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Passion adds zest to life

Catching up with Nevi Letcher, acclaimed businesswomen who also recently published her first book, leads to quite an extraordinary find – almost like discovering a diamond in the rough.

Nevi resides in Bedfordview with her husband Craig and their daughters, Berisha and Nerissa.

‘We absolutely love our home. Craig and I refer to it as Dei Gratia (Grace of God) as it truly is our blissful haven, and our serene garden invites the most intriguing birds.

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‘Our two beautiful daughters are uniquely different and yet both exhibit resilience and passion in everything they do.

‘Craig is my calm during the storm. God so brilliantly crafted me a husband who is able to be sensible when I am anxious, stand firm when I stumble and keep me grounded when necessary.’

A drive to succeed

Chatting away, you soon realise there is a drive in her and that she won’t settle for second best, not in her personal life, nor in business.

She grew up in Durban with three siblings and was one of those children who read a couple of books a month and who aimed to be at the top of her grade.

‘My parents inspired me in the way I was raised. I watched their struggle to raise our family of six, leaving for work at dawn and coming back after dusk. I have vivid recollections of the toll that burdened them. These memories will be etched in my soul forever. I certainly get my work ethic from them.’

This strong work ethic was already evident at the tender age of a Grade Two learner when she skipped a grade.

‘I did half a year in Grade Two and the remainder of that year was spent in a Grade Three classroom. I remember my mum being requested to meet with the principal. I could not think of anything I had done wrong. Once home, my mum revealed the exciting and intimidating news to me.’

And the foundation to one day stand out in her own way was laid.

A woman in business

Nevi owns and manages a marketing and events agency operating in the medical and pharmaceutical arena.

After more than 20 years in corporate, with 13 of these in the pharmaceutical industry, she loved what she did but also realised she wanted to do it on her own terms.

‘My path to self-employment seemed to be a natural evolution. After decades of mastering my craft, I was still an employee and had reached a ceiling of growth and how much money I could earn in my career.’

In this she found her drive and believes only the best is good enough.

‘The big picture of an event, campaign or strategic direction is as important as the detail. Everyone is chasing the ‘a-ha!’ moment and aim to achieve this with everything we do.

‘The flip-side of the coin is the fact that I am a little fish in a big pond.

‘We offer the same services as larger agencies with a strategic focus on nurturing client relationships with personal attention. My obsession with being passionate has resulted in successful projects, highlighting to clients that size does not matter.’

She also sees everything as solvable and believes the right positive attitude allows her to move past barriers to find solutions, and overcoming obstacles is one of her greatest motivators.

About lockdown and the future

Like many other companies, they lost 100% of their business during the hard lockdown. What was going to be the best year for the business did not materialise.

‘2020 was going to go down in history for us. We had secured the two biggest medical events in our industry, which has never been awarded to the same company before.

‘We had to refocus and evolve to a new way of eventing, which was technically, financially and creatively challenging.

‘Covid has taught me the future has already changed. I hear people talk about how they hope it will be business as usual soon. The truth is, things won’t be usual. Not for a while. Maybe not ever.

‘Is this scary? Absolutely! But doing nothing isn’t going to help my team and the business we spent time, effort and energy shaping. We have to be pre-emptive about planning for right now, even if that means veering off of the original business plan and shifting my thinking to pivot for the future.

‘The way most of us have been doing business will need to change. We have been redesigning our operations to take action now. By refocusing on how we can recover and operate in the new normal, we are setting the foundations for improved success.’

An author on the rise

Going from a six- to seven-day workweek into a complete halt with lockdown resulted in her writing her first book, Mind your own business.

During this time, she realised she had time to pursue a fascination and a dream.

‘I embarked on writing about the secrets I unlocked in the form of 12 lessons. I had the time to write about those stories I believed would inspire others to achieve and be more.’

Her target audiences are entrepreneurs, business owners, employers, employees, students and anyone needing to gain insight on soft skills to strengthen, build and grow personally and professionally.

‘The book is doing exceptionally well. I have completed launches in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban with a few book signings as well. Exclusive Books selected the book to be featured in their flagship event, Homebru 2021.’

Any side hustles?

‘There is something but it is not really a side hustle. I call it a dream project.

‘I believe God gifted us with prosperity and wealth so we may share it with others, and this may impact hugely on the lives of others for generations to come.’

In 2013, Nevi and Craig volunteered in a Habitat for Humanity project to build a house in Orange Farm.

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit housing organisation working to empower people in the world’s poorest communities to overcome the lack of decent housing.

‘More than 12 million South Africans are living in extreme poverty with no access to basic living needs. Our experience of helping to build that home triggered something in Craig and me – a dream to be able to give a family an opportunity to live in a brick house with electricity and sanitation was born.

‘Our parents helped shape us and because they are not around anymore, Craig and I decided to honour them by building a house in their memory.’

Wanting their families to be part of the project, they presented the concept to them with great success.

Soon siblings from the UK, Australia, Cape Town and work colleagues were ready to stand with them to build a home for the Chautsane family.

‘Building commenced on March 14, 2019, with an introduction of the homeowners-to-be, Jennet Chautsane and her family, to the Letcher and Moses families.

‘We got to know Jennet and her family well over the following five days – that’s how long it takes to finish a project like this. I remember Jennet’s eyes light up each morning. Her smile resounding with gratitude filled my heart with joy and contentment. This milestone was the start of a transformation of the lives of the Chautsane family for generations to come.

‘On March 20, 2019, we completed the roof installation, a truly auspicious occasion and one that was a significant victory for us all. A sense of certainty crept over me at the close of a memorable chapter, something to honour our parents with.

‘The thrill of knowing the Chautsane family was days away from moving into their own home enveloped all of us. When we left the house that final day, I recall reading the words of John Bunyan: “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

‘This is the spirit of adventure for us, building a company while also building others, giving humanity a fair chance at survival.

‘I would like people to know if I could do it, you can too,’ she said with a smile.

QUICK FACTS:

  • Favourite spots?

tashas café and Settebello at the Italian Club.

  • Introvert or extrovert?

I’m actually an ambivert! I am equally fulfilled in a crowd or at home alone reading a good book.

  • Indoors or outdoors person?

Both. Just like a season, I too crave different experiences.

  • Wardrobe must-haves?

Running takkies, gym tights, a little black dress, the perfect black blazer, statement scarves.

  • Three words which best describe you best?

Motivated, ambitious, visionary.

  • Who inspires you?

My mother. She died at the age of 48 in a car accident. She always had a welcoming smile despite challenging situations. She was generous and humble. I have learnt to be a better person through her approach and the sacrifices she made for us. Everything she always did was filled with deep love.

  • If you can do one thing before you die you would …..?

Leave a legacy. I want to have inspired thousands of people, especially my family.

* Text: CARINA VAN DER WALT. Photo: PHALADI KHESA.

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