Honey Mamabolo - Women have the ability to remain calm in the face of storms, are collaborative in nature and are able to pull people together

Honey Mamabolo
Honey Mamabolo - Chief Executive Officer of Thebe Unico

HONEY MAMABOLO is the chief executive officer of Thebe Unico (Unico), an automotive and industrial chemical manufacturer and a 100% black owned subsidiary of Thebe Investment Corporation (TIC) with a 54-year history of manu-facturing quality chemicals for the automotive and other industries.
Unico is a leading manufacturer and supplier of engine coolant and brake fluid for the Original Equipment Manufacturers and after market, including oil majors.

Honey serves on the Drakensberg Boys Choir School board and until June 2019, she also served on the boards of Sekelo Oil Trading and Thebe Solar Energy Holdings. Honey is a member of the Durban Chemical Cluster Executive Committee and chairs the Skills and Transformation Desk. She is a member of the Gauteng Innovation Hub Management Company's Investment Committee.

It takes a village

Speaking of her life journey, Honey commented, "It takes a village to bring up a child - my journey started in Lebowakgomo, a township 55km outside Polokwane. My parents were passionate about education and made a lot of sacrifices to ensure that I got a good education. In addition, I was inspired along the way by teachers, both in primary and secondary school."

"The greatest impact on my life was at university - where I will single out our Head of Chemical Engineering Professor Uys Grimsehl and the late Prof Tolmay - who were relentless in ensuring that we delivered excellent work."

Consequently, the environment at the university ensured that she thrived. Honey qualified in 2000 as one of three first black female chemical engineers from the University of Pretoria.

Diversity, agility and the ability to connect

However, her early career was spent in the retail banking sector where she worked for seven years as business process engineer, business analyst and project manager. Following which, Honey served as a senior energy consultant and director of operations for Energy Solutions Africa, focusing mainly on energy policy design, implementation, transaction advisory, donor fund management, and market transformation.

This background led to Honey's role as a development financier at the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). She managed two renewable and energy efficiency funds with a combined fund value of R 1 billion and participated in corporate and project finance deals. Prior to being seconded to Unico as CEO, she served as senior manager corporate finance and business development at TIC.

Honey believes that in today's complex business environment - diversity, agility and the ability to connect and leverage others to form long lasting and sustainable partnerships are key to one's success. She is passionate about education, people development, emerging markets, development finance and entrepreneurship. Her mantra is "Hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard" and "Never look down on someone unless you are helping them up".

Embrace Life with its Challenges

When asked who or what inspires her, Honey said, "My mother, who came from humble beginnings and is a retired Educational Psychologist, who achieved a PhD in Early Childhood Development whilst on pension is my motivator and role model."

Honey added, "I am Inspired by people who embrace life with its challenges and who are able to thrive in the face of adversity. People who against all odds rise to unimaginable heights."

Reflecting on whether women have a different approach to business than men to get to be successful, honey is unequivocal in her answer. "Most definitely, there is power in diversity. Women have the ability to remain calm in the face of storms and are collaborative in nature and are able to pull people together. Women can achieve the 'impossible' when they believe in their ability to achieve the same goals as their male counterparts."

She urges young women not to be afraid of new challenges and to realise their full potential. "I have learnt that challenges and failures are part of the journey to success. In every challenging situation, I always tell myself that this too shall pass."

We Rise by Lifting Others

Honey is happy with what she has accomplished in her life and she is grateful to God for bringing her this far. She reflects that her current leadership role brings her much satisfaction as she knows that she can have a positive impact on the lives of many people. "I am an industry leader responsible for the prosperity of our organisation, impacting many families through the provision of employment and mostly providing support to the industry through our products while contributing to the economy."

However, she says that there is always more to be achieved. "I am at a stage of life where transformational and inspirational leadership is critical, and I am looking to develop more leaders and empower others through my influence, networks and example. I believe strongly that we rise by lifting others."

A Welcome Respite

Honey strives to ensure that she achieves a work-life balance. "Outside of work, I am an avid golfer and runner (road and trail). I also dabble in antique furniture remodelling and painting. I find that these activities provide me with a welcome respite from the pressure and stress that comes with the role. I also spend my spare time with my husband, teens and extended family just relaxing. I have a strong cheerleader in my husband and my helper of 15 years - without whom I would not be able to fulfil my executive role."

If Honey could give advice to her younger self, she would say that it is necessary to embrace failure as an intricate part of success. In addition, says Honey, "To have more faith than fear and mostly to be compassionate and kinder to self."


Honey Mamabolo

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