As Sub-saharan Africa lags behind in the World Bank’s 2020 ease of doing business report, one woman-led startup thinks it can help entrepreneurs grow their companies in this tough environment.
After years of mentoring startups and running businesses in Ghana and Nigeria, Munachim Chukwuma started IB Consultingin February 2019 to help founders overcome operating challenges she also had to face as a young entrepreneur.
According to experts from Harvard University, startups that want to stand the test of time must learn new ways of operating and behaving. This is difficult for a lot of entrepreneurs because these new ways tend to be completely different from their start-up roots.
Most startups struggle to grow and scale either because they do not know how or lack the proper structure and strategy. This is where we come in.
Munachim Chukwuma – Founder, Ibobo Consulting
IB Consulting believes that African entrepreneurs struggling to grow their businesses must realize they are in a different phase of their business life cycle, and therefore must change.
IB Consulting’s growth recipe for startups.
To help entrepreneurs struggling to scale, Munachim and her partners created a service model that combines strategy consultation, negotiation, and content creation.
IB Consulting bets its 3 service tentpoles are what entrepreneurs need to grow faster despite the difficulty of doing business in Africa.
We decided to focus on strategy consultation, negotiations and content creation as a company because we realized most of the challenges most businesses face in today’s society are tied to those three areas in one way or another.
Munachim Chukwuma – Founder, Ibobo Consulting
In addition to its unique service model, IB Consulting promises clients efficiency, personalization, and great service.
Why you should watch out for IB Consulting.
In less than a year, IB Consulting is proving it is not just all talk. The company reports that since February, it has helped over 10 business owners rebuild their structures and execute action growth plans.
It’s also not just about the money for this company this woman-led company. They have done some pro bono work for new entrepreneurs who could not afford to pay for some of our services.
In 2020, the company plans to expand aggressively to reach, help and educate help businesses across Africa.
We intend to grow over the next year of business and reach more people across the continent, as we also reinvent our business and launch more products that can meet the needs of our prospective clients.
Catherine Lesetedi is a graduate of Statistics from the University of Botswana. She has built a career in the insurance industry since she joined it in 1992. Currently, Catherine is the Group Chief Executive Officer of Botswana Insurance Holdings Limited (BIHL).
She has built her career from scratch, and over the years, she has been adamant that adopting a flexible style of leadership is beneficial for leading an organization and getting the best out of her team.
Her career so far…
Looking at Lesetedi’s career, nothing about her story and her leadership principles and philosophies are ‘textbook’. Her style of leadership is pliable and acrobatic. It lends itself to whatever situation she and her team are in.
She’s extremely driven, open and open-minded, preferring to lead from behind, pushing her team forward, encouraging their gifts and honoring their intellect, allowing them to innovate, to grow and give to the business what she cannot.
Catherine maximizes on their strengths and makes sure that wherever there are gaps, there are people who are passionate, willing and able to execute and fill them.
Her journey there…
There is nothing predictable about Catherine Lesetedi. Even her choice of Statistics as a field to study at the University of Botswana (UB) was a bit of a wild card, even for her.
She describes it saying, “when we were making choices about what to study at varsity, we didn’t really know much about careers, to be honest with you, I didn’t know anything about Statistics until I got to the Department of Student Placement at the Ministry of Education.”
“I was late; my father and I had run out of fuel. By the time we arrived, I was out of breath, and I had forgotten my initial course choices. My brother, who I really admired, had studied Public Administration and Political Science, and that’s what I wanted.”
“They said that that weird combination didn’t exist, and told me that I was going to do Statistics and Demography.”
“If you think something is difficult, it becomes really difficult. If you think you can do it, sometimes you even surprise yourself.” – Catherine Lesetedi, CEO, BIHL Group
Her life experiences…
She studied Statistics at the University of Botswana, and even though her journey into that field was incidental, once there, she made the best of her situation, excelled and gleaned many things that she took forward with her into the rest of her life.
Certain experiences and her mindset set the stage for her early career and propelled her forward.
According to her, “in terms of decision-making, logical thinking, the confidence, and aptitude to learn; the program grounded me.”
“I may not use the formulas every day, but there are skills that I gained that I apply on a daily basis, even if I don’t recognize that ‘this is Statistics.”
The mathematical element empowered her to be able to engage with budgets and numbers, and not shy away from that aspect of whichever job she did.
Her philosophies for life…
All of the disciplines in the world are interrelated, so having a good understanding of what is going on across the board is beneficial for one; especially if a young woman wants to build herself up and build her career.
This is something she practices herself because, throughout the course of her career, she has gradually improved upon her leadership skills, attending leadership courses and taking on the responsibility of self-improvement.
Doing this has encouraged her to take a deeper look at herself; what drives her and pushes her beyond her own limitations. This outlook has put her in good stead as a leader, as someone who encourages others, ensuring that they are able to get the best out of what they need to do.
As a mentor, both personally and professionally, the story that she tells, the example that she sets, is one of “show up and do your best.”
Ms. Lesetedi is big on recognizing talent and putting it to good use within the BIHL Group. These are some of the elements that make her up as a woman, as a leader, and these are some of the things that she has imparted to her mentees.
Botswana is one of Africa’s success stories, from one of Africa’s poorest countries to a vibrant, developed, middle-income African state.
Nnenna Ofoegbu holds a BA Hons degree in Public Relations and Communications and has recently started her own Events business.
She loves writing self-help themed articles and is a mentor. Nnenna is the founder of Yes You Can! A platform that inspires others to live a more focused, goal-driven life.
She also has a long-term passion for fashion accessories and has started her own fashion jewelry company called Exquisitely Yours London.
