“Take your time and be patient by polishing and treasuring your own diamond, you are unique and believe in yourself that you will shine!”
Talented and passionate, Angela Yeung is one of the game-changing South African women we are celebrating this month. An entrepreneur and philanthropist, Angela has not only summited Mount Kilimanjaro twice, she also continues to raise the professional bar in the diamond industry and influence positive change across the board. Get to know this phenomenal woman in the insightful Q&A below.
To you, what is the most beautiful thing about being a woman?
By nature, we are beautiful as we are, women are like the sun in the family: Mother, wife, daughter, sister, and friend who lifts up others. Women shine on people and keep everyone warm, understanding the power of cohesion by showing resilience in any situation. There are countless examples of beautiful women in the world: Mother Theresa, Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg to name a few.
What sparked the idea behind the Impilo Collection?
Impilo Collection specialises in the design and manufacture of bespoke jewellery commissions for private clients, jewellery trading and contemporary art jewellery collections. “Impilo” is an isiZulu word which means “life.” I believe that every life story is uniquely personal and each visit to Impilo should be an experience which is meaningful in every possible way. Every Impilo jewellery piece is an intimate work of art – it doesn’t just tell a story - it tells the person’s unique story and expresses the significance and memorable moments.
Who are the women who positively impacted you and inspired your career/business?
My buddhist and life mentor – Loren Braithwaite Kabosha.
My business coach – Denise Liebmann (Knight of the French National Order of Merit)
What was the most difficult obstacle you had to overcome as an entrepreneur?
The most challenging obstacle was how to establish my business without any capital but lots of self-belief. Another challenge was to research market needs in the climate of South Africa at that time. A further challenge I faced was a woman in a male dominated profession – the diamond industry. I wanted to make a difference to the women of South Africa! I knew that being an Asian South African made me different and was an added challenge to be accepted. I decided to raise money to assist teenage girls to actualise their potential and add value to South Africa.
So, I decided to climb Kilimanjaro twice despite the fact that I had never climbed a mountain before! I had to discipline myself to train and prepare my body for the arduous climbs. My aim is to continue climbing the 7 peaks of the world to raise awareness and money for abused women and victims of domestic violence. I feel humbled to make a difference in the lives of women in our country.
What else are you passionate about?
My passion is to give back to the life of our society in South Africa. I was appointed the head of Corporate Social Responsibility in SA Diamond Dealers Club and in that capacity, I supported many community projects like CANSA SA, FEEDSA, GUILD COTTAGE, RAINBOW OF HOPE, RESTHAVEN MINISTRY, SUPPORT FOR MOKALA NATIONAL PARK-DOG FOOD, RARE DISEASES, RISE TO READ.
What is the most important lesson taught to you by a woman?
A huge and valuable lesson I learned in life is to find my own true identity to give other women HOPE and courage in order to show them that they can find their own “Diamond” from within themselves: That it does not matter where you come from, or who you are: you are worthy and deserving of respect. So, I say to every woman: “Take your time and be patient by polishing and treasuring your own diamond, you are unique and believe in yourself that you will shine!”
A buddhist quote says “Enjoy what there is to enjoy and suffer what’s there to suffer.” This implies that you must take full responsibility for your life and take action where action is needed.
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear Women's Month?
Celebration! Because the more we celebrate the more reason for us to celebrate together as women.
So, it’s 2020, in your industry and in general, have you seen a promising movement towards gender equality in the ‘workplace’?
It has never been easy working in a male dominated diamond & jewellery industry but I’m pleased to say that the SA Diamond Dealers Club is receiving more female members. It is remarkable that the SA Jewellery news publication is also promoting and showcasing some of the great women achievers in our industry.
As a woman who looks to inspire young girls who look like you what are some of the measures you think should be put in place to assure young girls have an equal say in society?
