As we conclude the final chapter of our Shero trilogy, we celebrate bravery and a continuation of our theme of kindness.
Women who have been empowered and enabled to start something they can proudly call their own. Caring women who selflessly help others thrive. Heroic women who look danger in the eye on a daily basis while balancing motherhood. Courageous women who power through difficult times to carry their loved ones with nothing but unconditional love and a fist full of hope.
We hope you enjoy reading the concluding SHERO stories of these incredible women: Mama Bongi, Julia Finnis Bedford, Desire Peters and Victoria Bartlett.
Mama Bongi “I AM LOVE” and Julia Finnis Bedford “I AM KIND”
Mama Bongi’s cookies are absolutely addictive and delicious, and quite famous at the Juice Film offices. Her journey began with recognition, mentorship and support from friend and wonder woman Julia Bedford Finnis (owner of Amazing Spaces and Chair for EO Cape Town) who provided Mama with the encouragement and guidance required to thrive as a successful business woman.
How did you both meet, Julia?
I was looking for a cook at my business, Amazing Spaces, to make us lunch everyday. I saw an ad on Facebook for this incredible woman who was working for a family that was immigrating… and that was Mama Bongi!
Where did the name “Mama Bongi” come from, Mama?
The name Mama Bongi… My real name is Bongi, so the girls called me Mama and that means respect. That makes me happy!
How did the magic of Mama Bongi’s cookies come about?
The magic of Mama Bongi’s cookies came about when I was baking cookies for our clients for Amazing Spaces. So the clients were like… “Ah! We love these cookies, how can we get more of these cookies?” Then Julia was like, “Mama this is the chance, just go for it! You can call the business Mama Bongi!”
Julia, what does this business mean to you?
This business means purpose everyday, passion, and making a little change in the world every single day.
Mama Bongi, what does your cookie business mean to you?
This business means everything to me! It’s bettering my life, my family and the people who are surrounding me.
Julia, can you bake?
No, I can’t bake. But I know when I taste a good cookie.
Mama Bongi, how many people does your business support?
Currently we have employed 5 people. So those 5 people also have their families, so in those families it’s about 21 people, which is amazing!
Julia, who is your shero?
That would have to be my head girl from when I was at school at Wynberg, her name is Tracy Chambers and she runs a business called “The Clothing Bank ” where she empowers young women to run their own businesses. She’s just amazing.
Mama Bongi, who is your shero or hero?
My shero is Julia Bedford!
Julia, what is the biggest struggle to get Mama Bongi cookies launched?
That would probably be when we went through lockdown. We actually had orders and we didn’t have any packaging, no bags, no labels, nothing… But I was very lucky to have a friend who gifted us these craft bags and they… suited the brand and that has now become our packaging.
Mama Bongi, what words of wisdom do you live by?
Respect, love and work hard.
Julia, can you share your words of wisdom you live by?
I think respect too, that’s why we get on so well. And… Just be kind!
Julia, what do you hope never changes?
Empathy for others, I’ve seen a lot of people doing good stuff over lockdown which is really inspiring.
Mama Bongi, what would you like to see change?
I would love to see our country run by a woman!
Julia, what would you like to see change?
I am going to go with Mama on that one, that’s a good one!
Mama Bongi, what guidance would you give to a young woman wanting to start a business?
You must work hard, never give up, follow your dreams and ask for advice from those who are already into business.
What guidance or words of wisdom would you give to a young woman wanting to start their own business, Julia?
I think the biggest thing is just to start. Don’t wait until it’s perfect, just get going. Finding a mentor I think is really important because inherently people want to see others succeed.
Julia, if you weren’t doing what you are doing now, what would you be doing?
I think I would probably be spending more time helping young businesses or entrepreneurs be successful. I get huge amounts of personal satisfaction out of that.
Desire Peters “I AM BRAVE”
“Never underestimate the power of a kind woman. Kindness is a choice that comes from incredible strength.”
Making sure one’s health and happiness comes first is what fuels our Shero Desiré Peters. This brave spirit is a wife, mother of three sons and a medic by trade as well as a fire department volunteer.
Desi, who is your SHERO?
I actually have two, it’s actually both my parents. My mom first of all, she married young, a person that had a visual impairment, even against her parents wishes she still married my dad. They have been married now for 50 years. My dad, my biggest hero as well, even though he is blind, he raised both my brother and I and made sure we had everything that he could give us and everything that we wanted. Both of them are my biggest heroes.
Biggest challenge or obstacle that you have had to face?
