South Africa’s Digital Womxnist – Owethu Makhathini

Owethu is beyond a force to be reckoned with. This incredible Google Certified genius is taking over the digital sphere by holding workshops and talks across the country through her consultancy, Makhathini Media – which provides innovative ways to show young women how they can advance their careers using digital marketing.

Owethu created her platform to upskill young business-minded women and show others how you can liberate women through social media. Let’s take a look at Owethu’s journey on how she is making a difference in empowering women while making her mark in the digital industry.

Tell us more about Makhathini Media?

Makhathini Media is a creative consultancy that specializes in offering tailored digital marketing and ICT training. We tailor the content depending on the needs of the client, not just for young people but for large corporates and government parastatals. We have a long way to go in terms of digital literacy. I want to ultimately be in a position to fund creative projects, upskill people in digital skills, facilitate networking events and help big brands and businesses create compelling, perception-shifting work.

What projects do you have up your sleeve?

I have 2 very special projects coming up and I couldn’t be more excited! One ties into the focus of the business which is the training aspect while the other ties into the secondary goal of the business which is creating a community underpinned by the restorative power of sisterhood.

We hope to create networks of women who inspire, uplift and collaborate with each other. 2018 is going to an exciting year for Makhathini Media!

The media industry has predominantly been male-dominated. How do you navigate this reality as a woman and leader in the digital industry?

If we are being honest, most industries are male-dominated. Patriarchy is maintained and is a tool of capitalism, that much is inescapable. I am fortunate that in the digital marketing space, one has the power to create a platform that can exist to challenge mainstream ideas.

Business is ruthless and as a young, black woman there are additional challenges we face to get into the room and be taken seriously, never mind having a seat at the table. As a businesswoman, you have to be able to stand in your truth and create an ecosystem of women that look like you to collaborate and make money with. There definitely is strength in numbers.

Young women are the most receptive to skills training- @owethumack Click To Tweet

How has the process and reception of educating the youth on the digital sphere been? 

Young women are the most receptive to skills training. They are often the ones that already have small-scale businesses running from home who just need a boost of knowledge. I have had mostly young women come up to me after my sessions to share their stories or to thank me for showing them that someone as young as them has found a niche and is making a business around it.

The project I am initiating in 2018 will attend to the needs of the young women who have attended one of my sessions. There is a need that must be met and I feel that I am the perfect position to facilitate it. It is very humbling, inspiring and truthfully, it is what keeps me going when I feel overwhelmed.

Can digital marketing play a role in liberating women, especially in South Africa?

Firstly, the internet is a borderless place, we are able to share ideas across the world in a matter of moments. This means that even if you feel isolated in your geographical area, you can find a community of like-minded individuals by simply searching for those people online.

Secondly, the information shared online can make people aware of the organizations that exist to help women out of situations where they feel helpless.

Thirdly, digital marketing is a business opportunity. If a woman is being financially abused, she is able to run a small business through WhatsApp or social media, therefore getting practical help.

The internet is a borderless place & digital marketing is a business opportunity Click To Tweet

As a mentor to other women, who do you go to for inspiration and why?

My great-grandmother, grandmothers, and my mother. Outside of my family, I look up to the Knowles sisters, Oprah Winfrey, Nunu Ntshingila, Zodwa Khumalo, Khanyi Dhlomo and Bonang Matheba.

I grew up in a matriarchal family with women who were equally strong and soft. They provided a firm foundation that I have built my version of womanhood on. The women in my family are not too different from women around the world. We are resilient because we must be. We are people who can get things done without disregarding our empathy.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into your line of work?

I would say take yourself on as a project. Critically assess where you fall short, unpack the ways you dishonor yourself and show yourself grace. As women, we are socialized to constantly give and made to feel selfish when we finally erect boundaries.

Make sure you have boundaries and a standard for your life, don’t ever compromise yourself for the comfort of another because you aren’t giving from a place of love but from a place of obligation which leads down a path of resentment.


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Mpho Maseko: Take risks or you will never know

Mpho Maseko was born in Swaziland and raised by a single mother. She completed her primary education in Swaziland and her secondary education was split between Malawi, Blantyre and Nelspruit. Her higher education started in Durban, then she completed her Bachelor of Business Administration in Johannesburg. Currently she has 14 years of work experience  from Customer Services to Human Resources Development. 

Ripinde Virtual Admin was founded in 2015 after she resigned from her full time job because of a family influenced decision. In the process of finding her feet she quickly learnt that self belief is the key to growth. Goal setting and time management strategies help her accomplish the things that matter. Most of the time that means redirecting her energies into things that will add value in her life.


Goal setting and time management strategies help Mpho Maseko accomplish the things that matter Click To Tweet



Mpho Maseko



What is the most influential factor that has contributed to your company’s success?

The most influential factor that has contributed to Ripinde Virtual Admin’s success is the drive behind the brand. We value success and always strive for excellence in everything we do, no matter how small the tasks may be.



As a virtual admin firm what are the challenges you face as you have to deal with companies that have different ways of doing things?

The challenges we face as a Virtual Admin service provider vary from one client to the next. For example, 80% of our clients are small businesses that range from a one man show to a maximum of 15 employees on payroll.

Understanding and managing people is a very important aspect in this industry. We conduct a profile analysis of each client, and through communication with our clients, we are able to deliver according to each client’s expectations- we do not have a one size fits all service.



Essentially, to get clients requesting some of your services such as bookkeeping and business management there has to be trust. How do you ensure that your firm is trustworthy?

Our four values sit at the heart of everything we do . We respect our business, we value excellence, we are customer-focused and we serve with integrity.

We have a strategic support team ranging from certified payroll administrators, bookkeepers, and business administrators, and they all ensure that we provide quality and professional customer service.

