Women of excellence: Linda Ben, active citizen of the world

Linda Ben “Because of my will to win, I never settled on my past successes,” says entrepreneur Linda Ben. “Once I became the best at what I did, I moved on and found new challenges. Since then I have not looked back.”

Independent and determined, Play Your Part Ambassador Linda Ben is the founder and owner of project management consultancy Leshaua’s, a mentor to young women, and served as the 2014 national president of Junior Chamber International, a global network of active citizens committed to creating change in their communities.

Born and bred in the rural Eastern Cape, Linda was raised by strong and equally independent parents, who she credits for her charisma. This strength came through in her matric year, when she took her future in her own hands.

“Not knowing what to do after matric and determined not to spend my life wasting away, I went to a nearby bank in Queenstown and asked to speak to the manager,” she recalls in Kasi News.

Wearing her school uniform and extremely nervous, she was not taken seriously by the bank staff. But she persevered.

“When the manager arrived I told him: ‘This is my final year of high school. I am determined to make something of my life and would like to work here as soon as I have completed my final exams.'”

There was a silence, and then the manager responded. “Well then, go and write your exams. I will see you once they are done.” This, Ben says, was the beginning.

After a year at the bank she asked for a transfer and moved to Johannesburg to further her education, “with nothing but a bag full of clothes and a dream to make it,” she says. And make it she did, being named the bank’s Employee of the Month several times in a row.

Ben then resigned to manage a new restaurant in trendy Newtown, and was soon profiled in the Sowetan newspaper as one of the youngest black women in the restaurant management business.

“For me, that was a highlight on my journey to break stereotypes in male-dominated areas, and I was humbled as I represented all women,” she says.

Watch Linda Ben discuss entrepreneurship in the UN Economic and Social Council and International Labour Organisation video conversation “Inspiring and Educating Young Entrepreneurs”. Ben’s contribution begins at the five-minute mark:

“My journey did not stop there and I soon came across many more challenges. Because of my will to win, I never settled on my past successes. Once I became the best at what I did, I moved on and found new challenges. Since then I have not looked back.”

Today, Ben holds a National Diploma in Management from Wits Technikon and a B-Tech degree in Business Administration from the University of Johannesburg. She majored in management and financial management. Her extensive experience in customer relations and services allows her business, Leshaua’s, to flourish.

In addition to running her business, Ben has a passion for developing the youth in her community. She is a long-term member of Junior Chamber International, or JCI, which she has served as 2011 Sandton Local President and 2014 National President.

JCI is a community of young active citizens aged between 18 and 40 who share a belief that in order to create lasting positive change, people must empower themselves so they are able to empower other people. Opportunities at JCI include individual growth, business exposure and community development.

“My raw experience of Joburg has remained with me and has crafted the woman I am,” Ben says. “Growing up, I did not understand why young girls sought definition from older men, and exchanged their value for lunch or pocket money.

“I was taught to work hard and to take ownership of my own success. This is embedded in every decision that I make.

“Since then, I have decided to mentor young girls. It helps when one has someone to send a ‘please call me’ to, or someone willing to help you find your first job, because not everyone is lucky enough to have an upbringing like mine.”