Nnenna is a huge advocate for giving up personal time for free in exchange for gaining valuable experience, knowledge and career advancement.
Through volunteering and interning, she gained some connections, opened doors and opportunities she would never have been offered otherwise had she not volunteered her time to work for free.
And that is why she thinks one should consider volunteering if they have never done it before. Whether you’re already employed in your dream job or you’re a fresh graduate looking for your first dream role.
It could be through a professional internship at a global organization or by volunteering in your spare time with an NGO.
There are many advantages to volunteering like being offered a job within the organization. Bringing your expertise in one area or learning a new skill in another area you’re interested in can benefit both parties.
You’ll also get to meet new people and expand your professional network.
However, opting to volunteer may not be a financially viable move for everyone. Although a lot of organizations can allow you to work remotely if you are expected to work from the office than expenses like travel and feeding may be left up to you to cover.
This can be off-putting especially if your finances are restricted, but there are ways around it. You could suggest agreeing to volunteer for a short period like two weeks for example, or on a part-time basis like one day a month. Do what works best for you. This will help you to limit your costs.
She was fortunate as the charity offered to reimburse her for her travel and feeding expenses, and she worked on a part-time basis of two days a week.
She thought it was going to be a piece of cake – oh how wrong she was! It was hard work and challenging. But she had a great mentor who helped her work on and improve her skill set.
It was all worth it in the end when she got to walk a well-known British celebrity down the red carpet at the charity’s annual awards ceremony and go to St James’ Palace for a private garden party.
There are some perks! So, why should you consider volunteering?
Here are Nnenna’s 5 reasons why you should volounteer.
1. Gain or improve an existing skillset
Taking up a corporate internship or volunteering with a social enterprise will give you the opportunity to level up your skillset.
Whether it’s your I.T proficiency or presentation skills, use volunteering as a valid way to learn something new or improve an existing skill.
Working with other skilled colleagues will also enhance your skills and improve your interpersonal abilities.
Top Tip: Keep a list of any new skills you have gained both soft and hard as it will increase your market value.
By keeping a journal during your time volunteering you will be able to self-reflect on your personal and professional development.
Make sure you update your CV, as additional skills add value to it.
2. Shows ambition
Generally speaking, ambitious minded people are more likely to get ahead in the workplace. Whereas the passive and unassertive person tends to be overlooked for promotion.
Volunteering helps you to create the right impression within the organization. It shows that not only are you willing to give up your time for free but that you’re career-minded and take your professional development seriously.
It shows senior management that you’re focused, responsible and enthusiastic member of the team. It shows assertiveness.
Now all you must do is bring your A-game and add value to the organization by positively contributing to the team.
Top Tip: Set some goals or list the things that you would like to have mastered or achieved during your time with the organization.
Discuss them with your supervisor and come to an agreement on what support you will need to achieve your goals.
3. Improves your network
Volunteering can be a useful way of expanding your professional network. Get involved and try to participate with any department or team activities, social gatherings, and work meetings.
This is also a good time to look for a career mentor if you don’t have one already. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a senior manager.
It could be your co-worker or a colleague from a different team or department.
Top Tip: Add your co-workers and managers (if appropriate) on LinkedIn and ask them to endorse you.
4. Boosts your confidence
Not only will volunteering boost your skills, but your self-confidence will also benefit. It takes guts and tenacity to get out there and join a new organization as a volunteer.
It’s a positive achievement and something to feel proud of. It will make you feel good about yourself and confident in your capabilities.
Top Tip: Don’t feel undervalued because you’re not being paid a salary, rather see it as a chance to be a fly on the wall.
You’ll get to see behind the scenes which could inspire you to suggest some ideas like for a charity fundraiser or a corporate social responsibility activity for example.
5. Brings you closer to your dream job
Whether it’s your first role you’re chasing or you want to pivot into a new career sector through volunteering, it’s the sum total of all your newly acquired skills and connections that will bring you closer to where you ultimately want to go career or even business-wise (even if they don’t offer you a job at the end of it).
If you are looking for employment, then volunteering with the right organization certainly helps.
Top Tip: Add your voluntary work to your LinkedIn profile with any relevant links to the projects or work you’ve been involved in.
Was 2018 not such a great business year for you? 2019 can be different! How about rebranding?
Zandile Mboshane shares her story about rebranding her business after its failure some years back.
This Motherland Mogul started a hair-care business, BlkSapphire, in 2014 which failed due to lack of funding amidst other challenges. She closed down the business and went back into corporate but felt unfulfilled.
Earlier this year, she decided to retry and rebrand the business under the name Hairmatology.
She tells us how she dealt with the discouragement of the failure with the first brand, how she overcame the fear of trying again and how she went about with the rebranding.
Zandile holds a B.Sc in Chemical Engineering from Wits University and describes herself as a truth seeker, “If God saw it fit to number our hairs, then there must be significance in it”, she explains her love for hair-care.
She is currently refining her product offerings and soon we will be seeing her hair-care products under the new branding.
“It really is better to try and fail than to live in fear of “what if” I fail again” – Zandile Mboshane
After being disappointed in business with BlkSapphire, what made you re-open and rebrand?
After my business failure, I decided to go back to work. I got a job as a candidate patent attorney but the reality was I was bored and my heart wasn’t in the work I was doing.
At the end of last year, I left that job without having much of a plan in place. I decided to try again at the business.
Tell us about Hairmatology, and how it is different from BlkSapphire.
The name Hairmatology is derived from the word ‘haematology’, meaning the study of disorders of the blood.
I decided to be specific in terms of what my business is about. Hairmatology is a scalp and hair-care specialist business.
