Blooming with grace

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Businesswoman, clothing designer, chat show host, friend, mother … Trudy Zulu balances life like a pro.

Growing up in White River, Trudy explains that her formative years were an incredible experience, shaping her outlook on life in so many positive ways. “There were three siblings,” she recalls, “and emphasis was always placed on the importance of serving and sharing with others.”

Trudy decided early on that she wanted to help improve the lives of others, especially young people. “The environment you grow up and live in is everything,” she says. “My ultimate goal was to know enough about key industries that would have a positive influence on the future. I’ve studied admin, green technology and data analytics, and I am currently doing my MBA in entrepreneurship and innovation.”

Trudy Zulu

Trudy has always nurtured a love of the music industry, seeing herself involved in it someday. Following her heart in that direction led to her starting up a production company with friend and business partner Triumph Lubisi. T & T Media was the fulfilment of a dream, creating uplifting, inspiring local content to which people could relate. Another one of Trudy’s passions was clothing. In high school, she loved being creative, and fashion was the ideal outlet.

In that vein, she decided to start her own fashion brand, Zapporrah, which offers high-end designs at an affordable price. “What inspired me to start the brand was the problem I found I had finding clothing that fit my body as a young, tall African woman with curves and a particular waist,” Trudy explains. “I wanted to create a clothing brand whose name spoke of the beauty of African women, which realistically catered for people like me around the world. Actually, any woman who wants to embrace the beauty of their uniqueness.”

Trudy Zulu and Triumph Lubisi

It doesn’t end there, however. Trudy’s latest and most fulfilling endeavour to date is the development of female entrepreneurs in Africa, which she does through STEM and ESD programmes, as well as speaking engagements done in conjunction with an organisation she has founded called Bloom with Grace, which focuses on empowering individuals, especially women. “I never realised this project would take up so much of my time,” she smiles.

“The reality is that our country has many challenges, which actually presents a great opportunity for entrepreneurship. What’s also important to note is the high level of unemployment, especially among the youth. Entrepreneurship is the lifeblood of SA’s economy, contributing to about 40% of the country’s GDP. It just makes sense that we need more entrepreneurs, which will result in more job opportunities for the unemployed. I believe it is crucial that we make sure entrepreneurs receive the tools they need in order to have a fighting chance in this very volatile economy.”

She goes on to say that there is a significant gap in terms of how information and resources are made available to the marginalised and less fortunate, and Bloom with Grace is aimed at giving access to information and resources wherever possible. To facilitate this, they are hosting entrepreneurship events for the next couple of months.

“This will provide mentorship, skills transfer, networking, community and value-add in terms of financial, legal and technological access to information and resources available to us. We also have partnered with a financial institution by hosting events that provide guidance in the areas of personal finance. This is for everyone, whether you are an entrepreneur or work a 9-to-5. Lastly, we will also be addressing the social and personal challenges we face as women in our society.”

She adds that it is important to reach communities with whatever resources we have at our disposal, because of the shortage of access to some of the things mentioned. “Business is tough in general. I think a lot is being done to ensure inclusivity for women, but we are far from where we desire to be in terms of opportunities and gender equity, especially in male-dominated industries. I salute the women in the Lowveld and South Africa alike, who are breaking glass ceilings and cementing themselves in our society. They are making it that much easier for the next generation of women”.

She adds that it’s important to remember that there’s no need to be apologetic about being in the spaces we find ourselves in. If you know you deserve to be there, then thrive in that area unapologetically. “I think we also have to realise the opportunity that exists in working together as women. We need to stick together to ensure more women are in places of influence and decision-making in order to improve the conditions for other sisters in society. Ultimately, we all have to pull together to make our country better for the sake of the generations that come after us.”

Noah and Umi with their mum

At home, Trudy is mum to two gorgeous children, Umi (2) and Noah (5), who she says are the absolute blessing and highlight of her life, and despite having a hectic schedule, she tries to spend as much time as possible with them. “They inspire me every day. The word of God encourages living a quiet life, and I’m very private when it comes to anything personal, especially family,” she says, “but on the other hand, life is busy. I am intentional about balancing out time with them so that they don’t feel the distance; I think intentionality is key in everything I do.”

She adds that she isn’t convinced a 100% work-life balance really exists, but she does, however, firmly believe that you can thrive when you understand how to prioritise. “Not everything will be important every single time,” she says. “There’s a time to work and a time to play and a time to spend with family. It is important to be fully present in each one. That is how I manage to make it all work.”

Inspired by women who do groundbreaking work, such as Emma Grede, those who are constantly trying to improve themselves, and the endless potential of this continent we call home, Trudy says she is also motivated by God, the ultimate creative. “I mean, just look at the world!” she laughs. “I love to have people around me who constantly help me to understand the importance of discipline, character and hard work.”

Ultimately, Trudy is all about smashing those glass ceilings and being the best version of herself that she can, and doing it with style, elegance and a strong will to make life better. As she is so fond of saying, wherever you are planted, live with grace.

Make-up: Goitsimang Nthithe
Photographer: Mbongo Keswa
Stylist: Busisiwe Mavuso
Location: Arise Films

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