We need more female entrepreneurs – go for it, babe! It starts with self-belief and guts. According to Sarah Blakely, self-made dollar billionaire and founder of Spanx, “Everyone has had a million dollar idea, you just have to start!”
Helen Viljoen shares her inspirational story of her business journey her challenges and lessons we can draw learning from. Driving a successful business in luxury, she is a force to reckon. Her brand Nebü is not only making waves locally but creating attractions internationally.
We believe her story will inspire, motivate and ignite fire in another entrepreneur. We celebrate this phenomenal woman.
Tell us briefly about yourself and family:
I grew up in Pretoria, South Africa, and studied at the University of Pretoria to gain two bachelor degrees; one in Law, the other in Genetics. I then went on to practice as an attorney at a local law firm, MacRobert Attorneys.
However, after 3 years in the adversarial and aggressive world of litigation, I decided I needed a change in perspective. I entered the corporate world as a legal advisor to a fast growing business finance firm, Cash Flow Capital. Here I gained valuable business experience, which, in part, set me on my entrepreneurial journey as founder and CEO of Nebü.What inspired your entrepreneurial journey and what makes you stand out amongst your competitors?
My husband is an entrepreneur and avid free-marketeer. Through his influence, I grew my understanding of Austrian economics, libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism – fascinating fields that have framed my perspective of the world and business.
As I grew in my understanding of the economy, I learned that gold has stood at the foundation of all historically successful economic systems. Gold is rare; precious; chemically immortal and has been the time tested store of value for millennia. In our modern, debt-driven economies, value and monetary erosion is at the foundation – and gold is the only way for people to protect themselves against this wealth destruction. I wanted to enable people to protect themselves with gold. My other passion is our beautiful South Africa – her wilderness and natural wonders. Sadly, many of these treasures are being plundered. I went into law to be able to protect people from exploitation, and now I want to focus my protective instincts to conserve our natural heritage. In Nebü, I want to give my clients jewellery that not only feels exclusive, luxurious and rare, but also makes them feel good about their influence and power to help protect our earth. Nebu jewellery is a symbol of preservation – of wealth and our natural heritage.
Nebü was born to redefine pure, sustainable luxury. Our jewellery is crafted from pure gold, platinum and silver – immortal heirlooms that will hold their value forever. Nebü is the only fine-jewellery brand that doesn’t use alloyed gold, which tarnishes and spoils over time. In addition to our commitment to authentic quality, our entire production chain is sustainable, earthing our client’s luxury experience to nature. How does your brand impact the community?
We are most proud of the sustainability of our business – firstly, all the metal used in our manufacturing process is recycled and is, therefore, environmentally friendly; then, we support local communities through employment of local craftsmen in the manufacturing process; and, finally, 10% of each sale is donated to project-specific, local conservation efforts.
In other words, not only do we ensure that our clients have an heirloom piece that will never tarnish and can be passed on through generations and never lose value, but also that African communities are supported through skills and preserving their natural heritage, which in turn generates income through tourism.What advice can you offer other young women looking to enter business?
We need more female entrepreneurs – go for it, babe!
It starts with self-belief and guts. According to Sarah Blakely, self-made dollar billionaire and founder of Spanx, “Everyone has had a million dollar idea, you just have to start!”
You have to understand though that it really is going to take your proverbial blood, sweat and tears. Only the strongest survive the entrepreneurial journey. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely, emotional rollercoaster, so it really helps to have role-models and mentors and at least one person in your support structure that will be your rock through the tough times.
I’ve also learned that whether you succeed or fail is not the point. It is the personal growth and journey you will embark on that will define you as a person and provide the true value. It is like no other. What challenges have you faced as woman in your industry?
The business world is largely male-dominated, so being a woman in that world is a constant dance of understanding and working with the various personalities. To be a female founder and CEO, you have to be driven, ambitious and really tough – typically characteristics that are considered to be unfeminine. Your feminine power is, however, not in trying to beat men at their game. As Anna Wintour said, “Be yourself, without apology.”
In addition to this, starting a business in a country that is not really known for its start-up environment is tough – with plenty of red tape and a relatively underdeveloped start-up investment environment, you have to be incredibly resourceful and crafty when it comes to growing your business. What do the next 5 years look like for your business?
I’m so excited for the next 5 years! Nebü is barely a year old and has already been noticed on a global stage; we’re rolling out in the boutique stores of & Beyond luxury safari lodges; and are soon launching our pure silver and platinum collections to appeal to those who prefer a platinum/silver look.
We are aiming high and are confident that we’ll soon be able to become one of the leading sustainable luxury, fine jewellery brands in the world.
What are some of your sought-after products?
For the ladies, our Pangolin Range from our Wild Collection is a real popular range, specifically our grande pendant and stud earrings. Our rhino horn earrings as well as our water droplet earrings are neck and neck with the pangolin pieces.
As for our discerning gentlemen – all our cufflinks, in particular our Rhino Footprint Cufflinks, are particularly popular. For those with minimalistic tastes, our Earth Collection, Classic and Curved Men’s rings are winners.