We gain trust from clients through managing and instilling confidence. By taking our clients through the process of explaining how we work  and ensuring that we have understood the scope of work. Most of our clients come from referrals and we can only be certain that we are doing a great job.

Mpho Maseko



Do you ever decline client requests?

Yes, we have declined a client request before. We have processes in place to protect our clients and ourselves as the service provider. Unfortunately we do not start work without an agreement in place- signed by both parties. We have had clients before that want us to begin without the correct measures in place, and we have burnt our fingers before and now we know better.



Do you consider yourself a risk taker?

Risk taker? I have learnt that in business you have to take risks or you will never know and if you do not know how do you move forward?



When you launched Ripinde Virtual Admin, you basically gave up on the security of having a full time job to start your business. Did you resign after Ripinde had started?

I resigned and then started my entrepreneurial journey. I love the journey because I get to set my own schedule and make my own rules.



Brave! So was there a backup plan or were you just confident that this was going to work?

I had no back up plan, I had no choice but to make it work.



And moments of doubt, how do you conquer those?

I do not make decisions when in doubt, never. I realised that doubt is not unique to me and that it can be disruptive. So in those moments I accept that I need to relax, distract myself by taking time out to play, talk to myself and seek wisdom from my mentor – my  husband.



Mpho Maseko



Why is it important to not sweat the small things in life?

Worrying about things that are not important can take over your life, limit the chances of your success and cause health issues. When I don’t sweat the small stuff I find that I’m more confident to deal with the bigger stuff.



Any entrepreneurial tips on how to avoid a burnout?

  • Healthy eating & exercise
  • Always do your best and don’t take anything personal
  • Establish boundaries – personal and business
  • Stay true to your boundaries and values
  • Remind yourself why you started your business, and how far you have come
  • Manage your time
  • Change your routine – work from different environments, meet & learn from new people
  • Be bold and take time off to relax


What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen or read this week?

I recently learnt that there is a website that enables students to raise funds for their education – crowd funding for students. Its amazing!

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Bulelwa Mpinda: What you received in prayer, maintain in prayer

“God has not postponed your elevation you have just paused your prayers”- Bulelwa Mpinda

Bulelwa Mpinda is the Chief Executive Officer of Young and Spiritually Inspired. As a young woman from South Africa who is in love with God, she aims to lead through her experiences and testimonies. A woman who is completely invested in the lane created for her, Bulelwa loves nature, traveling, art galleries,  poetry and writing. “I am a friend, a daughter, a sister, mentor and God’s Reflection” she says.

Bulelwa Mpinda

Bulelwa, can you briefly take us through your journey from past to present?

I am Bulelwa Mpinda a young woman aged 26, who is a daughter of the Most High God and the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Young and Spiritually Inspired.

At the age of 3, I was adopted into the Mpinda family- the most loving, God fearing family. Prior to that I had stayed with different foster parents and at an orphanage. Growing up I found my self in love with writing, reading and loved watching Oprah! Little did I know that was preparing me for my destiny.

Due to lack of funds, after I matriculated I went straight into the work space. During that time I developed a keen interest in writing about issues relating to the youth, and so I decided to start a Facebook page and God lead it into a NGO which I called: Young and Spiritually Inspired.

Young and Spiritually inspired is a youth empowerment organisation which uses the digital space to help bring the lives of young people into alignment with God. What unites us best is the Love of God.

We don't impose change, we inspire and live the change that we want to see - Bulelwa Mpinda Click To Tweet

Christianity as a weapon to change the world. How have you been received so far by your target audience?

The key is to love people and to remain humble before you add titles to who you are. People relate to real people, the organization is the vessel through which we speak the truth of Gods love.

For instance, by reading about or attending our events many young people discover a new perspective to solving their issues. People have received us very well. We don’t impose change, we inspire and live the change that we want to see. The trick is to love God, be humble and let actions speak louder than words. 1 Timothy 4:12
Bulelwa Mpinda

Okay, before we go any further, how does an introvert manage to lay a foundation for a youth forum? How do you reach out to the youth?

I remember the days where I would battle with God about placing me on this path of leadership. It seemed insane that an introverted woman would be seen as fit enough to lead something of this nature.

But, God knew that He needed to work with my self -esteem, so He placed me in a position where I would need to confidently embrace the leadership role. When I was adopted by the most loving family who taught me about Him, God knew “Jeremiah 29:11” would be the signature of my life’s testimony.

God called me into Leadership in 2011 after I had just finished my Matric. At the time I loved poetry and writing,which I think was God’s way of helping me sharpen my craft for what was to come.

I never expected to create Young and Spiritually Inspired. In the early stages I battled with the concept of owning it. I’d literally shy away from this enormous task at hand because my comfort zone felt safe; this was a place where no one knew anything about me.

One thing our youth needs to learn is that owning any brand or business does not disqualify humility. This awareness has kept me sane throughout the 6 years of running this movement. People need to resonate with you as a human before you add titles, therefore, be authentic, be you.

I never tried to out run God by trying to fit in with what is called the “You can’t sit with us class”. I believe that one can’t inspire change when you isolate others, you need to mingle with those who strive to attain your goal.

People gravitate towards genuine souls, who they can talk to and confide in.

When you ask young people to speak out about their struggles you are essentially asking them to be vulnerable. How does Young and Spiritually Inspired emotionally protect these young people?

Young and Spiritually Inspired has created a forum of very real people. We don’t judge your experiences, we direct you to the Author and the Finisher of our faith only through love.

We had a collaborative event with a lady from Kenya. The event was primarily for women, and during that event we heard testimonies of women who had been to prison, women being abused and going into depression etc.

Essentially, Young and Spiritually Inspired has created a community of genuineness. At the end of the day people will never speak up if the feel uncomfortable. Vulnerability in Christ is the best way to go. The more we share our stories, we realize we are healing someone else through our testimony.


