Isambane Energy and Nyawo Group
Thobile Nyawo is the founder and chief executive of Isambane Energy and Nyawo Construction. She holds a national diploma in civil engineering and, for the past eight years, has gained experience in leadership and business in the construction, energy and connectivity sectors.
The 28-year-old began Isambane Energy during the load-shedding crisis and came up with a way to accommodate middle and lower income people. Her job at Nyawo Group encompasses a range of responsibilities that require her to balance strategic planning with operational execution.
In 2019, Nyawo Group received the Top Woman Entrepreneur in the Construction and Building Services Sector title at the Standard Bank Top Women Awards. The company was also a finalist in the Energy and Water Sector category at the 2020 SA Premier Business Awards. As a child, Thobile was fascinated by the construction projects in her community, which gave her a sense of excitement and possibility.
She is motivated by the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Thobile says it affirms her belief that everyone has the power to make a difference in the world and create a better future for all. She firmly believes in transformation and that by increasing opportunities for women in leadership and entrepreneurship, “we can unlock significant economic growth and drive positive social change”. Of the future of South Africa she wants to see the country flourish, particularly in terms of economic growth and job creation.
I have a national diploma in civil engineering, but I have been actively involved in the construction, energy and connectivity sectors for almost a decade. Through hands-on experience and self-taught knowledge, I have developed a deep understanding of the intricacies of these industries.
My experience has given me the skills and expertise needed to succeed in these fields, including strategic planning, financial management, project management and stakeholder engagement. I am committed to continuously developing my knowledge and staying up-to-date with industry trends through attending conferences, networking with industry experts and keeping up with the latest research and developments.
While academic qualifications are undoubtedly valuable, practical experience and self-taught knowledge can also provide a unique perspective and competitive edge in navigating complex industries such as construction, energy, and connectivity.
In 2019, Nyawo Group and I were honoured to receive the Top Woman Entrepreneur in the Construction and Building Services Sector title at the Standard Bank Top Women Awards. The recognition of our leadership and entrepreneurship in the industry and the effect we’ve had on the sector was a humbling experience. This award has inspired us to strive for greater heights, consistently pushing the boundaries of innovation and service excellence.
Nyawo Group has also been recognised as an innovative, leading company in the energy and connectivity sectors. We were a finalist in the Energy and Water Sector category at the 2020 SA Premier Business Awards, which recognises businesses that have demonstrated excellence in various categories. We have played a crucial role in empowering women’s participation in the industries we operate in, opening doors for future generations of female entrepreneurs.
As a child, I was fascinated by the construction projects that were happening in my community. Watching buildings go up gave me a sense of excitement and possibility. Those memories of the transformative power of construction continue to inspire me to innovate and lead in these industries.
If I were to give advice to my younger self, I would emphasise the importance of mindset and perspective. It is essential to maintain a positive outlook, even when facing setbacks. Learning to reframe challenges as opportunities for growth and development is a critical skill that can help one navigate the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.
Another piece of advice I would give is to focus on building a strong team. As a leader, it is essential to surround oneself with talented and dedicated individuals who share your vision and values. Building a diverse team that brings different perspectives and experiences to the table can also help foster innovation.
I would also advise my younger self to prioritise work-life balance and self-care. Running a business can be all-consuming, but it’s essential to take breaks and avoid burnout. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can also help one stay focused and productive in the long run.
I would encourage my younger self to embrace failures as opportunities for learning and growth. It’s inevitable that one will make mistakes and encounter failures along the way, but it’s how we respond to those setbacks that ultimately define our success.
As a proud female entrepreneur, I would like to see our country flourish, particularly in terms of economic growth and job creation. It is my hope that will continue to attract foreign investment and that the government will implement policies and initiatives that support local businesses and entrepreneurs.
One area of particular importance to me is the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace. I believe that by increasing opportunities for women in leadership and entrepreneurship, we can unlock significant economic growth and drive positive social change. This can be achieved through initiatives such as mentorship programs, access to funding, and policy reforms that address systemic barriers faced by women.
In addition, I hope to see continued progress in the development of infrastructure, particularly in the areas of energy and connectivity. By investing in these critical sectors, we can improve access to basic services and create opportunities for businesses and individuals alike.
Briefly, my vision for South Africa is one of inclusive economic growth, driven by innovation, entrepreneurship, and ethical business practices. By working together to overcome problems and capitalise on opportunities, we can build a brighter future for all South Africans.