AFTER falling pregnant at just 18, Port Elizabeth businesswoman Shara Cape has come a long way. The 31-year-old is now the owner of Headhunters – a formidable brand in the recruitment industry – and one of Nelson Mandela Bay’s flourishing entrepreneurs.
Her company boasts finding suitable assistants for high-profile clients such as businesswoman Basetsana Kumalo, as well as human rights activist and Nelson Mandela’s wife, Graça Machel.
Johannesburg-born Cape said she had no choice but to go into entrepreneurship at the age of 18.
“I needed to start earning a living as I ‘tripped’ and fell pregnant when I was very young. My father was an entrepreneur, and he encouraged me to just do it.
“I am now a fanatical entrepreneur! I love business, and encouraging people to push the lid off the box.”
Cape grew up in Durban and relocated to Port Elizabeth in 1997.
After matriculating at Victoria Park High School in 1998, Cape studied tourism for a year.
In 1999, her father assisted her with a loan to purchase a marketing and communications company called The Onion Factory.
“It is a great success story still continuing today. The company focuses on training now, but when I had the business, it was a PR events management and communications company.
“I sold the business in 2001 to move to Johannesburg to pursue other opportunities.”
In 2005, the previous owner of Headhunters approached Cape to see if she was interested in purchasing the business.
“Again my hero – my father and bank all rolled into one – assisted me with a loan.”
She said she started off with an overdraft and had to work two jobs at the time.
Cape worked at an IT company called Exchange Wize during the night and managed Headhunters by day.
She said as the business grew, she left the IT company and managed to pay her father’s loan off in a few months.
The business had grown with a 500% turnover since inception and had a 40% increase year-on-year.
She said in the first month, she only had one employee – now there are eight.
“I had found my own niche in the market. We are a boutique agency, so we are not about filling seats. We’re about ensuring the correct fit for a job.”
Headhunters is based in Port Elizabeth and has a national database of clients.
It is a permanent recruitment of commercial and technical staff across all sectors of commerce and industry.
“We have the privilege of working with some world-class companies and some smaller greats too in adding value to supporting their employee retention strategy and ultimately, business success,” Cape said.
Cape was a finalist for the 2012 Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Regional Business Achievers and last year’s Nelson Mandela Business Chamber’s Top 40 Under 40 young achievers.
She was also nominated for the 2010 Herald Citizen of the Year.
Cape said she was proud of her achievements but said she was not a one-woman show.
“I have an incredible team of talented professionals working alongside me.
“They have the most direct influence on the company’s performance.”
Before the business took off, she said there were times she wanted to give up but she had a drive to succeed.
“I wanted to succeed and had to be streetwise to provide for my daughter the very best I could.
“There are critical moments in one’s life that one will never forget, where everything says you should give up. Those are the times that are incredibly great learning opportunities.”
Cape said she hoped to open satellite branches nationwide.
“Every time we are able to help someone great to find a fantastic job, it is an incredibly fulfilling feeling and such an injection of motivation.”