PORT Elizabeth entrepreneur Nosi Ncoyo is inspiring township schoolgirls to reach for the stars in a visionary empowerment programme. When Ncoyo discovered through her firm, Vision4 Training, how few had the right skills or confidence to get ahead after school, she made it a priority to help them shine through a mentoring partnership with established businesswomen in the city.
Xoliswa Dotwana nominated Ncoyo for The Herald GM Citizen of the Year award because of her "immense passion" to empower others.
"There is so much that can be done and I don't aspire to be anything else than to serve my community, helping people out of poverty, shaping their mindsets and making their lives better," Ncoyo, a softly-spoken wife and mother, said.
"At the bottom of it I believe that as an entrepreneur I can empower others," she said.
She started the Vision4 Women mentorship programme last year with visits to more than a dozen township schools to interview matriculants before choosing who would appreciate – and benefit from – a year-long relationship with women already established in business.
Dotwana saw the power of the programme in its first year and is helping again in 2013. "The young girls on the programme are groomed not with make-up or how to bag a husband but on invaluable life skills by professionals during four camps during school holidays," she said.
"The end result is girls from very disadvantaged homes who are super-confident, driven and can hold their own with those who have had all kinds of opportunities. Their marks improved substantially since joining the programme and most are now at tertiary institutions. This is done by a woman from the dusty streets of Kwazakhele who grew up in a tavern," Dotwana said. "I mention this because Nosi was exposed to a lot of things – and people – who could have influenced her negatively and instead she is a gift – much like her name says."
Ncoyo's father, boxing promoter Toast Mali, was well known for his popular watering hole.
"He educated us with the tavern money and I got a lot of business acumen from him," his daughter today says warmly. Apart from overseeing the mentorships, Ncoyo also organises school holiday camps and a "Fast Forward Graduation Ceremony" where the girls are presented with mock degrees of the actual course they aspire to graduate in.
Vision4 Women also presents a businesswomen's awards celebration, Beyond the Balance Sheet, and invites the girls to this, thus giving them further role models.