Mentoring: Luyanda Ngwenya

Inspired by a passion to  close the disparities in vision care access, Luyanda Ngwenya, decided to follow her dream and start her own optometry to help others and make a difference in people's lives.  ICU Eyecare has allowed Luyanda the opportunity to do just that and more through service and education to the undeserved in local communities.  In this mentoring feature, we  speak to her about her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, her mission through in life  and the support she's received in her career.

Inside Woman Online: How did you get to know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour?

Luyanda Ngwenya: I was fortunate to have accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour at a tender age of 11 years and since then, I have never looked back. I was introduced to the Christian faith by my mother, who is now a preacher and teacher of the Gospel.

Inside Woman: Why do you think it’s important to follow your dreams?

Luyanda Ngwenya: Well, first of all, life is short and we only live once! The reality is that we all have different talents and capabilities and we owe it to ourselves and those around us to fully explore and utilise that which God has given to us. Following ones dreams brings meaning to life and makes every day fulfilling.

Inside Woman: Can you tell us a little about your background and what were the unfolding events that you led you to start ICU Eyecare?

Luyanda Ngwenya: After qualifying as an optometrist and having worked in the private sector as an employee for about 7 years, I grew to realise that I wanted a bigger challenge in my life and starting up my own business seemed the natural route to take. I also took into cognisance that the profession is highly competitive, so I took it upon myself to find a well-defined market niche in the provision of eye care.  In early 2010, my brother, Nkosana Nsibanyoni and I secretly decided to quit both our jobs to start the ICU Eyecare. Well of course our parents were shocked at our decision, nevertheless, they still supported every step we took! Nkosana has been my inspiration and support system and all my success would not have been possible without him!  I can say that I am blessed to have a loving and supportive family, they have all been great and I owe my success to them and my Creator!

Inside Woman: How long have you had your optometry practice and how did you fund your business?

Luyanda Ngwenya: ICU Eye care will be having a 4th Year anniversary this coming March, the Lord has surely been faithful! The business was initially funded by family, that being my parents. My spiritual father and pastor then introduced me to Anglo Zimele, an organisation that funds SMME’s at a very reasonable interest rate. They then provided me with a loan to buy critical equipment to get the business started. In the 2nd year of operation, I entered the SAB Kick-start Competition, from which I made the national finalists and won a further grant to grow the business. SAB support and mentorship has played a major role in the strategic direction the business has undertaken.

Inside Woman: What differentiates you from other practices or optical chains?

Luyanda Ngwenya: One of the key success factors of the ICU Eye Care business model is strategic partnerships. ICU Eye Care has formed Key Strategic Partnerships with Ekurhuleni Metro Municipality and Embro Sales Pty Ltd, best known as Public Private Partnerships “PPP” for the purpose of servicing and educating the most neglected population when it comes to issues of eye care. The nature of the endeavour the company pursues makes it better classified as Sustainable (profit making) Social Enterprise, aimed at improving the lives of the poor. Through serving the needs of industry and school going children, the company’s objective is to gain a footprint in the Ekurhuleni District by initiating the innovative concept of an Optometrist in a container-with a particular focus on Ekurhuleni Industrial areas. This will create accessibility, visibility and brand awareness as a growth strategy to gain a market share in the Eye Care Industry.

When the majority of Optical chains focus on those clients with medical aid, ICU Eye Care focuses of the majority of the population with no access to medical aid by offering flexible and affordable payment options, making eye care accessible to the majority of South Africans!

[caption id="attachment_8107" align="aligncenter" width="510"]Luyanda Ngwenya with Nkosana Nsibanyoni (business partner) Luyanda Ngwenya with brother and business partner, Nkosana Nsibanyoni[/caption]
Inside Woman: What is the key that keeps your patients coming back?

Luyanda Ngwenya: We pride ourselves by offering a great services and ensuring that we live up to our clients’ expectations! We further make eye care accessible and affordable to our targeted market, while educating them on ocular health and wellness.

Inside Woman: What is your practice mission statement?

Luyanda Ngwenya: A Sustainable Social Enterprise bringing affordable, full clinical eye care and dispensary from an “Optometrist in a Container”, by the formation of Key Strategic Partnerships with Government and the Private Sector in order to educate and create advocacy on eye care and related topics in Industry and Public Schools alike.
Inside Woman: What’s the one thing you wish you’d known when you started?

Luyanda Ngwenya: I wish I knew my worth a little more, just to know the value I bring to people’s lives by providing them with good eye sight. That way I would not sell myself too short, whilst ensuring the sustainability of my business.