Bulelwa Mpinda

Bulelwa Mpinda, what will the world look like when you realize your YSI vision?

Our ultimate purpose is to lead a higher standard of life. The world will meet a Redeeming Saviour. Our light will expose people to Jesus and they will realise that they don’t need to settle in abusive relationships or situations that cause suffering. They need only to be guided by the standards of the Bible.

We want to eradicate the misconceptions around Christianity and being in Christ. We aim to travel throughout Africa and the globe to share our message with people. To help them realize that God is not allergic to their mess, but He can transform them, Revelations 12:11.

The world through the eyes of Young and Spiritually Inspired is healed from the pains and baggage we carry. People will love themselves more and know that they are worthy of being better versions of themselves.  We envision a youth that won’t settle for safe in anything they do because God will be their first priority.

What’s one thing your brain tries to make you do and you have to will yourself not to do it?

I am a deep thinker therefore my brain tells me a lot of things. Therefore, i have learnt to react prayerfully in all situations. I am a leader and the influence I impart to the world is massive. The way I speak and what or how I chose to answer are vital.

The enemy will want you to vent out or bring out your inhuman nature, yet God says, I’ve come to give you life abundantly. So when the brain and heart tells me to react impulsively, God always reminds me of the calling and the ministry.

I’ve also become very discerning about my friendships and I put my life under the microscope of heaven so Jesus may be glorified.

Instagram :@Bulelwa.mpinda

Facebook :Bulelwa Buli Mpinda

How spirituality played a positive role in your business?

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Morongwa Maifo: You are never too old to learn or too young to teach

Morongwa Maifo
Mo combines her love for chemistry, fashion, and literature in her daily life and hustles Click To Tweet

It is a public secret that the future of the Africa we envision lies solely in the hands of each and every young individual who dares to dream. The inclusion of women in various decision-making positions has better positioned and equipped young women to step up in their entrepreneur journey.

Barriers are continuously being smashed, as the African girl dares to take over, below is an interview with Morongwa Maifo, the owner of VintageKlozet. Morongwa, aka Mo, is a young woman determined to let her passion become her success ladder.

Hi Morongwa can you briefly tell us who you are and what you are currently up to?

I’m a young dynamic phenomenal woman named Morongwa Nesly Maifo. I’m just an ordinary person who grew up in a normal background. My journey has been very challenging, especially not growing around parents. I spent most of my growing years with my brother, as my parents were at home in the village. I can say that I started learning responsibilities of doing things by myself at an early age.

Growing up I had low self-confidence, I have always been that young girl who would do anything to buy a friendship or try harder to make sure people accept me. Nobody ever taught me it should start with you. But these happened for a purpose as it’s now revealing itself.

I enrolled for my first degree at the University of Witwatersrand in Chemistry, am currently in the completion of my honors degree in Chemical engineering. I also obtained a certificate in sales and marketing with Unisa.

All I’m up to right now is the new baby VintageKlozet and Club Readership.

Chemistry, fashion, and literature are worlds apart, tell us how you manage the playing field you have occupied?

In my growing up journey, I realized I get bored easily with routine. I’m an explorer, a huge fan of learning, and I’m more progressive when I learn various aspects of content. At the at the end, I noticed how everything is interconnected.

I enrolled for Chemistry with Chemical Engineering because I have always been fascinated by science. I want to become an engineer. My most motivation in obtaining this degree is to contribute back to society by using the knowledge I have gained to solve daily problems.

Growing up, I suffered a lack of confidence in speaking, reading, and writing, specifically in English. Because this bothered me a lot, I started reading books from high school, and slowly I found reading fascinating. This hobby continued until varsity, I started reading a lot, especially motivational books.

I have always loved clothes, initially, I underestimated it because I thought it was just a women’s thing. It became unique when I would play with my mother’s wardrobe. That lead me to notice that I’m not a fan of trendy fashion, then I finally figured my sense of fashion is vintage.

I'm not a fan of trendy fashion, my sense of fashion is vintage - Morongwa Maifo Click To Tweet

As VintageKlozet aptly describes, what motivated you to start your own vintage retailing business and how responsive has been your target market?

I have always been motivated by Bonang Matheba especially when she said, “If you love something, get someone to pay you for loving that thing, then you will never work in your entire life”. I started VintageKlozet because of my passion and love for old style, and how I have found myself through this styling sense.

As a final year student, I have never believed I was sent to college so I can work for someone else. I have always believed as African men and women, we all have the skills to start our own companies and improve our economic status as well as that of the future generation. As the business just recently started, the response has been good so far, most people seem to fall in love with the culture of vintage, how unique it is and how it tells the story. So far, I have got responses as far as Cape Town, and few people from Zimbabwe.

How important has social media been to your business and what lessons can other aspiring fashion retailers get from you?

I’m still in the journey of learning and exploring diverse ways to market the business and establish it. There is so much power in social media because so far 80% of sales VintageKlozet has made are from social media, particularly Facebook and Instagram. Obviously, there are many ways to advertise, but so far these have shown a positive response to the business.

I have never believed I was sent to college so I can work for someone else Click To Tweet

You mentioned that you are also CEO of Club Readership, briefly tell us what it is all about?

Club Readership it’s a book club before everything. It is created for readership in Africa, focusing on African literature, of course by African authors. This is the institution that noticed a gap of reading outside academics in Africa and is determined to bring back the culture of reading in a fashionable manner.

It believes we all have stories to tell and to embrace. It would like to improve and celebrate the culture of reading mainly in black communities. As it promotes this culture of reading, it ensures to produce relevant material for Africa, therefore it publishes books. Club Readership encourages people to write and makes it easy for them to publish, for more info, people can visit our website.

How challenging have all your roles been?

Honestly, challenges serve an opportunity to grow you as a person. I have found myself doing uncomfortable things but turned my being into effective. It is challenging, but it is the enthusiasm of learning that keeps me pressing forward each day, therefore I embrace challenges.

