CEO of NHM Wellness
Nonkululeko Mkhize, a young businesswoman in KwaZulu-Natal, is the founder and CEO of NHM Wellnet. The business provides wellness services to individuals, companies and to the public at large.
NHM Wellnet specialises in providing on-site counselling in the workplace, to both employers and employees, with a focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and managing mental health. In addition to counselling, NHM Wellnet offers supervisor training and the option of hosting wellness days to create awareness about mental health.
Nonkululeko had worked as a social worker for a long time, before she decided to step out on her own and offer on-site services, thus saving clients’ time, and quickly found it a more efficient way to practice. Her business grew and she realised that there was room to take the business to greater heights to meet the needs of the corporate sector.
Her dream and passion, said Nonkululeko, is to help people understand the importance of mental well-being and to silence the negativity attached to mental wellness. Her motivation, says Nonkululeko, comes from working with people, and from her daughter, who is her life.
She was also motivated by the fact that at all the companies and the NGOs where she had worked, there was never a professional on site who she could just go and speak to. “I had to either take time off work or I just had to swallow whatever I was going through at that time,” she commented.
Nonkululeko is self-driven and very ambitious, and she said her passion is to provide a tailor-made affordable service to small businesses as well, as she thrives on doing something she loves on a daily basis. Her journey has been challenging. She said that trying to enter the corporate space, especially with the kind of work that she does, has been a very difficult journey.
As the concept of employee wellness in corporate is still a fairly new field in South Africa, approaching companies has not been easy for Nonkululeko. She has found it tough to constantly infiltrate corporates and motivate why these kinds of services are vital, and how much they impact productivity.
“When employees are emotionally stable, they are more productive, and everyone wins. When employees do not prioritise mental health and wellness, it is difficult to make a difference, and break through perceived biases,” she explained.
In addition, her services are perceived as work that should be done in a private or a personal space. “Bringing that into the workplace where I’m asking employees to be vulnerable has been challenging,” added Nonkululeko.
As Nonkululeko has worked in her predominantly black community, she has found great opposition to the idea of mental wellness. The idea that mental health and counselling, therapists or therapy is negative, and means that one is labeled weak, is a constant battle. The misconception is that someone who cannot deal with personal issues is somehow failing.
The importance of spreading the message that mental health is not just something for those who have a mental issue, and should be seen as intrinsic to wellness, cannot be understated. Nonkululeko’s message is clear: “Your mental health is important. You are holistic beings, the ultimate goal is holistic wellness, starting at the core of your emotions and working your way out to external factors.”
One of the main areas that she has targeted for her probono services are the sports and recreation fields where she lives. Nonkululeko has identified that the provision of mental health as a service is not readily available in sporting clubs. However, she has found opposition to the idea of mental health services as among many of the soccer clubs, tennis clubs etc. these services are frowned upon.
Nonkululeko has had to work tirelessly to encourage sports people to grasp the importance of this vital service. However, she has been successful and now works with soccer teams around her community where she offers these services to the youngsters for free as a way of giving back to the community.
Nonkululeko’s biggest goal is to have a fully versatile wellness clinic in South Africa incorporating the services of mental health, spirituality, finances, and health, in a one-stop centre. “In a nutshell, wellness is a holistic endeavour, always interlinked. One cannot put it in a box, or isolate it as a single issue to treat,” she says, “A complex situation may require multiple services such as that of a therapist, a doctor, financial advisor, or spiritual insight for instance, and having these services separated makes it unlikely that these people will get the help they need.” Ultimately wellness comprises of these pillars.
Just do it
Using the vehicle of her business, Nonkululeko puts herself out there for other individuals to learn from her journey. It is her hope she would inspire others to realise that they too can start from humble beginnings and succeed. She believes that anyone can succeed regardless of their circumstances.
Nonkululeko’s advice to young women who may be scared to start, or who would want to follow her path is to just do it anyway and make a start. Nonkululeko emphasizes, “The important thing is to just start the ball rolling.”
Unwinding to recoup
Relaxing after a busy day is important to Nonkululeko. As a social worker by profession, she is a listener at heart, so listening is a big part of her life. Consequently, listening to a variety of podcasts helps her to relax while keeping her informed. She also enjoys gym and aerobics in particular.
Nonkululeko’s daughter is still a toddler, so she says with a smile, she gets a good workout at home. She also enjoys being outside, to meditate and reflect while watching nature.
When asked what it means to her to be a part of the KwaZulu-Natal Top Business Women initiative Nonkululeko says, “The opportunity to showcase my business and passion is indeed a privilege. It means that I’m able to put myself out there and that other people can learn from my journey to know that they can start their businesses from a perspective of passion.”