Professor Monique Zaahl is the first black woman with her own private DNA lab called GENEdiagnostics. Zaahl wanted to make genetics testing accessible to everyone, not just the wealthy. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency/ANA
Professor Monique Zaahl is the first black woman with her own private DNA lab called GENEdiagnostics. Zaahl wanted to make genetics testing accessible to everyone, not just the wealthy. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency/ANA

Black-owned genetic testing firm, Gene Diagnostics, nominated for the Black Umbrellas awards

By Rafieka Williams Time of article published Nov 9, 2021

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Cape Town - The country’s only 100% black owned genetic testing company, Gene Diagnostics, has been nominated for the Black Umbrellas People’s Choice awards.

The awards are an initiative of the Black Umbrellas, a division of the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation, to recognise SMEs within the Black Umbrellas business incubation programme.

The awards honour small businesses, their achievements as SMEs, the jobs they have created, and the contribution they have made to society as a whole.

A delighted Professor Monique Zaahl, founder of Gene Diagnostics, said: “I think it’s exciting. Black Umbrellas has a lot of companies, and to be selected from all those companies is exciting and means that we are being noticed.”

Gene Diagnostics is the only 100% black-owned company in the country that specialises in genetic testing, research and training. Zaahl said its diversity allowed staff to better understand her clients.

“Sometimes people associate blackowned businesses with inferior quality, but we are top quality. The staff I have and their expertise and skills, that’s what people say, they compliment us on our service,” she said.

Zaahl said what made her business different from many other companies was the quality of its service.

“We give people good service and they compliment us because relative to other companies they can call us and there’s someone on the other side of the line. You don’t necessarily get that from other competitors, so there’s a human element and people like that,” she said.

Zaahl said her business started out of a need to make genetics testing more accessible.

“I used to teach at Stellenbosch University and their students did a lot of research and a lot of information was available, and testing was for an elite group. Testing was very expensive or it was done overseas and I saw the opportunity.

“Genetics is my biggest passion and I set out to make it available to people. We service people across all income brackets, it’s not just for a specific group,” she said.

Zaahl said her business had grown immensely with the help of Black Umbrellas, to the extent that the business was now moving to bigger offices.

“They’re not with us everyday, all the time, but they do help and when we need anything, we can call on them. It’s been a great journey, because we could see from where we were two years ago to where we are now – we’ve tripled in turnover and we’ve partnered with other clinics. We’re going to move from Somerset because the space is too small. We’re moving to Woodstock,” she said.

The People’s Choice Award is part of Black Umbrellas National Enterprise Development award ceremony which will be held on November 11, 2021. It will be a virtual event.

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