My business mantra is, “Beauty from the inside out”, helping one attain healthy hair from the inside out. The difference between BlkSapphire and Hairmatology is actually more of a mindset shift than anything else.
What I’ve realized is that emotional detachment from the business goes a long way when it comes to making rational wise business decisions that move the business forward.
Take us through the process of rebranding. What steps did you take?
Part of me didn’t want to let go of the name BlkSapphire, so initially, I decided to change only the BlkSapphire logo.
I had the logo redesigned but I was unhappy with it. I then thought about changing the name. A friend of mine told me that my intention to change the name to Hairmatology was the right move because the hair-care market is highly competitive to the point of saturation, so having a brand name that speaks to what the business is about without having to explain it helps to establish one’s brand identity in the marketplace.
I went ahead with the name change with the CIPC and applied for a trademark (that’s still pending). I then used my creative talents to design the new logo.
What has rebranding taught you about creating a great brand?
It has taught me not to despise small steps of progress. Ultimately big successes are achieved through the cumulative effect of incremental steps of success.
There’s a part of me that wanted to say to myself that all you did this year externally in the business was rebrand but I had to remind myself that this is the starting point of rebuilding the business.
Any lessons you have learned from the failure of BlkSapphire?
BlkSapphire was a labour of love but I wasn’t strategic and aggressive enough when it came to pursuing opportunities to drive sales.
The biggest lesson was definitely learning to overcome fear so I could try again. I had to learn to trust in my abilities again and learn how to fail forward.
It really is better to try and fail rather than live in fear of “what if” I fail again.
How has rebranding positively impacted your business?
It’s brought about a clarity of purpose and a focused vision of what the business is all about. I’m still working on refining my product offerings so that they exceed the customer’s expectations.
At this point, I can’t measure the value of the rebranding on a monetarily but three years from now, measured from the point of rebranding, I’ll be able to measure the impact of rebranding by comparing it to the three years I ran the business as BlkSapphire.
If you had to dye your hair, which color would it be?
Platinum blonde! I think that the contrast between my dark skin and the hair color would look great, plus I’m looking forward to the day when I’m completely grey!
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We are human beings and living as such requires us to consume things, even those of us interested in living a minimalist life.
A minimalist is someone who operates a moderate or conservative approach when it comes to material things.
I am from a polygamous home and boy do we own a lot and still try to consume a lot but personally, I have worked hard to escape uncontrolled consumerism as it becomes excessive when it extends beyond what is really needed.
We tend to mix up our wants and needs and forget or overlook how much space, time, strength and money we lose on things that are not paramount in our lives. Once we start consuming more than what’s needed, the boundaries set are removed, instantly.
Our desires get reshaped and it happens so fast, we get used to consuming easily. A lot of people get overly trendy overnight, getting things that tickle our fancy, wanting to show up ‘right’ and live up ‘right’ and be in debt or be materialistically possessive.
Now don’t get me wrong. There’s absolutely nothing wrong in wanting to be trendy and leveling up, living up to standard, but are we going about it the right way? Because going about it the excessive way consumes our limited resources.
It’s about time we escape that cycle and embrace the minimal. Minimalism in this regard is living simply and subtly and the mantra is “less is more”.
Living with the utmost intentionality and not deprivation, as the misconception people tend to have. Living a minimalist life seeks only to buy and keep the essentials, remove the frivolous items and keep the significant ones and in doing so, values intentional endeavors.
Here are 5 practical benefits of escaping uncontrolled consumerism:
This had to come first as our finances are very important. Being in any kind of debt isn’t fun and that causes a load of stress in our lives.
It takes a toll on our health and mentally, we’re just not up for any vibe, whatsoever. But what if you could reduce your debts? What if plans to pay back your debts turn up positive? What if you could put your feet down and say no to debts?
Your life would be stress-free.
Resist the desire to live beyond your means
The internet is double-faced. Its good and can be not so good at times. As a woman, I see my mates riding a 2018 Mercedes Benz GLA, in a fancy color, say hot red and I start comparing myself to that and then start calculating the amount I’ve got in my bank account or try to save up for it so I can post it up too and live a digital age life.
The car is mouthwatering, yes. But that only invites lifestyle envy into our lives and the internet promoting the lifestyle of the rich as superior or enviable.
This is where the intentionality of living a minimalist life comes to play. Only with an intentional rejection can one silence this constant yelling of uncontrolled consumerism.
Have more contentment
Many people believe if they reach a level of contentment, their desire for excessive consumption will diminish. But the truth is the intentional rejection of excessive consumption paves way for contentment in our lives.
Pursuing minimalism realigns our lives around our greatest passions and results in a far better contentment with life than before.
Remember what matters to you in the world
Have we been too busy seeking happiness in the wrong places? Have we valued worldly things over family, relationships, religion?
It’s time to realize what means important to us and make a priority list because true life and true happiness is found in the invisible things of life.
Resist the need to keep up with evolving trends
Change is a constant thing and as regards fashion and lifestyle, trends evolve. We are in the modern world and we can’t keep wearing style from the 90’s but that doesn’t mean we need to always change our wardrobe as trends come up.
That’s our ‘want’ knocking our ‘need’ over. As a wise man once said, “Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but religiously follows the new”.
The wisdom imbibed in this sentence strikes me as it relates and applies to fashion, decoration, lifestyle or design. Why don’t we remove ourselves from the pursuit altogether?
Escaping uncontrolled consumerism isn’t as easy as ABC, it isn’t a walk in the park so is minimalism. But once you make up your mind and find that ‘intentional’ drive, you can do it.