Aspiring young business women out there are dying to know how you balance your family, academic and business life. Tell us how do you do it?

I have never come across a programmed equation for balancing life. It always brings me back to prioritizing and ensuring every second is utilized effectively. Through falling and failing, I learn what is more important and less important.

I’m one that lives by the power of the law of attraction. What I send to the universe, I get the same frequency back. Therefore, I ensure I always release positive frequency into the universe even when it becomes hard. I’m a very strong spiritual human being. When I’m at peace, happy and content, people around me, family and friends automatically become happy. That’s how I manage my relationships with them.

When I’m in good health, good spirit, I work better, be it in academics or business. So in short, I firstly manage the person from within, she is the one who guides me to manage my other important aspects of life.

So who or rather what motivates Morongwa?

I always call it a blessing to be surrounded by people who see the best in you even when you are numb. People who see a potential in you and can actively help you to unleash it. These are the two young leaders, who are not celebrated every day, very humble, but they touch thousands of lives every day.

They motivate me, I call them doers of things. One of them is Mafule Moswane, author, and chairman of the most amazing non-profit called Faculty of Best Advisory (FBA) that is changing the education of black children. The other is the president of Club Readership, Sbusiso Gama, author, and entrepreneur, also serving as the CEO of FBA.

These are the two young leaders who don’t judge and have effortlessly given their time to serve the community. They are my pillars at this moment and keep me going forward.

Describe your fashion sense in five words and what’s your fashion must have item in 2017?

My fashions sense in five words:

  • Vintage
  • Comfortable
  • Buttoned
  • High wasted
  • 80-inspired

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Lindiwe Mashinini: I work hard to ensure that I create a legacy for my girls

Our generation has been privileged to be brought up in an era where everything is online. I’m pretty sure the next will literally be raised by technology and that by then pens and paper will be in museums. Software development or coding is an IT skill that is highly demanded, but it so happens that we don’t have enough coders. Generally, the IT industry is perceived as a man’s field and what we need is more ladies to challenge the norm. 
Some African girls have been blessed to have Lindiwe Mashinini the Founder and CEO of Africa Teen Geeks. Africa Teen Geeks is a non-profit organisation that educates school children and the unemployed youth on how to code. Lindiwe holds a BCom degree from the University of Cape Town and recently completed a General Management Programme at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS).
Lindiwe is currently studying towards an MS in Technology Management from Columbia University in New York as well as a Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Stanford University. Her numerous accolades include being among the Young Business awards top 3 finalists and recently named Innov8tive Magazine Top 50 Visionary Women in #Tech To Watch in 2017.  

There are several pathways to take in IT. Why coding?

Africa Teen Geeks’ main mission is to inspire a generation of Africans who will be creators of technology, not just consumers. Ten years ago less than 18 percent of the world’s population had access to the Internet. Last year roughly 3 billion people -approximately 43 percent of global population- were online. This is phenomenal growth and the pace of change is continuing.
The digital economy has a great impact on South African growth and economic opportunity. In 2014 alone the US exported roughly $400 billion in digitally deliverable services accounting for more than half of US services exports. Africa’s digital exports have been negligible.
 Africa’s economic growth and competitiveness depend on our capacity to embrace the digital economy.  For  Africa to be competitive in the digital economy it has to equip the youth to address the legacy of colonialism where skills are concerned and to level the playing field for the previously disadvantaged.
Coding is one of the ways in which we can raise a generation of innovators and tech entrepreneurs. With the majority of Africans lacking access to capital, technology is one of the few industries where one doesn’t need money to start their business but only sweat capital.

From your experience with the coding classes. What is the common hurdle?

Their main hurdle is access to computers and the internet. This is common for most Africans since less than 10% of Africans are online. We are addressing that by removing both the computer and internet access as a barrier to learning the basics of coding. In that way, we can really talk about “Computer Science for All.

Africa’s economic growth & competitiveness depend on our capacity to embrace the digital economy Click To Tweet

Africa Teen Geeks is a non-profit org, how would you pitch to get investments within your organisation or in the tech industry as a whole.

We see ourselves as a social enterprise and are working hard to create an organisation that is not donor dependent. We have just launched our first coding boot camp as well as an entrepreneurship lab through our partnership with the Unreasonable institute.
Ultimately, we are a movement that empowers, equips and elevates Africa’s next generation of game changers.

Let’s talk startups. How good should a coder be before starting their own coding company?

I think they need to be good enough to be able to create a prototype of their idea. They need to be able to demonstrate their solution to potential customers and investors.
The aim of this programme is to create a pipeline of African women in tech -Lindiwe Mashinini Click To Tweet

Generally speaking there is a gender gap in our IT industry. How can we close the gap and break the stereotypes?

Obviously, early exposure is important but also is having female role models in the tech sector. That’s why we have a Girl Geek programme in partnership with Standard Bank. At the Girl Geek programme we don’t only teach the girl how to code, we also expose them to the industry.
We also provide leadership training and mentorship from Standard Bank developers. The aim of this programme is to create a pipeline of African women in tech by removing all the barriers that keep girls from pursuing tech careers.

Knit2code, now that’s genius! Please share with us how this came about and how you executed your idea.

