Meet some of the inspiring women behind these V&A businesses

We’ve got some incredible women leading superstar brands across our neighbourhood – in everything from food to fashion. They have created businesses out of nothing, and set a beautiful example of determination for others to follow. With the 2024 theme for International Women’s Day on Friday 8 March being ‘Inspire Inclusion’, we’re giving these women a shout-out right here.

At the V&A Waterfront, we’re proudly honouring the women who inspire others to feel included in the business narrative. These entrepreneurs have succeeded in developing products and services that are adored by people from all over South Africa and abroad. They have worked incredibly hard to get to where they are, overcoming challenges and trying to find the balance between life and work.

Below, we highlight four of the many women business owners at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, giving you a taste of their journey, commitment and passionate drive.


Harmonie Mbunga

Udo & Harmony, Watershed

Harmonie has made it her mission to rewrite the African narrative within a sustainable luxury fashion market. With her handbag and shoe brand, Udo & Harmony, she celebrates the traditions of African cloth so that these rich stories of heritage and culture live on through contemporary craftsmanship.

What does inclusion mean to you?

Inclusion means nobody gets left behind. It is important to intentionally create spaces and opportunities where people can see themselves. There is something truly transformative in being able to see a reflection of yourself, or the potential of self, in spaces and places in which you strive to be.

What do you bring to your business as a woman?

I believe my strength and patient grit and determination have gotten me and my business to where we are now. This has allowed my business to have a humble, hands-on and down-to-earth founder who knows exactly what it took to get her to where she is now.

What’s the biggest obstacle you have faced as a businesswoman?

This journey called entrepreneurship can be one big obstacle course in itself. It’s taught me that everything I need in order to face something is already within me, and it will show itself when necessary. I consistently forget this and stress myself out in the moment. But then in hindsight I look back and say, “Oh wait, I did it. Was it hard? Flip, yes! But you did it, gurl.”

Any words of wisdom for young women looking to start their own fashion brand?

Do the work. Do it quietly or loudly, but always do it boldly. As terrifying as it can all be most of the time, there are always enough God-given moments of absolute triumph that will encourage you to keep going. Believe in yourself, then everyone else will too.


Nikki Symons

Sweet LionHeart, Makers Landing

Although Nikki originally trained as a graphic designer, she followed her passion for creating sweet treats and founded Sweet LionHeart in 2016. The cakery at Makers Landing produces some of Cape Town’s most gorgeous occasion cakes and treats such as rocket pops and vegan pecan brownies. Nikki also offers workshops and online courses that give her brand global reach.

What does inclusion mean to you?

Inclusion means EVERYONE has a seat at the table, regardless of your heritage, culture, race, gender, disability. Everyone belongs.

What do you bring to your business as a woman?

One of my superpowers is to approach any situation with a holistic outlook and a good dose of empathy, while still sticking to my guns. The latter has taken some time and is a constant work in progress, but knowing what I want and understanding when I need to course-correct to get there is something I’m getting better at every day.

What’s the biggest obstacle you have faced as a businesswoman?

Fear and anxiety, mostly stemming from the unknown. It’s been a very tough road, but thanks to me realising the importance of entrusting my team to support me and the business, and partly due to me constantly working on myself and my mental well-being to remain present, I have managed to lessen the anxiety. Vipassana meditation has changed the game for me.

Any words of wisdom for young women looking to start their own food business?

Starting is always scary, and keeping going is always hard. Keep reminding yourself why you started so that you don’t lose yourself along the way. Don’t look for meaning in your work; use your work to create meaning. I love this quote by Glennon Doyle about looking out for yourself: “Your job, throughout your entire life, is to disappoint as many people as it takes to avoid disappointing yourself.”


Joanna Hedley

BeachCult, Victoria Wharf

Since 2011, BeachCult has been gathering admirers who seek swimwear and apparel that is made mindfully and ethically. Joanna’s designs include trademark prints by SA artists and illustrators. These are transferred onto sustainable, recycled techno swim fabrics. Joanna likes to keep things local – her range is printed and manufactured by women artisans in Cape Town.

What does inclusion mean to you?

Inclusion is a universal human right that is all about accepting our differences without bias or judgement. Creative inclusion means we can all equally express different concepts on an open field.

What do you bring to your business as a woman?

I love working in my all-women team, uplifting and trying to inspire those around me.

What’s the biggest obstacle you have faced as a businesswoman?

I’ve definitely experienced a bit of chauvinism in the industry from old-school manufacturers who are used to working with men and tend to not take women seriously. I just don’t accept their attitude and tell them how I expect things to go. If they don’t agree, I don’t use their services anymore.

Any words of wisdom for young women looking to start their own clothing brand?

Know what you are trying to say. Have a concise vision and work continuously towards it. Don’t try to do hundreds of things at once – rather do one great thing that you can focus all your energy into.


Nolukhanyo Dube-Cele

Seven Colours Eatery, Battery Park + Cape Wheel

With a fully-fledged restaurant at Battery Park at the V&A Waterfront’s Canal District, and a food truck at the Cape Wheel, Chef Nolu’s Seven Colours Eatery has grown with us at the Waterfront. First located in the original V&A food market, this local offering has expanded to cater to a new clientele of visitors eager to taste dishes filled with traditional South African flavours.

What does inclusion mean to you?

Inclusion means that women are represented across all spheres of influence, especially in top-level positions where decisions that affect us as women are made.

What do you bring to your business as a woman?

I bring a unique leadership style. The books that have been written about leadership are mainly written by men and sometimes you find that it’s all about business and the bottom line. When I make a decision, I focus on how I affect the people who are around me. It’s a leadership style that is characterised by impact, empathy and being brave.

What’s the biggest obstacle you have faced as a businesswoman?

I started my business because of my passion for people, and my big dreams to see the world being a better place. The biggest challenge is learning how to transform that part of me into a profitable business. I’m achieving my personal goals and using my passion, but it’s always tricky when it comes to growing the business. It’s a learning process. I learn from past mistakes and from industry leaders, and I’m constantly working towards progressing myself through things like coaching.

Any words of wisdom for young women looking to start their own restaurant?

As you rise, lift others up. There is no doubt that women are still not represented enough. Moreso, black women. So women should lift one another up.

The V&A Waterfront is proud of its efforts to make inclusion matter, as we welcome everyone, from everywhere to our neighbourhood. This Women’s Month, we’re learning more from the women making strides right here amongst us – like the four inspiring entrepreneurs above – and encouraging more collaboration, positive leadership and openness to listening to what others have to say. Together, we can ensure more voices are heard.