Twenty-one years ago, Zayanih Dennis took an incredible leap of faith. With a small amount of savings, she created Potentia, a Human Resources consultancy driven to amplify the potential of Namibian businesses and talent.
At the time, 33-year-old Zayanih was a struggling mom of two daughters, with only a dream and determination for creating the Potentia brand. Her daughter Nikita had always been a part of the Potentia journey. And although her mom always recognised her capacity to meaningfully contribute to the business, she wanted Nikita to chart her own path.
Nikita initially pursued a career as an Investment Analyst, specialising in investment marketing in South Africa. As her skills developed, Nikita found herself gravitating towards Potentia. “I wanted to help grow the company that had seen me grow,” said Nikita.
Three years ago, Nikita joined the Potentia team as marketing manager. With mom as managing director, they are a force to be reckoned with, balancing an older generation’s wisdom with a younger one’s innovative drive. Together, they have carved a niche in the industry as female leaders in Namibian business.
Zayanih admits that starting the business was not easy. At the time, as a woman of colour, she experienced significant barriers to entry. With elements of racism and ageism prevalent, Zayanih admits that she did not fit the business leader stereotype of 21 years ago. “There was no drive to bring about equity in the alignment of available talent with the needs of businesses,” she says, having met numerous doubters who could not share her vision for Potentia as a potentially lucrative platform connecting organisations, talent and communities for mutually rewarding success.
Nikita, now 30, and her mom still work hard to prove themselves, to build trust with stakeholders and drive Potentia’s vision. “A myriad of challenges face women who are building their careers, and I am no exception,” she lamented. “However, my mom and I remain determined to keep rising.”
The Covid-19 pandemic had a significant impact on everyone’s lives. “We had to step back, regroup and remind ourselves of what is most important,” said Zayanih. They advise businesses to use this time to reinvent themselves by learning and creating environments conducive to employee development. “Understand the positive impact of flexible hours on employee wellbeing. Invest in digital projects that free up employee time. And allow time for creative and impactful projects”, Zayanih said.
This mother-daughter duo’s original thinking positions them as trend-setters in the industry. Zayanih noted the need in a family business to transition smoothly between family and work roles. They agree that they would not trade each other for anything—neither as family nor as colleagues.
Potentia Namibia Recruitment has long been a proud Nedbank Namibia client. Martha Murorua, Managing Director of Nedbank Namibia, referenced such businesses in her address on the importance of women in leadership roles earlier this week. Murorua recognises the importance of supporting female-led businesses.
“It’s time to make equality and equity a business priority,” she said, extending the International Women’s Day (IWD) #ChooseToChallenge social media campaign to the Namibian populace as a whole.
Zayanih and Nikita feel that until women are fully acknowledged in business, progress remains stifled. “We are particularly encouraged by both our clients and our candidates, who have taken the time to appoint, mentor and invest in women, and also by seeing our male counterparts becoming allies. Our hope for all women on IWD is to recognise how unique they are and that the world is a greater place because of them.”
Their favourite quote from Maya Angelou is “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive: and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour and some style.”
These two have learnt important life lessons from each another. Zayanih says, “Nikita has helped me recognise the value of taking time off and fully embracing it when I do.” Nikita highlights, “My mother has taught me that work is a labour of love—for your organisation, your team, your clients, your family and your greater community.”