An exclusive interview with Wendy Appelbaum – one of Africa’s wealthiest female entrepreneurs

By on March 11, 2015

It’s not very often that people get to have a one-on-one with one of Africa’s wealthiest women. Topco was delighted to be able to secure a rare gap in Wendy Appelbaum’s demanding schedule for an exclusive photo-shoot and interview. What follows are her enlightening views concerning women empowerment, philanthropy and business in South Africa. 

As a well-known philanthropist, belonging to the Global Philanthropists Circle, and a number of other organisations around the world, what in particular that triggered your wish to help others?

I think it’s my responsibility in life, really. It gives you a choice about what kind of difference you are going to make and I get quite disappointed if people who are privileged positions neglect the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. I enjoy it; it gives one an enormous amount of satisfaction helping people who can’t help themselves.

If and when you decide to invest in another philanthropic venture, in what field would you choose to focus your time and energy?

Human rights, healthcare and education are my three areas of interest and are the fields I will continue to support.

What are the most valuable business-etiquette tips you were taught, or have learnt through the years, and adhered to?

Most important to me is to be punctual and respect other people’s time because there is nothing worse than people being late. Show respect where it’s deserved – don’t be shy to pull the punches when they are necessary.

What attributes do you believe women possess which may make them better or more successful business-leaders than men?

I think there is a different moral compass involved – women are very honest. We are cautious, probably without reason, but it helps in our business decisions.

What can women do to enhance their own standing in the business environment?

Grow some balls and stand up for what’s right. Fight for your rights – no one’s going to give them to you. I think women need to stand up and be counted for – it’s impossible to sit like a wallflower and earn respect.

Who is the most influential person you have had the pleasure of meeting?

Helen Suzman. She is the epitome of the Afrikaans term ‘bang vir niks’ – she has big balls, a big mouth and has acted on everything she said she would do.

I have never been that inspired by a man to be honest; I think that women have just had a much more difficult ride in the world.

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