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COVER STORY: STRONG BONDS

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It is said that a person in a healthy environment and with healthy relationships flourishes and a person in a bad environment withers like an unwatered flower.  And the more ambitious you are, the more important it is for you to try and create the right environment for yourself to exceed in life – both professionally and personally.

From a family point of view, life can get so rushed with so much to fit in a single day that many find themselves really struggling to juggle the whole work–life balance. It’s definitely a goal, but most often it just stays a nice idea because there’s just no time.  Sometimes it just boils down to making some time – and it’s not always about quantity, but quality.  So, put everything into that moment.

In stories below you will read how a few mothers and daughters enjoy their careers, and of course – each other.

Gina & Ila

Gina Nixon and her daughter Ila Stow prove that not all mother-daughter relationships need to thrive in tea shops sharing the latest gossip or fashion bargains.  All you need is the outdoors and a bicycle. And they are professional about it. By Lynn Grala

One of Gina Nixon and Ila Stow most memorable times spent together as mother and daughter has been a trip to Zanzibar in 2010 for Ila’s 21st birthday. Now, if you’re thinking along the lines of a lazy holiday in a luxury hotel on the beach front to unwind in bikinis and with some cocktails you’re kind of off track. Instead the two landed in Zanzibar with their cheap mountain bikes, caught a ferry to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and from there the train to Mbeya, just north of Malawi. They cycled all the way to the border, parked their bikes, had their passports stamped, and then cycled down the shore of Lake Malawi. They bought their food along the way and at night slept diagonally in a kiddies dome tent. At the end of their journey they sold their bikes and headed back home. It was some strong bonding time.

But bikes haven’t always featured big in their lives; it’s the men in their lives who were big into cycling and roped them in. Gina completed her first Argus Cycle Tour in 1994. Then, shortly after meeting her husband, who has always been a competitive cyclist, she began cycling more and more and just excelled at it.

Besides some of her many great achievements, such as coming first overall in the SA Downhill Championships and second in the UCI Mountain Bike Masters World Championships Downhill, this year she came first  in both the WP Enduro – Helderberg and Ezelfontein Enduro. In the beginning Ila would just tag along to the cycling events with her parents to watch. But after watching one time too many she decided she really wanted to give the Cape Town Cycle Tour a go and completed her first one 10 years ago. ‘I loved it!’ she says. ‘I then became a very social rider, just taking part in the Cape Cycle Tour every year.’

Most definitely Ila was watching more than just bike races, because it is there that a certain mountain biker, Darryn Stow, caught her eye when she was 14 years old. She tells how she even went home and wrote in her diary ‘I <3 Darryn Stow.’ ‘  Three years ago she married him and has since become an even more ardent cyclist.

‘I got a nice mountain bike and it became my goal to try and keep up with him. It’s three years later and I still haven’t managed to beat him, but I am getting closer and he has to try harder. Once I had a decent fitness and skill level I enjoyed it more and more.’

Ila has participated in numerous cycling events and received WP colours for both Marathon 2015 and Mountain Bike Cross Country 2016. But her most memorable events have been winning the mixed category in Gravel and Grape 2016 with her husband and coming third in the ladies team Coronation Double Century 2015.

‘This year I was privileged to ride and complete the Cape Epic and Lesotho Sky in the colours of SAICA. At Lesotho Sky we were the second ladies team, and it was one of the most amazing races I have taken part in. It’s a race I would definitely recommend to all adventurous mountain bikers.’

Ila is proud that her mom, Gina, has achieved so much in her life while still maintaining balance. ‘After having me at 17 years old, she finished school, studied to become a CA(SA) and qualified. She then went on to starting up her own successful accounting and tax business. She is great mom, wife and mountain biker. Not many people can say their mom came second in the UCI Mountain Bike Masters World Championships Downhill. I have only been able to truly appreciate how much she has achieved after becoming a CA(SA) myself and realising how much strength and determination she has.’

Once Ila had matriculated without having any real career direction, Gina suggested that Ila start with a BCom at the University of Cape Town with the option of either also pursuing a CA(SA) qualification or using any of the business knowledge obtained from a BCom. Today she is enjoying her job as group retail accountant for outdoor and lifestyle stores called This Way Out.

‘I was never sure what I wanted to do, but thought business was always a good tool to have. Studying can be tough, especially the emotional side trying to keep pushing through. Having my mom was a great help, as she could understand and relate to what I was going through. I completed my articles at Grant Thornton Cape Town. Articles are an extremely valuable experience; you learn so much about yourself, you are in such a privileged position of meeting influential and intelligent leaders of companies and being able to see how companies run, what affects them and how decisions are made. It is a great learning environment. My highlight of articles was the people I met and a job we had in Rwanda. Last year I was privileged to take leave before the job and I have now. I took my bicycle and a small bag and cycled through Rwanda for a week, seeing the gorillas and country on my own,’ says Ila.

