Facing the Challenge

“You know how clicky girls can be? Especially if you are one of only two girls, who didn’t go to the primary school of that specific high school.” Nicole recalls how difficult it was to adjust to life at Rhenish High School. “Coming from a different socio-economic background, I didn’t know what to talk about, and I was worried that I wouldn’t sound as interesting or sophisticated.”

She remembers how awful the idea of an all girls’ school sounded to her. “I was a tomboy with lots of guy friends and I’ve never even been to Stellenbosch. Little did I know what a wonderful few years it would turn out to be in terms of life experience and of course, learning.”

While still at St Augustine’s Primary School in Belhar, Nicole had a good relationship with deputy headmaster Mr February, and it was he who encouraged her to apply to the prestigious Rhenish Girls’ High School. It was a rigorous process, but her excellent academic record and outgoing personality, together with his glowing reference letter helped to get her accepted.

We Shall Overcome

“Break time was especially difficult and I felt out of place and awkward, but in the English literature class, that’s where I found my voice. I was always discussing, questioning and trying to picture the background of the specific piece of literature. The teachers encouraged that and found my views interesting. The class became my safe space and also a place where I made friends who shared my passion and interests.” Nicole muses, “I love learning about life, and poems seem to do it in such an ethereal way”.

Her other favourite subject was Economic & Management Sciences. She had learnt about entrepreneurship for the first time in Grade 7 and knew then already that she would like to be an entrepreneur and that she will work towards that.

By the time Nicole was in Matric, she still wasn’t sure what she wanted to study. “I was feeling so lost because it seemed as if all the other girls knew exactly what they were going to be. I still had my entrepreneurship dream at the back of my mind, so I applied to the Raymond Ackerman Academy of Entrepreneurial Development. I had no plan B and was extremely determined to get accepted to the program.” The Academy offers a funded, six-month program in entrepreneurial development to motivated young people who have been unable to access tertiary education due to the lack of financial resources or other circumstances.

It was during this course that she was selected to represent South Africa at the Young Global Pioneers ‘learning journey’ in China last year. “This was an excellent learning curve for me and a real mind broadening experience to connect with young people from different cultures and backgrounds.”

“It is important as a young entrepreneur to be aware not only of what is happening in your own community but beyond your borders as well,” she says. “We always think we have it worse. South Africa is a developing country, and we do face a lot of adversity, but once you open yourself up to the rest of the world, you get a real sense of responsibility. Once that is instilled in you, it is a real motivation; it opens people to being agents of change and I support that.”

At the End of the Day

After working at Rise, the Barclays Accelerator in Cape Town, for the past year, Nicole has come to realise the value of internships. She would strongly recommend this to anyone who is unsure about what they want to do with their life.

She is wise beyond her years and eager to share what she has learnt so far, although, she is the first one to admit that she is a work in progress and not nearly where she wants to be. To young people, Nicole would say: “You are not what you are given, but rather what you create. Don’t let where you come from or what you have or don’t have, be the defining factor in your life, but rather what you make of your life.”


  • Mountain believes that people who want to start their own business should not hang back. It’s a mistake, she thinks, to say capital is the first step. “What most young entrepreneurs lack is not money but motivation,” she says. “What you need to do is just start. If you get organised, draw up your business plan, and you are passionate about your idea, it is far easier to attract investors. Just start!”
  • Motivation, she adds, is also a problem when it comes to unemployment. “I notice with many young people that they say there are no jobs. But often they are not even qualified for the job they want. If you get an opportunity, grab it with both hands. No job is a waste of time as long as you are learning. Watch the senior person – learn from them. Save the money you make to start your own business. If there is a job available, take it.”
  • And lastly, humility if you are not humble, you cannot connect with people, and people are important to a business!



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