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Coming into my 33rd year is very special, as it marks my 20th year of walking with God, 10 years of marriage, 10 years of parenting, 10 years of being a professional and the birthing of something new – Blooming Amazons.
I will be sharing life lessons I’ve learned through the journey.
Before you begin, grab a notepad and maybe a cool drink, because this is a long but eye-opening read.
Living for the praises/ validation of men is futile
This year, as it’s a pattern with me when something new is about to be birthed in me, all Hell would let loose and most times only a few can see what I m seeing. When Blooming Amazons were about to be birthed, I had people who I taught should be excited about the new work say to me, cancel, it’s not time.
I knew I heard God, so I went ahead, not allowing the opinion of anyone to deter me. At the end of our first conference in June, I had a few of them (who were Humble enough) say to me, you really heard God, after the conference, we are convinced.
So I say to myself, what if I succumbed to all the pressures?
Own your Journey as it is part of your process
EVERYTHING we go through in life( The Good, Bad and Ugly) is all part of our becoming and it’s the enemy’s plan to keep us down with shame. God will never want us to be ashamed irrespective of where we have been.
He’s more interested in where we are now and where we will spend eternity… We should find strength in our journey and own our story without prejudice, someone out there will draw strength from your journey.
Always remember you are only a vessel
When God does His work through us, there’s the temptation that people would start to put us on a pedestal of worship(very dangerous), we have to constantly remind them, it is God who is doing His work and we are only vessels, and He alone should take all the glory.
If we are not deliberate about this, pride will set in (and it’s usually subtle). God resists the proud, the fear of being resisted by God alone should keep us humble.
These days when you say to people lets pray about this, it sounds like a cliché, like the normal thing Christians say, but I tell you the truth, Prayer changes things.
Prayer is us admitting to God that we are limited and need His intervention in a particular situation. It’s a show of surrender and Humility. His answer may not come how we many it or when we want it, but He certainly answers.
With all the feminism out there and being taken overboard, it assumes that submission is out-dated. I see submission as admitting that the power I have comes through me and not from me, I believe God knows the strength of a woman and if left unchecked can create chaos and that’s why He has commanded us to submit.
Submission is more than an admonishing, it’s a command.
So, I”m married to this amazing gentleman who allows me to have my way a lot of times, but when He puts his foot down, I know I have to submit, it might not be easy on the flesh, but every time I submit to my Husband, I notice He honors me more and He is spurred to do more for me.
Irrespective of what I do outside of my Home, once I get to ABCVille,( How we like to call our Home), I’m first Babatunde’s wife before anything else. Being submissive isn’t the same as being subservient.
I’m a believer in if you belong to a place, then give it your loyalty, if I start to doubt the integrity of a place I belong to, I would rather move on than to be two-faced.
I still don’t know how people are able to sleep at night after hailing someone who they just cursed behind their back. (lol.one of the first questions I will ask God when we get to heaven).
God is a loving Father
A lot of us have this fearful, awfull picture of God, perhaps painted to us as children from Sunday school days, but it’s not true about Him, we should fear God in reverence, but not an awful kind of fear. God isn’t like the Nigerian traffic police (lastma) lol, hiding and just waiting for us to fail so He can hit us with His rod of correction of sickness, diseases or crisis…
Rather, He loves us with an everlasting, I like to call it a ‘reckless love’. The Bible makes us know He doesn’t want the sinner to perish, it is never His will for anyone to perish, and it is never God who puts crises on people, all good and perfect gifts come from Him and its impossible for Him to do evil.
As Christians, we can’t be ruled by our feelings, they will mislead us. We are first a spirit, then we have a soul and live in a body, Our soul is responsible for our emotions but as strong as emotions are, they are in no match to what our spirit carries. Our life should be guided by the spirit.
So Here was I, tongue-talking, demon chasing daughter of God, being attracted to some other person, of course I know to Kill that emotion because it is not leading to anywhere good. Anger, Jealousy, Fear, all these are emotions and should be put in constant check with the word of God.
Sometimes we might wake up not feeling too good, perhaps because of life challenges(being an adult can be demanding….I know), we are weighed down.
Here is my reminder to you, it’s only a feeling, it’s not who you are, it will pass.
Marriage has to be built on the right foundation
Right foundation for me will be marrying for the right reasons, being sincere about who you are from the beginning of the relationship and most important part, Having God be the center of it all.
Forever is a very long time to spend with someone, and years down in marriage, both of you will evolve, children will come or may not, careers will grow , finances, Health, in-laws, priorities, purpose, a lot will just happen and its the foundation of your marriage that will really sustain the union, we can’t really change our spouse.
No Human being can change another( God hasn’t given that power to any man), but we can ask Him who is the creator and father of our spouse to do with and in His child all He wants to.
Be sincere and open with your Children
I learned this from my mum, She is a very sacrificial mother and let my brother and me into her capabilities. Even when I was far away in school, there were just somethings I never got involved in, because I knew my mother emptied all her savings to give me the comfort I have.
I just kind of felt being of good behavior and excelling was the least I could do to honor her. Also, you earn your children’s respect when you treat your spouse well.
This a subtle life lesson we pass to our children without talking. So my children notice my Husband and I just disagreed over an issue, and as children may want to ask for favors from me which their Dad won’t approve of.
They know I won’t bend over to let them have their way. They have come to learn this, so these days, they don’t bother…
Competition and Rivalry is baseless
One of the core things the Lord has been impressing upon my heart is collaboration. We are the light of the world, but a candlestick in a world of gross darkness cant dispell much but imagine what happens when we all bring our light together, there is no darkness we can’t dispel.
