I always keep my eyes open on the latest news, trends, gossip and casual laughs. I am happy about one discovery I made on my Twitter timeline. On a Sunday afternoon while lurking on the dramatic pages, I came across a tweet by Fikile Makhoba who was encouraging people to visit a practice should they require the services of an optometrist. I think what got me excited the most was the fact that I could recognise where the practice she was speaking about is, in the Johannesburg CBD. What later made me smile with great joy in my heart was the fact that the practice belonged to her: Fikile Makhoba Optometrist.
After discovering this awesome lady, I wanted to meet her and so I made it happen. I visited her practice at 23 Loveday Street, Johannesburg CBD. I must admit that I am a little embarrassed that I was late for our appointment, having left a previous appointment later than expected. I called her practice to let her know that I was running a bit late and asked the lady on the other side of the line to please let Fikile know that I was running on “African time”. I arrived at the empty practice, greeted the lady at reception and asked her to please let Fikile know that Keagile from Chica is here.
Little did I know the sweet person behind the desk was in fact Fikile. A young, chirpy and beautiful someone that was so warm and welcoming. Something very rare in South Africa with the kind of service we are exposed to daily. Just so you know, I apologised immensely for being late but Fikile was very understanding *Sigh of relief*.
Behind the Lens
We didn’t waste any time. And went straight into the interview. Not even five minutes into the conversation and we already discovered that we shared a mutual friend. That’s JO’BEKE for you!
Our optometrist is a 33-year-old lady from Spruitview who has a younger brother and has been an optometrist since 2008. Before opening her own practices (Yes, she has two), Fikile worked at a few practices and realised that that working for someone else was not for her. She completed a BTech Optometry qualification at the University of Johannesburg. She describes her course as an interesting one that she enjoyed having done 3 years of practical’s and a year of theory then moving on to do some work on the Phelophepha Train sponsored by Transnet. This is a mobile medical service that provides medical services in rural areas that do not have a lot of healthcare services available and provides members of the community with free healthcare. Having to see almost 100 patients a day, optometry was bound to become her perfected craft.
When she was ready to become her own boss, she soon went into a partnership and became a junior shareholder but later realised that the relationship was not as fulfilling as she thought it would be.
“I was doing all the work, and even with all I did, I was constantly treated as a junior. This made me realise that if I was able to run that practice on my own then I could easily be the sole owner of my own practice”
“I used to get sick thinking about going to work every day. That’s when I knew I needed to move on. Always getting rejected when applying for new jobs, I knew it was time to speak less and act more”
She admits that the optometry industry may be “saturated” however she was adamant that whatever is meant is for her will be hers.
As with many young people in SA, she struggled with red tape, unrealistic expectations from possible funders & getting business financing was a challenge. However, Fikile did not give up. She went on to successfully get a personal loan and had the assistance of her mom with a bit of extra cash to get going and this was the start of a new and happy journey.
There will always be challenges
Fikile does admit that being a woman in her field is not the easiest. Having two practices in the middle of Johannesburg does not make life any easier either. Having to walk between her Loveday practice and Lister Building patients, Fikile has experienced crime which has still not diverted her from her dream and passion to serve Johannesburg residents. She does feel as though stakeholders tend to take her concerns and requests lightly because she is a woman.
She has had instances where working in certain areas in Johannesburg made her feel inferior when patients who are not of colour questioned her capabilities as an optometrist as opposed to her colleagues.
Why you should walk into Fikile Makhoba Optometry
Relationship building is the core of what this intelligent and warm optometrist. She believes anyone can sell you a lens and a frame but not everyone can give you the service that makes you feel at home and happy enough to return with a referral. Having seen over one thousand patients since the opening of her practice, Fikile has surely found a home in her patient’s hearts; even those as far as KZN. She emphasises the importance of helping her patients, even when it goes beyond the basic services that an optometrist would provide for the fee that they are receiving.
Love, family and fun
We chatted about her love life and Fikile is inspired by Connie & Shona Ferguson, who were on the cover of the February issue of Destiny Magazine. She loves how the pair did not take eons to decide that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives with one another. Although currently single, she is sure that Mr Right will come along when God wants them to cross paths. At age 33, most people ask her when she plans on settling down and frankly, for Fiks, getting her business to reach greater heights is the relationship that she is focused on for now.
In her spare time, she has lunch with her friends, spend time with family and makes time for the odd YOLO moment; Thailand with her girls was one of those, which she spoke so highly of. In case you were wondering, she loved Bangkok more than everything else because its “RATCHET” *Giggles*.
A fun and amazing chat with a beautiful and intelligent chica. I would urge everyone reading this to visit the Fikile Makhoba Optometrist and get your eyes checked out.
“I never look at my competitors and compare my successes to theirs. They may get ten patients in a day and I only get five but for me, those patients may be more than just patients…”