A healthy business eco-system needs strong, sustainable companies and organisations, and often they need the right developmental support, advice and expertise to grow. In Namibia, that’s where Leading Edge Management Consultants, founded by entrepreneurs Claudette Nahum and Nangula Shejavali, is there to help.
LoA met with the inspirational Nangula Shejavali and Claudette Nahum this month in Windhoek to find out more.
What does your company do?
Leading Edge focuses on the sustainable development of the Namibian economy, by providing commercial and development solutions in the private and public sector under two streams: (1) Development Consulting and (2) Development Finance.
Under the Development Consulting stream, our services mainly comprise consulting on small business management, market research, communications, and developmental research. Using experienced and qualified consultants in business development, we work with our clients to achieve enhanced levels of productivity from their strategic objectives, their core assets and their business/organisational processes.
In addition to our consulting services, Leading Edge places great importance on working with emerging female leaders to reach their full potential. We are a cofounder of the annual Effective Female Leadership Programme, and recently published the book, Follow Her Lead: Inspiring Lessons from Namibian Women at the Leading Edge (see our website: www.leadingedge.com.na for more on these projects).
Under the Development Finance stream, the company co-founded, co-owns, and manages the Tile Emporium, and is currently exploring additional business opportunities in southern and West Africa, that will adopt a similar VC model.
“Leading Edge brings a strong sense of passion and a deep understanding of development to each project and/or client engagement we work on.”
What inspired you to start your company?
The creation of Leading Edge was driven by a passion for development – particularly in the areas of expertise of the two owners – Claudette Nahum and Nangula Shejavali. These include SME development (a topic on which Claudette wrote her thesis for her Masters in Development Finance), development communications, public policy and market research. Additionally, both partners were keen to work independently, outside of the corporate sector, to ideate and create solutions that would inspire development in the areas noted above.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
Leading Edge brings a strong sense of passion and a deep understanding of development to each project and/or client engagement we work on. Further, ensuring a high quality standard and adding value are key to us. Our commodity is essentially our time, and we place a great value on this, knowing that our clients will appreciate the fact that we respect their time in helping them implement their vision, and that the projects that we take on .
“Our commodity is essentially our time, and we place a great value on this, knowing that our clients will appreciate the fact that we respect their time in helping them implement their vision, and that the projects that we take on.”
Tell us a little about your team
Leading Edge is a small team compriaed of the two owners/Principal Consultants (Claudette Nahum and Nangula Shejavali), and a Project Coordinator (who was previously an Intern under our annual internship programme). Claudette's background is in Finance, and she holds a Bachelors degree in Accounting and Masters in Development Finance. Nangula holds a Bachelors in International Affairs and Africana Studies, and a Business Masters in Global Marketing Management.
Depending on the projects on which we are working, we also engage experts from our pool of consultants, to lend their expertise to the work we are doing. At the Tile Emporium, we also employ two sales representatives and an office cleaner.
We are intentional about maintaining lean structures in our businesses, and ensuring that those engaged are willing, committed and inspired to achieve our common goals.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
Our entrepreneurial journey as partners in Leading Edge started in 2013. While Nangula was editing Claudette's thesis on “Bridging the gap between financial and non-financial business development services for enhancing SME success”, we recognised that we shared several key values, and knew that by working together and combining our unique sets of skills, we would be able to make strong impacts in the development and management consulting space in Namibia and beyond.
Before approaching Nangula to join forces in creating Leading Edge, Claudette had worked as a Senior Accountant at Consult Buro / Business Intelligence Africa, where she managed the accounts of various SMEs, developed financial training curricula and provided said training to SMEs. This background (along with her enlightening thesis) gave her a unique perspective on how to start, run and scale businesses - a perspective that has been key to the success of Leading Edge, Tile Emporium, and the other businesses we are creating.
Prior to Leading Edge, Nangula had consulted independently for several years in the area of communications, media and policy research. She had also worked on a few entrepreneurial initiatives - including a short-lived but impactful youth entertainment magazine started with her sister, Selma Kaulinge, back in 2008; as well as an Afrocentric greeting card initiative (see it here: www.neshanipress.com), which is currently dormant but being revived through Leading Edge. Both of these projects have provided valuable practical lessons on entrepreneurship, and the essentials required to make a young business succeed.
Since the business started, we have worked at combining our strengths to provide our clients with effective and sustainable solutions that respond to their needs, and speak to our passions. We have realised and leveraged on the importance of expert consultants and strong partners to make things happen; and we have addressed the critical need to create our own programmes and offerings with recurring income streams and networking opportunities from which we can derive new insights, ideas and clients.
In 2015, we started Tile Emporium, using a VC-type model that allowed us to work with other investors to bring it to life, under Leading Edge's management. This business has scaled impressively, and we continue to work at it dedicatedly, especially considering Namibia's current economic situation. Notably, Claudette was recognised as a finalist in the business owner category of the 2017 Namibia Businesswoman of the Year Awards for her extraordinary management of the Tile Emporium. Leading Edge is working on creating new business using a similar model, including in West Africa, where Nangula is now working at setting up a Leading Edge Office.
Naturally, the entrepreneurial journey has not always been easy. However, we pride ourselves on our ability to bootstrap where necessary, our resolve to focus on business growth before seeking financial reward, and our shared vision to make a positive impact in each space in which we engage, with exceptional quality.
“Leading Edge aspires to become a major force in the development consulting space on the African continent and beyond, by adding meaning and value to the work of our clients and of emerging (female) leaders, and by providing solutions that help them, and our continent, to meet their full potential.”
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
Leading Edge aspires to become a major force in the development consulting space on the African continent and beyond, by adding meaning and value to the work of our clients and of emerging (female) leaders, and by providing solutions that help them, and our continent, to meet their full potential.
Our future plans include expanding the Effective Female Leader Programme, publishing a version of Follow Her Lead on a biennial basis, developing new and exciting businesses that scale, and expanding our footprint into other parts of Africa.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
We derive great satisfaction from being independent, and owning our time and our ideas. Naturally, this results in the great responsibility of using and applying these wisely, in a way that makes financial sense, that brings about new ways of creating and thinking, and in a way that brings about financial gain.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Know your market! Be diligent about bringing your idea(s) to life. Pursue what you want with passion, drive, and common sense. Think BIG!
For women in partnership, we would also advise that you partner with people who share a similar value system and business mindset, that you do regular partner check-ins (don’t work on assumptions), and that you play on each other’s strengths in growing your business.
Contact or follow Leading Edge
Why LoA loves it ….
Africa needs strong leaders who can create sustainable businesses that make meaningful and lasting contributions to the economy. Often, those leaders and businesses need specialist help and advice along the way in order for them to really fulfill their potential. Nangula Shejavali and Claudette Nahum are making a real impact in Namibia and beyond by bringing their wealth of specialist knowledge and expertise to the table, and helping others to grow. They are an inspiration and their new book, Follow Her Lead, is an example of how they are giving voice and a platform to a new generation of women leaders who will take the African continent forward. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and ceo of Lionesses of Africa