Afterall, no one ever shines brighter by putting our another person’s light.
It’s Ok to admit we are limited and don’t know something
There’s the temptation of wanting to answer everyone’s questions, want to meet everyone’s need and solve every problem when we begin to have people look up to us.
While this is good, to have a serving heart, it can place too much demand on us, we should do as much as we can, but we should always have at the back of our minds that its only the Holy Spirit who can fix people and solve problems and we are in no match with him. We should always point people back to God and be sincere with our limitations.
If someone asks us a question we don’t know, its ok to say I don’t know or I’m not sure about this, can I get back to you or can I refer you to someone I feel will be in a better position to answer you correctly
Everyone God has brought our way is for a purpose and we are accountable for them
One of the ways my Husband and I have decided to give back to the society is by ensuring anyone who comes to work for us as a domestic staff leaves us better. We are committed to their growth and development.
Seriously, we can’t claim to be mentoring people outside when the ones right under our roof, that spend a lot of time with our children are not well mentored.
Not only do we mentor them but make an investment in them. Is there a possibility they won’t be grateful, Oh yes, but who and what is our motive? God!!! So it’s unto Him
There’s a reward for faithfulness
When we are in the capacity to work for others, we should do it as though it is ours. People say a lot to me now that running BLAM comes so easy for you.
How do you do it, but then, years before now, I was serving somewhere else, not having the slightest idea God would call me to start BLAM, but I did it with all my heart as though it was mine, not only did God reward my faithfulness.
I was also unknowingly developing myself for my own purpose, so now it appears so easy as I have developed my root downwards.
Courage isn’t the absence of Fear, but not being crippled by the fear.
I remember our first conference, I was so afraid like visibly afraid, if you looked at me, you literally could see me trembling, but I didn’t let that stop me, I know fear is only a feeling, I heard God clearly about the conference, so what I felt really didn’t matter.
Fulfilling a purpose isn’t for the faint-hearted
Ask anyone doing great in any sector, they will tell you the same thing. Someone told me she was crying because some people she thought should support her vision arent doing so.
I simply told her, welcome to the club, its ok to cry, but one of the beauties of being a woman is we can cry this moment, and the next go to the washroom and slay it up again.
Usually, I would recommend anyone starting or doing a great work to confess Ephesians 3:16 (NLT)I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit.
We need a lot of inner strength for the journey.
People would always have an opinion and they are entitled to it, but what they aren’t entitled to be forcing it on you.
You also owe yourself not being moved by the opinion of people, I have observed that people’s opinions are ever changing, since the days of Jesus, today Hosanna, tomorrow crucify!
Seek Counsel, ask for advice, but ultimately, hear God.
I once heard of an ex-governor who when He wanted to run for governorship sort the counsel of one His mentors, a big name in the Christian faith in our nation, and the person told him not to run as he won’t win, but He was convinced God spoke to Him.
He ran and won the elections and even did a second term. I’ve had this play out in my lifetime and time again. This doesn’t make the man of God a liar, it only means that concerning the issues of our destiny, it is ONLY the holy spirit’s guide that is 100 percent accurate.
Your spouse isn’t your enemy
Many times the enemy tries to make our spouse look like our enemy, but we know better.
His aims are not far-fetched, to steal, kill and ultimately destroy. So when dealing with issues, we should always have this at the back of our minds.
So you sense you are being called to a certain trade or profession, rather than launching out untrained, take time out to go prepare, go watch someone do it.
That way your roots grow downwards, so even though no one is seeing the tree itself yet, you have developed a solid foundation and when you start out and the storms and challenges of life flood in, you are able to stand.
Social Media is a very good tool
Like most of the work we do with BLAM is via social media, that being said, it can also be very misleading. Everyone puts their best foot forward and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Whats important is we don’t measure our own success or be put under pressure by what we see on social media. Not all that glitter is gold
It’s Ok to laugh at yourself
I remember a night I was in Bible school and because of my tight schedules lately, I’ve been going on wigs more to help me cut down on salon times this day, off my wig went in the middle of class.
Honestly, I still can’t explain what made it fall off, but I just picked it up and wore it back nicely, rather than being thoroughly embarrassed. Life isn’t that serious
Its ok to ask for help
When we were having our conference in June, we sent out letters for support which we got a lot of, I can’t imagine if we tried to muscle it all alone. God will always send us people who would help us.
Put structures in place that make your life easier
With all the many roles that I play, while in bible school, I had to invest in getting a very good home tutor for my children, that is something I did myself, but I wasn’t going to be available to do it and I didn’t want their academics to suffer for it, so I had to pay the price.
I also had to get an extra hand to help out with domestic chores. Women like to be perceived as being super, but you can only shine when your sanity is intact.
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When Princess Okereke founded Zapi Botanics she wanted to make a difference in the hair care sector by providing organic hair products.
We all know that the hair care industry is filled with products containing toxic ingredients and chemicals that are not only harmful to the hair and scalp but are ecologically unfriendly.
Zapi Botanics was created with a single goal- to provide hair products with no harmful ingredients. Zapi Botanics is gathering pace as the go-to place for Natural Hair Care in Nigeria.
They also offer advice and information to ladies starting their natural hair journey. Princess Okereke preaches organic health for body and hair, her gorgeous natural hair is also a proof of her love for all things organic.
Zapi Botanics was a long-term drive I had when I was very young. It was an ambition I picked up from my grandmother who loved everything natural. Even at her old age, she would mix up natural ingredients and apply on her body and skin.
At 78, her skin was healthy and did not sag, her hair surprisingly did not thin out. Her life was a living proof of how going organic can be beneficial in the long run.
