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What started off as a small act of personal empowerment by a lone entrepreneur who wanted to keep working while raising children, has grown into an impressive engine of women empowerment.

Eighteen years ago, Yumna Jamodien started a tiny bookkeeping practice at home in Eagle Park, Cape Town, in order to keep working while raising a family. Today, her fully fledged accounting practice Y Jamodien & Associates (YJA) employs no fewer than 25 women. She never set out to build a female-only company. Her first employees were the daughters of their neighbour to whom she offered part-time administrative work. But at some point, the idea of providing a platform for the development and independence of women became the formal philosophy and policy of the company.

Only recently has YJA started using its unique female character in its marketing drives to set itself apart. Yumna says she has always had a drive to be independent, from her school days when she worked at a car wash over weekends. Her first job after school was as a medical receptionist until her bookkeeping studies landed her a job at an accountancy firm. When the pressures of raising her first child and her blossoming career became too much, she opted for working from home on her own tiny practice.

Her first client was a small medical practice that did not quite fit the mould of a client of a corporate accounting practice. A home-based bookkeeping service like hers was much more suited to the needs of a small medical practice, Yumna found, and has since focused her business on that segment of the market – small family businesses, home operators, bakkie builders and professional practices. Today, YJA has more than 350 small-business clients.

It is important for an accounting practice to consciously choose a segment of the market and stick to it, because it determines the kind of services and systems that you have to build, says Yumna.

Some accounting practices go for one or two high-paying, corporate clients, but she has always preferred helping small businesses. Although there are sometimes problems with slow payers, Yumna finds that it is much more satisfying to work with small entrepreneurs. “They appreciate your work so much more, and the impact that you have on their lives is clear and very rewarding,” she says. This approach does not necessarily preclude the ability to grow with some clients. Yumna still does the books for a bus company that she has seen grow “one- million-rand bus at a time”.

Inevitably, YJA outgrew Yumna’s home office, and for several years the company operated from rented offices before moving into her own office building, built by her husband. Recently, Yumna made use of Business Partners Limited’s Energy Fund for SMEs, which finances alternative sources of power for small businesses. Because of her work with small businesses, Yumna forms part of Business Partner Ltd’s large network of professional service providers to the sector, and she soon heard about the Energy Fund. She borrowed R350 000 for a solar system that has allowed YJA to become energy independent.

“The process was seamless. I’ll definitely be looking at Business Partners Ltd when I need finance to grow,” says Yumna. Apart from empowering her employees and her small-business clients, Yumna has always continued to invest in her own personal development. While building her business, she studied to become a registered accountant so that she no longer had to outsource the signing off of her clients’ financial statements.

Most recently, she has made use of the services of a business coach to help her develop a tier of middle managers in her business so that she can stand back a bit and take a broader view. “It’s a strange experience,” says Yumna, “It sometimes feels like I don’t have enough work, and then I start thinking of how to expand.” No doubt she is empowering everyone around her as she does.

About the Author: BPL Admin

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