Often the impetus to start a business stems from identifying opportunities where you can fully utilise your specialist expertise and knowledge, and where gaps in the marketplace allow you to make your mark. For Andiswa Silinga, co-founder of Gemini GIS and Environmental Services, this came in the form of harnessing cutting edge technologies to hep companies with their geospatial data management.
LoA found out more about this cutting edge company making a difference to the decision-making processes of big industrial businesses.
What does your company do?
We provide Geospatial data management solutions that help mining, construction, energy, and infrastructure businesses to make informed operational decisions using maps to discover trends and patterns. We use cutting edge technologies such as Geographical information Systems (GIS) and Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles (UAV) aka "drones" to collect accurate and near to real time location data, and then we analyze and interpret the data. Our solutions include Aerial Surveys, Asset/Infrastructure Mapping, Environmental Compliance and Monitoring, Site Mapping and Inspections.
"We use cutting edge technologies such as Geographical information Systems (GIS) and Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles (UAV) aka "drones" to collect accurate and near to real time location data."
What inspired you to start your company?
At the time there were few Geospatial/GIS professionals, especially women, and the industry was also not aware of the value-add that GIS can have on businesses. I'm driven by new challenges and data management technologies, so instead of working for one company I decided to share my knowledge with other companies through my own business and also learn how GIS technology can be implemented in different industries. While I was still employed, I started testing the market by putting proposals to a number of companies and governmental departments. What motivated me was the positive feedback from the companies I was submitting the proposals to. But one of the reasons we were not offered the projects was that we were not well marketed and our brand was not known. That gave me courage to jump ship and start my own company.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
We are in the era of data analytics where companies need to have accurate information at the tip of their hands to make quick and informed decisions. A number of businesses have a lot of data at their disposal but do not realize that if you add in the location component a lot of information can be extracted to give insight on what is happening in the areas they operate in, the risks they face, and what action needs to be taken. For example, if a company wants to develop a shopping mall, they need to make sure that they have chosen the best location. We help such companies to map and analyze the area by collecting demographic data, environmental sensitive features in the area, existing infrastructure in the area, etc., overlaying these datasets and use visualization techniques based on the spatial relationships of the data. This gives the company a sense of whether the location is the best or not.
"We are in the era of data analytics where companies need to have accurate information at the tip of their hands to make quick and informed decisions."
Tell us a little about your team
I have a business partner, Tankiso Phidza, and at the moment we have 4 employees and a pool of independent consultants we work with on a project to project basis. I have a passion of empowering young women, our team is made up of 4 young women.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
My mother had a spirit of an entrepreneur which started to show in her fifties. I admired her spirit and I can say she brushed some of that off to me and my siblings. Over the years I always had this urge of running my own business and my passion for fashion pushed me to start a fashion design business with my 2 sisters, but for two years the business did not do well so I closed it. In 2004 I had a chat with my friend Tankiso Phidza to start a consulting company, so we registered Gemini in 2004. It took 4 years for us to get the first project and in 2010 I resigned from my well paying corporate position to run the business full-time. Because my experience was from a scientific background with no business skill, I made a decision that I would seek mentorship in business management. So, we registered with a number of the enterprise development programmes that grew us both personally and the business. Yes, we had challenges but they did not deter us from pressing on. Now we have been running our business for eight years and we are still growing.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
All entrepreneurs strive to be the best in the space they operate in; the difference is how we add value to the people that we serve. My aspirations are to grow our brand so that we gain respect and trust from our clients and be the first point of call when they need Geospatial solutions for their businesses.
"My aspirations are to grow our brand so that we gain respect and trust from our clients and be the first point of call when they need Geospatial solutions for their businesses."
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
To be able to make a difference in other people's lives and be able to empower and unleash their potential in my own way. We will never cease to learn, and by having an open mind I learned and achieved things that I never dreamt of doing.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Before you start you need to have your business goals written down, a strategy on what needs to be done to achieve them, and with the timelines clearly defined as to when you want to achieve them. Get yourself a mentor to help you formulate those goals and to walk along the journey with you, providing essential encouragement when you encounter challenges. I've learned that If your goals are not written down then you will be all over the place and achieve nothing. Surround yourself with a team that will compliment your weakest points, collaborate with other entrepreneurs, and avoid working in silos.
Contact or follow Gemini GIS and Environmental Services
Why LoA loves it….
It’s always inspirational to see women entrepreneurs from across the African continent making their mark by breaking into tough industry sectors and bringing new and innovative solutions to the table. Andiswa Silinga and her co-founder are doing just that, bringing their extensive scientific knowledge and expertise and combining it with cutting edge drone technology to help their customers with their specialist data needs. She is a great example of the importance of finding your niche in business and building your reputation on the back of being a specialist service provider with unique insights. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and ceo of Lionesses of Africa