Knit2code was inspired by the lack of female role models for girls and also the situation on the ground where less than 10 percent the population are connected to the internet. For example, only 5 percent of South African schools teach IT due to lack of infrastructure and qualified teachers. But also only 23 percent of IT learners are girls. Knit2code includes the female caregivers who learn to code through knitting.
What happens to girls when they go home? For many, their mothers and grandmothers (who are most often their caretakers) are overwhelmed by technology. They do not think they have any skills to support their daughters in their training and to discuss their work. Sadly, girls interested in STEM are often told they inherited a “male brain”; technical skills are not seen as a part of a woman’s feminine legacy.
Many women, of any generation, either knit or know about knitting. They see it as a useful handicraft, one that can create garments for their families.  Without knowing, women who knit have already learned the basic concepts of computing. Helping women recognize this connection is what Knit2Code will seek to accomplish.
Knit2code will bring together 8-10-year-old girls and a female family member to learn, re-learn or enjoy knitting and, at the same time, to learn the basics of computing. While no “real” coding will happen in the class, all students will be able to graduate to the Python computer language after the program. The required materials are minimal: balls of yarn, knitting needles, and posters. But this is enough for all the students to learn how to think of computing in a supportive environment and be able to go home and continue their learning in knitting and computing.

What scares you the most and why?

My biggest fear is not being able to achieve all my goals. I have this strange feeling that I may not live long so I try to work as hard as I can to ensure that I create a legacy for my girls.
That sense of urgency I guess is what drives me the most, being constantly aware of my mortality. I don’t procrastinate because I don’t think I have too much time. It’s been like this since high school so I credit my fear for achievements too…
I have this strange feeling that I may not live long so I try to work as hard as I can - Lindiwe Mashinini Click To Tweet

I can only imagine the feeling after being named one of the 50 visionary women in tech to watch out for in 2017. How did you know and what was going on in your mind at the time? Tell us all about it.

I must say I was shocked to tears because I was humbled to learn how other people view my work. I have tried to shy away from making our work about myself but the children whose life we are impacting. What inspired me also was that I was named by a publication that we never had contact with.
Also, I am so inspired by Anie Akpe so the tears were because it was someone I also look up to. I also felt the pressure that we have to live up to the accolade.

What plans do you have for the future and how do you intend to reach your goals?

My vision is to ensure Africa Teen Geeks has a geek club in every village in Africa whether it’s online or not. I would like to get 1 million girls coding by 2018 through our Knit2code programme.
We have removed the biggest barriers for African kids to learn coding by removing the computer and the internet from the equation.

I believe to be a successful entrepreneur you have to be a great leader. So Lindiwe what’s your leadership style?

I believe in servant leadership but also being accessible. I am accessible not only to my team but to any young person that needs that word of encouragement and support. Literally, I am always a tweet away.

What’s your favourite day of the week?

I love Monday because it’s a beginning. That sense of feeling like it’s a beginning is what inspires me to work hard so that I can have something to show at the end of the week irrespective of how the previous week ended.

Finally, what last impression do you want to leave?

I want to inspire African girls to believe that dreams do come true. I want them to know that irrespective of their reality we live in a time where everything is possible. While other continents have reached their full potential we live in one of the few continents where they can still make a great impact and create a real legacy.
I want to get them to believe that they can also be their generation’s, Nelson Mandela. Africa is rising and they are the ones who will rise with it.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

Mphela Yelane: The agriculture sector should be the highest paying employer in the continent

mphele yelane
We don’t think just being natural is enough. Products should deliver results - Mphela Yelane Click To Tweet

“To me, it shifted from the mindset of being a policy maker to becoming an individual championing the comparative local development concept. Africa trades more in agriculture, the agriculture sector should be the highest paying employer in the continent I thought.”

These were the thoughts of a 31-year-old Mphele Yelane while in Italy on a student exchange program that exposed her to the real context of local development. Born and raised in the African Eden (Limpopo province), “in our backyards you find plants for food and healing remedies. It’s natural for me to take advantage of the wealth in our soil. In Tzaneen my hometown, we produce oranges, lemon, nuts, avocadoes, litchis etc. I know in June I get avocado and orange for consumption and also apply as a face mask”.

The cosmetic products started as a creative thing to do for Mphele, her sisters and friends started coming for more after trying her products. While doing her Masters it clicked to her that this should be a business, Mphele realised she could empower her neighbours by buying from them and producing organic products for profit. Hence Ezamazwe Skin Solution brand was conceived. Ezamazwe means “of the world” or “from the earth”.

Tell me more about Ezamazwe Skin Solution.

Ezamazwe Skin Solution is 100% organic skincare products. We source our ingredients from all over the African continent to ensure we only work with top quality products. A good example is our unrefined shea butter which comes from Ghana. Our passion is to source out pure products from local traders in order to produce products that are truly pure, environmentally friendly and have never been tested on animals for quality control.

The fact that we do all our own research and development and produce all our products from start to finish in one location, ensures high quality every step of the way. Ezamazwe Skin Solution is proud to guarantee that we use the recommended dosages for all our actives. We don’t think just being natural is enough. Products should deliver results.

Our product is completely organic, and healthy for the environment as it is for human skin. Starting its life as nuts, raw materials are carefully crafted into many useful products, including oil and butter. The beauty of shea butter is that it is infinitely recycled from plant to skin butter. Recycling nuts products therefore, contribute to the preservation of our planet. As a sustainable skin solution, it takes nothing away from the environment and leaves nothing behind.

How did you get your idea or concept for the business?

I am born in an entrepreneurial family, my parents own a tuck-shop, taxi business and are involved in community projects.

I know more about business management than being an employee. When people started making regular orders I knew this must be formalized.

productsWhat was your mission at the outset?

My dream is to have Ezamazwe Skin Solution become one of the very few local organic skincare manufacturers in the South African cosmetic industry.

When did you “charter” the business?

The business started officially in 2007, now to celebrate 10 years I decided to register a formal business in 2017. The brand has grown and the market is ready to receive the Ezamazwe Skin Solution brand.

Mphele Yelane ran Ezamazwe Skin Solution for 10 years before formally registering it as a business Click To Tweet

How do you advertise your business?

I advertise my business mainly through word of mouth. I also utilise social media and am now ready to sponsor TV programs and beauty pageants.

How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?