My biggest challenge was raising three boys, especially living on the Cape Flats where you get gangsterism, drugs – it’s rife in the Cape Flats – and hopefully I have done a very good job with raising all three of them.
What are some words of wisdom you live by?
Making sure that you love yourself first, making sure that you are healthy and happy, because if you’re not you can’t help another person. Health and happiness is what comes first.
What inspires you to get out of bed every morning?
My job! I love what I do. I get to meet new people everyday, with different personalities. Every day is not the same. That is what inspires me, because I know today is going to be a different day to the previous one.
What would you like to see change?
Humanities use of limited resources.
Victoria Bartlett “I AM COURAGEOUS”
“The scars you have accumulated are the markings of a warrior.” – Darla Evans
Victoria Bartlett is the founder of Mrs. Davies Casting and is a true warrior spirit. The former actress turned casting director has walked a powerful personal journey through some of the darkest of times and many moments of light. With the love and support of family and amazing friends, this family knows real kindness and a lot of hope.
Why is your company called Mrs. Davies?
I started my company and I got married the same month. So, Mrs. Davies seemed like the obvious choice.
Why did you start Mrs. Davies?
My husband, who was my partner at the time, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma which is a cancer of the bone marrow and suddenly I found myself in a situation where I was seriously going to have to earn more money. He was going to be spending a lot of time in treatment and quite difficult treatment. So, I scrambled around thinking “What could I possibly do?”
He said to me whatever you do, don’t go back to acting. And I sort of came up with starting a casting company. I’d been working as a Studio Director for quite a while, freelance on and off and with his skills as a Producer he could work behind the scenes and I could work with the talent. So that was the idea.
If you weren’t a Casting Director, what would you be?
I wish I could dance because oh my word that would just be amazing. I’d love to be a dancer but I can’t.
What’s it like working with your husband?
You know, it’s actually amazing. The best part is that we can say no to work whenever we want to go away and have adventures which we would like to do as much as possible. We get to spend lots of time together, especially family time.
What have been some of the hard parts of running Mrs. Davies?
I think the hardest of all has been Grant’s treatment for the last seven years. It’s been hard treatment as well. Chemo, bone marrow transplants and a number of trials. I think trying to balance medical needs and work is really difficult. It’s hard when you’re going through something difficult. Sometimes Grant is so accustomed to the chemo that he’s in all the time that he’ll be running a job from the Chemo ward and has all the chemo nurses in stitches.
What would your animal spirit be?
I used to think I was a dog, definitely but now I think I’m a cat and I’ve become like a crazy cat woman.
Who are your shero’s and heroes?
I have many. On this journey we have been lifted up and held and carried along by the most extraordinary people. Friends, family ,and total strangers. Total strangers have been complete angels in our lives and really held us up, so I have lots of people who have shown us such kindness and given us so much hope in the darkest of times. Those people are my heroes. They literally don’t know how sometimes I’ve been on the edge and they have saved me.
What is the biggest challenge of being a mum in the industry?
Time. I think all mums say that. Just having time to just be together, be frivolous, have fun, have a laugh and you’ve got a job and when you are a freelancer as all freelancers know, you know the job is all or nothing and then just you miss out on some things.
Tell us about China?
So I think it was about four years into Grant’s treatment where the Doctor said “things are looking bleak.” He is not responding to any of the treatments and there’s no way forward. We found out about this not-so-legal trial in China and decided to go because you just need a little bit of hope. That’s all you need, a bit of hope and you’re back on the road again.
So, the whole family decided to go to China because we needed the support. We had to have a translator because no one spoke English. The Doctor spoke a little bit of English as well as the nurses who we communicated with through google translate. It was quite a hectic experience but it was one of those journeys where you had to hold onto something. It gave us hope. We were doing something about our situation. It was a huge adventure.
What have you learnt on this journey?
I’ve learnt that you have to have hope. Just some little bit of hope that you can hold onto. I’ve learnt that everyone has a story. Everyone is going through something. Kindness is the most important thing in life. Be kind, that’s really what I’ve learnt and I’ve also learnt that don’t waste time re-covering the sofa. Rather go on adventures. Spend time together, say what needs to be said. Be bold and love one another.
Thank you to all our Shero’s who have opened up, shared their stories and journey’s with us! We salute and celebrate you all, we think you are all amazing! Catch up on the entire SHERO series – Shero’s Part 1: Celebrating Strong Female Energy and Shero’s Part 2: Celebrating Amazing Women in Film.
Thank you to everyone following this series – we’ve loved hearing your comments and the positivity that we have engaged with. Please keep the love coming and let us know your feedback! Visit our Facebook and Instagram pages and let us know.