Limpopo-born Hlamalani Baloyi-Netili is a businesswoman woman to watch and certainly a name to remember. Hers is the story of “growth and grit”. Hlamalani is the proud founder of Optometry giant Spectacle Hut South Africa. With over 20 stores nationwide, her company has taken the industry by storm and continues to grow from strength to strength every year.
BIG FAMILY, BIG LOVE
Hlami, as she is affectionately called, was born and bred in the sleeping Shitlhelani Village in Malamulele. “I’m the 4th child out of 7 and we were raised by a single parent, my mother,” she shares. Like most people from big or close-knit families, she had the desirable privilege of having more than one home. She fondly remembers, “even though my mother had her own household, I grew up in a big and loving family with my grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. Every day after school I had to make the difficult choice of [of either going] to my grandmother’s or my mother’s house, I preferred my grandmother’s house for the usual reasons – she was super sweet and spoilt me rotten!”
EXPLORING OPTOMETRY + DESIGNING EXPERIENCES
Very early on in her career, Hlamalani decided that she wasn’t going to be comfortable and afraid of living a life out of the box. She tells us, “I don’t like routine at all, I didn’t like staying in one place or doing the same thing every day – there’s more to explore in my industry and in this life in general.”
It was that same keen desire for exploration that drove the visionary to optometry excellence when building Spectacle Hut. “I love creating beautiful workspaces with modern instruments to create a lasting experience for our patients. I take time selecting the best frames for my patients and my practices are known for selling beautiful frames and taking our time with our patients. That is rewarding and I just want to recreate that experience everywhere,” she says.
MY HERO, MOM
One of the most important lessons Hlamalani have learnt have come from her mother, who she calls her role model. “My mother is my hero! She is a very strong and caring woman and a hard worker. She excels in everything that she does. My mother was a cleaner for many years at Malamulele hospital where she even won the “Best Cleaner Award” multiple times if not all. She worked as a domestic worker and also worked in construction before she was permanently employed at Malamulele Hospital. She taught me how to make the best of the little that you have and still manage to save part of your income. I’m grateful that she somehow made sure our needs were always fulfilled even though she didn’t earn much. We never went to bed hungry or to school without shoes.”
In a semi-viral post she shared on LinkedIn, Hlamalani recounts the difficult but amazing evolution of Spectacle Hut and how she used her mother’s stockvel money as startup capital for her move to private practice. “At first she didn’t understand why I chose to work in a private practice, she wanted me to just work at the hospital where salary and some benefits were guaranteed. But she believed in me and trusted me with all her savings to open my own practice,” she recalls.
Although the money was a great help for Hlamalani, her business was not shielded from the funding (or lack thereof) woes that face and ultimately close the doors of thousands of startup businesses every year. “I made a lot of personal financial sacrifices to keep improving and growing my business, I kept reinvesting money back into the business. I’m not that patient with the funders so I just I keep moving forward even if when [they] don’t believe in my vision.” She adds that her desire to succeed, conquer and win against all odds keeps her going. “I always tell myself that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
A CHAMPION FOR WOMEN + YOUTH
Hlamalani is a champion of women and youth employment. She leads over 60 employees, and most of them are women and youth. “I encourage these young ones to be the best in everything they do, to constantly improve themselves, their homes and to dream big. Perhaps most importantly, to never stop learning! I love it when they progress in their careers or when they build houses and buy cars, take their siblings to school and when they further their studies.”
FOR HARDWORKING GIRLS…
- “Believe in your dreams even if no one around you believes in you, take that first step!
- Rest when you are tired, but don’t give up.
- Don’t neglect your loved ones because of work.”