Monalisa Sibongile Zambila of Riverbed named Santam Woman of the Future 2022
In 2007, Monalisa found herself at a crossroads in her career in the financial services sector: ‘I had a choice: I could take on a senior role, or I could start my own business… again.’ She had always wanted to run her own business, and had already owned three failed companies. ‘I took the risk, and I haven’t looked back since!’
Today, Monalisa’s The Riverbed Agency is the largest woman-owned integrated marketing communications agency in the country. And it’s the first woman-owned agency to receive a Loeries Official Ranking.
There were many lessons learnt, which provided a much stronger foundation for Riverbed,’ she says. In those early days, it was just Monalisa formulating Riverbed’s strategy and helping her clients develop the right PR strategy and events for their brand. Fifteen years later, Riverbed employs more than 30 people and has a management team led by women.
A single mother of two children, Monalisa knows all too well the sacrifices women make to follow their dreams – and her own journey has also come with its particular challenges and lessons. ‘I believe that as women we have to renegotiate our roles in life – as mothers, wives, partners, sisters and daughters – to ensure that we have the support we need to succeed.’
A leadership role is part and parcel of being an entrepreneur, she says, and people are interested in what you have to say. ‘We have developed a culture of care at Riverbed: understanding that in this world, with populist politicians, corruption and poverty, the power of caring is important in the context of bringing great ideas to life.
Monalisa admits that being acknowledged is always rewarding, and even more so when it is by an organisation that has impacted our country in many ways. ‘Winning the title of Woman of the Future not only means a lot to me, but it is also an acknowledgement to my team at Riverbed, and something that they can be proud of too.’
Monalisa has spearheaded meaningful social impact work in terms of gender-based violence, entrepreneurship and responsible drinking initiatives with Riverbed’s clients. ‘I’m passionate about giving back,’ she says. ‘I have reached a stage in my life where I understand that to whom much is given, of them much is expected.
For more information, visit www.theriverbed.co.za