Spotting a gap in the market for a female owned law firm in an industry saturated with male partnerships, tenacious entrepreneurs and legal professionals, Nomfuneko Mkhize and Lulama Miya, were not afraid to challenge the status quo when they set up their Westville firm, Mkhize Miya Attorneys Incorporated, in 2015.
They knew that establishing a business in a closely knit legal community that is largely populated by generations-old law firms that have been working together for decades was no small task.
To make things a little more difficult, they also decided to focus on property law – a highly competitive and tightly guarded space in its own right.
“We wanted to break through the barriers in that space. When we started, we knew the legal side of things but not the grainy details of running a business,” explains Miya.
The only answer was to do things differently which not only meant putting in place sound business systems but to also develop themselves as professionals, individuals and brands in their own right.
“To build ourselves as individuals and as brands, we decided to diversify our skills by adding risk and other areas that weren’t traditionally within the legal space for us to bring something more to the market. What sets us apart is our mind frame and how we see this business. It is not just the two of us with a sign on the wall for eternity. It is not just the two of us running around in court every single day. We are building something that will attract other people with the same interests as us and who will add different expertise to make this much bigger than what it is now,” says Mkhize.
The two met whilst working at the eThekwini Municipality Legal Services Department as legal advisors. Over many a lunch and tea break, they shared their dreams of starting their own law firms.
In 2015, they noticed that the legal landscape was changing and decided the time was right to delve into the town planning and property spheres.
Initially, they provided all the (wo)manpower needed for the fledgling law firm. They concentrated on town planning, applying for appointments into various municipal planning tribunals and also established a conveyancing department whilst adding other services such as the winding up of deceased estates, estate planning, wills and trusts, as well as family law and divorces to their offering.
Today, nine people work at what is now a fully- fledged property law firm that works closely with all the major banks, property developers and municipalities.
To build the business skills needed to run a much bigger organisation, the partners also signed up with Action Coach Business Mastery three years ago.
“We have gained confidence, negotiating skills and business acumen through Trevor Clarke’s business accumen. Coaching has done wonders for our business’s bottom line. We have increased our profit margin due to the growth of our client base,” says Mkhize.
“Coaching will put any small business on the right path especially whilst struggling with the impact of Covid-19. Coaching is essential for business growth, personal growth and accountability. It will help with setting and achieving different goals and milestones,” Miya adds.”
Going forward, Mkhize and Miya plan to grow their business in KZN and venture into other provinces. They would also like to increase their service offerings to include legal risk management, company secretariat services and property development.
But, as their business expands, these two young professionals face a slightly different challenge – attaining a healthy work / home balance.
Miya, who is married to an estate agent and has four children, says she takes time off to enjoy a glass of wine with friends and family. She visits the family farm in Mtubatuba at least once a month to recharge her batteries. Her husband, she says, is her support system and is even encouraging her to register to extend her law studies in a different field.
Mkhize, is married with four children and spends most of her spare time with her family. “My husband also encourages me to study a lot. As an attorney and acting magistrate at the Umlazi Court, he provides plenty of support. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of the things I have been able to do without his support.”
Together, they are committed to growing their business for both for their families and their employees who rely on them.