By: Tebogo Mokwena
Sibongile Labase said that while she was taught how to care for a patient’s eyes during her optometry studies, she did not learn how to handle optometry as a business. She also did grow or gain the necessary experience when she worked as an optometrist for another company and had to learn many lessons independently. Labase told Vutivi News that instead of being overwhelmed, she decided to move out of her comfort zone to succeed. After working as an optometrist for five years, she opened her own business, Imibala Optometrists, in Mabalane, Mpumalanga in 2021.
Originally from the Free State, Labase told Vutivi News that she had always wanted to work in the health sector, and her first choice was paediatry. However, when she was in high school, she experienced eye problems which piqued her interest in optometry. Labase said that from the first day she started working, she began saving to open her own business. But nothing prepared her for some of the challenges of running a business.
“One of the things I found to be very expensive when I opened the business was equipment,” she said. “I spent a total of R80,000 buying equipment, and I also spent a lot of money renovating the office space. “I felt like I wasn’t entirely prepared for the business side of things.” However, Labase said that the support from her community helped her overcome these hurdles in a relatively short space of time. She was also able to employ two full-time employees and one part-time staffer.
“I received immense support from the community from the word go,” she said. “It was also difficult to step out of my comfort zone and open a practice far from my home. “The company I worked in prevented me contractually from opening a practice near them, and since they had a lot of branches in one area, I thought it best to relocate and experience a change of scenery,” she pointed out.
Labase does not regret this move as she formed a special relationship with her community. “When we celebrated our first year in business, we bought 50 children’s school shoes,” she said. “This was our way of showing appreciation to the community that has always supported us,” Labase said she would like to open more practices. She also called on people to take better care of their eyes by having a balanced diet and taking regular breaks from screens. It’s always good to take a 10-minute break every hour when using technological devices in order to give your eyes rest,” she said.