I decided to adopt that lifestyle. In 2015 I came up with a brand name, I also cut my texturized hair and began using my products first on my hair.
What do you think about the demand for Organic Skincare products in Nigeria? What propelled its rise?
I think we began to realize that we need to love ourselves. Funny though, the first maker of relaxer was a black man named Morgan who tested the product on his dog and realized it straightened his dog’s hair. Products tested on animals cannot be said to be all safe.
We have more hair losses amongst young women, a lot of women are getting unnaturally bald. We see lots of hair and scalp issues in this line of business.
I think people are beginning to realize that these chemicals put in hair products are detrimental to our health. Hence the switch to Organic skincare products
What makes Zapi Botanics different?
Zapi Botanics started because of our love for plant and Ecology. We decided to come up with a brand that is plant-based because we understand how important it is to go green and it’s a good way to help our environment.
We take our time to source for our materials both in and out of Nigeria to ensure they are excellent. Our brand doesn’t end when our products are purchased, We provide our customers with post-purchase treatment and guides on how to use our products.
We give them tips and tricks on how to navigate their hair journey, we are only satisfied when our customers are truly satisfied with our services.
In 2016, the beauty and skincare industry was valued at $620 million by Euro monitor, how much of this share has been leveraged by Nigerians?
There’s a myth about Nigerian made products that are being tackled right now all over the country. People may talk about their loyalty to Nigerian Made Brands but few actually stick to their word and purchase products solely made in Nigeria.
People still feel Products made outside has superior Quality. This has hampered the amount of share accrued by our brands in this Industry.
How easy has it been to convince people of the authenticity of your product seeing that they are formulated in Nigeria?
Based on my reply to the previous question, it has been hard to break into the Nigerian market. We have to do a lot of marketing, promotions, and giveaways.
Breaking into the market wasn’t easy, but when I started, I came up with a plan to use my formulated products to style ladies hair. I learned to style, I used my products too on my hair and whenever people see my hair and those of my clients, I refer them to my products
How are new African hair care products competing with mainstream western brands that have championed the African market for years?
A lot of Brands faded because they couldn’t keep up with the changing times. People began to demand moisturizers instead of petroleum-based products and these brands couldn’t adapt to this change in demand.
Still, new products are slowly creeping in and competing with the famous western brands in the market space.
How does your brand, Zapi Botanics incorporate the unique hair care requirements of the African woman?
Zapi Botanics pays special attention to the needs of African hair. Our curly hair pattern makes it harder for our hair to get moisturized, our formulations works great for Kinky Hair.
Our Chief ingredients are suited to the African environment. The type4 hair and type 3C hair pattern does not allow the natural hair oil to travel down quickly so our products are loaded with ingredients that make it easier for moisture to be locked in.
Tell us about some of your products
There’s the Black moisturizing shampoo. The chief ingredient is the African black soap. It cleans, moisturizes and heals damaged hair strands.
Our leave-in conditioner is great for detangling and styling wash and goes styles when water won’t just do the trick.
The Deep moisturizing conditioner is essential for every wash day, it thickens hair, locks in moisture and revitalizes hair strands.
Our special packages are designed for low porosity and high porosity hair.
I think a lot of our health issues can be solved by simply going natural. It’s more healthy to get ingredients straight from where they are produced to your kitchen. In fact, organic products aren’t only important for our nutrition but our body too.
Bleaching creams should be discouraged. Also, there are natural ingredients like Licorice which lighten the skin. I encourage everyone to use plants and herbs to get the result they want in skin care, hair, and nutrition.
For most children in Africa, the standard of what beauty should be has been crystallized by western standards of beauty from magazines and TV shows. How can we change that narrative?
We have this idea that our hair must be long and sleek. We must teach them how to love themselves and love their hair. A lot of the girls who are our brand ambassadors are creative with the way they style their hair.
As a small business enterprise, what are the challenges you currently face for expansion?
Raw materials. We’ve had issues where a particular raw material causes us losses. Since we keep a strict quality control over all our raw materials, we have to make sure they all pass the quality test.
We may also have to do several test run to meet our standard. Sourcing for authentic raw materials is a constant challenge
What do you have to say about young people opening up an organic care brand?
I’d advise that they get a skill first! Understand the business, do your research and go through a rigorous market survey. I started my business by learning how to style hair with the money I had after my youth service. I saved money from the proceeds I made from making people’s hair to start my business.
Lastly, give us some tips for our fro sisters.
From my own experience, I’d say have a mind of your own, make hairstyles that work for you, not those you see on popular people or social media.
Be patient enough to find a hairstyle and a hair routine that works for you and stick to it.
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Vumile Msweli is an international speaker, renowned coach and the Chief Executive officer for Hesed Consulting. Hesed is a consulting firm specializing in commerce acceleration, career coaching, women empowerment, facilitation and training on the African continent.
Vumile has worked in Europe, Asia and across the African continent for reputable multinational institutions including Barclays, Investec, Nedbank, First National Bank and Vodafone.
She is an award-winning businesswoman who has received honors such as the Women’s’ Economic Forum’s Woman of Excellence Award, named 34th Most Influential Young South African by Avance Media, the Mail and Guardian Top 200 most influential Young South Africans.
Vumi has also been awarded the Elle Boss of the Year in the Corporate Category. As we celebrate women’s month in South Africa, Vumi talks about what she’s learned from globetrotting and her driving force to start her business.
Tell us about your experience studying in various countries and how its helped you
I am a vehement advocate for education and its ability to transform lives. I also believe that traveling is one of the best educations you can give yourself.