I have a solid support system from my parents, my sisters (Olgah, Sharon and Lerato) and my husband. I run my ideas with them, if they buy it, I start doing research and officialise it. If they say it’s not viable I leave it there.

Also, I never give up, I just postpone and re-focus my energy. Giving up is never an option if I am sold onto something.

Describe/outline your typical day?

I am still employed full-time and work on Ezamazwe Skin Solution as part-time. My husband is a hands-on father, a typical day starts with “morning ritual”; drop my son at school, off to work, during lunch I work on Ezamazwe Skin Solution.

After work, driving back home I start planning my day as MD of Ezamazwe Concepts. Once I get home, I do house chores, then from 9pm to 2am I work on Ezamazwe Skin Solution; processing orders, delivery arrangement, and manufacturing process.

logoHow has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?

It doesn’t, my husband is a businessman too and my mentor, we don’t know anything besides working smart as parents.

What motivates you?

I am motivated by the desire to be financially fit so that even if I don’t work for a year, my lifestyle don’t change.

How do you generate new ideas?

Ideas are not generated, they just come when one is content. When you are at peace with self, your mind starts working right and ideas start popping up.

Ideas are not generated, they just come when one is content - Mphele Yelane Click To Tweet

How far are you willing to go to succeed?

I won’t rest until Ezamazwe Skin Solution becomes a household brand and number one skincare solution in Africa.

What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

Changing people’s lives through employment is something that brings me joy as an entrepreneur. I also enjoy exploring new markets and take pride in producing Proundly SA brand.

To what do you most attribute your success? What would say are the five key elements for starting and running a successful business?

Wow! If I had to limit it to five elements, they would be,

  • Know yourself in Christ
  • Commit and focus on your plan
  • Believe in yourself and stick to the plan
  • Do research
  • Analyse your market and always engage with it.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.


SheHive Toronto: July 13th – 16th 2017

The SheHive train came to the 6 as part of a North America Tour! Check out the fun we had below and join our community to stay up to date on our next SheHive destinations.

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[instagram-feed type=hashtag hashtag=shehivetoronto]

Thanks to our amazing #SheHiveToronto partners

SUPAFRIK is a travelling pop-up concept founded in 2011 to showcase contemporary African culture from music and food to art and fashion. Stops so far have included Toronto, Washington DC, New Orleans, Paris and London

Holiday Inn Toronto Bloor Yorkville (280 Bloor Street West)

Our official accommodation sponsor Westmont Hospitality Group

Fatuma Abdullah: I am motivated by wanting to do better and making an impact

Fatuma Abdullah: My business is special because it contributes to raising confident African children Click To Tweet

We all know and probably owned at least two of the famous blonde doll in the world, Barbie. It has been an important part of the toy fashion doll market for over 50 years and it doesn’t seem to lose its popularity. A Kenyan-born entrepreneur wanted African girls to embrace their ethnic diversity and allow them to celebrate their uniqueness and thus Akiki Distributors was founded.

Fatuma Abdullah is the founder and owner of Akiki Distributors (Pty) Ltd, which manufactures and distributes Akiki Dolls. “Akiki’s Short Stories”, is her first self-published book. The Johannesburg-based entrepreneur has worked in Banking and NGO sectors delivering on development projects across Africa. 

We had the pleasure of interviewing Fatuma and this is what we learnt from her…

Why Akiki Dolls?

Akiki Dolls is about affirming the African girls’ confidence. Seeing themselves in a positive light translates to a positive self-image and a healthy self-esteem.

I want African children to experience and to grow in love with an Afro-centric 5-year-old girl who they can identify with. I chose the name Akiki, which in Swahili means ruby (the precious stone). A stone associated with nobility, high energy, courage and confidence.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I am inspired by my children’s laughter, Akiki’s stories are structured around that happiness.

Also, I am motivated by wanting to do better and making an impact. I love reading books on people’s purpose and life lessons, it is stimulating to see we have the power to choose how our story will turn out and the impact we have on others. It gives me the positivity which I carry through Akiki’s ventures.


How do you market the dolls you create? And what has been the most successful form of marketing to date?

Mostly it has been online. Social media is a good channel for creating product awareness and the reach is global.

We are on Facebook, we have an Instagram account and we also market through our website.

Word of mouth and online marketing have been very successful for us.

What are your responsibilities as the business owner that have been unique to your business?

As the business owner, I am the author and Akiki’s dress designer. I envision the illustrations in the books and I also do the marketing of our products.

However, with the growth I am looking to delegate some of the responsibilities.

Did you have a blueprint/business plan before you started Akiki Dolls?

I had a blueprint in my head to begin with but it has evolved since. I was eager to get Akiki into momentum and was working on incremental activities.

                   Akiki Products                                          FB1

How closely have you stuck to this initial plan?

I have since made the time and gone through the valuable exercise of developing a business plan and having it documented. It’s not vastly different but it puts things into perspective and makes it easier to articulate the specifics.

Our children need to see more positive illustrations about themselves & their countries Click To Tweet

What makes the Akiki doll unique?

My business is special because it contributes to raising confident African children, by providing them with the play tools and literature that teach and reinforce positive perceptions of black Africans.

Our children need to see more positive illustrations about themselves and their countries, they need to read books where they are the stars. Akiki storybooks are concept themed stories all children can relate to and learn from.


Did you write Akiki’s short stories, if so, what will the next book be about? If not what would you write about?

Yes I did. It was my first self-published book. I have Akiki’s travel series coming up, I am very excited about that and the other stories I am working on.

I want to write short stories of African women and men. Everyone has their own magic and it would be interesting to capture that.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

Kiba Bam: I am fulfilling my passion of empowering young people to unleash their potential

kiba bame she leads africa
Kiba Bam: When l started l had limited technology and resources but l was a woman on a mission. Click To Tweet

The size of Africa’s hair market is just mind- blowing. The demand for human hair is increasing by the day and  from this we have seen the increase in the supply of this contemporary ‘ladies’ essential’. We have with us CEO of HAIREXPRESS Premium, Kiba Bam sharing her entrepreneurial experience.

