They say if you want to be a part of the 1% that is independently successful, you need to look into entrepreneurship.
Connie Ferguson took that advice while following her dreams of becoming an award-winning actor.
She takes us through her upbringing, which influenced how she does business and helped her go from selling perfumes on the set of Generations to building a TV empire.
After Covid-19, many people lost their jobs, which pushed those who worked nine-to-five to consider entrepreneurship and inspired entrepreneurs to look at running their businesses remotely.
Although entrepreneurship may seem daunting, passionate innovators who are business savvy can become very successful.
One such person is 52-year-old actor, filmmaker and director Connie Ferguson. The multi-dimensional celebrity recently spoke at a women’s event by financial markets brokering company, Tickmill, to bright young minds, and as expected, she dropped some knowledge bombs that deserve to be repeated.
The Botswana-born actor said her journey to entrepreneurship began when she was still living in her home country as a young girl, where she would sell sweets, magwinya and perfumes, which is how she learned certain skills that are still necessary in her line of work.
“As I was growing, I already knew how to balance books, how to budget, how to stretch whatever I had when I didn’t have a lot of money,” she said.
Because of how unpredictable her job was, she was inspired to get into entrepreneurship to make a living by incorporating what she learnt as a young girl into the industry she was in.
“You had a job for four weeks and then [went for] four months without any [job]. So, I used to sell perfumes on the set of Generations.”
She said becoming an entrepreneur in South Africa was especially important for black women.
“In today’s day and age, surviving on a salary is not practical. The cost of living is very high, food is expensive, children are expensive, and work is scarce. No one gets to have their dream job. I think it’s important to always have something that you are doing on the side, apart from your nine-to-five job. It’s very empowering to make your own money and manage your own money.”
The actor added that when the pandemic hit, she realised she needed to integrate technology into her film business. This was around the time that she lost her husband and business partner, Shona Ferguson, and she had to find a way to continue the work.
“It was about me having a legacy to upkeep,” she shared.
She said after Shona’s death, she felt some people weren’t sure about her capabilities.
“I felt it, I felt a void, a change. Not to say people didn’t think I was capable but I think because we worked as a pair, I think some people doubted if I would be able to make it without my husband…
“It’s like, ‘Who’s Connie?’ I have to reintroduce myself to people again. I’ve always been Connie; I just had a really great partner.”
She and Shona had worked together for 20 years.
“I didn’t start working when I met my husband or after, I started working earlier in my life when I was 19. I’ve built my own name,” she said.
The award-winning actor also advised those wanting to build a business with their partner.
“He needs to see you; he needs to hear you. [I’m] Not saying in all partnerships, but most of the time, the voice of the woman is not heard because we come from such a patriarchal society. We still live in a patriarchal society, so you need to meet someone who becomes your best friend, your best supporter, your biggest cheerleader, someone who will not compete with you but complement you.”
Connie also touched on sexual harassment in the TV industry and how women should not be timid and silent but speak up.
“When I got into the industry, I treaded carefully. I didn’t become familiar too quickly with people. I never asked anybody for a favour because I knew I would have to return [the favour],” she shared. Connie says girls looking at getting into the entertainment industry must believe in their ability and not feel the need to compromise their morals.