Growing up in Zululand – KwaZulu Natal, Mika Heeraman did not have an easy start to her journey to success. Despite growing up in an underprivileged environment with limited opportunities, she has learned to look past the negative situations she encountered, and created a successful path for herself as the business owner of Unique Auto Panel and Paint Tongaat and the head of Penfreight cc JHB.
“Use hardships as stepping stones to succeed”
She lives by this saying and has used every challenging aspect of her life as a stepping stone to reach a better level. In South Africa, it is difficult for a woman to succeed as an entrepreneur, especially in an already male-dominated industries like the motor industry, and the logistics sector. Still, Mika rose to the challenge and proved that a woman could achieve their place as a successful business owner in South Africa – even in sectors dominated by men with enough willpower and determination.
The road was not easy, and from as early on as her school-going days, she needed to find a way to reach her goals. There were no funds available for higher education, so she relied on obtaining a sports bursary for her volleyball talents. She received her KZN and national colours; however, in matric, she devastatingly lost her bursary opportunity when she became sick and struggled with an illness throughout that year. Everything that she had worked so hard for was instantly lost.
Supporting her family was her priority, and at eighteen years old, she moved forward from what felt like a defeat. She began working in a Durban warehouse relating to supply chain and logistics services. Her father worked next door in the panel beating shop that she would gain insight into after hours, helping her father with cars and gaining valuable knowledge.
During the next six years she found a way to actively work in both industries, gaining knowledge and even earning her supply chain management degree. Unfortunately, in 2018, her mother was diagnosed with cancer, and her father was not allowed to take time from work to help her. Mika took the risk and saw the opportunity behind it when she told her father to resign, and she would start her own panel beating shop. She began purchasing equipment and planning the business.
In 2019, she launched her successful workshop and gained her RMI and SAMBRA accreditation in 2020. The accreditation was not easy to achieve especially with no assistance or financial help. She is now the youngest female to own an accredited workshop, a welcomed accomplishment after many challenges were overcome.
Not even the COVID-19 lockdown could deter Mika’s success in her two companies; she fought through the constraints and emerged more robust in both of her businesses.
“What doesn’t beat you makes you stronger.”
Mika did not allow the culture around her to hinder her path; she used her female instincts to fight the gender inequality barrier and to define herself as a successful entrepreneur and a successful woman in her field.
To have support during times of uncertainly is a true blessing, and Mika would not be where she is without the support from her family. Mika strives to encourage other women around her to follow their dreams and goals; and not to allow hardships to block their path. Instead, difficulties are learning curves and a temporary hurdle.