Cape Town-based Catherine Wijnberg is a successful entrepreneur with experience in starting, growing and operating businesses in five different sectors across three countries. She was born in Ndola, Zambia to an entrepreneurial father. The fourth of five children she travelled from an early age to the UK for boarding school and studied agriculture in Scotland and Australia. Catherine started her working life as an agricultural economist at the Zambia Farmers Union. Her first entrepreneurial venture was a leap of faith into the new forex auction system in Zambia and an import business serving the local farming network.
The move to South Africa sparked a range of business ventures including import-export, farming, transportation, an apartment hotel, recruitment, metaphysical healing and architectural software before starting Fetola in 2006. She founded Fetola with a vision to contribute to the transformation of the South African economy by growing the small business sector. For it is here that jobs are created, success is cultivated, and women, youth, and rural communities can create self-empowered futures. She was also determined that one woman could make a difference and empower other women to do so, too.
Fetola has grown rapidly, from a small consultancy into a recognised SME specialist in Cape Town with a national reach. The staff complement has grown to more than 30, mostly women, employees. Fifty percent of Fetola’s board of directors are women, including Cecilia Njenga, the head of the UN Environment Office in South Africa, and Lucy Welford, the chairperson of Fairtrade Label South Africa (FLSA).
Fetola’s clients and partners include SAB Foundation, JP Morgan, Transnet, The Jobs Fund, the European Union, Old Mutual, and World Wide Fund for Nature, and its programmes achieve unmatched results. Legends (which was developed for Old Mutual as their flagship Enterprise Development initiative from 2007 – 2013) delivered a 94% long-term business survival rate and 65% year-on-year growth per participant. The Tholoana Programme, a national initiative run for the SAB Foundation, currently delivers growth rates of 44% per annum. These results are significantly higher than leading competitors (April 2018).
Catherine leads the Fetola team with inimitable passion and her message is clear: anything is possible if you put your mind to it and work hard. The company endeavours to set the standards for others to follow and create long-term partnerships with clients and other businesses.
Catherine is a visionary entrepreneur and respected by many. She did not achieve success by waiting for things to happen; instead she worked hard, lost a great deal, and recovered substantially from incredible setbacks. She has taken these experiences and used it to help businesses become sustainable, create jobs and grow the economy.
Catherine was featured on an episode of SABC 2’s show Back from Zero in 2018. In the episode, she was candid about her business failures and the devastating impact it had on her family. But giving up was never an option. She knew she had to fight to survive, not only for her own sake, but for her three young daughters as well.
The many wisdoms she has gained through an entrepreneurial career and life journey peppered with interesting challenges and triumphs are regularly shared via her online blog on www.fetola.co.za and have now been collated into her new book Sheep Will Never Rule The World, with the aim of empowering others to achieve their best potential.
Catherine’s adventurous, fighting spirit extends into her personal life, too. She is a former pilot and an avid paraglider. Clearly, she loves the open skies. When the weather is good you will find her running off mountains and soaring with the eagles.