The Company We Keep is a column on the CN&CO blog that profiles some of the most interesting people in our networks. Here we share the details of the lives of people we know, showcasing the extraordinary diversity of our society and proving that people truly are at the heart of everything we do. This month’s column is by Carel who has, unsurprisingly, chosen not to follow his brief!

I am extremely proud of the CN&CO blog. Largely because everyone in our team – as well as people in our broader network – contributes to it. Our various styles shine through and despite Colin drilling our style guide – yep, it’s very formal and very good! – (and basic writing etiquette!) into us, we all pretty much do our own thing (I love ! and ( ) as you can see!)

And over the years our blog has developed into a powerful tool to share messages. Newsclip, for example, values a CN&CO column often as more valuable than drive-time coverage on a national radio station. Proving, for me, that diverse voices and passion trump most things.

This column, The Company We Keep, is the newest in our regulars. Our TED Talk Tuesdays have been going for over 70 weeks and our I Wish Someone Had Told Me and Ink Link series also for years – and you should read them if you haven’t yet – they are inspirational, funny, sad, meaningful and make the world a better place – really!

           Andrea Jacklin Magni, Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela and Anna Starcke

Previous “Company We Keep” columns have featured John Holley from Iconic Africa (best way to see this amazing continent) and founding member of the Bokamoso Trust; Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela, brewer at our legend client Sharpeville Breweries; Chef Van My Nguyen – you have been tasting his creations at So Yum and other Thai Africa restaurants; Frans Smit, Cape-based, internationally acclaimed artist; and Nonno Luigi, patriarch of our Italian connections!

For my choice, I was torn – partly owing to time constraints and partly since I know too many phenomenal people. And so, below you will find the names of a few women and a line or two on each – plus a few links to entice you to learn more about each. As you all know, I am a big believer that we need to accelerate and be aggressive in having way more women in way more positions of power and influence to give the world a chance of succeeding. And I am very lucky to know some amazing women.

The list is not even vaguely representative of the legend women in my sphere and my hope is that this little blog will start a bit of a snowball – with us all tagging the blog, adding another women’s names and a few words about why we love keeping her company. Here goes:

Andrea Jacklin Magni
Tequila drinking, marathon running, breast cancer beater, businesswoman extraordinaire, shoe-lover, mum, baker and intuitive friend of note; despite having moved to the USA, I still love the many connections we have – like sitting next to her dad at the JPO just the other day. Her Facebook profile is link enough

Anna Starcke
Anna is smart, gorgeous, glamorous, fun and funny. At over 80 years old, she is still as vibrant and exciting as when I met her 20 years ago. Then, she was a socio-political analyst doing work with corporates like Hollard. Her history as a journalist, her marriage to a leading South African artist, her childhood in war-ravaged Germany, her can-do attitude, her art-filled, eclectic and beautiful apartment in Killarney, her loyalty, friendship and life lessons shared – all continue to contribute so much to my life.

          Celeste Gilardi, Charmaine Soobramoney and Helena Conradie

Celeste Gilardi
As the head of St Stithians Girls’ Prep for many years, Celeste has continued to re-imagine herself and her school, always ensuring that young, thinking, contributing women are educated to make a meaningful contribution. With perfect hair, a brilliant sense of humour, EQ, IQ and SQ to make even the smartest of us shrink, Celeste is a role model of #SaintsExcellence.

Charmaine Soobramoney
A new friend who recently joined the BASA board, I am loving learning from this intelligent and creative individual.

Dix Sibeko
Dix is a reverend in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. She recently re-entered my life when she started as the chaplain to the Boys’ Prep at St Stithians. Many years ago, Dix showed me the meaning of standing up for your beliefs, what being strong really means, and how love and humour make all things better.

Helena Conradie
CEO of Satrix and leader of a diverse team driving #FinancialInclusion, Helena’s mathematical brain, musical talent and Stellenbosch pastorie background all combine into making her a woman I am humbled to know – and sometimes drink wine with. With a Cum Laude in applied mathematics (amongst others) and a strategic brain of note, I think Helena is just getting started and Satrix’s R80-billion assets under her management are going to grow – and grow!

Josie Dougall, Michele Sparkes and Ntombi Langa-Royds

Jacqueline Novogratz
I met this amazing person in a mini-bus in Tanzania at TED Global. Follow her on Twitter and check out her organisation Acumen. I want to be just a little bit like her when I grow up.

Josie Dougall
Many of you know I met Josie at the whiskey festival many, many years ago. I fell in love with her laugh immediately. And over the years her brain, loyalty, love of family, conscious choosing to be an amazing mum, wife, daughter and friend keeps inspiring. Josie was part of the founding CN&CO team and plays such a huge role in my life, I cannot begin to explain all the elements. Just that I look forward to many more years of laughing – and crying – together!

Read these amazing articles that Josie has written for our blog:

While I am on my CN&CO team mates, also check out to learn about Neo, Emi, Penny and Lethabo-Thabo.

Khumo Morolo
As chair of the Thandulwazi Trust and a Saints mum, Khumo makes a significant contribution – alongside her husband Gary – to #SaintsExcellence. Khumo has worked at the IDC and Eskom, amongst others, and is a brilliant scientist (descendant from one of Africa’s leading science academics). I love the challenge and learning Khumo brings to my life.

Michele Sparkes
We play bridge and own restaurants together, we laugh and do fun stuff together. We are both slightly mad, but if you want something done or need an introduction, call us 🙂 With a generous heart and loving spirit, Michele is the epitome of so many of my women friends. I am most lucky.

Ntombi Langa-Royds
Nomalizo is, quite simply, a legend. She is wise and warm. Smart and sassy. Caring and courageous. Loving and likeable. Firm and fair. I get quite emotional when I talk about her as the positive influence she continues to have on my life is so special. Ntombi truly demonstrates the value of conversations and relationships – as demonstrated at a CN&CO ConFab earlier this year.