Women need to have the courage to stand up and be proud of who they are. I grew up in a very traditional family in which women had to behave in a certain way. All my life I always challenged the norms and spoke my mind. This was very unusual and considered rude in my culture. But I’ve always believed “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, I am possible!” By using the power of the social media and with correct guidance young girls can build up their own voice with purpose and integrity.
With Black Lives Matter being at the forefront and black people calling out racism and transformation. What do you think we can teach the next generation about inclusion and representation?
We need to teach the next generation to believe in democracy, that we are all equal and should be treated equally and that the system must work for all of us. Women must be represented in every profession and make our contribution remarkable.
What does Women's Month mean to you and what would you like to be done differently to push or commemorate this month?
During 2018 to celebrate women’s month, I participated in the Kilimanjaro climb entitled “Trek4Mandela for Caring4Girls” a physical, mental and spiritual challenge in celebration of the Nelson Mandela centenary year to raise funds. Then in 2019 I again climbed Kilimanjaro entitled “Trek100” together with Prof Thuli Madonsela. The money I raised allowed me to distribute 32 000 packs of sanitary pads for 2000 girls in the Free State and the City of Ekurhuleni. This assisted them in restoring their dignity by allowing them to attend school during their menstrual periods and educated them on menstrual hygiene and additionally supported their leadership program.
Gender Based Violence (GBV), especially women and children abuse, has been prevalent in the country for a very long time and there have been various initiatives that speak to this but the scourge of abuse still continues at a large scale, what would you advise as a solution going forward? And who should be involved?
All South Africans - male and female - need to improve their understanding of gender-based violence and what makes it so endemic in our society. South Africa needs to work tirelessly to create a sensitive society for victims of Gender Based Violence. We need to evaluate and become more sensitive to policing systems and justice for victims of Gender Based Violence and sexual assaults. Our society needs to brainstorm and commit to active ways for us as individuals to help combat the rise of Gender-Based Violence.
As a modern African woman, who is a powerhouse in her own right, how do you manoeuvre the African expectations for what Africa believes a woman should be, particularly in countries that are rooted in patriarchy like ours?
Wathint’ Abafazi, Wathint’ Imbokodo / You Strike A Woman, You Strike A Rock!
We need to believe that we are rocks and we have the power to turn any poisonous situation to become medicinal. In Sanskrit this transformation is called “Amrita.”
I have made Amrita my mantra. If I can do it, you can do it too! If one woman stands up, she will give hope to all women. So, I say “Be brave, be courageous and be your true self!”
What are some of the great possibilities about being a woman in the world right now, that may not be easy to see but you feel women should take full advantage of without being ashamed or afraid?
The 21st century is a century for all women in Africa. Sophie de Bruin said “So much has been achieved on your behalf. You can reach beyond the sky and become what you want. We have handed the baton over to you – just go forward and help others.”
The imposter syndrome is something a lot of women confess to suffer from or have suffered from. Have you ever had to deal with it? What would you say to another woman reading this about not letting the syndrome run one’s life in anyway?
I remember being made to feel inferior by a male diamond dealer, who sarcastically said “What are you doing with a jeweller tool box? You are a woman - only men are jewellery manufacturers.”
We all have self-doubt that we are not good enough. These words, instead of discouraging me, spurred me on to achieve. Take one step at a time. When you do well, learn to praise yourself and pat yourself on your back. It’s okay to make mistakes but learn from them, so you can encourage others from your own experience.
How has self-care contributed to the woman you are in all facets of your life? Why is self-care important, particularly for women, as most of us are raised to believe we put everyone else first before ourselves?
I never fully understood what self-care was until I became a mother! It’s not possible to give love if you don’t know how to fully love yourself. It’s important to have a cup full of self-worth and self-esteem so you can give to others with compassion and wisdom.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into the jewellery industry or simply become an entrepreneur?
The road to entrepreneurship is not for everyone because it can be a lonely journey. Make sure it is what you want and be passionate about what you are doing. You also need to be patient with yourself and persevere. Believe in yourself no matter what obstacles come your way.