Cynthia Mkhombo (37) and her cleaning services company Masana have swept up at award ceremonies and business plan competitions. In 2010 alone, South African magazine CEO named Cynthia as one of the most influential woman in business and professional services, and the Businesswomen’s Association selected her as the winner in its Entrepreneur category.
Born in Soweto, Cynthia grew up admiring her mother, a domestic worker, from whom she learned the value of hard work. Her mother encouraged her to pursue an education. In 1991, Cynthia started her studies in Environmental, Health and Safety Management at Technikon South Africa.
After graduating in 1994, she started her career at the Heidelberg Town Council as a Health Inspector then moved onto NCP Yeast, a yeast manufacturing company. In 1998, she joined South African electricity public utility Eskom. At the organization, she developed a broad understanding of the utility by working in several departments.
She started as a Safety Officer in Health and Safety, worked as an Environmental Advisor in Environmental Management, and finished as a Specialist Buyer in the Procurement department. As a Specialist Buyer, Cynthia gained invaluable exposure to the tendering process as she managed and reviewed the bids from large consulting services firms such as McKinsey, Deloitte, and Ernst & Young.
After six years at Eskom, Cynthia felt she had accomplished her goals at the company, and decided to leave in order to focus on raising her one-year-old child. Yet, soon after her resignation, Cynthia started to crave the independence that would allow her to support her family and pursue a professional career.
She reflected on her interests while qualifying as a Health Inspector: cleaning and hygiene. In 2004, Cynthia registered a contract cleaning company, set up an office in Centurion and started submitting proposals to corporations and government departments.
Drawing from her experience at Eskom, Cynthia submitted a well-formulated proposal to the Department of Land Affairs and won the bid within Masana’s first six months of operating. This allowed Masana to hire its first seven cleaners, four of which are still with the company and have been promoted to supervisors.