‘My mom has taught me the value and concept of money by explaining big picture scenarios. She has shown me that anything is achievable. She has taught me to be confident and independent by allowing me to try things for myself, but guiding me along the way. There is no such thing as a setback, merely detours to get to the end result. We have always been an active, outdoor family and from that I have learnt experiences are far more valuable than possessions,’ she concludes.

In turn Gina says Ila has a very good nature with a good understanding of people and often reminds her to be more compassionate and less structured. She believes it is respect and a mutual understanding of each other that makes a great relationship.

Gina cycles every day to her office where she runs her own accounting practice in Fish Hoek with four full-time bookkeepers. ‘It is only a 350-metre trip, but I am quicker on my bicycle than driving my car out of the garage and down the road. I am not training for anything specifically at the moment, but I often ride with Ila’s younger sister, Jessi (16), who is also an enthusiastic cyclist.’

As a family they have all been involved in assisting Gina’s husband, Chris Nixon, with building a bike park along with a bike workshop in the Constantia Valley.

‘He has been involved in designing and building the tracks aimed at the development of bike skills of all ages,’ explains Gina. ‘I have been assisting with the development of the business. Ila has been involved with some of the promotional aspects and recently, Ila’s husband has extended his coaching group, and now offers coaching for children at the bike park. It is so encouraging to see how many families are enjoying the benefits of cycling.’

It is Ila’s dream to have her own successful business up and running In the next five years, as well as setting up a programme with her husband to promote kids cycling with a healthy lifestyle.

Nosipho & Pumla 

‘When you want something; go for it.  Be curious.’  It’s a lesson Pumla Serobe (née Molope) has learnt from her mother, Nosipho Molope’ who tenaciously pursued a career as a CA(SA). Together they fought to uplift other young black women in South Africa. By Lynn Grala

Twenty eight years ago, Nosipho Molope first began pursuing a career in Medical Sciences, after completing her Bsc (Med) at the University of the Witwatersrand. A little later in her life and while busy rearing her family, Nosipho ambitiously decided to register for a BCom degree through UNISA on a part-time basis. And by just pure chance, while registering for her second-year modules she discovered there was another option with a specialised curriculum – the CA(SA) route.  Switching over, she completed her BCompt (Honours)/CTA degree at Unisa. During her article years, she says, she was one of the oldest trainees at Fisher Hoffman Sithole (now PKF); and when she proudly qualified as a CA(SA) in 1999, she was the first black person to qualify at the firm and was one of some 50 black women CAs(SA) in the country.

Nosipho was recruited by her dear friend, Sindi Koyana, who was also one of the founding members of the African Women Chartered Accountants (AWCA). Nosipho soon became actively involved in the forum, eventually sitting on the board.

‘AWCA was trying to raise awareness of the profession as well as encourage and support young black females to join the profession. And that is what attracted me to get involved in AWCA.  At the time when I was on the board, we hosted the first Woman of Substance event and there we raised enough cash to fund four black female students through university to study BAcc/BCom Accounting.  I think AWCA has come a long way from there and has achieved greater things over the years and I’m proud to be associated with the organisation.’

No longer on the AWCA board, Nosipho now serves on the boards of various companies, namely MTN SA, Old Mutual SA, Engen Ltd, Nampak Ltd and South 32 Coal Holdings (Pty) Ltd, to name a few.

Pumla has followed her mother’s lead and serves as one of AWCA’s board members. She first joined AWCA as a trainee around 2007 and became more involved once she qualified as a chartered accountant at the end of 2008.

‘The path to becoming a CA(SA) is laborious and there are so many variables along the way that can distract you from the journey,’ shoe points out.

‘As someone who had encountered some speed bumps along the way but was fortunate enough to have had the financial means and support structure to succeed through it, I thought that it was important to be part of an organisation that can support young women not only financially but also emotionally; to reach the dream of becoming a CA(SA). In addition, with the low number of black African women CAs(SA) in the country, I felt that I had a responsibility to assist in the upliftment of young women whether through mentorship or financial assistance.’

Besides being on the board of AWCA, Pumla is currently a fund manager at Visio Capital. She says that the sense of accomplishment she felt when she qualified as a CA(SA) was indescribable: ‘Most people think this is just an accounting qualification but in fact, this is a business qualification. Being a CA(SA) allows you to have options in your career as you are trained to think in a certain way. It gives one a sense of confidence and freedom in whatever career path they decide,’ she says.

Prior to joining Visio Capital in August 2016, Pumla was Head of Finance at Discovery Health and was also involved in various projects in the CFO’s office as Executive Associate to the CFO of Discovery Health.

What makes Nosipho most proud about her daughter Pumla is her achievements: ‘She may not always declare it upfront, but she always knows what she wants. Everytime when she she sets her sights on something, she will go through with it no matter what it takes. I admire her discipline, determination and strong independent mind. She has taught me that things are not always as bad as they may seem. She is a perpetual optimist and exudes a lot of confidence and I draw a lot of strength from her. She does all of this in a very calm and unassuming manner. She’s certainly my smile keeper,’ says Nosipho.

