“I know who I am; I know who I am not. I can never forget where I come from: I know where I am going. To reach for my dreams and conquer the challenges; I will dare to be different; and with proper guidance and direction and with God on my side, nothing is impossible. I am, indeed, a future Leader,” asserts Sibongile Rejoyce Sambo while addressing aspiring leaders. Sibongile is the Founder and Managing Director of SRS Aviation – the first black female owned aviation company in South Africa; that offers clients professional and personalized flight options to destinations around the world.
Sibongile has also expanded her business to the technical side of aerospace through Dynamic Aerotech, Aero Metals – a Manufacturing company and Dyondzo Technical Training Academy respectively. She is a Businesswomen, Entrepreneur and a Motivational Speaker.
An Intellectual Powerhouse
Sibongile’s life is marked with high achievements and hard work which can be traced in her education history and work experience. She holds a Bachelor of Administration from the University of Zululand, Bachelor of Administration Honours from Unisa, Advanced programme in Organisational Development from Unisa, a Marketing certificate from Institute of Marketing Management, a Mining Executive Preparation Programme from Wits.
She has completed an International Executive Development Programme NQF 8 at GIBS Business Schools (Gordon Institute of Business Science) and Rollins College USA, 2016.
Prior to establishing her own company, she worked for organisations such as Telkom, City Power and De Beers to name a few. Added to her achievements, Sibongile is the 2006 winner of the BWA’s Regional Businesswomen of the year award for the Start-up category.
Sibongile has won various local and international awards both locally and abroad such as BIBA (Black Woman in Business Awards) 2006 in London, and she is the 2006 winner of the Impumelelo Top Female Entrepreneur of the year and a Finalist at the Cosmopolitan Movers of the year 2007. She is a recipient of the 2008 BMF (Black Management Forum) Presidential Award in the Category of Youth Business Leadership and in 2010 Sibongile is a recipient of the International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge (IWEC) 2010 held in Cape Town and in 2019 Sibongile is a recipient of the Shining Light Award presented by the Motsepe Foundation Women’s Unit just to name a few.
Sibongile has a global perspective to establish her company all over the African continent and to promote youth and women empowerment globally to this end she was affiliated with the South African Entrepreneurs Network (SAWEN), Business Women Association (BWA) and she has been part of a team that has established the Southern African Woman in Aviation a non-profit making company that encourages women to enter the field of Aviation in different levels; offer bursaries and scholarships towards Aviation related training etc. Sibongile was a board member and an Advisor for SAWIA.
Sibongile had a strategic relationship with Women of Colour in Aviation & Aerospace in the United States of America. Sibongile is also a member of Women in Aviation International (WAI).
Obtaining Opportunity in Pandemic
Aerospace has been badly affected by the pandemic outbreak. With the lockdown it meant there is no flying both locally and abroad. “The best thing was to remain compliant with all stringent aviation regulations,” says Sibongile. She further adds “What we also did is that we took advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves during the pandemic. Our business partner decided to close down a technical school which they ran for over 25 years. It was a division that costed them money for several years, the pandemic forced them to close it down however, we proposed to partner a new SMME (Small, Medium, and Micro Enterprise) called Dyondzo Technical Training Academy. Technical skills training in Aerospace is a rear skill and as an industry we could not afford losing this organisation. The school will offer sustainable employment and offer technical skills not only to Aerospace but to Automotive, Rail, Maritime etc.”
Bricks and Barriers
The biggest challenge faced by Sibongile was securing finance for the business. Aerospace is capital intensive and therefore access to financial capital is required. SRS Aviation faced with a similar challenge now trying to access capital. “We approached banks and different institutions for finance however most decision makers were on holiday at that time a week between Christmas and New Years day; others gave us feedback on the spot that we would not be financed because aviation is regarded is a high-risk industry. We had no collateral and no aviation experience and the contract at hand meant nothing to the financiers,” speaks Sibongile. She further adds “I then had to come up with an alternative solution before we could lose the entire contract. I borrowed money from family and friends and to my surprise I got so much support from them. My mom and aunt released their pension monies and gave them to me. My mother flew in from London where she worked as a nurse just to release the money and give it to me then returned to work within few days. I remember waiting with my siblings at O. R. Tambo Int. for days for the plane to arrive after paying almost a million rands to position the aircraft in Johannesburg.” 17 years later, the company now has experience and has generated enough revenues that would give comfort to investors. It has established networks worldwide and has managed to break through an untapped Aviation industry. “This is just one example of the many hardships that we went through to get to the successful position that we are at.
Second challenge is, employing and retaining skilled employees has been a challenge because once they are well trained and experienced, they move to bigger organisations.
Giving Back to the Community
According to Sibongile, SRS Aviation has always been involved in Aviation awareness programs, empowering the youth about career and business opportunities of the industry. The organisation has produced pilots; people who never even thought they would have access to an aero plane.