Inside Woman: In launching ICU Eyecare, who has been your most important mentor and how have they helped you achieve success?

Luyanda Ngwenya: My Spiritual father and mentor pastor Fortune Ntlhoro, who taught me to be excellent, diligent and consistent in all that I do. Mpho Mampuru, a woman in business and born again Christian, who taught me perseverance and instilled very meaningful business principles that I will continue to practice for the rest of my life. My parents also played a pivotal role in my success, they taught me never to give up and to always pay attention to detail.

Inside Woman: Why did you think you will succeed when the stats say entrepreneurs don’t succeed?

Luyanda Ngwenya: I never paid attention to any of the negative statistics; my faith led me to believe that I could make it regardless of the failure rate of start-ups! Besides, I am generally a stubborn person; I never give up without a fight! Hahaha.
Inside Woman: Who or what motivates you to continue running ICU Eyecare every day?

Luyanda Ngwenya: Nothing gives me more satisfaction than a happy and satisfied customer. Making a difference in people’s lives is the reason I wake up to do what I do every day. That feeling of satisfaction when my patient sees clearly for the very 1st time, that gets me up in the morning and reassures me that I’m doing something worthwhile! My family motivates me to go on, regardless of the many challenges I may face, they truly are my very own cheerleaders!

I just love Eccl 9v10: “Whatever you do, do it well. For when you go to the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom. I’m inspired by this verse!

Luyanda Ngwenya

Inside Woman: Many women are intimidated by business ownership. What challenges have you faced as a female entrepreneur and what role has your faith helped you during the tough times?

Luyanda Ngwenya: The biggest challenge for me was that of finding a balance between business demands and family life. Having started ICU Eye Care whilst having 2 toddlers was challenging, the guilt I felt when I had to separate from them due to business demands was sometimes overwhelming. My belief in God helped me realise that He was in control and that my would sustain my children. Regardless, I spent almost every ‘free moment’ with them; I’m relieved that they are now bigger and more independent!

Inside Woman: What role has education played in helping you build your business and not just have a successful career?

Luyanda Ngwenya: I strongly believe that education is the tool we need to remain competitive in any field or industry. Once I started my business, I soon registered with the UNISA School of Business leadership for a Master’s in Business Leadership in order to enhance my business knowledge, as owning and managing a business was a new challenge in my life. This has been a great investment for me and for the business, as I am now capable of relating to matters of business in an appropriate manner. Entrepreneurs must have an attitude of continuous learning and development in order to reach new business heights.

Inside Woman: What kind of challenges do you see for women in being part of the business world?

Luyanda Ngwenya: The stereotype that women can only achieve certain tasks and not others is the first challenge that women will face in business and leadership roles. Beyond that, women can achieve anything they set their hearts out to achieve. And of course, as already mentioned, finding a balance between family life and business demands.

Inside Woman: Entrepreneurship is all about filling a niche in the market. What advice can you give to entrepreneurs searching for their next new business idea?

Luyanda Ngwenya: Finding a market and/product niche is important for any business, this is key for the sustainability of any enterprise. Entrepreneurs must continually be innovative, whilst keeping an eye on the latest trends in their chosen industry in order to stay ahead of their competitors. In order to be industry drivers, entrepreneurs must be willing to do those things that have never been done and sometimes bear the pain that comes with it, but ultimately reap the rewards of being “first movers”.

Inside Woman: If you've had major mishaps or made mistakes in your career, it’s easy to become discouraged. What advice can you offer to women in these situations?

Luyanda Ngwenya: A wise man once said to me and I quote; “If you want to pursue new challenges, if you want to do things out of the ordinary, failure is a guarantee!” This shocked and encouraged me all at the same time, but most importantly it has helped me to never get discouraged by mishaps, mistakes and even failures along the way. If you have imagined it, if you have seen it, then it is possible no matter how many doors are shut on your face. It’s important to keep ones head on the goal post, the desired end point and of course, to keep believing!

Inside Woman: Following your passions instead of working the standard 9-to-5 can be risky. What advice do you have for women who want to take their career in this direction?

Luyanda Ngwenya: I would advise women to write their goals and desires down, visualise these and ultimately have the courage to take that leap of faith by embarking on pursuing their dreams. Fear is our biggest enemy and we must overcome it by having faith in God and the talents He has given us.

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Tel: 011 817 5630
Cell: 083 973 560