How Jerusha Govender went from full-time employee to entrepreneur

Mike Turner Photography 
When I started out as a solopreneur, I wish there were a few things I had known beforehand . The truth is being an entrepreneur is not easy. It requires a different kind of tenacity and confidence to succeed. This doesn't mean that it's impossible. It just means that you are going to work incredibly hard in the quest to pursue a dream that is hopefully bigger than yourself.

While it’s really exciting to think you could be living your dream as you share your passion with the world, the difficulty lies in understanding exactly how are you supposed to get there from where you are today?

So I thought why not do a series on women who took that leap of faith and did it on their own. Our first entrepreneur is Jerusha Govender, the founder and Managing Director of Data Innovator. She is a monitoring and evaluation specialist with 10 years’ experience in public health and development management. Jerusha has been featured as a start-up entrepreneur in Entrepreneur Magazine SA, Destiny, and Destiny Man Magazines. She is also currently the Deputy chairperson of the South African Monitoring and Evaluation Association board.

How did you move from the corporate world into being a business owner? How did that process unravel?

I did not work in the corporate world, but in the development sector - NPO. I always felt a calling towards entrepreneurship. Most of my friends can admit to being pulled into at least one crazy idea with me to generate some income. As a kid my best friend and I walked through her home suburb in Parow, Cape Town, trying to raffle second hand teddy bears – unsuccessfully so. During university, I recall spending weekends sewing hand-made bags for sale to students on my friend’s bedroom floor between textbooks and younger brother's disturbances. Drafts of business plans filled several floppy disks, but only one generated a bit of income to fund my school to varsity travel expenses. That was selling faculty jerseys with the slogan “future Einstein” to students of the Science Faculty. Unknowingly my entrepreneurial escapades were important parts of my learning career.

However, I never really took my many entrepreneurial failures too seriously until later. Rather, I placed focus on getting a degree and getting a job as soon as I could. Because I grew up being taught that, that was the tried and tested career path for a young woman. I had the deep yearning to do something different, contribute to helping developing countries, be creative and feed my analytic skills. So I graduated with degrees in Pharmacology, and 2 Masters Degrees in the Development field. Certificates stored and ready for the big world.

READ ALSO: Claire Reed: You will fail, so fail fast and cheap so you can learn

I spent the next 6 years employed in development sector working for small then larger international NGOs. ‘On the side’ I attempted to start up consultancies as my jobs never completely satisfied me. The demands of the employers did not cease, and my ventures were not given the time to flourish.

In 2015, the distant calling became a loud awakening. On maternity leave, I received my company farewell letter - wishing me all the best for my future endeavours. But wait a minute…I had anticipated returning to the office, showing off cute baby pics before getting back to the grind. Unfortunately, the company economic decisions meant I needed to make some new decisions of my own. 

After about a week of feeling sorry for myself, the bright opportunity became clear to me. I made one of the best life decisions to start my consultancy and dive into business. In the same month of my son being born, Data Innovator was registered as a private company. I used my free time to bond with my baby, speak to my network, and set up the business. 

Data Innovator is now in its 3rd year running – and counting - providing creative services in monitoring & evaluation (M&E), data analytics and communication, reaching over 40 companies in and around South Africa. 

What were your fears about making the leap from a full-time job with a steady income and benefits to running your own business?

Having a young family, of course stability was a major fear. I am lucky to have a supportive partner, but our household was dependent on both our income. At that point, we felt that we had sufficient financial cushioning to give it a go and see where it takes me.

Imposter syndrome also showed its face many times. I come from a very different field, so ‘pitching’ services and talking financials was foreign to me. But I did learn to own my intellect which helped me realize that there are few things I cannot learn, ask for help with, or sub-contract services for.

What is your experience so far as an entrepreneur?

• It is  F*****g hard, but so much fun
• There is a lot of uncertainty in entrepreneurship. I have projects which I have tried and did not yield the return I hoped for, but the space to experiment and learn is great. I have often woken up and called an advisor asking – “should I get a ‘real’ job?”. They talk me down. I have a cup of coffee and then remember my path. The freedom to run with ideas, push the limits, create jobs, and still mould a life to spend time with my family far outweighs the worries and fears that come with the territory.

What advice would you give to women who want to start a business?

• Value and nurture your network.
• Do not try do everything – ask for help. Especially the core business stuff – finance, HR, legal – if you are the not the expert or don’t have the time, find people who do.
• Take those risks that your gut says Yes! too
• Greet your fears, but then move on.
• Starting a business is hard and so is running it. So be ready to give it some grit.

If you need her services, get in touch via

She is also on social media:  Twitter and Facebook.

As you can see, becoming an entrepreneur requires a lot of work before you even consider quitting your day job. There are many challenges you’ll face, but for most entrepreneurs, the benefits of meaningful work and self-direction are much more important.

Have you dreamed of leaving your job to be an entrepreneur? 

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