In celebration of Women’s Month, we decided to catch up with our founder and SETA Accreditation Specialist Jeanine Topping to find out about her professional journey, her advice to young female entrepreneurs and the women who have inspired her.
How did it all get started? How did you begin your professional career?
I have always been a hardworking person. At age 12, I started my first part-time job, packing boxes and bags at Checkers. Throughout high school, I worked at the Malibu Hotel as a Children’s Hostess and eventually entered the working world as a receptionist for a legal firm.
After that, I held many admin/management positions until I started my very own business in 2002, helping people prepare for job interviews.
What led you to SETA Accreditation? What inspired you to start Jeanine Topping And Associates?
After starting my first business, I began to run some small training courses and freelance facilitation. Wanting to become accredited, I had to go through the accreditation process myself and noticed how confusing it could be.
After I achieved my accreditation, I realised that many other Training Providers needed help in understanding the process of accreditation and what to do afterwards. I was approached by an outsourced company to become a SETA verifier and found this position incredibly challenging, as so many of the providers that I had verified had no idea how to run their training companies after they obtained their accreditation. Most had used consultants who had put a file together without any capacity building of what to do after they received their accreditation.
This is why I am passionate about raising the standards of training providers throughout South Africa by encouraging them to attend all our capacity-building webinars.
How did you get where you are today?
JT&A grew out of a passion for helping others, dedication and a lot of elbow grease. I have always been a firm believer in self-development and hard-work. If you are not willing to put the work in, you can’t grow.
I have also been lucky enough to have a superstar team, with each member passionate about assisting providers in growing their businesses. Without my team, jt&a would not be where it is today.
Have you had any mentors in your career?
There have been many strong women in my life who have helped me grow into the entrepreneur and person I am today.
My mother has always worked for herself, and through watching her in my formative years, I’ve learnt that anything is possible if I put my mind to it. There’s not much my mother can not do, and she is my biggest cheerleader in life.
The enigmatic Dr Linda Meyer (who conducted my first external moderation visit when I was becoming accredited) taught me about quality and will forever be one of the best role models that I have ever had.
I will always be grateful to my first official business mentor, Debbie Jones (Director of Three Peaks), who played a massive role in jt&a’s infancy and provided me with a lot of guidance.
Marlene Powell, my current Action Coach business coach, who helps me navigate the various aspects of running a business and pushing me out of my comfort zone when I take my foot off of the pedal. Marlene taught me that no one will ever be as passionate about your business as you are.
Marisa Peer, I studied under her to become a Rapid Transformational Therapist, and the most important thing I learnt from her was never to think I was not good enough!
What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
I highly encourage any woman who wants to run their own business never to doubt themselves. This one aspect has stopped the birth of so many amazing businesses. Everyone has to start somewhere. No matter how small.
We all want to strive for perfection, which is fantastic. However, perfection does not exist. Don’t be so hard on yourself and enjoy the journey. Strive to be the best version of yourself.
How do you achieve work-life balance?
This has probably been my biggest challenge! When you work 24/7, you end up drained and emotionally unavailable for your family and friends. I talk from total experience here. I now make more time to spend with my sons and their partners, and they are definitely my priority.
After all this success, what do you struggle with now?
Running an accreditation business is tough! My team and I are often the people caught in the middle of our clients and the various role players in the accreditation process. Sometimes it is hard not to take things personally. But we have learned that we can’t control the reactions of others, only the level of service we provide.
This is a daily struggle, though I must say, COVID-19 has helped me realise that at the end of the day, we can only really control our own reactions and never the reactions of other people.
My favourite saying at the moment is ‘Screw it — just do it’ by Richard Branson. I am faced with so many scary changes at the moment, and when I imagine Richard Branson sitting next to me smiling and saying these words, it motivates me just to try something new!