Pamella Jabu Ndzumo | Accounting Plus

Programme sponsor: Baker Mckenzie

“I didn’t want to be a business owner, I wanted to be an entrepreneur – and yes, there’s a VERY big difference between the two!”

Growing up, I had a solid plan: study accounting after school, become a CA and climb the corporate ladder at a listed company – a very typical route for an accountant to take. And for a couple of years that’s exactly what I did. Then, in 2014, I opened my business, Accounting Plus, as a side hustle to help friends with their tax returns but I definitely didn’t see myself as an entrepreneur – I was just an accountant with my own business.

I grew up with a strong entrepreneurial role model: my mom. She started her own pharmacy in the Eastern Cape where we lived and had tremendous support from the community. When I turned 21, she was even able to buy me a car – in cash! But I also saw how hard walking the entrepreneurship road could be. My mom’s business struggled after the 2008 crash when people were cash-strapped and the business didn’t have access to credit so couldn’t buy stock. I was shocked that a once-thriving business could spiral downhill so quickly. It was awful to watch but that experience lit a fire in me.

I made a point of learning as much as I could at each of my jobs and chose roles where I knew I’d grow my business know-how and skills. One day, while I was working as a finance manager at a company, the CEO brought in a specialist who helped each employee put together a vision board of what they wanted for the future. I think he may regret doing that now because two of his senior managers (including me!) resigned to work on their own businesses after that.

“Being an entrepreneur means believing in something you can’t see”

Deciding to work on Accounting Plus full-time was scary because I only had one client on retainer but I felt ready. People always tell entrepreneurs not to leave formal employment until they’re bringing in enough money to match their salary. It’s probably good advice but that’s not the spirit of an entrepreneur – being an entrepreneur means taking chances and believing in something you can’t see. I just knew I had to go for it.

At the time, I thought I knew exactly what I was doing but found out the hard way that I didn’t. I was in completely new territory and made a lot of mistakes. I was a one-woman show working from home and I didn’t want to feel like an accountant anymore – I wanted to feel like an entrepreneur (and yes, there’s a very big difference between the two!). A lot of people, some of them accountants like me, know their own trade but don’t know enough about business to work on their business, rather than just in their business. In order to do that, I knew I needed someone who’d walked this path before to guide me. After seeing an ad for a Raizcorp Arize business-growth programme on Facebook, I thought, “Why not?” I took a chance, applied and was accepted onto the programme.

“I knew this was an opportunity that could transform my business”

I vividly remember my first session with my Raizcorp guides. My business wasn’t bringing in much money but they looked at my financials and said, “We’re going to triple this” – and I believed them. I knew this was an opportunity that could transform my business so I decided to trust the process. I made the decision to follow all their advice – if they told me to make ten cold calls a day, I was prepared to do it without asking why.

And that strategy worked well for me. Within nine months of being on the Raizcorp programme, my turnover had increased by 149%, my net profit had grown by 724% and my client base has quadrupled. These days, my team works from an office space and I’m in the process of hiring two new staff – my staff complement has actually grown five times since I joined the Raizcorp programme. I still can’t believe it when I look at my numbers!

One of the unexpected bonuses of being on a Raizcorp Arize programme is meeting the other entrepreneurs in your cohort. All our learning lessons took place in person so we got to interact regularly and we created a WhatsApp group to keep each other motivated. Belonging to a group where everyone shares a common purpose is amazing and I know we’ll stay in touch after graduation. We’ll never lose the connection we have with each other because we have one really important thing in common: Raizcorp. I’ve learned so much through my experience with Raizcorp and my advice for other entrepreneurs is to start before you’re sure and before you’re ready. You’ll figure it out as you go along.

“I’ve achieved my dream of being an entrepreneur – I’m no longer an accountant with her own business”

I’ve achieved my dream of being an entrepreneur, I’m no longer an accountant with her own business. What’s the difference? Well, when you’re an accountant you’re doing a job; reviewing the numbers and checking everything is done correctly. An entrepreneur moves away from the “doing” in order to work on the business itself. I now have a senior bookkeeper and I’ve put processes in place to make sure everything’s done to my standard or higher. My role as an entrepreneur is to bring in new business, ensure clients are happy and work on growing the business.

“Thank you to Baker McKenzie”

I wouldn’t be where I am today if Baker McKenzie hadn’t invested in me and my small business and I vow to do the same one day. When my company is big enough, I’ll invest in someone else’s small business so they can have the same opportunities I’ve had.