Entrepreneur and Founder of of CiaLeeTeez (Pty) Ltd
Claudette Sigamoney is a visionary entrepreneur and wears many hats as a business and community leader. As managing director of CiaLeeTeez (Pty) Ltd and Impilwenhle, she empowers and enhances the skills of both women and youth entrepreneurs. Claudette is the former vice president and former chairperson of SMME and entrepreneurial development of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“Being the vice president of the Chamber has given me more exposure than I’ve ever had before and enabled me to be part of various platforms. This role has also empowered me to work with other businesses. I have learnt a lot of skills and have grown myself as an entrepreneur. I lead by example,” says Claudette. She added that being the SMME Forum chairperson of the Durban Chamber has given her an edge and that she is passionate about the growth of small, medium, and micro enterprises (SMMEs).
During her term, Claudette has set the tone in terms of development. As an ambassador and as a voice of SMMEs, she has mentored successful entrepreneurs to grow their businesses. Claudette is proud to have had hundreds of mentees come through her hands and who have been equipped with the necessary skills to take their businesses to another level.
A business strategist
In addition to the various business formations, Claudette has forged many relationships with stakeholders in business and government. She is a business strategist and influence maker who drives dialogues and business engagements between a range of stakeholders. Claudette has been very involved with round table conferences where she spends much of her time concentrating on marrying SMMEs with big corporates to promote procurement opportunities. Her leadership ability has also diversified into roles such as keynote speaker, public speaker and programme director on various business and government platforms.
Claudette’s business CiaLeeTeez specialises in township talk and rural development, entrepreneur development, SMME development and growing small businesses. She is passionate about giving to the community through her business, Impilwenhle, which is a Seta accredited company that undertakes skills development and empowerment of unemployed youth and women. “We go out into the rural areas and identify the needs that are present in the municipalities. This includes skills that are needed such as sewing, upholstery, agriculture, and baking.
In addition to skills development, Impilwenhle assists in growing businesses through developing the entrepreneurs. “In this case someone who is thirsty to take a calculated risk but doesn’t know how to do it,” explains Claudette. “We assist by helping with aspects such as registration on the various government platforms required to be a proper business.”
“We also identify the needs for skills amongst individuals – a school leaver, a woman sitting at home, or a gogo taking care of her grandchildren. We teach the required skills over a 12-week Seta accredited programme. After completing the course, each participant receives an appropriate tool such as a sewing machine so that they may continue to use their craft. Through learning a skill, each woman is then able to take care of herself and provide for her family.”
Further to her desire to give back, Claudette is a lay minister within the Anglican Church of South Africa. “That is my ministry and that is my way of giving back to the community,” she says.
Opportunities for all
Claudette has faced many challenges, both on the business front and personally. She says that being a woman in business always comes with challenges. However, says Claudette, “I didn’t want to be the first black women to find herself on a board, I wanted to open the doors to others.”
She says that to make a success of a business you need to find the time to both work in and on a business. Consequently, Claudette uses every opportunity to network with other business owners. “I network to create strategies, find synergies and collaborate. There are opportunities for all of us,” she explains.
Smile amidst the pain
Her personal challenges were rather difficult. Claudette has been a single parent to three sons, two of whom suffered from muscular dystrophy, a disorder that only affects men. Clerrade and Tyronne were wheelchair bound at the ages of 13 and 10 respectively. Sadly, Tyronne was on life support for two years before he died in 2016. Her eldest son, Lyronne is an industrial engineer, married and living in Cape Town.
Claudette became vice president at the encouragement of Tyronne who was in ICU at the time. He said that she should take up the position as ‘opportunities come once in your lifetime, take it with both hands and embrace it’. Her term of office was very difficult as she often had to show up at functions after a sleepless night of caring for her son and continue with her role even through the pain of losing him.
Amidst this turmoil, Claudette saw the need to empower others and smile amidst the pain. “Everyone in business knows that I am always a cheerful person and always have a smile. Amidst all the struggles that I have had, I just embrace life and live each day and take it as an opportunity to make things right, to empower others with my own life’s journey. If I can do that for one person, I have done my fair share.”
Claudette has formed the T25 Foundation to raise awareness about muscular dystrophy. In conclusion, Claudette says. “You need to empower yourself more than anything else – read, be part of business formations, be part of women’s organisations if you can. Celebrate your best life and just embrace it.”