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Glamour Women’s Month series: Getting to know Jennifer Choice

Image: Supplied
Image: Supplied

Managing Director at Thandeka Vocational Education Trust (TVET), Jennifer Choice is passionate about women empowerment, skills-development and being the change. Here, she lets us in on her approach to impact, self-care and occupying space in the textile industry.

What’s your approach to leadership?

In my book, passion and a “can do” attitude are the two most important characteristics of a successful entrepreneur. Believing in your brand and building a credible reputation are the cornerstones of any venture. That’s why it is important to do the right thing and to do things right from the start.

Please talk us through your journey with TVET SA?

I joined the TVET SA Team in 2012, as Managing Director, overseeing the financial and strategic management of the organisation. At the time, I was still managing my own processing warehouse specialising in quality control and the re-processing of finished apparel and footwear goods for major retailers. I sold the business in 2016 and turned my full attention on expanding the TVET SA footprint geographically as well as cross-sectorally. During the last 5 years, we have reinforced TVET SA’s reputation as a credible skills development partner in the clothing and textile retail and manufacturing sectors and we have implemented impactful learning projects across the country, and even crossing borders into Swaziland. When I joined Thandeka Vocational Education Trust, I did not anticipate how much I would benefit on a personal level from being a part of this dynamic team of dedicated skills development professionals. Our team predominately comprises strong and dedicated women with extensive experience in their various fields.  The confidence and strength shown by my female counterparts within the college have seen all of them actively contributing toward our successes and achievements, setting new benchmarks for best practice, embracing challenges, and continuously striving to improve what we do. Being confident women, we recognise the important contributions made by our equally competent and accomplished male colleagues. Together, we design and implement projects, pursue continuous improvement, uplift communities and empower youth.

How would you define impact?

Impact is defined as having a strong effect on someone or something. I believe that at TVET SA, we have an opportunity every day to positively impact the learners at our campus in Maitland, the employees at our client sites, and the members of the communities who benefit through our social development projects. One of our focus areas is preparing unemployed youth to enter the workplace and to become employable and economic citizens of the country. The social upliftment element to our business is what motivates me.  Every day, when the learners greet me with a cheery smile and share their daily challenges and successes, I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of their journey. I believe in the power of mentorship and the positive impact that it could have on a young person’s life. As an organisation, we have identified young individuals for further development. One of these individuals is Siphokhazi Ndinisa. After Siphokhazi completed a learnership through TVET SA, we offered her an internship and provided her with opportunities to develop her skills as a theory and practical training facilitator. Today, Siphokhazi is employed as a trainee facilitator, transferring the skills she has learned to new cohorts of learners.

How has your general outlook on life changed as we find new ways to work, live and play?

If COVID 19 and the subsequent lockdown has taught me one thing it would be the importance of setting and maintaining boundaries and prioritising my family’s health and wellness.   I have found great comfort in being outdoors as much as possible and to find those quiet places in nature where a mask is not necessary.

What sort of challenges have you encountered as your business finds ways to respond to the shift caused by the pandemic?

Besides having to very quickly shift some of our theory training to an online platform to accommodate for maximum numbers probably the most difficult was encouraging and mentoring our team who work in our customers factories to be resilient when they themselves were scared. We increased our employee engagement by conducting weekly check ins and providing regular coaching sessions to equip them with the necessary coping skills.

What does your passion for women empowerment speak to?

Being in the training game I am passionate about raising the status of women through education, awareness, literacy and training and enabling their ability  to make strategic life choices.

Which women would you like to celebrate this month and why?

It may be a bit cheesy but we train in the Clothing and Textile Sector, I love clothes and feminine things and I appreciate a strong brand so I probably have to say Coco Chanel. I love her rags to riches story.  I admire how the simplicity of the brand is still strong and prominent more than a century later. I enjoy her quirky quotes and I like the fact she pushed fashion boundaries.

What keeps you grounded both personally and professionally?

LOVE – for my husband, my children, my colleagues, the difference I get to make in people’s lives with job creation and my love for nature and the outdoors.

What does self-care look like to you?

After reading The Monk who sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma many years ago, I started waking up an hour earlier to have my “me” time.  So, I get up at 05h20 have a quiet cup of coffee on my balcony, set my intentions for the day and do an hour of exercise.  At 07h00 I am ready to let my day begin and the world in.

What’s your message to women from all walks of life this women’s month?

There are probably three things that resignate with me:

  • Never give up on your dreams be determined and show perseverance there is always a rainbow if we look hard enough.
  • Stay humble always.
  • Try and maintain a level of economic independence it gives you the freedom of choices.

What do you know for sure?

Behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women who have her back.

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