Giving driven entrepreneurs the space to focus on growing their business is one of the reasons XtraSpace launched The Workspace.

And it’s why Rianette Leibowitz chose to base her business and her organisation at The Workspace in Bram Fischer Drive, Sandton – because, as she says, having facilities, printers, meeting rooms and other business elements readily available saves her the one thing no one can get more of: time.

Rianette Leibowitz is the founder of SaveTNet Cyber Safety, an organisation dedicated to making the internet safer for children and teenagers, and providing them with a ‘safety net’ if their digital lives spin out of control. As the CEO of Owitz Communications, Rianette attended the AGM of one of her clients where she heard tragic stories of teenage suicides brought on by cyberbullying.

“It was hard to think that social media could have such a life-threatening impact on the youth. I couldn’t even begin to understand how devastated their parents must have felt and the loss they need to endure,” she says. “So I set out on a new journey to investigate the issue of cyberbullying, who the role players are and why it is such a big problem.”

It was a shocking journey that jolted Rianette into deciding to create a cyber safety net for victims of cyber crimes and related issues, where they could go for help.

“As parents, we have not been equipped to deal with cyberbullying and we don’t necessarily know how to teach our children how to become responsible digital citizens,” Rianette says.

Rianette says she was blessed to grow up in a home where she was taught to at least try before saying “I can’t”. She says she was taught to think for herself, something she regards as “such an essential life skill, because the decisions we take have a ripple effect, whether we like it or not”.

Her growth path was “steep and challenging”, Rianette says, especially while she was setting up SaveTNet, because she also had to earn a living via her public relations business.

She believes entrepreneurs need support. “Coming up with an idea and starting out is not that hard, but running a business is lonely and it cannot be done alone. Entrepreneurs need an environment that is set up for success. It is quite hard to be successful if you consider what banks expect before they support startups financially,” she says. And then there are BEE requirements, cash-flow problems due to slow payments, as well as the need for funding to secure help with marketing, social media and financial strategy.

“Yes, there are support services available; however, I think that a better set of rules for bigger companies who work with startups could help us all to progress faster and to not fail within the first five years.”

Rianette says her journey has taught her to “become more comfortable with being uncomfortable”. “I have accepted change as my business partner. If we want to grow and progress, we will have to change and so will our circumstances.”

Rianette says although The Workspace is a separate business, she believes it is a part of SaveTNet. “We are all delivering a better service to the SaveTNet clients by having additional points of contact when they call the reception. We have inspiring environments to meet in, with friendly team members who ensure no interruptions by keeping the refreshments coming. They are also sharing the SaveTNet message with other businesses in the building.

“Working from The Workspace has saved the business money and time, because instead of driving around and meeting people at coffee shops, I can now invite our partners to join me at our beautiful offices.”

Rianette’s advice and learnings

What are the three most important lessons you learnt along your entrepreneurial journey?

  1. A failed business idea or campaign doesn’t make you a failure. It just means that what you set out to achieve didn’t work and you can now apply the lessons learnt to your next venture.
  2. Being an entrepreneur is a lonely journey. Share your WHY (the reasons for your decision to start the business) with people who really care so that they can remind you why you should persist when you lose hope.
  3. Collaboration is key. Work with people who can complete the picture with their strengths.

In hindsight, what would you do differently?

I would focus on acquiring more financial skills early in my career. I would have started a better database management system 16 years ago to help me manage my amazing relationships from a technology point of view. Have more fun! 

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs starting out now?

Have a teachable spirit and be willing to drop the ego to listen to advice. Get a business and life coach to help create a vision and to determine your goals. Follow this up with someone or a company who will back you financially on your journey.

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Rianette's Story