A training specialist in hospitality, tourism, food and wine, Khanyisa (Kay) Mhlakaza is also a social entrepreneur. She does inspirational talks and is an ardent warrior in fighting poverty through the advancement of women’s and young people’s rights.
Kay’s values are founded on the desire to serve and transforming the mind to realise limitless possibilities. “I have an insatiable, innate desire to excel, to leave a legacy through intergenerational wealth creation and to cultivate leadership skills in young women. We have so much to do, and so little time,” she states.
“I am inspired by my own mother. She was granted a portion of six sheep as an inheritance from her late father in the early 1990s. Today she is a farmer with over 200 livestock in her little village. Her wisdom and natural business knowledge and mentality amaze me. Her family-oriented nature, inner strength, working behind the scenes to bring changes in the lives of her family and those in the village she resides in.
“It is true. Africa’s renaissance can only be realised if we as women change our own perceptions about doing business. The secret lies in not leaving any woman behind. Empowering women powers homes, communities and nations!”
Kay has travelled the world and has worked in five-star hospitality and tourism establishments in the US, and has done her time on cruise ships. Locally, she served 12 years within one of the country’s largest hospitality chains, the Protea Hotels and City Lodge Hotel Group.
Kay has been involved in community projects, and has managed events and catering for a large church in Pretoria before she relocated back to her home town of Kayamandi, Stellenbosch, in 2018.
She started collaborating with the Love to Give non-profit organisation in 2019, offering her knowledge and experience in wine presentation and service, as well as her desire to uplift and empower young people in the industry to be professionals. Now the organisation’s coordinator for the Kayamandi township outside of Stellenbosch, Kay has since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic been the glue that holds many things together. She has been a great support in our fundraising campaign for the informal entrepreneurs in the programme, and has also been assisting with food distribution to community members. Despite her own loss of income, she has managed to reach out to neighbours, spread health information and keep an eye out for people that are in urgent need.
“In my community, the biggest focus for most people is to feed their families. I have witnessed a great sense of Ubuntu, with neighbours and friends looking out for each other. I am a single mother and breadwinner, and like everyone else in tourism and hospitality, the virus has made it very difficult to put food on the table. I am deeply concerned about my community. I am a mother too, and my heart goes out to every mom out there who cannot feed her children right now.
“I would like to take this opportunity to encourage mothers to not lose hope, but to contact their nearest church, non-profit or feeding programme if they are in need of food.
“The biggest contribution I have to make at this point, is to share information with people, both about how to stay safe and where to find help. Earlier this week a young woman in my street reached out to me. She has also lost her income due to the pandemic. She has been staying afloat by sewing and selling masks, but she ran out of fabric. I posted her story on social media and the next day two big bags of fabric were donated, directly enabling her to create an income for herself and her family.
“Our community is alive with entrepreneurialism and care. My message to everyone out there is ‘sufela embelekweni’ - don't suffer in silence. Ubuntu has risen in and around us. We are here for you, let us know what you need and we will try our utmost to provide the necessary support.”