South Africa is in dire need of young leaders in business and politics. But how do young people begin cementing themselves as impactful leaders like Imkhitha Ntshanga? She is an entrepreneur, business leader, and chairperson for the South African Institute of Black Property Practitioners (SAIBPP).
Imkhitha was born and raised in a village called eQokolweni in the Eastern Cape province. After completing high school, Imkhitha relocated to Cape Town to explore career opportunities. Her initial plan was to pursue psychology, but as it turned out, fate had other plans. After graduating with a psychology degree, she couldn’t land a job in her field. Instead, she landed a call centre job, a precursor to a junior role at Source Interior Brand Architects that would change her life. Some of Source Interior Brand Architects’ clients included hotels like the Radisson Blue and Radisson Red in South Africa.
“At first, I did not understand what they were doing because, as a person who comes from the rural areas of the Eastern Cape. I just saw hotels furnished and finished without any knowledge. So I never thought about what it takes for hotels to look a certain way,” recalled Imkhitha about her stint at Source Interior Brand Architects.
As a diligent individual, Imkhitha got her hands on different tasks to figure out what she potentially liked. She assisted her director in learning more about the interior design field while, at the same time, she would do her back office duties.
“And during that period, someone said to me; you know what? You could make a great project manager. So I enrolled with Varsity College for a project management course. Bear in mind that I had no idea what I was doing, but I said to myself, if this person thinks I can be good at it, I should try,” she said.
A few months later, Imkhitha was offered another job by PEG Design, a leading interior design firm specialising in commercial design. “So eventually, I went into that and started being a project coordinator. From there, I learned about construction which was a little more detailed than interior designing, and I fell in love with it,” she told TransformSA.
In 2020, Imkhitha founded a 100% black-owned consultancy, MIBN Projects, where she focuses on the nuts and bolts of ensuring that all projects are completed timeously, on budget, and in scope. Her project management skills stand her in good stead in understanding the fit-outs in the commercial space. She said starting a consultancy business was easy because it didn’t require startup funding.
Her company doesn’t just focus on project management but on construction, design, and finishing. “Because I am a person who likes to juggle many things, I also ventured into logistics. We just finalised our partnership with a logistics company.”
Imkhitha had to take time off from her to undergo spiritual training. Leaving her business for months meant Imkhitha’s businesses would require her to work more to rebuild them.
While her role as project manager comes with many challenges, Imkhitha said she finds her job irresistible. “It’s overwhelming because you’ve to work with about seven other professionals. And those professionals have their team members, so the bug literally stops with you. And the client is going to ask only you why things didn’t go the way they were supposed to go. You have to be an electrician, you have to be the main contractor, and you have to be an architect,” she said.
Imkhitha echoes Zozibini Tunzi’s words about the importance of young girls taking up space in society and cementing themselves. She feels that South Africans still use age to determine if a person should be hired or not, something which the Constitution prohibits.
“Transformation to me is being able to cement yourself as a young person and see yourself as a person of value. Being allowed the time and space to learn, too. We are ten steps behind and need to catch up, which requires learning.”
Imkhitha has the following advice to young people: “As long as your mind and heart are in it, go for it. And be what you know you can be. You just have to be given the space to cement yourself. Also, don’t be naive and say you do it when you don’t have the background, she concluded.