Inspiring Stories
A collection of personal Interviews with celebrated leaders, entrepreneurs, corporate honchos or any success stories.


'Breaking the cliche' - Noleen Mariappen: Powerhouse of Inspiration

Recently, there have been quite a few women who are truly pushing themselves and are creating a mark of their own in the world of entrepreneurship, social welfare, public speaking and many other domains. Introducing to you, one such humbling and truly inspiring woman, who stands as an exemplar for every individual who wishes to create his/her identity.
Meet Noleen Mariappen - an entrepreneur, consultant, author, philanthropist, coach and the list continues. Offering business consulting services through her own venture – Saffa Global, she is also the co-founder in a hologram technology company, NextGen Global. She holds equity in companies like Beverly Hills Choppers (custom-made bikes with a range that will soon be expanding beyond just the celebrity clientele), and Black Gardenia, (an ultra-luxury perfume oil, loved by a host of celebrities); she has also partnered with many other high level companies and individuals. As a consultant, coach and speaker, she aspires to change lives and transform business, making a meaningful difference far and wide. Noleen is also an author of five books that guides on low cost business start-up, passive income, time management and more. Apart from these, with an extreme belief in giving back, Noleen has contributed to Blackstone Amphitheatre for Humanity, The Mentor Ring, The Just Living Foundation, and has also initiated programs such as Powerhouse of Women Worldwide. Let’s learn from the leader herself, of what it takes to be where she stands.
Noleen Mariappen - Woman Entrepreneur
IJ Kavyashree: It’s truly challenging to be able to push yourself to create an identity for yourself in this competitive world, especially as a woman. What do you feel, are the challenges women are bound to face in the corporate world?

Noleen Mariappen: I'm one of those people, who just likes to get on with the job, and if obstacles come my way, I battle through it. I've never tended toward claiming that something was so difficult for me to do because I'm a woman, but what I genuinely started to notice was that my journey was comfortable unto a certain point. When it started to get to a situation where I was involved in more high level discussions or multi-million dollar deals, I was questioned more than a man of my experience and my age would be. Often as a woman, it is difficult when trying to juggle work or business, as well as a family life and relationships. When you combine all of these aspects, it presents challenges if you're in an environment which isn't supportive in helping you reach your goals and in recognizing your worth and your ability. But, pushing through these struggles and still shining out there is what makes us women special. Although there are still a lot of institutional barriers, women are excelling more in the world of business, whether it's working for corporations or actually taking that step into entrepreneurship.

IJ: Apart from your professional life and experiences, could you take us through your childhood days? What truly made you what you are today?

Noleen: I was born in South Africa during Apartheid (Apartheid was a racist political policy in South Africa demanding segregation of the nation's white and non-white populations). We didn't have the same rights as somebody who was white; this permeated through all aspects of our social life and personal life. My family was quite poor. Thankfully, we had a roof over our heads most of the time but there were days when food was hard to come by. I remember times when my older brother and I used to try to would find where the neighbour’s chicken laid their eggs, so we could steal them. When I was in high school I remember a time where for months, my parents didn't have money to buy me new school shoes, and my shoes had holes at the bottom of them. I wore them anyway, but would tape folded newspaper to the inside. My experiences made my time growing up, an interesting one and what was also quite interesting as I look back, is that as children we never really saw it as deprivation; we didn't know that there was anything different. It was only when I got older that I started to realize that a lot of what we experienced was pretty tough. At the same time as apartheid ended I was able to go to university, with the help of scholarships, loans and working three jobs! It wasn't the worst of experiences but it was challenging. I recognize that there are many others who have to overcome far more.
Noleen Mariappen - Woman Entrepreneur
IJ: How did your entrepreneurial journey begin from a regular full-time employee?

Noleen: I was working full-time; I loved and still love business. For me, seeing how things come together in business comes quite naturally. I had been setting up business in my spare time apart from my work. They had started doing very well and I opened up a centre in South Africa and I was going to acquire another business. I made a poor choice with who I chose to help me, and practically overnight, I lost everything. What got to me the most was the feeling that I would not be able to take care of my family. In the space of days, I had gone from thinking ‘everything is going to be amazing, I won't have to worry about things anymore’, to then wondering what was going on and then a few days later, realizing that I had nothing. I wasn't even sure how I was going to cover all the payments at the end of the month. That was an exceptionally difficult time; there were days where I just did not want to get out of bed. I realized that I had no safety net, had to rely on myself, and start all again. I thankfully had the emotional support from friends and family, and made the big decision that I was going to get into business full time and that’s where the true journey begun. Although there have been challenges, I haven’t looked back since, and I won’t quit.

