“No one is coming to save us so we need to bet on ourselves first. When we become influential in certain spaces, we need to use that privilege to empower and sponsor other women,” these are the powerful words Shiela Yabo shared with All4Women readers…

Business Strategist, Venture Builder & Project Manager Shiela Yabo unexpectedly ‘went viral’ this week after she shared a post on Twitter showing her old home versus her new one. Her post read “Me I break those generational curses torhwana, andidlali (shame, I don’t play). This one still feels like a dream.”

It’s been re-tweeted almost two thousand times, with over 35 000 likes. We had to find out more about the woman who impacted the consciousness of her fellow South Africans, and inspired them to pursue their dreams.

Born in Mpumalanga, Shiela moved around during her childhood, spending time in the Eastern Cape with her maternal grandmother, and then heading to Cape Town at the age of 11 where she stayed with her uncle’s family.

Positive role-models & overcoming obstacles

“My high-school years were beautiful and tough,” she recalls. “Going to an under-resourced township school was not easy but I had an influential teacher, Miss Buhlungu who believed in me and who was critical in me completing matric.”

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“I was the top student in Oscar Mpetha High School in Nyanga in matric but still struggled to adjust to the university environment. I remember how huge the gap was, from being taught in English and to having to type assignments – it was quite a journey!”

Breaking the cycle & building her grandmother a home

But Shiela was determined to break the cycle of poverty in her family, and to overcome what she labels a generational curse over her family.

“For me it’s really about breaking the cycle of poverty in my family which has gone on for generations. As a little girl my dream was always to build my grandmother a house and I have done it.” she says. “I was the first graduate, then after that other family members graduated and became interested in higher education.  Of course, with our context, this has been because of structural racism and the exclusion of black people from opportunities.”

“Because of all of this – next generations won’t have to go through what I have gone through because I have laid the foundation for them and in a way showed them that it’s possible.”

Shiela Yabo built this beautiful home for her grandmother

Forging a path in business and tech

Shiela Yabo

After graduating high school, Shiela went on to study further, receiving a number of honours including:

  • Bachelor of Social Sciences majoring in Gender Studies & Social Anthropology – University of Cape Town
  • Associate in Management – Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town – Awarded with Distinction
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Management Practice (Business Administration) – Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town – Awarded with Distinction

Building a career as a women in these environments has had its challenges. “Just like in any industry where women are often undervalued and underestimated, my work comes with its challenges, but I am encouraged by the fact that I have worked so hard to now have a voice. I believe that I am now a woman of influence that is changing the landscape for other women,” says Shiela.

Building into the lives of people & solving Africa’s problems

“My undergraduate degree is Bachelor of Social Sciences majoring in Gender Studies and Social Anthropology; so I have always been interested in human behaviour and why individuals and groups of people show up in the world the way they do,” says Shiela.

“After graduating, I then became interested in the intersection of business and society – essentially the relationship between the two and also how human behaviour impacts business.”

“As I started working as a venture builder, I then became interested in how tech can be used to solve Africa’s biggest problems. My long-term plan is to invest in high-impact start-ups in Africa.”

She currently heads up the Solution Space, an ecosystem for early-stage ventures at the Graduate School of Business, UCT.  “I am responsible for Strategic and Operational Management; Planning;  Programme Design & Delivery of entrepreneurship programmes.”

Overcoming, and building a new path in life

Hard work has helped Shiela build her own future, and reach her dreams.

“Well you can say that I am now privileged because I have access to a lot of opportunities that the average South African does not. I am doing well in my career and personally and have a beautiful little world with my son.”

“But I have really worked hard to be where I am, so it’s not by luck, not at all. I have worked for everything that I have.”

She agrees that the battle was both physical (overcoming environmental obstacles) and spiritual.

“I believe that there is a higher being that allows for things to happen when in the human form, we are also ready to receive and our intentions are pure, so yes.”

Future dreams?

She’s building her own future, but also the future of others. Shiela’s ambition stretches beyond her own home comforts to investing her time and energy and skills into building a better world for all.

“My future dream is to become a force in the Angel Investing and Venture Capital space in Africa. I want to invest in high-impact women founded businesses. I also hope to continue facilitating opportunities for start-ups through my work.”

What’s your message to other women out there?

“No one is coming to save us so we need to bet on ourselves first. When we become influential in certain spaces, we need to use that privilege to empower and sponsor other women.”

“There is an honour in becoming ‘first woman to…’ but there is no honour closing doors for other women so that you can remain ‘the only’.”

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What an incredible journey! We can’t wait to see how Shiela and the start-ups she invest in help change the world!