By Charndré Emma Kippie      

Co-Founder and Chief Executive at React24, Celeste Margo Le Roux, recently became the recipient of the prestigious Top Woman Entrepreneur Award at the 2020 Standard Bank Top Women Awards – in the midst of a global pandemic. Celeste has played a pivotal role in the South African construction sector, exhibiting a deep-rooted passion for implementing transformative strategies, and contributing towards impactful change for gender empowerment in South Africa. Last year, she was also awarded The 2020 Woman Mentor of the Year, during the inaugural Empowerment and Recognition of Women in Construction Awards.

Her booming company, React24, has progressed into a national site services company which houses a vast selection of built environment disciplines, and caters to residential, industrial, commercial and retail markets. With unwavering dedication to her craft, Celeste opened the first black woman-owned CETA Accredited plumbing training college named The React Training College, on 22 September 2020, in hopes of making training more accessible to women artisans working in the trade.

As she moves into a brand new year, filled with opportunities for even more growth and success, Celeste perseveres in her commitment to transformation, gender equality, and scaling her business.

CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR STAND BANK TOP WOMAN 2020 AWARD! THIS IS AN AMAZING ACCOLADE. HOW HAS BEING RECOGNISED, IN THE TOP WOMAN ENTREPRENEUR CATEGORY, AFFECTED YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THE FUTURE OF YOUR BUSINESS, REACT24, AND OTHER FUTURE ENDEAVOURS?

Thank you very much!  Winning this award has been an enormous honour, and I am incredibly humbled for being recognised.  As an organisation, we decided some time ago that we need to act and not expect to rely solely on the government for the answers.  We need to be part of the solution.  I feel that that is what entrepreneurship is — providing answers to address unemployment and poverty, and bringing to the fore the empowerment of women.

For this reason, the Standard Bank Top Women Awards are so important; to highlight women’s accomplishments in the respective categories to inspire our young people.  Further, if entrepreneurs contribute to uplifting the South African economy and remedying unemployment, institutions and government should invest in them.  Like founding React Training College, my endeavours remain to uplift and develop marginalised individuals, especially women, to be able to provide for their families.

GOING INTO 2021, WHAT ARE THREE THINGS YOU’D LIKE TO MANIFEST, IN TERMS OF GOALS YOU’VE SET FOR YOURSELF AS A TOP WOMAN ENTREPRENEUR?

The most important goal for me this year is to give a voice to the many nameless, faceless individuals who are really struggling.  I think especially of the impoverished, who need an opportunity to better their lives.  So, social projects are definitely on the cards. This year I am also excited to partner with like-minded, dynamic women that want to make an impactful change in our communities, and South Africa as a whole. I think that the representation of women, especially women of colour, should increase on executive boards, which is one of my goals. I also feel, like in the past, I have been very conservative in taking on projects.  However, after winning this award, I feel like I have the vigour to take on more exciting challenges and push myself.

HOW ARE YOU REMAINING POSITIVE DURING THE SECOND WAVE IN THIS GLOBAL PANDEMIC? DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR BUSINESSWOMEN FEELING ANXIOUS RIGHT NOW?

I am unapologetically, proudly South African.  I am always optimistic about our country, and if there is one thing that I am sure of, is that as South African women, we are resilient and tenacious, and we refuse to give up or give in.  This global pandemic is no different.  I encourage all businesswomen to team up with like-minded, positive groups of women, where we may be able to inspire and speak life into one another.

WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL BE ESSENTIAL, THIS YEAR, IN ORDER FOR A START-UP BUSINESS TO SCALE AND BE SUCCESSFUL?

Be prepared to work hard.  I have come to the realisation that to be successful, you have to be hungry for what you want.  You often have to work harder and longer hours.  Be prepared to do what others are not! Also, be prepared to pivot.  Especially during this time, as we need to be agile.

WHAT IS YOUR WISH FOR ASPIRING YOUNG WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS IN SOUTH AFRICA?

Believe in yourself and your capabilities.  In the words of Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it is done”.  Be the one to do the impossible!

HAVE THERE BEEN ANY IMPORTANT BOOKS YOU’VE READ THAT HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO YOUR SUCCESS, OR HAVE JUST INSPIRED YOU AS A TOP WOMAN ENTREPRENEUR?

The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.  A Black Swan is an event or occurrence so rare and so extreme that we have no prior reference.  However, instead of succumbing to its devastation, we need to look for the opportunities. This was part of our recommended reading for my PGDip in Management Practice, at UCT Graduate School of Business in 2020.  It provided me with insight to pivot our business during Covid-19, and instead of surviving, we were able to thrive.

 

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