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Zizipho Ntobongwana is founder and director of Sheba Feminine Hygiene, a proudly South African brand – made by women – revolutionising the way people who menstruate experience periods.

This multifaceted Cape Town-based entrepreneur’s business interests extend to tourism and the property industry. She even freelanced as a published visual artist, whose work ranges from photography to creative direction and styling.

Zizipho is passionate about art, sustainability, reproductive and sexual health education, fashion and the advancement of African people. She chats to Go Hustle’s Ondela Mlandu about her passion projects, and dishes advice for budding entrepreneurs…

READ MORE: Activist Melene Rossouw Talks Community Development, Gender And Human Rights

How Zizipho got to where she is today…

Zizipho studied social sciences, then did her honours in African studies. “I studied property development and management. I think it’s always important to have theoretical knowledge of your industry, but most of the learning I’ve done has been on the job,” she says. Insider tip: Check out Opportunities for Africans, as well as VANSA for visual art opportunities.

Did you know a black woman, Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner, invented what we know as sanitary pads?

Sheba started as a reaction not only towards commercial menstrual care products containing tons of harsh chemicals and plastic, but also to the whitewashing of the menstrual care and organics industries.

“In the year I conceptualised Sheba, I was studying decolonial theory,” says Zizipho. “I realised that, as Africans, we have always been sustainable, and that the earliest historical evidence of what we call a tampon today was found in ancient Egyptian medical records.”

As women, we use 11 000 feminine hygiene products in our lifetime and they end up in landfills, she continues. “Our organic cotton and biodegradable feminine hygiene product range ensures we’re living sustainably and responsibly. We’re now also cultivating a space where our community can access reproductive and sexual health education in a safe space, as well as donate organic and biodegradable menstrual products to those who can’t afford them,” she adds.

Zizipho’s goal is to see conversations surrounding reproductive and sexual health become less shameful, taboo and restricted. “I’d love for the education surrounding these topics to be more accessible. I’d love to see more conscious consumerism and transparency in these spaces, from your menstrual care products to your feminine health products. I’d like to see higher expectations placed on the companies producing such products, with an introduction of elements such as ingredient labels on our tampons and sanitary pads,” she says.

READ MORE: A “Brand Scientist” Gives Advice To Women In Advertising

Social media is the best networking tool we have today, says Zizipho

“Have you guys noticed that people will put their job titles and work information on their bios? I use this to my advantage. I’ve actually made friends from it!” she says. “Just remember to always be polite and ask for permission before asking for what you need.”

Leadership lessons Zizipho lives by…

1/ Thoughtful people make great leaders.

2/ Being considerate of other people’s feelings and emotions has allowed me to navigate the most uncomfortable and tense situations with more ease.

3/ People want to be understood and heard.

4/ Lead with understanding and hear the people around you.

5/ Allow love to lead you. Everything I do, I do from a place of love. If it isn’t, it’s not worth it.

6/ As a black woman, I’m not here by mistake. I worked my ass off to be here and I constantly remind myself that I am my ancestor’s wildest dreams.

A book every woman should read…

“The Nervous Conditions series by Tsitsi Dangarembga. Those books helped me work through a lot of high school trauma,” says Zizipho.

Connect with Zizipho

Send her a message on Instagram @zizi_ntobongwana

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