Refilwe Sebothoma, a visionary South African entrepreneur in PPE — Lionesses of Africa

Refilwe’s strong financial acumen assists in driving profitability, cash flow management, performance measurement and management, thus creating value. In addition, her market orientation abilities enable her to critically analyze and synthesize market and competitive data necessary to build a competitive advantage. Lastly, through her strategic management insights, she demonstrates the ability to understand and manage critical interdependencies across the business value chain thus achieving effective and efficient strategy execution.

As an entrepreneur, her leadership and people skills enable her to clearly communicate the business vision and objectives with business charisma and decisive decision making. Grasp of short and long-term trade-offs of business decisions, local market insight and its contextualization for business success); and leadership (ability to communicated and business vision and objectives, leading strategy execution, outstanding people skills, business charisma and a decisive decision maker). Her recent qualification in Business Development Management with UCT are some of the things which continues to give her the edge to win.

Lioness Weekender chatted to Refilwe Sebothoma to learn more about her pioneering entrepreneurial journey in Africa’s tough PPE sector, and her aspirations for the future.

What does your company do?

We assist our clients in creating a safe working environment for their employees through the supply of premium, personal protective equipment (PPE) and high risk solutions. We specialize in a full range of personal protective equipment, i.e., head, hands, body, footwear, and work at heights protection. Our high risk solutions include: Lifelines, Rescue Kits, Anchor Points, Training, Site Surveys, Fall Protection Plans, Incident Investigations – Subject Matter Experts on Fall Protection, Workshops / Speaker / Event participation / Toolbox Talks , Implementation and Inspection and Certification.

What inspired you to start your company?

I was born and raised in a mining village called Marikana in the Northwest Province of South Africa. I grew up there and eventually worked for a mining house there too. Safety became a rich culture and an everyday life experience to me. I then began to pursue my specialist studies and undertook research regarding safety in the workplace. As a result of this career path, my company PBM Creations was birthed and I never looked back.

Why should anyone use your service or product?

We take the safety of human beings extremely seriously and thus we focus on the best quality personal protective equipment in the industry. What sets us apart is that we are always prepared to go the extra mile for our clients. We offer specialized customization services which allow us to be a convenient, reliable, and trusted supplier of choice. We have done our market analysis and made sure that we address most of the burning issues and gaps in the industry.

Tell us a little about your team

Throughout our value chain we employ over 2,500 employees and most of them are women. We also focus on employing women from disadvantaged backgrounds and skill them up to enable them to use sewing machines, and some of them even progress to learn how to use our computers. We have a highly skilled and dynamic team that is crazy about customer satisfaction and passionate about the industry.

Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And do you come from an entrepreneurial background?

I am the very first person to pursue entrepreneurship in my family. My mom was mad at me for a while after finding out that I had resigned from my full time employment to start a business. I am fortunate to have had the opportunities to work for large corporates in South Africa which helped me to understand the importance of building structures and systems in the business. I do believe that business is able to stretch you out of your comfort zones and teach you lessons ordinary jobs cannot teach. I have learned the importance of commitment, nurturing relationships, and treating people well. My greatest strength to date is still the willingness and ability to learn and take opportunities as if they are my last breath. Vulnerability, honesty and humility are huge contributions to my success.

What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?

In the past few years, I have been buying into businesses which owned our value chain, this continues to position us strongly in the market as we have better control and can serve our customers competitively.

What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?

The ability to retain clients, making a difference in my team’s lives, and knowing that they are extending the same impact to their families and communities.

Above all I just love winning!

What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?

You have to know what you want, and define your success because if you don’t, everyone will do it for you. 

It’s important to research, learn and understand your market so well that you can stand regardless of the opposition. Knowing and understanding your market and products gives you the confidence to stand up every single time after defeat and keep hoping that you will eventually get it right. 

Success is a process and not an overnight event, we have to learn to celebrate every milestone, no matter how small it might look!

Contact or follow PBM Group


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