Sebolelo GebhardtBack to Blog

I was born in 1988 in South Africa, six years before apartheid ended. Back then, there were only a few ways for Black people to escape poverty. If you were lucky enough to have the opportunity, you could study medicine or law. You could also become an entrepreneur, but this was very difficult, because Black people were not able to access funding through the formal route.

Although we hoped it would, my family never knew if apartheid would end, so we had to find a way to live within it. That was the mindset my father had. My father was driven, ambitious and determined to create a better life for his children despite the apartheid system. While still under apartheid, he started building various types of businesses, and through the success of those ventures, he was able to provide my siblings and I with access to a really good education. Watching all that my dad did, and the way my mother was right by his side, supporting him, has really contributed to my current mindset. I do not put any limitations on myself, which has meant at times in my life, I have taken decisions that maybe others would be wary of taking.

When apartheid ended in 1994, the schools became integrated. And even though I was not the only Black student in my school, it was still majority white. Navigating this was not easy, particularly because of the negative things other kids would say about my skin or hair. These experiences at a young age taught me how to function in any environment though; something which I have carried into my adult life.

When I look at the next generation of Black women now, I want them to know and believe the same principle my dad taught me: there is no ceiling on what you can achieve.

I am also passionate about the development of Africa, which is why I sit on the advisory board of an emerging markets venture capital firm that does impact investing. I really enjoy it and at the same time, I feel like I am helping to make a difference.