Monique Labat was born in Mauritius, and she holds dual citizenship – Mauritian and South African. Her family moved to South Africa when she was five years old.
Monique reflects that it is advantageous to speak more than one language. French is her home language, she did German at school, and has enjoyed a basic isiZulu course. The reason she says is that it’s always wonderful to greet people in their home language. To this day, French has stood her in good stead as her company, Monique Labat Consulting engages with companies in Mauritius, Reunion Island and in France.
She established Monique Labat Consulting in August 2011 to provide valuable specialist skills to both public and private sector clients. Monique consults to local and international clients on market linkages and business to business opportunities, co-ordinates detailed programmes and itineraries for international trade, investment and inward buying delegations and compiles market intelligence reports for multiple industry sectors.
A learnt skill
Her career has spanned the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the City of Durban’s Investment Promotion Agency as well as Tradepoint South Africa Durban. These roles have meant extensive international and local travel promoting Durban as an investment location and presenting at Durban’s Sister Cities abroad and at the global World Trade Point Federation conferences.
“My business in community achievements means being able to communicate both with small and corporate companies. It’s a learnt skill which I picked up at the Durban Chamber of Commerce early on in my career. One of my team’s best achievements is that the Chamber was fielding over 60 000 business enquiries. What that meant, was that those Chamber members were able to use the research that we had compiled for them to grow their businesses in order to retain their staff, and to grow their export opportunities.”
Monique says that she got to where she is today thanks to her love of working at the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber’s senior management were instrumental in mentoring and teaching her about business processes and the role of effective lobbying to ensure retention of member companies for the Chamber. “The Chamber senior management, motivated and encouraged us to grow our own networks within the organisation and with the member companies. The reason I was inspired was that they gave us the time, the energy and the support needed to grow ourselves within the organisation. To this day, I’m particularly grateful to my senior manager, Nadia Thomson who played a wonderful role at the Chamber for many years.”
Being mindful to others
One of the challenges Monique has found is that in South Africa, people are quick to jump to conclusions and have pre-conceived ideas. In response, she finds that listening and being mindful to others stands you in good stead. “Rather ask questions and listen to those responses. That way you will learn far more, and you will gain a greater empathetic understanding of the colleagues that you work with, the clients that engage with you, as well friends and family,” says Monique.
An active Rotarian, Monique volunteers her time and resources to assist communities within the greater Durban area. Her core values are in line with Rotary’s motto, ‘Service above self ’. Her future goals are to continue learning, and to continue volunteering through her Rotary club.
“My husband and I look forward to leaving behind an education legacy through Rotary, which is the creation of an ambassadorial and peace scholarship. We are actively engaging with the youth on a new project at the moment, with my business associate, where we are looking at training youth to become drone pilots in various industry sectors.”
One of Monique’s passions is to support young women in Durban during August, which is Women’s Month. “It’s not difficult to put together business opportunities in a box for young women, so that they can start-up their own small business. That small business could be a greetings card business, it could be a start-up baking business from home, it could be sewing, it could be a knitting project. Buy a table for them at the eThekwini small business fair, it doesn’t cost a lot. Train them on what they can expect when they have people popping into visit them at their stands and see how they will grow themselves as entrepreneurs; thanks to that opportunity you have afforded to them.”
When asked how she strives to make a difference in her business or community, Monique says that is easy for her to answer. “By providing pro bono advice and assistance to small, medium, and micro enterprises throughout KwaZulu-Natal. By connecting those businesses to the larger corporates and demonstrating to them that opportunities exist and that they are not to be discouraged and rather to grab the opportunities with open hands and open minds. In this regard, Monique says that the advice that she would give to any young women, is to give back to the community within which you live and work, volunteer your time, and assist others where possible. Even if you don’t have employment at the outset, ask those that you are volunteering for, to write a letter of reference for you explaining how you’ve helped them and what you did.”
Living her dream
A foodie at heart, Monique lived her dream and 10 years ago, spent three months at Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland. Monique’s first cookbook comprising 100 recipes and full colour photographs was self-published. Monique gives presentations and food demos all over the country and has spoken at many Rotary Clubs and business organisations.
One of Monique’s favourite presentations is entitled “Mauritius: Two Centuries of Cuisine”, a nod to her birthplace in the Indian Ocean. For each cookbook sold, Monique donates R10 to Rotary Foundation’s #EndPolioNow Campaign.