The combination of expanding my worldview through both formal and informal learning by studying in different countries has been invaluable to be me. It helped me realize how I am a global citizen with proudly African roots.
Living abroad also shifted my thinking to want to excel at a global level whilst keeping my local values. I also learned that where I was born doesn’t define where I belong.
How did studying in West Africa change your perspective about business and career?
Being an African, one tends to think of the entire continent as home but West Africa definitely has an energy like no place on earth. There are a palpable entrepreneurial spirit and an optimistic view of taking control and accountability for your life as a pose to making excuses as to why you aren’t where you could be.
The competition is also very tough, you look at Nigeria and realize that the population of Lagos alone is half the population of my country South Africa.
There are also some infrastructural challenges such as energy but no one sits around waiting for the government to resolve these. Everyone gets on with it and takes it upon themselves to excel despite these challenges.
Being in West Africa imprinted in me the importance of a diverse revenue stream, the importance of being able to sustain oneself in a cash economy as a pose to being enslaved by credit for survival.
West Africans exude an apologetic confidence for their existence, their desires, and the pursuit of their dreams. Being surrounded by a culture like that leaves you no choice but to walk with your head a little taller, work harder and make no excuses as you toil towards your own goals.
What prompted you to start your business – Hesed Consulting?
I found myself having coaching conversations with friends and acquaintances on various career-related topics and soon realized that I had acquired some niche knowledge.
Especially around accelerating my career, what seemed to me to be a simple strategic career or finance play was a non-discussion amongst my peers.
I thoroughly enjoy seeing people transform through a shift in perception. Marianne Williamson aptly said: “ a miracle is a shift in perception”.Certainly, I wanted to be a part of that miracle.
Vumi is truly a teacher at heart, I love sharing what I have learned. So the look on someone’s face as they utter “I never thought of it that way before” and then proceed to change the direction of their lives because of that conversation gives me great joy.
Being a part of that sacred space of sharing tools and experiences that help my clients leapfrog their learning and accelerate their careers and businesses truly makes my heart sing. That’s what prompted me to start Hesed and it’s the reason why Hesed is still in existence 6 years later.
At Hesed, we work with individuals and entrepreneurs to accelerate their careers and businesses. We do this through workshops; training; coaching and consulting. We have a pan-African approach; global exposure whilst remaining locally relevant.
I guess what makes our team rather unique is that we have executive experience across sectors so we understand the pressures of both corporate and entrepreneurship. Also, many of our teams have worked and lived in different countries and continents.
That cultural richness allows for diversity in thinking when tailor making solutions for our clients.
How did you go from being a trained accountant working in an international financial institution to a becoming an international speaker and accelerator coach?
I had the scholarship to study my Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting Sciences but soon realized after completing that it definitely was not my passion.
Actually, I recalled working at an Investment Bank early in my career and instead of focusing on the financial audit work I was assigned to found myself in the customer care department worrying about clients. I was more concerned about the organization’s strategy and operational ability to service them better.
Needless to say, my career shifted towards being people-centric and that has never changed. It just expanded to their strategies for success and how they can operate better in their careers and personal lives.
How valuable is it to be African and think global?
I often say I am a proudly African global citizen. Thinking global allows us to elevate our standards; fast track our learning; bring international best practices to the continent whilst expanding our reach to the whole world.
Thinking global in my opinion should not be in exchange for our what makes us African. Being African allows us to see the world through a certain lens and more often than not have a shared experience such as valuing Ubuntu; a tangible sense of community, a rich heritage, and culture.
This is an advantage for us because selfish capitalism is no longer sustainable as a means of doing business. This is an opportunity for the whole world to bask in Africa’s rising.
Who are your mentors and what life lessons have you’ve learned from them?
Lillian Barnard taught me that femininity and executive power are not mutually exclusive that being feminine is a power within itself.
Sindi Mabaso-Koyane has taught me that there is indescribable joy in being of service to others. By asking how you can serve allows you to rise to the occasion of fulfilling your purpose.
Buyile Ngcobo reminds me constantly that being my most authentic self is the fuel to propel me to my destiny.
How do you set goals for yourself? Do you use a one year, 5-year plan, or the traditional vision, board?
I am a very visual person so vision boards work well for me using images and words to draw experiences to me is one of my favorite things.
In my bedroom, my vision board is framed and is actually one of the first things I see when I wake up. My vision boards offer inspiration for me as I pursue my goals and lofty dreams.
You are constantly building networks across the continent, how does this translate to business for you?
Not as fast as you would think. I am a big believer in genuine relationship building. People can very often sense if you are coming from a transactional place or being authentic. This may be the slow route but people do business with people.
So I take time to really get to know the people I engage and in turn, they get to know my heart, energy, and personality. Thus they have the ability to vouch for not just a brand but a woman they know and trust.
You’ve been to 50/51 countries in the world. Where was your favorite place, and why?
This feels like a trick question! I like different places for different reasons. I enjoy Bali, Indonesia for the simplicity and warmness of its people who will share their last cent to make you feel at home.
I enjoy Lagos, Nigeria because it’s insomniac energy inspires the entrepreneur in me to dream bigger and work enthusiastically towards my goals.
Prague, the Czech Republic for its architectural beauty makes me feel like I am in a painting.
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa because it’s my home. From the breathtaking valley of a thousand hills, it’s rich history to its warm beaches all year round to my mother’s cooking.
What drives Vumi?
Leaving a legacy drives me. It was sagely said that we die twice. Once when they put you in the ground. Second when they utter your name for the last time. It’s that second death that drives me what can I do in life to make life easier for the next person that the impact of my existence may be felt long after my body is in the ground.
