From frightened to fearless – Mina’s #FearlessFreshStart
By First For Women
Minakshi Hira went from being an abused wife to GBV survivor, single mum and entrepreneur! She did what many women battle to find the courage to do. She has twice made brave decisions. The first was getting out of her extremely abusive marriage in 1997 and the second was leaving a secure job to be her own boss in 2019 – a few years short of turning 50! Minakshi is now an entrepreneur, professional network marketer and all-round inspiration. This mom of two tells Uveka Rangappa how a very special chilli sauce lit a fire under her…
1. You’re an amazing example of starting again. What was your Fearless first?
It was the Friday I left home – 3 days after I was brutally beaten by my then husband. I was getting ready to go to work. I remember my ex-mum in law giving me her foundation to cover up my bruises but I couldn’t do anything about the blood clot in my eye. That was the day I decided I needed to change my life. With the help of my colleagues at the SABC and my parents, I was able to get away to a safe place and apply for a restraining order against him. My children were already on holiday at my parents’ home so that helped.
2. How long were you living in that abusive marriage?
I lived like this for about 4 years and tried to leave six times. His behaviour changed slowly after I started working at the SABC in 1994. He would go between being very controlling, insisting that I leave work functions when he said so, to showing up drunk hours later than he was supposed to. It started with verbal abuse, then gambling where he would pick me up from work and head straight to the casino. We would only get home in time for me to get to work the next morning. I barely saw my children on those days. He would also physically abuse me while driving. Things spiralled out of control. I confided in a male friend during this time and we became more than friends. My husband found out. He said he forgave me but the abuse got worse – even sexually. The last time he took out his gun and shot it in the house into the ceiling. That was my last straw. It was 31st August 1997 - the day Lady Diana died.
3. You’re now an entrepreneur who started your chilli sauce company GURO. Most GBV survivors find it difficult enough to leave let alone the confidence to start again – what drove you?
My children! I knew that I had to give them a better life. I am grateful that I came out alive. I had worked hard at various broadcasters including the SABC and eTV. I travelled, bought my house after being blacklisted for 15 years for debt that was not mine and educated my children on my own. I sold cookware, snacks and food. In July 2019 I started questioning what I really wanted to do and felt that it was time to take a leap of faith and start my own thing. I resigned from eTV without a clear idea of what I was going to do. I had already registered my company GURO FOODS, the name is a combination of my parents’ nicknames GUppy & ROokie as I wanted to keep their names alive through my business.
4. Was there ever a point where your just wanted to give up?
Lockdown in April 2020 was difficult. I found myself contemplating suicide because of my financial situation as I was still sitting with debt that wasn’t mine due to the nature of my marriage. My current partner encouraged me to start on a menu for GURO FOODS. My first orders came in on the 4th of May 2020. I delivered food from Springs to Sandton and surrounding areas but it still wasn’t enough – I made a profit of just R350 that month.
5. When was the chilli sauce business born?
GURO Sauce came into existence in August 2020 the month of my dad’s death anniversary. I was stressed as my food orders were just trickling in. One night, while sleeping, I heard my dad's voice saying “Why don't you bottle your sauce Mini”? (his nickname for me). My dad would get me to make this sauce when I was about 12/13 years old and he would sell it for me at work and to his buddies. So after “hearing him” I decided it was the perfect time as it was Women's Month and we linked it to giving back to a women abuse organisation. Our aim was to sell 5 000 bottles of sauce and donate R1 to the organisation by the 15th of January 2021 when I turned 50. Unfortunately, we didn’t meet that target but we have sold over a thousand bottles since the launch of the campaign.
6. Some advice for women who are scared to start over
Start with what you have and everything else will come to you. Stay strong, never give up on yourself!