IJ: All of us experience some of the inspiring moments of our lives; a moment, that makes us feel proud of ourselves. What was yours?

Noleen: I had twenty pounds and that was all I had. Yes, you heard it right! It was after university and working in South Korea that I decided to move to the UK. I had ‘two hundred’ South African rand and I went to the airport, converted it into pounds; all I got was twenty! Then, for the first couple of months that I was working, I waitressed while I was looking for jobs and later, I started working for the university. I also started working for a charity after that. One of the things that I was doing was to arrange ministerial meetings and getting feedback from high level candidates. I arranged one of these meetings with a very senior member of the police department at a coffee shop, and when I saw him I recognized him immediately. He was someone who used to come to the cafe where I used to waitress almost every lunch time. He kept looking at me because he thought he knew me from somewhere but he couldn't figure out where. I reminded him of where he knew me from, and he seemed quite puzzled. At the end of the meeting, he said “you know, you’re quite intelligent for a waitress!” While I could have viewed this negatively, I just laughed, because I just had this very high level meeting with him, and in his mind, I was still the waitress! I was proud that I had gotten that far, and got him to realise that ‘waitresses’ can be smart too!
Noleen Mariappen - Woman Entrepreneur
IJ: Most achievers have always had someone, especially a mentor; push them to be able to succeed in life. Have you had any mentors?

Noleen: Mentors are a very important part of one’s life. It is extremely important and essential if you want to aim higher, and achieve more. It is about a relationship and having somebody there to support, advice and inspire you.

I was accepted onto an accelerated program for women and I've got some incredible mentors, among them Carolyn Rodz, Elizabeth Gore, (who has actually worked with a minute advising on strategy with Melinda Gates, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), Dana Rosenburg, from people like Randy Basso who has done branding and marketing for Nike and Adidas, Neal Murthy who consults on, and sets up advisory boards for top level companies. I am fortunate that I have access to these incredible people who help to keep things moving in the right direction and increase the chances of it working out.

IJ: Apart from business, you have also been involved in Charity and in a very unique way. Could you please share about those experiences?

Noleen: I support charities not always in terms of funding because I don't always think that that's the best way of helping, but what I really enjoy is supporting charities with infrastructure, strategy and operations. I like looking at charities and helping them figure out how they can become more sustainable. I think it's more long term than just a one-time donation.

What I've directly been involved in and recently set up is a Powerhouse of Women Worldwide. It's a global network of women who operate together for the betterment of humanity.

IJ: A leader is someone who always looks forward to what’s next apart from what has been done. What are your next hunts?

Noleen: I'm really passionate about giving people opportunities. Sometimes people don't always believe in themselves and they don't really know that they're capable of doing it. I really feel we need to be supporting people who are starting out. It almost seems unfair that those who already have, just keep getting more. I know how difficult it was initially to take that first step and to start creating opportunities. Once you have a business, it's almost easy to keep building on it but taking that first step and having the support to get it off the ground, and being able to do it in a way which gives maximum output with minimal resources. As part of my business ventures, I include opportunities for those who want to start in business, are entrepreneurial and are really driven to succeed in business. I’m happy to be contacted directly about this. IJ: Words of wisdom from experienced fighters of life, like yourself, is sure to add value and cast inspiration in lives of many. What are those lessons that life taught you that can help an individual to succeed in making his /her dreams come true??

Noleen: When you want to accomplish something, irrespective of whatever it is, you have to stop, take a look at everything that you have in terms of how it could be a potential resource to help you get to where you want to go. Sometimes, it's about being resourceful and about improvising; it's about taking what you have (networks, etc.), and using it, in different ways in order to be able to get to what you want to achieve. With internet, television and access to absolutely everything that you can see and everything that you can know, people are so bombarded with what is out there. People are starting to feel the fear of missing out. So, in that fear they are constantly reaching out for more, for the sake of it, instead of taking stock, filling the gaps, and allowing themselves to realize just how much they have and what they could do with what they have. It doesn't matter what your goals are it just means that you're moving forward and progress is to be focused on. Self-development is incredibly important but everyone needs to stop, take a deep breath and recognise the value and the potential of resources around them.

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Any facts, figures or references stated here are made by the author & don't reflect the endorsement of iU at all times unless otherwise drafted by official staff at iU. This article was first published here on 16th November 2016.
IJ Kavyashree
IJ Kavyashree is a contributing writer at Inspiration Unlimited eMagazine.

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