Bright-eyed, ambitious, passionate, driven and hard-working. These are some of the few words one can use to describe multi-faceted entrepreneur, Shaleen Manhire Nullens, or “Ms. Shally” as she is widely and affectionately known. She is listed by Forbes’ 30 Under 30 as one of the most successful, young African entrepreneurs under 30 years of age, Ms. Shally continues to be a source of inspiration for many young people across the continent. After pioneering online content production in South Africa through her channel, Conquered TV, Ms. Shally continues to break barriers and climb to greater entrepreneurial heights. She now leads a team that is hosting the first-ever African Leaders 4 Change Awards (ALCA) taking place in Sandton, Johannesburg, a ceremony which will be attended by top African officials, thought leaders, and business moguls.
The ALCA ceremony will honor and recognize initiatives making a difference and adding a positive and meaningful impact on the continent. Notable attendees to the ceremony will include award-winning artist and BET 2016 Global Good Award recipient, Akon, as well as other top names like active philanthropist, Ndaba Mandela (grandson of the late Nelson Mandela), and South Africa’s Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Honorable Buti Manamela. The award ceremony is expected to be one of the biggest award shows on the continent, with an estimated media broadcast on more than 15 television channels across the African continent.
We sat down with Ms. Shally and talked about her journey as a black woman in business, what it means to be a successful entrepreneur, and the African Leaders 4 Change Awards (ALCA). Here is how it went.
AFRICA.COM: How would you describe Shaleen Manhire Nullens or ‘Ms. Shally’ as many love to call you?
I think in a few words, I would describe myself as a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend, an aunt, and a businesswoman. I have to play all those roles almost every day in my life and they are what encompass and guide my reason for being.
AFRICA.COM: You are very well known because of your contribution to the continent’s media industry. What are some of the challenges you had to face before making it into the industry?
When people do not know who you are, they seem to struggle to make time for you. I quickly realized that this industry is all about influence. You have to know people. All I needed was to have that one influential person on my interview list, and that would draw the rest! After the first four interviews I conducted, I told them to look at who would be on the first season of my show. That was the long and short of my pitch and the rest was history. I must admit that I was very fortunate to have had DJ Fresh agree to doing an interview with me. He was very nice and helped me a lot.
AFRICA.COM: You pioneered online TV and content creation in South Africa with Conquered TV. What are some of the biggest lessons you learned from that venture?
Firstly, from my personal experiences, I learned how to be a good saleswoman. Sounds funny now but I did. Secondly, from my interviewees, I learnt that nothing comes easy and nothing is impossible. Getting to learn about all these challenges, adversities and hurdles that these amazing talents faced and how they conquered them motivated me to achieve even more.
AFRICA.COM: You have grown from being a media personality to a continental businesswoman. What would you say have been the main ingredients to that growth?
My past taught me to never put all my eggs in one basket because you can lose it all. I take risks with careful consideration of the consequences, and I do not rely on only one opportunity to make it.
AFRICA.COM: What do you think needs to be done to encourage African women in business?
I think a lot of African women face financial constraints that hinder them from starting or advancing in business. Getting financial support is arguably one of the most important and difficult challenges facing women’s entrepreneurs and innovators at the moment. The next greatest challenge is a lack of accessibility to information and resources. Most women do not know about the various opportunities that are available to them, or they do not know how to begin taking on those opportunities. We need to increase women’s chances of securing funds in order for them to continue their work, and provide them with enough training so that they not only know how to start their businesses, but also how to keep them growing.
AFRICA.COM: Your story inspires so many young people on the continent. If you were to give them any advice, what would that be?
There are a lot of ways to reach one’s destination. There is no one formula to get to the top but one thing you must NOT do is to allow yourself to give up or to let people tell you it’s not achievable. Don’t be easily discouraged by your surroundings or any negative feedback you may come across. Focus on where you want to be and you will get there despite all challenges.
AFRICA.COM: Is there any mantra that you live by?
In Him I live, move and have my being…. that makes me untouchable. I am heavily guided by this as it reminds me that I can do anything without fear.
AFRICA.COM: You recently founded the African Leaders 4 Change Awards – what are they all about?
The Africa Leaders 4 Change Awards are an annual awards programme held to identify, recognize and reward those organizations doing exceptional work in all areas of philanthropic activities.
The Awards use media’s portfolio of magazines, reports, events and websites to celebrate and highlight best practice across the sector. The Awards are judged by a respected panel of voluntary sector heavyweights, each of them leaders in their own fields with years of experience of leading and managing society organizations.
The judges simply assess each entry against ten Hallmarks of Excellence – ten traits or attributes that should be present in any successful project. Some applicants will score
better against some Hallmarks than others, but the charities that win awards will be those charities that score highly against most, if not all, of these Hallmarks. A percentage of the proceeds from the event will be donated to rebuilding African schools with appalling infrastructure.
We are looking at choosing to be behind various causes that we feel need support and added backing. The cause for this year is Autism.
AFRICA.COM: Why do you think it is important to encourage African youth to give back to community?
It is very important to have the right mindset and that is to help each other to move forward. Especially since so many young people in Africa are facing economic challenges that lead to many other problems. The best way to help your fellow youth is by giving your time, talent, money, or you can give anything that can make a positive impact. By doing this you not only guarantee a brighter future for yourself but also help someone else have similar success and therefore help in creating more wealth on our beautiful continent.
AFRICA.COM: Any last words?
Well thank you for interviewing me. I have enjoyed the chat and I hope I have inspired some thought and action in upcoming entrepreneurs.