‘My mom is such is a strong, caring, fun and humorous person, so every moment is filled with a lot of joy. My favourite times are when we are travelling or on a family holiday together, shopping, having dinner or just simply watching TV,’ says Pumla.

‘As complicated as family relationships can be, my mom taught us that we must always try to stay close, take care of each other and forgive each other.’

Chantyl & Veryl

Many youngsters see her as a mother and even call her ‘Mommy’, but first and foremost SAICA’s Chantyl Mulder is a mother to her one and only beautiful daughter, Veryl Mulder.  By Lynn Grala

Chantyl Mulder, Executive Director: Nation Building at SAICA, tells us how proud she is of her daughter Veryl’s humility and love for people and wanting to save the world.  ‘She is always happy and positive. She lights up a room when she enters,’ says Chantyl.

Clearly, it must run in the genes. Because if you’ve ever had even the briefest encounter with Chantyl, you would agree this may very well be a description of herself.

Although Chantyl is the reason that over 3 000 youngsters have been given the opportunity through the Thuthuka Bursary Fund  that she so courageously launched in 2005 and are now pursuing a career as a CA(SA), Chantyl admits that she is not the real reason behind Veryl also pursuing a career as a CA(SA). ‘It was her father. He was adamant for her to be a CA as he was hysterical that she might choose the medical profession and leave the country.’ And she ends her statement with her famous exclamation marks (!!!!).

Veryl studied BCom Accounting at UJ and says she loved every moment of it, especially her honours year. With the responsibility of taking care of the Accounting Honours class, she stayed on a year in 2012 to do her academic articles and says it has been one of the best years of her life. She completed her training contract at Deloitte in 2014 and left as a manager in 2015 to her current role as part of the technical team at Standard Bank, which she also thoroughly enjoys.

A great inspiration for Chantyl has been the life of Mother Teresa. And for Veryl  – yes, it is  her very own mother. ‘She is a woman of valour through and through. She is bold in everything she does and her passion exudes in everything that she puts her name to. She is so generous and giving and she has given her life to the profession and to Thuthuka, which is commendable.

‘She has such faith and hope in this nation and country and its people. She will never give up on her dream and producing black CAs(SA) for this country. She is just a stunning human being,’ says Veryl.

‘I have learned so much from Veryl, but one lesson was to not to be so critical,’ Chantyl explains. ‘I once had something to say about a lady who was inappropriately dressed. She pointed out to me that she most probably looked at herself in the mirror and thought how lovely she looked. Who was I then to say anything?

‘We are similar in that we do not procrastinate and get things done. We both take responsibility and are accountable. And we are both loyal and hard working. Veryl is naïve and trusting and I am more cynical and judgemental.’

Veryl describes how the moment Chantyl got home from work she was always there for her 100% and was always there for all the important events in her life. In the evenings Chantyl would set up Veryl’s workspace at the kitchen table, where they would then work together.

‘I would do my work and she would do hers,’ says Chantyl. ‘And we had the most wonderful conversations around this table while we both worked.  It is one of the things I miss the most since she got married; our very long kitchen table conversations and having her around me.’

Chantyl and her husband, Wessel, took an interest in everything that Veryl did: right from playing the violin, collecting silk worms and looking for leaves to trying her hand at rowing. ‘I spent many wonderful times with Veryl as she was such a delightful child, says Chantyl: ‘She was never demanding and was happy with anything. Being an only child and having a mother who has never not worked, we spent a lot of quality time together. Wessel and I put her first and she went with us wherever we went and enjoyed any outing, overseas trip and holiday with us.’

‘Going to the nursery with my mom is an absolute treat for me. We are both crazy about gardening and plants and that is where we get to spend some quality time. Being in the kitchen with my mom when she bakes my favourite scones and rusks and sharing a cup of tea with her,’ says Veryl.

Veryl says she has learnt many lessons from Chantyl. ‘She is an inspirational woman but so down to earth. She wears her heart on her sleeve. In business she is tough but she is always a mom when she gets home. She has taught me to chase my dreams and to dream big; my faith needs to be the centre of my life and that I cannot do anything without the Lord; be bold, make mistakes and learn; life is not so serious – enjoy it every now and then. Fight for the hopeless, always. Have guts and stand up for what is right; grow up and set your thoughts on things higher than yourself. Strive for excellence in everything you do.’

Advice Chantyl gives to other Mom’s and daughters: ‘Communication, communication, honesty and more honesty. Be open and transparent. Daughters need to know their mothers do not lie to them, no matter how difficult it is. Trust and love. I still tell her every day that I adore her and that she is precious. A mother–daughter relationship is sacrosanct. Nurture it and grow it, as there is nothing more special and precious. Mother–daughter relationships are not a guarantee, it is something you work on. It is selfless love. And never compare your daughter with others. Praise them and allow them to be the best they can be and love them unconditional something we do not always understand.’

As they pose together for the photo shoot you can sense such the incredible and intense love they have for each other. Yes, it’s all about quality.

And then they both rush out to continue their busy day  …

Author: Lynn Grala