Johannesburg-based businesswoman Nonyaniso Swana, fondly known as ‘Nyani’ Swana, recently celebrated 15 years of excellence leading Imani Business Advisory Services – one of the most established, women-led advisory firms.
Founded in 2007, Imani Business Advisory Services has accumulated a plethora of expertise in accounting, finance and training from clients both in the public and private sectors.
Swana holds an MBA from Wits University, a BCom from Walter Sisulu University, articles from PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) and a postgraduate diploma in taxation from University of South Africa (UNISA). She has been practicing as an accountant for more than 26 years, having finished her articles in 1997.
Nounouche sat down with the woman behind the vision, to find out about her journey and experience that defined her 26 years in the industry.
Tell us a bit about yourself, what defines Nyani Swana?
I am a businesswoman, a mother, a wife and a daughter who takes all these roles seriously.
What inspired you to get into your chosen industry?
I have always enjoyed anything to do with problem solving but it is my dad who encouraged me to enrol for a Bachelor of Commerce degree, which I completed at Wits University.
Did you ever imagine that you’d be a pioneer in the financial industry and venture on to build Imani Business Advisory Services?
Not really but I’m also not completely surprised because both my parents were entrepreneurs who left their careers in education and nursing to plunge into the unknown world of business. So, a part of me knew that I had it in me to make a success of it.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a woman in your financial sector/industry?
Our challenges remain those faced by most black businesses in our country. Access to finance remains a stumbling block. Expansion for us takes way longer because our growth has to be organic and funded by our own resources.
Which factors impacted your entrepreneurial journey the most?
The serendipity of certain events in my life such as resigning with absolutely no plan during the week. Sitting for GMAT on the Saturday and starting full time MBA program on Monday.
What goes through your mind when you think of women who’ve walked this space before you? Are they inspiration to do better and learn from their mistakes or motivation to excel even further?
I am in awe of their strength but I’m also convinced that our journeys are unique and therefore careful to only measure myself against my personal goals rather than other people’s performance.
Does your industry face gender parities – do you feel like you’re placed on the backfoot or operating from a disadvantage because of your gender?
Yes, definitely. In corporate I experienced the disparities and even now businessmen’s networks remain stronger and they seem to support the sharing of business ideas better. However, women are also making inroads in establishing their own networks.
What’s one thing you would do differently in your journey thus far?
I have no regrets as I believe certain lessons had to be learnt along the way and those lessons build us into who we are today.
What are three things you wish you knew earlier in your career?
i) Courage takes you to new exciting places. Try new challenging things often.
ii) Embracing my strengths and weaknesses alike. They make up the unique individual I am.
iii) Get a mentor and join networking groups.
10. What message of hope would you give to your younger self?
There’s no need to stress excessively. It all works out in the end.
Swana, having been in the accounting sector for more than 26 years, has contributed significantly in the empowerment of young South African women.
Through Imani and the team, she has dedicated her efforts towards economic development and changing the face of the financial sector, whilst also managing to create opportunities and give back to communities.