Itu Barnard flaunts many hats. She is a director and founder of Browned Skyn (Pty), a company that imports raw materials from Ghana for use in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. However, since the lockdown came into effect, this has changed to procuring PPE for humanitarian purposes in collaboration with other black-owned businesses. But she hopes to return to her beauty business soon.
Itu Barnard can still remember seeing pictures of London of what she later learned to be the London Eye and telling her parents: ‘I’m going to work there when I grow up!’ She is grateful that her parents never crushed her dream but fuelled it instead. It was a dream come true when she qualified as a CA(SA) and was headhunted by KPMG UK.
‘My journey to CA taught me that when I put my mind to it, I can achieve anything through God’s grace. The main value-add of such a designation is having achieved all my goals at 30 years of age. The designation added global networks which have aided in catapulting my career to heights I never imagined. I think it is indeed, at least in my experience, a global career being a CA,’ says Itu.
The second part of Browned Skyn, and where her SDG work comes into action, is through enterprise development where they take entrepreneurs from the ideation stage to realising a profitable business. She admits that there are various terms and conditions that an entrepreneur needs to accept before coming under Browned Skyn mentorship and gaining access to their networks.
Itu says SDG 4, the education goal, truly resonates with her. It aims to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’. She is actively pursuing this goal through Browned Skyn’s learnerships that are offer mentorship within the finance space and entrepreneurship.
‘Without form basic education, we are setting South Africa up to fail. I also have a gripe regarding passing rate and level of education in our country, a challenge Browned Skyn and associated companies will take up in 2020/21,’ says Itu.
‘A person is more likely to retain knowledge of something they are learning if it’s more practical than theory. We offer short/temp jobs for students studying towards CA/finance degrees, so they gain practical experience. We do not offer articles at all: most students that are interested are studying with Unisa, so there is flexibility.’
She encourages others to be the change they want to see. ‘The truth is this world was ruined by humans, not animals. If any species is responsible for fixing it, that would be humans. First learn what the SDGs are and take up one that speaks to you or will not be burdensome, for example don’t litter, or use water consciously. At times some of these goals require a mindset shift of people and a change in behaviour in how we conduct our daily lives. Be the change you want to see and stop waiting for governments to change your world, because they won’t.’
When asked if she has experienced any challenges as a woman, Itu laughs and responds that this is a loaded question. ‘Yes, the first challenge is that being a woman in corporate is tough. Whether our counterparts realise that there are glass ceilings is something to debate for years to come. On paper, there is gender equality, but on the ground where the action happens, this does not easily translate into reality. The second challenge is race − I am black and we all know the double whammy of that race in South Africa. A case in point is the vast pay gap between genders and races despite qualifications and experience being equal.’
How is Itu navigating the pandemic? ‘In time, everything passes. How you evolve during the pain determines whether in the end you will be a success or failure. Spend more time together and less on social media. I don’t think humans were created to live in isolation, particularly in South Africa. And “Live Love” is one of the sayings I have learned from a dear family friend. Every time I experience challenges and scares because of COVID-19, I remember that love is a better healer than any other medicine.’