D.I.V.A of the Month – August 2011
Bettina Horvath, the queen of self-reivention from Cape Town South Africa shares about her life as a serial entrepreneur.
Lelemba: Who is Bettina?
Bettina: You know they have this question on online dating sites (well YOU don’t know that…hehe), so my answer there is: the crazy European living in Africa 🙂
Lelemba: LOL! And what’s the longer version?
Bettina: The longer version goes something like this: I was born in beautiful Vienna, Austria and grew up as a typical middle European young girl/woman. I had no background whatsoever in entrepreneurship, in fact my grandfather even was a unionist of all things, but when I was only 2 weeks into my first job after school – as a personal assistant/secretary – I knew, this can’t be it. I knew I am not going to be able to spend the next 40 odd years in a square room with white cupboards, carpet and weird people.
I also pretty soon after that figured out, that although in those days my salary was quite good it wasn’t enough for the kind of things I wanted to do, mainly travel. So very soon I was on the lookout for something else, a second job was my initial idea.
Lelemba: Was that the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey?
Bettina: Yes one day the company’s driver took all his guts together and asked me if I was interested in earning another income. Well did he hit the nail on the head. What followed was a very topsy turvy ride into network marketing (I started an Amway business). Despite having my entire family against my decision and having a dramatic change in who I called a friend, I decided to go for it and as it turned out later it was the single most important decision I’ve made in my entire life as it steered me towards more learning and growing and ultimately freedom.
Those first couple of years building a network organisation of 1,500 people in my downline (together with my then husband) taught me how to sell, how to build a business from scratch, how to build a team, how to motivate people and how to motivate myself, it taught me how to set goals and reach them and most importantly, it taught me to dream big and never give up. And to this day, those are in my opinion the single biggest reasons for anyone considering network marketing to give it a go, to learn all these things when you otherwise don’t have the option to do so.
Lelemba: I agree. Network marketing is like ‘business school in action’! Tell us a bit about when and why you moved to South Africa, and your entrepreneurial journey on the whole.
Bettina: Well, unfortunately my marriage didn’t survive and for various reason of financial and emotional nature I decided to go back into the corporate world. I started climbing the alluring corporate ladder fairly quickly, earned a great salary plus had my income from my networking business so I was having the good life. I’m a workaholic and a company will quickly take advantage of that – to their gain. I enjoyed the accolades (won a couple of internal awards like Idea of the Year for example) and all that comes with it, but was that really all?
In 1996 I heard that Amway will be opening the South African market finally in 97. That gave me a chance to fulfil my biggest dream at the time – to live in South Africa. I had previously, in 92, been on a 3 month holiday, touring the country with a tent and hopelessly fell in love with country and people. Back in 96 I was busy getting divorced, was in a relationship with a German speaking actor who had no aspirations to move to SA and of course had a fantastic job. So I considered, and considered, and pondered and pondered.
And then one fine day in January 1997 I made the final decision. It was Friday afternoon and by Monday I had resigned my job, which on that day was to just begin as I was busy being promoted. I forfeited the promotion, broke up with the boyfriend, hang around for a couple more months while I sold everything I owned and just kept keepsakes and books, 2 suitcases full of clothing and 2 cats and that is how I arrived in August 1997 in South Africa – with a tourist visa and determination but nothing much else.
Lelemba: That was bold!
Bettina: Yes at first the plan was to build an Amway business here, but I was too comfortable. I had Euros coming in and I had a jol in Cape Town – what a city! I had no pressing need to discomfort myself and expose myself to an onslaught of rejection – which you have to learn to get passed to make it in Network Marketing – and so I did other things that sounded more fun. I had the glorious idea to become an Estate Agent. That worked quite well in that it helped me to sort my residency out but very soon into my new career interest rates hit 25% and the market took a nose dive.
Then I helped a friend sell his products who had just started his own business and I ended up door knocking on Long Street. It doesn’t sound like it in retrospect, but honestly, that was fun!
In those years I was very much pre-occupied with trying to find out who I was and where I wanted to go. I had an enormous amount of ideas – still have, I’m never short of an idea. I started to realise that I have a particular interest in developing business ideas, so I started a file with all the ideas I had and all the businesses I was going to start.
Always eager to learn something new I even started a sound engineering course! I didn’t finish it but it’s amazing how much of that is still helping me today when it comes to technical questions. There certainly is never an end to the learning!
While I was busy putting together my latest business idea, it had to do with videography, I fell pregnant which put a hold on anything regarding business as it turned out that I was going to be a single mom from day one. For the first 3 years of my son’s life I didn’t do much career wise.
Lelemba: You’ve done so many exciting things, so where did SalesPartners and Marketing Ninja come in?
Bettina: At that point I decided it was time to hit the market again. I had yet another idea and while I was busy with making that happen I came across the SalesPartners franchise and fell in love hook and sinker. I bought the regional developer franchise for the Western & Northern Cape and subsequently started the most amazing business learning journey of my entire life.
I had the privilege of being able to being taught by one of the, if not the, best business teachers around, Blair Singer. I flew to America for intense training and have been part of the global SalesPartners team for 2.5 years. However the journey didn’t turn out the way I envisioned it and it taught me one important lesson: you’ve got to stay flexible and check all the checkmarks. Building this enormous big franchise from the ground on my own proved too much and consequently my boy suffered and in return the business suffered too.