Born and bred in Cape Town, South Africa, Kiba’s heart of entrepreneurship was kindled at the age of 9 when she was working in her parent’s shop. This exposure forced her to think on her feet and be mature enough to handle the business’ finances.

The young lady then moved to Johannesburg to study Clothing Management and from then she was in the retail industry for 9 years. From learning the dynamics of the industry Kiba had sparks of interest to tap into the undiscovered potential in beauty retail. This led to the birthing of  her human hair distributing retailer and custom wig making company.

When did you “charter” HAIREXPRESS?

HAIREXPRESS premium opened for its first day of business in August 2015. I started the business by myself in my parents’ house, working from my bedroom. The business retails human hair bundles, custom makes wigs and is a distributor to salons.

When I started I had very limited technology and resources but I was a woman on a mission. Results and progress is all I cared about. I started the company because this was a dream God gave to me. l believe I started at the right time because everything was just flowing and HAIREXPRESS came together.

Initially, I never had funds to start the business but as I said things just worked out for good. I got pregnant and the company l was working for in Joburg started retrenching staff. I was due to give birth to my daughter and decided it would be done in Cape Town where my family is.

In the midst of my maternity leave I got a call to say l was getting laid off. Funny enough there was no panic in my spirit because consciously I did not intend to go back to Johannesburg. This call then meant I would get a retrenchment package of R50k, it came and l  invested part of this money into buying my first stock. The rest is history as they say.

What successful ideas have you implemented to boost your business?

Re-working my marketing plan was the best thing I could have done for the brand. As we know without customers there is no business. We went for a total brand revamp. Before I explain what we did, I want to share why we did it.

The reason was we identified our niche target market and we also studied our competitors closely and capitalized on their weaknesses. It’s not enough to have just good hair. We created a lifestyle around the brand. We wanted our clients to desire to be identified with the brand, for it to be a personal thing for them. To love the hair and the woman behind the brand.

Since we have taken this leap clients have been rolling in and we are being noticed by a few media houses for interviews which is great. So publicity tick, customers tick.

Re-working my marketing plan was the best thing I could have done for the brand Click To Tweet

Based on your experience, is it better to cut staff or use less expensive products to reduce salon costs?

The best is to possibly reduce the hours of staff but not cut on staff as your people are an asset to the business. The pleasant thing about our business is that the staff rent for space from our premises so it’s a win-win situation. Bringing in labour when it’s most needed and having contractual staff instead of permanent staff.

I don’t have the opportunity to use less expensive products because I sell and distribute a premium product. My brand is everything. My integrity is all I have in the industry and I can allow bad publicity over bad quality. It’s not the HAIREXPRESS premium way.

kiba bam hairexpress

How do you think your start-up story will motivate other African women out there to start their own business?

It will motivate them because I honestly started something from nothing. We have a very clever God! All He requires from you is willingness. I was willing and hungry to be the CEO of my own multi-national. I’m not there yet but I started and now I’m working my plan.

My strategy is in motion. I want to motivate other woman and say money should not stop you from starting because I didn’t have money. I got retrenched at my old office job. Things worked out, they always do. Endure the beginning stages. They are painful but well worth seeing the growth and change.

Money didn't stop Kiba Bam from launching HAIREXPRESS premium @kibabam Click To Tweet

Women need to forget about the noise and focus on their purpose in life. Being the It girl, best dressed, wife to a rich guy is not an achievement. If that’s what you want then great, own it but what I know is we all have dreams given to us by God. Take a leap and just try and try everyday to move closer to the dream. Women need to understand that they are natural born leaders. We are naturally organized and think things through. We always have a plan A- Z. That already is the mind of an entrepreneur.

What is the best thing about being an entrepreneur?

Being able to transfer your knowledge to other young entrepreneurs and colleagues in the entrepreneurial space. This is a long road that needs focus and determination. The best thing about the journey for me is to see the strategy coming together. I started alone and now I have a very savvy smart business manager who is part of the team.

The business is growing and people are inquisitive about the brand. We are so grateful. It’s also so rewarding to see people buy into the idea and business of HAIREXPRESS. Clients referring other clients, people recognizing the brand and being clear of what we do. Of course the financial reward in the long run will be the utmost best reward.

Where do you want Hair express to be by the end of the year and how do you plan on getting there?

By the end of the year our loan will be approved (March 2017) and we will move into our headquarters (May 2017).

At our HQ, the front of house will be the hair salon with hair dressers, nail technicians and make up artists renting space from us. The back of shop will be the wholesale and distribution center for our salon clients where they will be able to restock for their salons.

kiba bam hairexpress 2Apart from human hair industry being monopolized by the Chinese, what other challenges do you face?

Having constant availability for my clients with stock is a major issue. The turn around time for stock is 10-14 working days per order. I have every intention of changing that, my clients want hair and when they want it they want it now with no delay. So the wholesale and DC will eliminate that problem immediately.

The other problem l faced was separating myself from the competition taking a step back and studying what’s “really” happening in the market and acting on the information collected. Women love convenience and don’t like to change their suppliers. If you are not consistent in your ways with clients they will go elsewhere, and that has been a major challenge.

Women love convenience and they don't want a change of suppliers @kibabam Click To Tweet

Apart from being CEO of HAIREXPRESS what else do you do?

My purpose and vision as an individual which also translates into my business is to change lives. Also, I mentor young people industry professionals to unleash their inner potential. I mentor young professionals through personal one on one meetings and group empowerment sessions.

I am fulfilling my passion of empowering young people to unleash their potential also through public speaking engagements at schools and events.

Fun question! What would you do if you didn’t have to work?