What’s the one advice you’d give to your younger self?
Vumile you are enough.
It’s unbelievable how enough you are. You are God’s child, definitely one of his favorites. Your destiny is larger than any of your wildest imaginings.
So go ahead and be the fulfillment of your wildest dreams you can imagine yourself to be.
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If you have decided to ignore all the advice of well-meaning individuals and friends and have still gone ahead to start a business this year, you must have some real guts. Starting a business is no easy task. There are endless challenges that often discourage you from even starting.
When looking at all the challenges entrepreneurs face, it’s easy to question how your business would thrive. If your business was a soft, supple, newborn baby, your goals as a business owner is to see that this business survives its first years.
But how do you achieve this and start your business like a boss?
1. Face your fears
Spending nights rolling on your bed, worrying about your business goals won’t make you cause you to achieve them. Unfortunately just thinking about your business will not turn it into reality. You may have several doubts about the likelihood of people getting your products and services, but until you put your business out there you won’t know for sure.
Start by creating your sample products, sell them to family and friends and get feedback about them. With every action, you take you to become less and less afraid. Every action you accomplish will help your confidence grow and you’ll begin to see your fear diminish.
2. Surround yourself with positive people
Surrounding yourself with positive people can make a huge difference on the success of your business. There are people who would do nothing to encourage you and will not give any positive feedback. If you stay close to such people, you will begin to doubt your ability to reach your business goals.
The truth is, the people closest to you may be more susceptible about your business than strangers. Expect it. They may not believe in your ability to drive your business to fruition, you shouldn’t make it your aim to prove that point to them.
On the other hand, having a supportive people chip in a suggestion or two will stir your faith in your business, you’d start to believe in this brand becoming tangible as you hear them talk about it like it already exists.
3. Be Patient
If there is one thing you will most likely encounter, is roadblocks! And when you do, you will need lots of patience. When things get tough, don’t through your hands in the air and shout “I don’t have time for this”.
Firstly, try and understand that the problem you face is not always your fault. If you cannot go through the problem, find a way to go around it. Do not compare yourself with what you see on the news and social media. Seeing everyone move on a much faster pace may be discouraging.
When you do his a roadblock on your journey, figure out how to deal with it while putting other aspects of your business in track. You should always be ready to take off when the roadblock is removed.
4. Dance upon disappointment
As an entrepreneur, managing disappointment is a skill you can’t afford to live without. So what if things do not work out as you plan? What if a key team member decides to leave at the last minute, or a trusted supplier fails to supply your ingredients on time? What would you do when people fail you?
You cannot always control all circumstances when working with people. When things go wrong, you shouldn’t beat yourself over. Try and come up with new alternatives. Though this may be tough, it will become a lot easier if you stay positive about it.
Take a break, play some music and dance away your disappointments. You can also create a warm environment where everyone can come together and decide on the next steps for the business will be.
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I recently got a professional mentor. This was not something that had been penned down in detail in my goals for the year. What had been penned down is that I need to seize opportunities that will enhance my network.
So as a true choleric, I jumped on any networking opportunity that presented itself to me. This rather abstract goal led me to join a mentorship forum for Human Resource Professionals whose goal is to provide mentoring opportunities to HR professionals through peer mentoring.
My first meeting with my mentor happened early this year. Let’s call her Alexa. To say that I was intimidated is an understatement. Alexa has achieved so much. She is a high-flying career woman, she has a C-suite job, and reports to the Board.
She is confident, she is witty and to wrap it all, she has an amazing sense of style.
Ok. Stop giggling.
I, on the other hand, have worked at my current job for eight years. I was not proud of my employer and I had been carrying this label that I work for the wrong organization.
It was for that reason that all my job applications had not been successful. So much negative vibe about my work situation.
So Alexa and I met at a beautiful restaurant and the conversation started with her telling me about herself. I wanted her job. She makes so much impact.
Isn’t that all that us millennials want, to make an impact?
Then the conversation moved to me. I told her about myself, my work situation and why I had signed up for a mentor. At the end of the meeting, Alexa told me that as part of the preparation for our next meeting, I need to identify the one thing I want to take out of our mentorship relationship once it came to an end.
It was a wonderful evening I must say.
When I got home later that night, I reflected back to my conversation with Alexa. It was like I was outside, looking into our conversation and I was deeply saddened by the picture that emerged. I started my career so positive, so energetic and with an attitude of I can handle whatever comes my way.
Eight years later, to sitting across my mentor, I had changed to this negative person who felt like she had no power.
This realization coupled with Alexa’s assignment on my expected outcome from the professional mentorship forced me to take a long hard painful look at myself. That was the only way I could change the narrative.
I must say that it was not easy. I took some time out to reflect on my life and I realized that it was no longer clear to me what my vision was professional.
The Bible says that my people perish because of a lack of vision. How true this is. If you do not know where you are going, anywhere is good enough. But anywhere is not good enough for me.
I want to live a life of purpose and a life of meaning and my career plays a huge part towards that. Pema Chödrön in his book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, says “The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”
Self-reflection is hard. Self-reflection is painful. But self-reflection is necessary for you to scale to the next level of your career.
Do I now know what my vision for my professional life is? Yes.
Do I have a plan of how to achieve it? Yes.
It involves stepping out of my comfort zone by seeking opportunities that will make use of skills that I possess. Indeed, writing this article is stepping out for me. And so for my next meeting with Alexa, I know precisely what I want out of the professional mentorship I am being offered.
In the words of Denzel Washington, “Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influence in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living—if you do it well I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.”
Fellow female professionals, do you want to scale the career ladder? My advice, get a mentor.