Mandy Ross, founder and Operational Manager of Bella Donna Finishing Classes, is a dynamic business woman, loving wife and caring mother of her three sons and a step daughter. Though born in Pretoria, she grew up in Kwa-Zulu Natal and after vacationing in Cape Town in 1992, she made this beautiful city her permanent home. She attended a school for public speaking and holds a diploma in both Para Legal as well as Graphic Design, and has spent most of her career working in property development and financing.
She arrived at a point in her career where she felt like she needed a change and in 2008 she started a new project when she noticed the lack of self-confidence, self-respect and general etiquette among teenage girls. She decided that she wanted to bring something extra to their education, something vital which schools can’t necessarily fit into their already full curriculums. She became aware of the role which social networking plays in the lack of people skills among our young ones while the media and entertainment world often offer poor role-models.
Knowing that life today can be really fast paced and with most children being raised by working parents, she knew that learning certain life skills can’t always be at the top of the priority list. Another big issue is peer pressure which can lead to young girls landing in horrible situations.
After months of research she started writing a basic social etiquette manual, covering various topics like table manners, proper greetings, how the perfect hostess should act, etc., but then realised that it doesn’t help much when they know what a lady should act like, but not how a lady should present herself to the world – which lead to more research and her writing manuals on, among others, personal care, nutrition, exercise, style, hygiene and entertaining.
Armed with confidence, her material and her idea, Mandy set off to schools in her surrounding areas asking to offer her classes to their students as an extra mural course. Her idea was received with open arms at a few schools, but of course some were sceptical and many doors closed instead. Luckily Mandy doesn’t tend to give up easily and with the support of her family she pushed through and kept trying.
During this time she carried on her research and wrote more manuals covering topics such as public speaking, the art of conversation, interview skills, career choices, self-defence, posture and even basic plumbing, electrical and tyre-changing were included. The more she wrote and did research, the more she realised how valuable these classes can be to any young girl entering adulthood.
She knew it was time for her program to expand nationally; she wanted every principal, every teacher, every parent and especially every teenager to know about this vital yet affordable life-skills course. Mandy knew that by selling branches, she would have to dedicate herself to this project 110%.
After a year of putting together the program, Mandy began hosting charm classes in 2009 at various schools in her area and in June 2010, the first Bella Donna Finishing Classes branch was sold (in Durban) and it became an officially franchised business.
Today Mandy’s idea is a successful franchise with many branches across South Africa and Master Franchise opportunities are currently being advertised world-wide. Mandy runs the head office in Edgemead, Cape Town while watching her beautiful business grow every day.
When asking this humble lady how this business venture has affected her own life, she simply replies: “I love what I do – I finally feel like I am feeding my soul and as a fantastic bonus I’m creating job opportunities for ladies across South Africa.”