Updated: Jul 13
Pretty Kubyane COO & Co-Founder of Coronet Blockchain "in the last 10 years, it has seen her leveraging blockchain technology to evolve the hair salon sector from hand- to- mouth into a bankable economy. A confident Pretty Kubyane says so much about her business acumen and her desire to push women to the forefront in areas previously reserved for the menfolk.
Pretty Kubyane, that erstwhile girl from a remote village in the Eastern Cape province , is now a big-time blockchain technology entrepreneur in South Africa. From the petty sale of hair extensions, she has launched her business into the blockchain technology line, with resounding success. Her approach came through a determined management consulting focus which launched her into an industry disruption through the co-founding of Coronet Blockchain – an emerging technology solution geared to shift how hair exchanges hands across Africa’s ZAR 100 billion per year sector.
In the last 10 years, it has seen her leveraging blockchain technology to evolve the hair salon sector from hand- to- mouth into a bankable economy. A confident Pretty Kubyane says so much about her business acumen and her desire to push women to the forefront in areas previously reserved for the menfolk. ‘’ I have carved out a personal vision that would see me shape the narrative, in practical ways, from the forefront, as I represent women in technology and specifically blockchain. As always, I seek to ensure that I use my seat at the economic dinner table to open doors for more women into business and technology, ‘’ she asserts. She and her husband and business partner, Shadrack, co-founded Coronet Blockchain, a vibrant outlet which provides blockchain vetted human hair extensions & haircare products to African salons and retailers from ethical global manufacturers at lower sourcing costs.
In fact, the venture has evolved beyond the initial hair vetting business and expanded into food security and Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) priorities. Her interesting story is captured in her own words:
01: Tell us about your business experience:
I grew up in a small village in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. Situated about an hour away from the home of the legendary Nelson Mandela. My experience with business started as early as the age of 6 years working, within the family business. My family was in the wood cutting business. On weekends my father ran a car fixing workshop that was a hybrid model: functioning both as a car repair business and an apprenticeship program for boys in my village that were not academically capable in school nor accommodated by the education system. My parents took them in and gave them skills to be employable and economically sustainable.
Breaking the mould
Growing up, as a young girl in my village, proved to be a challenge: culturally. There were very little expectations, from my village, as to what highest achievement could be. As girls, we were simply raised and culturally trained to eventually be married off to a blue collar worker, who probably works in mining, far away in Johannesburg. You would then be expected to serve your in-laws and have seven sons.
Thank goodness, that my father took a different approach, contrary to the village norms. In my home, we were raised differently. There were no chores for girls or for boys, we all played our part in the effective running of the household. It was the same when coming to career choices. We all worked in the family business.
My late dad, taught us to prioritise economic independence, careers and take on any industry challenge we desired to work in. To be ready to serve within and beyond house chores, but contribute actively and intentionally in the home towards the running of a thriving family. This went against the contrary expectations that were the village norm. You can imagine the surprise to our village neighbours, regarding this innovative big picture minded and leadership inclined parenting approach. This experience of my up bringing helped me throughout my career as there has been many boundaries I had to navigate past, either based on age bias, gender or race biases.
02: Tell us about your career in Corporate Social Investments
Later after my schooling, I worked within Corporate Social Investments sphere, assisting corporates to bridge the gap when working with communities, as they set aside budgets to impact particularly those communities within reach of their core operations, situated in their vicinity. I advised impact funds and development orient organisations that sought to benefit from the funds, as beneficiaries. Then I evolved into working as a management consultant in a key accounts management capacity. As a Pan Africa focused consulting firm: our core vertical was on enabling business expansions. On a typical week, I would be focused on leading projects that helped retailers, hospitality companies, beauty & lifestyle companies to set up in a new territory.
It was during this management consulting role, specialising in growing SMEs, within the Pan African space, that one of the key accounts on my desk became such as success, which led to our co-founding Coronet Blockchain, to respond adequately to the identified industry pain points.
03: Tell us about how you and Shadrack met
Coincidentally Shadrack and I met through an eCommerce platform – a peer to peer digital facility where consumers listed their goods and services including property listings. We unintentionally met on the same platform twice. The first meeting I was filling-in for a friend who could not make it to the meeting they scheduled, to put through a transaction. So I offered to meet with him on behalf of my friend. We then lost contact for about 3 years. On the second occasion, I was looking for property to lease for one of the charity organisations under my care, when we unknowingly met for the second time. To think we now own our very own eCommerce platform is a divine intervention of sorts, we could not plan our life journey in such detail.
04: The Founding of Coronet Blockchain
An ex-colleague of Shadrack, my co-Founder and husband, approached us: with a request for a management consulting intervention. They last worked together at Deloitte and she had started a hair extension business with just $500 and it was now growing. She wanted us to put systems in place in order to formalise and scale the business. Fast-forward 36 months later we scaled her business into 4 branches, 40 full-time staff and $2 million a year revenue. We received an overwhelming request from brands across Africa wanting the same success story.
Knowing that they all had similar pain-points, we soon realised that to produce the same transformation at scale, we needed a solution that can deliver an industry -wide transformation.
During dinner with a family friend who worked for a legacy technology company, named IBM. He elaborated during that dinner, how blockchain was a glove-fit solution for our industry vision. It was around the same time, that IBM concluded a proof of concept that was solving similar pain-points in the food supply chain and maritime sector, with Walmart and Maersk, respectively. I
BM Africa office, had an investment program that backs scalable start-ups. After presenting our business case to the investment committee (EEIP), they funded us in two tranches, during Covid to build the technology, tailored to the sectors we had within our path.
05: What does the future look like, tell us about Pretty Kubyane by 2030
As a continent, we are at an incredible development intersection: finding ourselves, inside a defining decade for Africa as we are geared to reach a population explosion of close to 2 billion continental inhabitants by 2035. Whilst in the same token: the 4th industrialisation and hyper digitisation adoption is being accelerated by COVID. Africa has to be on the front row seat of these shifts, to define a new frontier for growth.
I have carved out a personal vision that would see me shape the narrative, in practical ways, from the forefront, as I represent women in technology and specifically blockchain. As always I seek to ensure that I use my seat at the economic dinner table to open doors for more women into business and technology.
I am helping to explore, in tangible ways, ways that we can explore and implement blockchain and related frontier technologies, to increase participation of female owned businesses to diversify supply chains, realise financial inclusion and attainment of sustainable development goals.