a real mark. "Mandisa Sithole, who owns the craft shop at King Shaka International Airport, had a small beading business and a big dream. And I'm so honoured to have been a small part of her journey."

Brigitte has recently joined Rotary, and notes that, like everything else in life, the more you give, the more you get back.

Living a well-rounded life

With running a demanding business, her family commitments and community work, it can't be easy to do it all, but Brigitte is adamant that you need balance. "My circle of life includes family, friends, spirituality, career, finances, health and love life, and everything needs to be in balance for my life to work," she says. "If one element is out of balance, I feel it across all aspects of my life. And I need my community work as much as I need my exercise."
Needless to say, life is not always perfect, and Brigitte points out that a difficult divorce a few years ago took its toll and she felt she was in a slump across every element. But true to her belief that our time on earth is limited and we need to use it well, she soon got herself back on track. "Whenever I feel things aren't going as well as they should, I take a good look at my wheel of life, pray to God for guidance, and figure out which area I need to deal with. And it works for me."

Be kind

When asked what advice she would give her younger self, Brigitte says it's the same advice she gives her three children today. "Be kind and be generous, stick to your values, pray often and remember that ethics matter. If you follow this simple dictum, it will stand you in good stead, and you'll always be able to look people in the eye."

Brigitte Turner

BRIGITTE TURNER is head of Harvey World Travel Highway. When Brigitte bought Harvey World Travel Highway 18 years ago, she'd never worked in the travel industry. In fact, she'd built a highly successful corporate career in property development and was managing director of a major national property organisation. Despite the demands of her corporate position, Brigitte was a natural entrepreneur and already owned three other companies when a friend mentioned that there might be an interesting opportunity in a small travel business.

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