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Maimoona Salim

Maimoona Salim

MAIMOONA SALIM is the provincial executive of the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator. An NGO that helps the unemployed youth adopt necessary life skills, and assists with job placements. She oversees all strategic business operations, including managing clients, working with candidates, and maintaining the vision and mission of the organisation.

Born and schooled in Durban, Maimoona relocated to Johannesburg in the late 90s, where she completed her studies and worked in various industries for over a decade. Her first job was as a casual worker at a retail store, and she worked her way up to be a specialist and later was promoted to senior management positions within the retail sector.

Because of Maimoona's drive and ambition, she regularly looked for business opportunities. After noticing a skills gap amongst the unemployed youth, she decided to start a business to address this issue. So, in 2005, without any financial backing, she became an entrepreneur. She made pamphlets, offering people training, and development skills, that would help them find jobs.

Only a few people were expected for training, but 98 candidates came on the first day. Shocked by the massive attendance, Maimoona managed to accommodate the candidates, taught them the required retail skills, and got them all employed by various retail stores. Encouraged by the success of the programme, she then registered a recruitment company, and started doing recruitment for various chain stores. She later became accredited and provided training for a major retail group store with which she landed a contract.

Focus on the end goal

Satisfied with the success she achieved in Johannesburg, Maimoona headed back to Durban, to seek a new venture. Her passion for food steered her to start a catering company which served small to medium size companies, for staff and client functions. Her company grew rapidly until it had a substantial staff complement...and that she says it what fulfilled her. Being able to employ people, mentoring, coaching, and helping them grow as individuals.

Having achieved what she has, in the short space of time, Maimoona has proved to herself that: "You don't need money for business, you just need to apply your mind and execute your plan. Focus on the end goal and make yourself work towards it. Success does not come from luck; it comes from hard work and determination."

Her journey has been a difficult one, as she came from a very challenging background. Though, that has not stopped her from persevering and achieving her dreams. Maimoona was privileged to have had good mentors along the way, that assisted with her career success. "People around you can push you to achieve your goals, encourage you not to give up, and help to take you to the next level."

Working smart

Maimoona believes, it is about "what inspires" rather than "who inspires" people. In addition, "People need to start by understanding themselves first, because when you learn to understand yourself, you then start understanding other people." The motivation and direction her parents provided, especially from her father, has driven her to grow as an individual, and that is what got her to where she is today. One of the strongest family values she lives by is, "work hard and be determined to succeed".

"As we all have the same minds, women don't need a different approach to men to be successful in business. We all think strategically, we are all educated, however the trick is about working smart. It is all about you pushing yourself and reaching your objectives; making sure that you focus on attaining your goals. That, is your ticket to success."

Maimoona is content with what she accomplished in her 20 plus years of being a career woman. She explains that to her, "accomplish" means "to do and achieve what you value, to make a difference and understand the input that you are giving." She says it is not about the bottom-line all the time.
"Being at Harambee made me understand that it is all about giving back to the community, giving back to individual people and giving hope to people, especially the unemployed youth." A point I will keep re-iterating, even though it's been said over a million times, but truth be told: the youth are our future leaders."

Doing what she does at Harambee, she feels, is an accomplishment on its own. Maimoona says, "Once you have found that you are giving back and making a difference, you can be content."

It is not work, it is life

When Maimoona was young, it was difficult for her to achieve a work-life balance, because she was so ambitious, and her career was all-important. Now that she is older and wiser, she asks herself if what she is doing now is a job or part of her life. Smiling, she says that it almost feels like she has retired because she enjoys what she does so much as it fulfils her as a human being. She has found herself and what resonates with her. "When people question my decision to work for a non-profit organisation, I reply that it is not work, it is life."

The advice she would give to her younger self is, "Realise life is not always what it seems. Things are always going to change. Listen to your parents' advice." She would also advise herself to appreciate life and appreciate time. "Use it wisely, and make every day count towards something beneficial for others."

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