I literally would go shopping everyday for myself and my daughter . Everyday in South Africa and once a month on 5th Ave, Harrods and Selfridges. In the past couple of years, the budget has been tight because my money is being invested in my business 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣. So I would go shopping  EVERYDAY till I get bored of it.

Then would go do my nails and facials every other week. Have a personal Pilates trainer come to my mansion. Then off I go once every two weeks to do body sculpting non invasive surgeries on my stomach and hip area 🤣🤣🤣🤣.

I’ll also go for a boob job (breastfeeding is real out here lol) and do lunch with whomever is available from among my friends. And before I forget travel travel travel. Build a house in Camps Bay, Franschoek, Hyde park and Braynston, buy an apartment at the Marina V&A Waterfront (to live in), go apartment shopping in NYC, Paris and London.

Oh and of course I’ll be driven everywhere in my Rolls Royce. So basically, I’ll look super hot with perfect skin and be body goals for many. I’ll be super on trend everyday and live my dream life. I’ll also speak every other day, give me a golden mic and fill up a stadium and speak to inspire others.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

Rapelang Rabana: I don’t believe everyone should be an entrepreneur

Rapelang Rabana
Rapelang Rabana was named Entrepreneur for the World 2014 by the World Entrepreneurship Forum Click To Tweet

Featured on the cover of Forbes Africa before the age of 30, Rapelang Rabana founded Rekindle Learning, a learning technology company. Rekindle Learning challenges the existing norms within (largely ineffective) organisational and academic learning. It explores the role of technology and the latest learning pedagogies that improve learning efficiency and reduce time to competency, ensuring higher workforce productivity and enabling young people to be more employable.

Rekindle Learning was profiled in the McKinsey report Lions go Digital as a ‘striking innovation’ in mobile learning and serves academic learning institutions and corporate training environments.

Prior to founding Rekindle Learning, Rapelang was the founding CEO of Yeigo, an innovative startup that developed some of the world’s earliest mobile VoIP applications. 

Thanks to our increasingly digitalized culture, people generally have no patience for long-form essays or in-depth reading. Do you think there’s a danger in missing nuances when information is fed in a bite-sized format?

Subtleties and the “bigger picture” can indeed become lost when information is whittled down to its bare bones —this is an unavoidable reality in today’s fast paced world. But we should rather ask ourselves if a solution is ‘purpose-fit’. In some cases, no learning can happen without providing context and nuances, while other times, bite-sized chunks are perfectly adequate.

The very nature of mobile devices —which are the most influential contributors to this information condensing trend, can also be used for a higher purpose. And it is in learning particular subject areas that I see this dynamic being to society’s great advantage in the future.

The process of learning can be aided by information being presented in bite-sized chunks, similar to how we consume social media. This is very much part of the ethos of Rekindle Learning and what I aim to target in both the educational and corporate sphere through the use of mobile devices for learners and employees.  

The very nature of mobile devices can also be used for a higher purpose - Rapelang Rabana Click To Tweet

On running a business, you’ve said “being good at numbers, or being an aggressive sales person and deal maker, or bossy enough to manage a lot of people are not deciding factors.” Could you elaborate on the statement?

In business, as with life, we are fed many societal misconceptions that ultimately hinder our progress as individuals and professionals. These misconceptions include “being good at numbers” and “being bossy enough” which are really not factors in determining one’s aptitude for potential entrepreneurial success. Rather, success on the entrepreneurial path is one of self-discovery, the realisation of true confidence and bringing one’s authentic voice to the venture at hand.

You write your own story. The limitations that are so flippantly bandied about are only limitations as long as you play by someone else’s rules. Running a business takes constant vigilance and a lot of hard work, but if one has a deeper motivation than simply the bottom line or being a success, it can be done!

There’s a common notion in Nigeria that everyone should be an entrepreneur. As someone who has founded two start-ups, do you share the same view?

As they say, it takes a village to raise a child and it is the same in the business world. Although I believe that any person, with the right socialisation, stimulation and mindset “can” be an entrepreneur, I don’t believe everyone “should” be one.

A business is merely a sum of its parts, and every person operating within that chain plays an indispensable role – from the secretary to the MD. One cannot function optimally with the other doing the same work. Also, the moment we use the word “should” we are in dangerous territory. The only “should” is that every person be given the opportunity to develop themselves, to discover their strengths and make their unique contribution in whatever form that comes.

Yes, increased entrepreneurial activity is a huge bonus for any country but businesses need employees working in them to make them a success. There are no small parts, and for every successful entrepreneur, there’s a team of astute employees fulfilling their objectives/roles to ensure the bud blossoms.

It takes a village to raise a child & it is the same in the business world - @rapelangrabana Click To Tweet

What has founding Yeigo Communications and Rekindle Learning taught you about yourself and entrepreneurship?

From a personal perspective, I have learnt that the journey of entrepreneurship is really an inward one, wherein connecting to my authentic drive and motivations naturally leads me to the right solutions. I have been led to plumb the depths of my personality to reach places of clarity. In a nutshell, don’t look outside – look inside!

Regarding business, I’ve learnt that local entrepreneurs and innovators play a pivotal role in delivering solutions for Africa; that the typical assumptions that technologies will always come from the West are deeply flawed. Indigenous ideas that are contextually relevant, because they are created by people who not only observe but live the experience, are the only way we will have products and services that address the many challenges the continent faces today.

What’s next for the serial entrepreneur Rapelang Rabana and Rekindle Learning?

In the next 10 years, I would like to see Rekindle Learning as a centre of learning, enabling people from school children to young high school graduates needing new opportunities, entrepreneurs and women farmers to build knowledge from the palm of their hands.

I believe one of the greatest drivers of data usage in 10 years on the continent will not just be entertainment and social media but educational, training and learning content, and I want Rekindle Learning to be at the crux of that.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.