In honour of Women’s Month we’re sharing stories from some of the wonderful women who have joined hands with MRP Foundation
Linda Webster: A Woman Of Substance
With over two decades of experience in the retail sector, Linda Webster could be described as a seasoned Jump Starter, even though the Skills Development Programme did not exist at the time.
A mother of three and widowed at 28, Linda has worked for Mr Price Group for twenty-two years, sixteen of which were spent in various stores around Durban. Embarking her career as a part-time store associate, Linda has certainly proved her passion for retail, by firmly establishing herself within the Group.
After matriculating in 1990 and having two young boys, a determined Linda started her MRP journey in the stockroom at MRP West Street. She would often shadow her manager and that is how she learnt many valuable retail skills. Within a few short months she became the top sales associate at the MRP cosmetic counter.
“I was the highest performer in the company with sales,” says Linda, proudly demonstrating her talent for sales and her people-skills.
“I felt that conquering my lack of retail knowledge would be my biggest challenge. It actually turned into my biggest opportunity,” confirmed Linda. “I became a department leader and was promoted into management. Moving around from store to store, I gained great experience working in different environments with a variety of customers. I learnt to think proactively and embrace each change.”
She firmly believes that she grew as an individual from the challenges she faced. Linda emphasises that being a team player is a vital part of the retail business. The power of a successful team is dependent on each team players’ unique skills, which allows ordinary people to do extraordinary things. “Everything that I am now, is what I have learnt during my MRP journey!”
Linda’s people-skills were such that she often had customers following her to different stores. “Once I even had one of my customers bring me an ethnic skirt which she had made. This cherished item is still part of my wardrobe today,” she says with a smile.
Her love for retail and her passion for working with people, proved to be an invaluable combination for Linda, who is now the Senior Programme Co-ordinator for the Jump Start Programme, a part of the MRP Foundation at the Support Centre in Durban.
Linda is passionate about youth who are embarking on their individual Jump Start journeys, “I encourage them to make the most of the Jump Start Programme. When you have completed the Jump Start Programme, you will have a skill that no-one can take away from you,” she advises. But she warns, “Don’t just walk away with a skill! Take it and use it as your own personal stepping stone to a career in retail.”
Linda says that had she not taken the opportunity to work for MRP as a store associate twenty-two years ago, she would not have a job that she so thoroughly enjoys now or the opportunity to impact the lives of so many young people.
“The opportunities that are available in retail now did not exist when I started my journey. There are so many career paths to choose from. Once you have your foot in the door, and with the right attitude, the only way you can go, is up!” says Linda.
Linda Webster undoubtedly exudes optimism and deep passion for her career. Given the experience that I have gained in the retail world, I feel that I am in a position to help Jump Starters make an informed decision with their career paths in retail”
Her purpose in life is to impact many more young lives in a positive way, so they in turn can “pay it forward”, by impacting more young people. And what better career path is there, than to live out your purpose each day!
Jump Start Profile: Nolubabalo Mtolo
Twenty-seven year old Nolubabalo Mtolo is a strong, independent woman. She knows what she wants and is determined to make her dreams a reality, despite her many challenges.
“I have learned that I can make things happen. I have learned not to give up. I have to fight for what I want,” says Nolubabalo unwaveringly. “I am my kids’ mom, my mom’s daughter, and the sole breadwinner in my home.”
Matriculating in 2007, Nolubabalo knew that she wanted to make something of her life, but she didn’t have the means as she came from an impoverished home.She worked as a domestic worker until late last year, when she saw a poster advertising the Jump Start Manufacturing Programme. She seized the opportunity and successfully completed her training earlier this year.
However, she was not placed after her training, and still she decided to be the master of her own destiny. With the little money she had saved, Nolubabalo bought a second-hand sewing machine, and began sewing clothing.
“I sew skirts, dresses and African attire,” Nolubabalo proudly says. “I sell my clothing to the people in my community in Botha’s Hill. I make special outfits for them when they are going to functions.” She advertises through word-of-mouth and social media. She also markets and sells her clothing in the Pinetown taxi rank.
Although her business is small, it is growing steadily. Nolubabalo still works as a domestic four days a week, and sews on her days off. Nolubabalo’s Jump Start journey is extraordinary, as her training was in the textile and upholstery manufacturing sector. Clothing design and manufacture is distinctly different from the area of her training.
Jump Start has given Nolubabalo hope because she can now support her family which includes her three children, aged 9, 5 and 3, her mother and two sisters.
“Jump Start taught me that I can make things happen. I cannot blame myself for anything in future, if I tried my best now,” she says.
Her advice to future Jump Starters: “Stand up and shine. Focus and fight until you win!”