Inspiring others through business

A trendsetting business woman shares some of the secrets of her success.

09 June 2019 | People

Irene Simeon-Kurtz; Business woman; . . . keep going, growing and most importantly, pray and have faith.

Usakos • Adolf Kaure

Telecom Namibia board of directors acting chairperson and Engen 1 Stop Usakos owner Irene Simeon-Kurtz is a source of inspiration for many.

Creating job opportunities in Usakos, being nominated for the 2017 Economist Business Woman of the Year, being inducted in the Namibia Business Hall of Fame as a laureate, as well as partnering with Orano Namibia since 2015 to host an entertainment and sport festival, are a few of the many achievements of this successful business woman.

“Being able to pay salaries and impacting the lives and livelihoods of my employees and their dependents positively, has been and still is my greatest achievement,” she says.

Commenting on the current economic situation impacting businesses all over the globe, Simeon-Kurtz says that being a mother, she knows that taking drastic measures like closing shop or retrenching people would mean that she has directly and indirectly contributed to fuelling social ills and challenges. “I don’t know how I would be able to live and sleep at night, knowing that I contributed to the high levels of substance abuse, school dropouts, increased HIV prevalence rates, new infections and prostitution.”

She listed being nominated as a finalist for the Business Woman of the Year in 2017 as a personal highlight. She won the Business Owner of the Year category and dedicated the award to her staff and loyal clients.

Motivation

Simeon-Kurtz, who describes herself as noble, ethical, hardworking and God-fearing, explained what motivates her to keep doing what she does. “A happy client brings me satisfaction and motivates me to keep going. I know that not only my employees but also their dependents, are relying on my business for survival. I believe that a happy employee is a blessing to any business and therefore I develop relationships that are based on trust, openness, respect and transparency with my workers. Most of my employees have been with me for a while. We bonded and are a family. They motivate me when the going gets tough via calls, face-to-face talks and SMSs.”

Simeon-Kurtz was born in Usakos, where she also attended school. She completed her schooling at Kuisebmond Secondary School in Walvis Bay.

What inspired her to become a business woman?

“I am driven by the desire to make a meaningful contribution towards society through excellent service delivery. Women in business such as the women selling sweets, fat cakes and other items along the roads, parking lots and from their homes inspire me. I admire their drive, courage and determination.”

Back in the day, her parents owned a small general dealership in Hakhaseb, Usakos. “My older brothers and sisters would always help at the business after school and over weekends. I had the responsibility of selling ice blocks and fat cakes from home. This provided a lot of lessons about business at a very young age and helped me to develop networking skills. It also taught me to work with different clients and customers.”

Work ethic

Growing up in Usakos Simeon-Kurtz says the work ethics and humility of donkeys fascinated her.

“These animals are a real asset and a reliable tool that can weather storms and seasons. I’ve come to regard them as a genuine utility. It is an amazing creature, highly respectful and a principled hard worker.”

Having faced many challenges in her life as a business woman, Simeon-Kurtz says a good support system and prayer enable her to deal with challenges she comes across.

“God surrounded me with people that had my best interests at heart and people of strong character. I don’t fight my battles alone. Prayers and faith carry me through. I've faced many tough times but here I am, still going strong.”

She adds that many people seem to be ignorant of the fact that race and gender do not determine and define how successful one will be in business. “There are those who want to see me fail because I am black and a woman. Business is about taking calculated risks in order to achieve a positive outcome.”

She encouraged young people looking to become entrepreneurs to respect themselves, others and their ambitions, to take their reputation seriously, be resilient and never give up, no matter the odds.

“To succeed in business, you must make a start with the resources and tools that you have at your disposal. There will be obstacles, but keep going, growing and most importantly, pray and have faith.”

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