Janine Basel, 51, founded Akro Capital, a R100 million South African start-up fund, after she started working after a 16-year hiatus to raise her two sons (Supplied, Alessandra Squarzon)
  • Janine Basel, 51, returned to work after raising her two sons for 16 years.
  • Today she runs Akro Captial: a R100 million South African investment fund. 
  • Basel says she used to make excuses for being a former stay-at-home mom, but soon realised that she was more than capable. 

For six weeks after she started working, following a 16-year hiatus to raise two sons, Janine Basel says she cried on her way to the office.

“[I cried] for whatever reason,” Basel told Business Insider South Africa. “It was just too scary coming back into the ‘real world’.”

Today the 51-year old Basel, is the CEO of her own startup Akro Capital: a R100-million South African start-up fund. 

Durban-based Basel says she never planned to return to work and “accidentally” fell into a full-time career after she helped her cousin redesign his office. 

“I had no design experience, and the only thing going for me was a seldom-seen cousin who seemed to take a liking to me and wanting to give me a gentle ease into the working world,” she says. 

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For months afterwards, whenever she'd meet new colleagues or business partners, she’d introduce herself as a former stay-at-home mother, Basel says. 

“I used it as a pre-excuse in case I didn’t ‘measure up’. But I threw myself into work 150%, as I did with being a housewife and a mother, and [that convinced me] that I was capable and worthy of the challenges before me.” 

“I realise that we are our own worst enemies, and any [negative remarks] from those around us, only reflect their own insecurities.” 

Basel speaking at Girl Boss Hustle, an initiative of Akro, which was started to help connect and empower women in South Africa's start-up sphere (Facebook, Akro Capital)

Basel founded Akro in 2016 after her son had to sell his old car to fund his own startup, EduOne.

“It was out of this experience that we realised the importance of supporting the startup community in the most practical of ways,” she says. 

“So as a family we decided to start servicing these needs by providing a co-working space where startups could mix with others on the same journey, ask questions, innovate and collaborate.” 

READ: A Cape Town startup will drop R10,000 in R10 notes from a roof in a crazy publicity stunt

Today Akro runs three coworking spaces in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

She has also raised R100 million from local and global investors, including venture capital firms, which the fund invests on behalf of these investors in South African start-ups. 

Akro's co-working space in Cape Town's CBD. Akro's coworking spaces around the country currently house 16 startups (Supplied)

Basel's tip for other stay-at-home mothers considering returning to work: “be brave”. 

“As a stay-at-home parent, you learn skills that you have no idea will see you so well into the working environment [such as] organisational skills, management skills, dealing with difficult people, learning patience [and] being the motivator,” Basel says. 

“All [of this is] incredibly useful and practical insights into running a business. And of course, it teaches you that no job is too big or too small.” 

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