By Charndré Emma Kippie
Alexandra Miszewski is the young Cape Town entrepreneur who is the Founder & Managing Director of Novita. Novita’s flagship product is Synotech, an injectable hyaluronic acid treatment for arthritis currently in use in private healthcare and veterinary healthcare. In Aesthetic Medicine, Novita has a number of products including Mesofix- Boost, an injectable hydrating skin booster, and Mesofix-Bright, which is used for more superficial skin rejuvenation.
When Novita concluded its first year of trading in June 2021, it did so with a turnover that comfortably exceeded R1-million – remarkable for a start-up at the best of times, but truly astonishing considering the current economic situation. But what is it that turns a young woman, albeit with a brilliant mind for business, into a multi-business owning high-flyer at the age of just 22? For Alex, it was her association with the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, where she is currently a Candidate Fellow.
At present, Alex is completing her Masters of Finance degree, specialising in Investment management at the UCT Graduate school of business. Going forward, her focus is on building Novita so that its contribution to people, pets and the planet is fully maximised. Since buying out her partners in Regenesis Vet, she is looking forward to developing the system further and exploring international markets. In addition to this, Alex and Dr Judey are looking forward to developing the technology further for use in the private healthcare sphere.
What got you into the field you’re currently in?
All the companies I have been involved in have usually started not with the intention of necessarily becoming businesses but through me trying to solve problems I was experiencing in my personal life. Specifically, relating to the affordability and accessibility of niche healthcare products that I was needing for an injured horse of mine. As time went on, I realised many of these challenges weren’t unique to me, so I decided to try to create a solution to minimise the number of people who came after me who were faced with the same problem.
Novita, however, was somewhat different. 2019 was a tough year for me personally with losing one of my horses on the operating table, a friend of mine being murdered and my best friend committing suicide, all in the space of 6 months. At this stage I was in the fortunate position that my other two businesses were doing well, but helping people that had what are typically considered “privileged problems” wasn’t enough for me anymore. And with that, in February 2020, Novita was born with a unique business model of hope.
What excites you the most about your role?
What excites me is the fact that I am able to combine my love for business with my passion for animals and accessible healthcare. I love the fact that every day is different and that I am able to meet and work with a variety of incredible people who are at the forefront of science and medicine. I also love the fact that by following my passion, I have been able to solve many problems that I personally experienced as well as being able to help so many others in doing so.
How is Novita enhancing the South African economy?
There are various ways that I believe we are contributing towards the South African economy. Firstly, a large portion of our business is exporting which brings in foreign currency. Secondly, as our business expands, so does our team and in doing so we are increasing employment. Thirdly, we have worked very hard at deglobalising our supply chain as far as possible and in doing so have been able to support various other local businesses. Hopefully by doing so, there has been a positive knock on effect for these other South African businesses.
Do you think your field is diverse in terms of gender equality?
Not as diverse as it should be. Although I do believe we have made huge advances in gender equality, I still often find myself in situations where I have to work twice as hard, or achieve twice as much to be given the same level of respect that many of my male counterparts are given from the outset.
I do, however, believe the Biotechnology, Medical and Pharmaceuticals industry is perhaps a few steps behind other industries with it still being predominantly large-corporate and male dominated.
What are your top 3 tips for ensuring the success of women in your field?
- My top tip for ensuring success is starting. There are so many people with incredible ideas but that have never taken the first step towards making that idea a reality.
- Fight for your seat at the table – if you don’t ask, the answer will always be no. And when the answer is no, keep working until that answer is turned into a yes.
- Be kind. People forget that business is as much about relationships as it is about the product or service that you are selling.
What have been some major obstacles in your career, as a woman, and how did you overcome them?
The most common obstacle I have faced is probably the lack of respect that comes with being young and a female along with trying to balance it all.
Although I would say it happens less often , I do still find myself in situations where various people, especially men, do not take me seriously from the outset because I am both young and a female. Additionally, there have also been instances where males have tried to attack my credibility for the above mentioned reasons. I believe the best way to overcome these challenges is by consistently delivering a quality product and/or service that ultimately speaks for itself.
Secondly, the other big obstacle I do encounter is trying to balance all my business commitments with personal life. Although this is something I definitely still struggle with, I do believe it is the unfortunate reality of entrepreneurship (at least in the early days) – there is just no shortcut to success, it requires a huge amount of hard work which takes up a lot of time. Having said this, I think the key to having as much balance as possible is setting boundaries between work and one’s personal life. I do however feel very grateful to be doing what I love so a lot of the work I do does not actually feel like work!
What are your goals for the future?
Novita’s goal for the foreseeable future is transforming the state of regenerative medicine in South Africa. At present, despite potentially being the key to various unmet clinical needs, Regenerative medicine is inaccessible and unaffordable to those who need it most with only the elite having access to a limited number of options at an exorbitant expense.
Additionally, other goals include expanding the reach of our business model of hope by making an impact on people, pets and the planet in a far greater and more infinite way than what we are currently doing now. Specifically, one of my biggest goals in the pet sphere with Novita is that no animal at an animal welfare organisation has to be euthanized due to the organisation not being able to afford or access anti-arthritis medication for that animal. Similarly, I hope to see thousands of women who have suffered at the hands of gender based violence having access to affordable niche healthcare products that give them treatment options they never would have had access to previously. Lastly, I hope to see children running across a South African landscape that looks greener, safer and less exploited from our regenerative projects aimed at the planet.
And most importantly, one of my biggest goals is that fewer people find themselves in the same position that I found myself in where you know there is a solution to the problem you are facing, but also know that you cannot access or afford it.
What important/life-changing books have you read?
- Why I left Goldman Sachs – Greg Smith
- Shoe Dog – Phil Knight
- The 5am Club – Robin Sharma
- Start With Why – Simon Sinek
What advice do you have for young women entrepreneurs who aspire to work in your field?
The best advice I could give a young person wanting to start their own business is to first identify a problem that resonates with them and then to just start doing something about it. I strongly believe that if one takes imperfect, but proactive steps toward their vision you are a few hundred steps ahead of everyone else who has brilliant ideas but never takes that first step towards where they eventually want to be.
Adding to the above, I think it is so important to be working towards something that one feels passionate about. I have found entrepreneurship to come with unbelievable highs and extreme lows – so having an overarching purpose and vision that both you and your team are incredibly passionate about makes it so much easier to get out of bed in the morning and keep pushing forward, especially when times are tough.
Lastly, you can be unrealistic in your goals, but practical in your approach. Dream big, fight for your seat at the table and never take no for an answer.
What is your life mantra?
Turn your pain into purpose, stay humble and always be kind.
Novita is currently collaborating with Regenesis-Vet to develop a unique burn and wound treatment that combines platelets with hyaluronic acid, both known to be beneficial for burns and wounds. All Novitas products are classified as medical devices and held under its license with the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA).
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