I had to wake up one day and realize, it’s not the ideal vehicle for what I need and want at this point in my life. See being a mother throws your life upside down and I didn’t want to submit to that. My boy needed me – as he has no other family whatsoever and a father who doesn’t care – and I tried for too long not to admit this. So I decided to sell the franchise and instead find other ways and means to provide for him and me.
This is when I realized that one area of great interest is my love of all things online and I saw that I could combine my nature of being a teacher, with my interest and experience in business with my knowledge in things online. I am now on the one side offering training and consulting for small business owners, particularly with regards to sales & marketing online, but also am doing the same offline for them as well as consulting some bigger clients.
It’s an exciting new world and I’m fully embracing it! I love showing business owners all the amazing things that are possible online for them!
Lelemba: It sounds like fun indeed! You call yourself a serial entrepreneur, have you enjoyed every business you have developed?
Bettina: It’s an interesting question. At first, when you realize a perceived “failure”, that is when a business didn’t turn into the mega success you anticipated, you don’t feel so good and certainly can’t say you enjoyed it. However once you get a bit of distance from it and have debriefed the experience properly you understand nothing in life ever happens in vain and everything builds on top of the next thing to turn you into the person you have become. Personally I can say I even enjoy so-called failures because that is still more fun than going back to the cubicle! I will keep inventing new businesses as I go along, that will never stop and that is what I thoroughly enjoy.
Lelemba: You are also into theatre acting? Tell us about that
Bettina: Ah, that is my big time consuming hobby! I love acting as well as directing in our local amateur dramatic societies. I have neglected this side for 3 years in my life while I was busy building the next empire and in retrospect I realize that was a mistake. There’s a time for lots of work and focus, but there must also be a time for rest and there must be a time for spirit and doing things you simply do for the fun of it. And that’s where my theatrical “stuff” comes in.
It also turned out to be a great activity my boy and I can enjoy together. While I might not have been active for a few years I would always take him when I went to volunteer selling sweets and teas in interval. He at 4 years old instinctively learned what selling means. This year I’m part of the committee and Raphael and I together are running the whole Front of House of the Playhouse in Somerset West. In so doing he learns a lot of what is involved in running a little shop. From buying stock to pricing it and then selling it, all the way to getting rid of the rubbish. It’s proven to be an excellent vehicle for me to teach my son about business.
Watch out though – next year I’m going to direct another play after a 4 year pause! I am very much looking forward to that!
Lelemba: We’ll keep watching the space. How do you manage to ‘fit everything in’ especially being a single mum?
Bettina: The truth is, I don’t fit everything in. It’s a constant juggling act and sometimes it is very difficult, I will openly admit that. At the same time what it does teach you very well is to become super efficient – that is sometimes driving other people around me nuts, but I have learned that the better I plan the minutes I have in a day, the better the day turns out. I am relentless in checking my emotions and my mood. The minute there’s a downward movement I’m on guard, as it shows me that somewhere I’m off. I have had some great emotional turmoils over the years and have worked myself out of it without the help of medication. I am proud of that, the secret to emotional health is to watch out for them and use them as a kind of barometer. It’s my “latest” field of interest (actually already for 25 years) which I want to focus more on in my teaching.
Lelemba: Are you in a relationship right now? ***giggles*** Would remarrying be something you would consider at all or do you prefer a ‘solo life?’
Bettina: Yes you see, that’s one of the things I wonder how I’d fit it in! *chuckle* I am certainly open to a new relationship – I’m not currently in one. The solo life has advantages but ultimately that’s not how it’s meant to be, I don’t think so. And I don’t want it either. I am looking forward to meeting that gentleman who will knock me off my socks and build the castles of the future with me!
Lelemba: I am sure you will ‘find each other’ in time. What have some of the highlights of your life and/or businesses been?
Bettina: Certainly the move to South Africa and the addition of my son into my life. Plus a more recent realization that for me success now is measured in terms of how much joy there is in my life. Because with joy comes everything else. You can’t be worried about paying the bills while being joyous at the same time. It’s either or. Yes you can be both subsequently in a day but usually it turns from joy into worry instead of the other way round. So when we work on doing everything with joy, even that which we have a hard time enjoying, life will turn miraculous indeed.
Lelemba: And what are some of the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
Bettina: Ha! Isn’t that interesting. The same answer as before! The truth is, in your biggest challenges lie your biggest triumphs. The secret to overcoming them is to embrace them, to see them as your friend instead of your enemy.
Lelemba: Who/what else inspires you?
Bettina: Every human being on this planet inspires me. There is always something to love in another and finding that every time inspires me to do even more and learn more and become a better person. There are countless role models and well known inspiring people who I all admire but to me in the end it is the human spirit right there when I see it in the eyes of the other person. The almost unbelievably immense and infinite potential of the human spirit, that is awe inspiring!
Lelemba: Where to from here? Can you share what some of your dreams or goals are?
Bettina: My biggest dream at this stage is to find a way to share what I’ve learned on a more personal level with others. It’s been such an incredible journey and I feel I have a lot to give. My dream is to move more into teaching on a personal development level than a strictly technical or business level. In the end a business only grows when the people in it grow and that is where my greatest passion lies. Unlocking that human potential and spirit in everyone. And then of course to do a damn good job of turning this young boy into a great young lad – that’s always on top!
Lelemba: Thank you very much for sharing your story with us. I am sure it will encourage a lot of people out there.
Bettina: Thank you for giving me the opportunity! You inspire me and I’m really so flattered. Thank you, thank you 🙂