Meet the Boss: Betsy Ings, Founder and MD of Tradelane Training & Project Management and Siyaloba Training Academy

NOVEMBER 15, 2016

Betsy Ings is the founder and MD of Tradelane Training & Project Management and Siyaloba Training Academy. Tradelane’s vision is to make a sustainable impact on the economy by promoting growth of small enterprises, youth and women entrepreneurs.

She finds solutions through their 3-enabler approach - knowledge and skills through training, mentoring/coaching through individual, peer/group sessions and financial linkages through partnerships.

Today, Betsy is an internationally accredited programme provider/facilitator to various United Nations organisations.  

Business Link magazine (BL) recently chatted to her about life and business. This is what we found out.

BL: Tell us about your greatest achievement to date - e.g. business accomplishment, awards, etc?

BI: I established the first community training academy for commercial fishers in South Africa. Altogether, 17 years later, we have enabled the empowerment of over 23 000 fishers and the greater community.

I was awarded the Business Women’s Association of South Africa’s (BWASA) National Business Achievers Award as the Social Entrepreneur for 2008/2009.

I was awarded the Royal Rotary Club of Port Elizabeth’s Meritorious Service Award in April 2010.

I was awarded the Business Partners Certificate of Recognition Honouring Exceptional Achievement in June 2011.

I am and have been a member of the national BWASA’s board for many years. I had the privilege to represent South Africa at the ABWN in Ghana 2010 and met Mrs Hilary Clinton at a State Gala Dinner.

BL: Many people have probably dealt with you but do not know you as a person. Who are you?

BI: Betsy, the wife of Allan; mom of Judy and Cindy; Beets to my grandson, William, and “in-law” to many loved ones.  I was born in Cape Town on a windy Friday morning to a single mom, Ella van der Linde.

I was raised by the van der Linde-family-at-large in Kimberley and studied whenever the opportunity presented itself.

BI: How did you end up at Tradelane?

BI: The BWASA taught me so much and my term as chairperson and member of the board allowed me to engage with so many women across Africa.

My passion for upliftment and advocacy prompted me to turn a failed business venture into an opportunity. 

Engaging with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and their development tools, highlighted a gap in the market to address the needs I experienced whilst building Siyaloba and helping the fishing communities.  

BL: What have been some of the highlights in your career to date?  

BI: The people I have worked with to date, has been the greatest blessing and inspiration to me. These include, among others, nine professional mentees from New Guinea, Kenya, Nigeria, Chad, Liberia, Zambia, Ghana and Malawi.

I am a mentor and business coach to them via the Washington Mandela Fellowship for Young African Leaders.

It is a privilege to speak on behalf of women in business and to challenge the status quo. Visiting Italy, Ghana and Egypt and presenting workshops in these countries on women entrepreneur and social enterprise development has been empowering. 

I have also attained international accreditation with the:

  • International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) Business Edge: They offer 42 training modules covering Training system designed to strengthen the management skills of owners and staff of SME’s and multi-national companies.
  • International Labour Organisation (ILO) as a Social Enterprise Master Trainer and Women Leadership & Entrepreneurship Development Expert. This afforded me the opportunity to learn from international subject leaders, whilst building an international network that supports the matters close my heart. 
  • Have completed my Mentor and Business Coach International accreditation and now being part of an international base of mentors and coaches I can draw from for our customers.
  • Designing the Abafazi ILO IFC BWASA Incubation Programme for Coca- Cola Fortune where 259 active women entrepreneurs with an annual turnover of nearly R175 million were impacted across 22 sectors. Altogether 36 women entrepreneurs increased their offering over multiple sectors.
  • Partnering on the Coca-Cola Fortune 5by20 initiative empowering more than 13 181 women across the Coca-Cola Fortune value chain in four years across five regions.

BL: What would you say was the best or worst business advice that you have ever received? 

BI: My dearest husband stands out for both -  he keeps it real at all times. I know I am biased after 33 years of marriage, but we have been partners in our family business for 26 of the 33 years and I daily experience Allan as an amazing business man and leader. 

His standard advice, after a bad day “don’t worry about them, come work with me, you will have more free time, what are we eating tonight?” all in one sentence with no pause.  

BL: Tell us more about Tradelane.

 BI: Tradelane is all about partnerships. We provide enterprise and socio-economic development solutions for public and private ventures through training, mentoring and coaching.

We have focused and enabling strategies, which are aligned with international accreditation and best practice. It focuses on knowledge and skills through training and workshops.

We also provide mentoring and coaching through individual, peer and group sessions. It includes financial empowerment and business linkages through partnerships and community mobilisation.

Our passion is to make a sustainable, quantifiable impact on the economy by promoting viable growth of small enterprises focusing on women and youth entrepreneurs.

BL: How would you describe your leadership style?

BI: I would describe my style as inclusive, I love my teams, I thrive on engagement and allowing everyone to give their input. My strengths are that I engage on strong values, positive to a vault with empathy and purpose.

BL: What is it that separates your company from the other players in your industry in our region?

BI: We are tenaciously solutions driven.

BL: What are some of the challenges that you think women executives are facing locally?

BI: As women we set our own bar far too low.  We do not want to admit it, but gender bias is real and it is present in too many boardrooms to this day.

The lack of economic growth and opportunities are making it difficult for women to embrace existing and new prospects. Having said that, it is when we are experiencing the greatest challenges that the best opportunities present themselves.

BL: What can government and the other stakeholders do to help women in business overcome these?

BI: They should acknowledge that we still have work to do, driving social value, addressing our perceptions and collectively implement opportunities to empower women and youth. We have enough legislation - it is the application that is lacking. 

We must take personal responsibility to create the opportunities needed.

BL: When you are out of the office, where are we most likely to find you?

BI: At home helping Allan - that is if he is not out hunting or fishing. 

BL: As a working woman, how do you juggle the office and your family/home?

BI: I am now a pro at juggling, my kids live in Gauteng and Allan is more domesticated than I am. So, we never have any dirty dishes and Noxy, my housekeeper, comes in three times a week.  Presently, I just have to juggle Betsy.

Looking back, I am not sure how I did it when the kids were at home - between the school, swimming, horses, dogs and Allan at sea for 21 days at a time.  Planning, collaboration, tears, more planning and collaboration - I think it is a team effort.

BL: What advice would you give to other women in business out there?

BI: Consistency is key. We are all running our own race. Your faith, hard work and good sense of humour will get you through the good and bad days.  

BL: What do you think or hope will be your legacy, one day when you leave your business.  

BI: I spoke up when the vulnerable needed a voice. I have empowered youth and women in the communities and businesses we worked in. They are now able to make informed decisions for themselves and for their loved ones.

Having made a difference in someone’s life, who does not even know my name.  I hope that my humble story will empower the next young woman to rise and to be the difference in spite of being the victim.

“Happy partners” hopefully the profit margins were reasonable.

Betsy can be contacted on: email [email protected] , or visit www.tradelane.co.za.