Finding the silver lining of the lockdown
How one local photographer used lockdown to refocus her business
When President Ramaphosa announced the nationwide lockdown back in March, Natalie Gabriels knew that her corporate and events photography business would be hit hard. Like many other local business owners, Gabriels was initially anxious about the uncertain future, but she soon realised that a reflective hiatus was exactly what her business needed.
“As time went on, I realised that I was actually given a gift – the gift of time – and that I needed to use this time wisely,” says Natalie, who went on to use the forced downtime to reinvent her brand – Natalie Gabriels Photography – and refine her business strategy, with the support and guidance of her two mentors.
Natalie forms part of the Business Partners Limited Supplier Development Programme, a 12-month initiative in which qualifying suppliers on the Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS) supplier database get the opportunity to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their businesses and entrepreneurial abilities.
“Natalie got into our Supplier Development Programme by virtue of her taking the photos for our 2018 SME Toolkit Regional Awards Ceremony in Cape Town,” says Petro Bothma, Group Enterprise Development Manager at BUSINESS/PARTNERS – one of Africa’s leading financiers for formal small and medium owner-managed businesses. “After admitting that she knew very little about running a business, we ended up linking Natalie with two mentors – one as a business coach and the other as a photography mentor.”
As part of the Supplier Development Programme, Natalie received funding to develop a new business website and assistance to get all of her business’ financial information organised and up to date.
Having taken both of her mentors’ advice to heart and put in the hard work required, Natalie says that lockdown has been a journey of transformation, discovery and introspection. “COVID-19 has changed the events industry forever and, as a photographer, I’ve had to adapt. While difficult at times, this time off has made me more business-minded and changed my mind-set accordingly, to value my work more and better maintain my brand.
“But I couldn’t have done any of this without my two mentors, Reinhardt Lohbauer and Sedick Jappie, who taught me how to build on my brand and business, without losing myself and what I stand for in the process,” she reflects.
While the Supplier Development Programme is only open to qualifying BUSINESS/PARTNERS suppliers, Petro says that their mentorship services are available to all business owners. “Time and again, when the arrangement between a mentor and business owner is well-matched, and when the human chemistry between the two works, the results can be spectacular.
“We saw this in the case of Natalie, just as we have seen with countless other business owners through our mentorship services. By harnessing the business expertise, skills and wisdom of over 360 senior business leaders and professionals – often retired executives – we assist business owners to improve the efficiency, profitability and growth of their businesses,” Petro concludes.