“Veni, vidi, vici”; I came, I saw, I conquered. Maphano Mohapi has indeed conquered all odds to be the phenomenal entrepreneur that she is today. Not only is she a social work graduate, nail technician and makeup artist with a spa business of her own; but she overcame and survived a fatal car accident in 2004 that left her unable to walk. Maphano was still in her teens at the time, but she found a way to embrace her tragedy and rise above it.
Maphano describes herself as an ambitious Mosotho girl with a knack and love for people. Because of this trait, she always knew she wanted to be involved in work that engaged with other people. Maphano began hustling in her bedroom; doing people’s nails in the comfort of her home while raising enough capital to grow the business. Phano ea Bophelo Beauty Day Spa which can loosely be translated as “gift of life” was born in 2012.
For Maphano, the accident may have taken something most precious to her; her mobility— but it ended up giving her a new lease of life. It ignited a passion inside her she couldn’t resist and built resilience so strong that it helps her navigate the daily challenges she faces while running her business.
At first, Maphano’s challenge was the means of a start-up capital which led to her approach the Lesotho National Development Corporation for assistance. When her attempts proved futile, she had to seek other opportunities and knock on other doors. Luckily her parents had faith in her business endeavour and offered to help her with the start-up capital.
“For most youth in Lesotho, embarking on a business is motivated primarily by the lack of employment. Hence it’s a survivor’s alternative to just lying around waiting for a job from God knows where.
“After completing my studies at university, I could not find employment anywhere. People with a disability usually get discriminated against certain jobs because of their condition,” says Maphano.
Maphano isn’t one to sit and have a pity party over how unfair life has been. Rather, she is full of joviality and zest that even able-bodied people don’t have. For Maphano, venturing into nail artistry and make-up was inevitable as she grew up loving art and has been painting since primary school. The only difference is that now she gets to do it for a living and smile all the way to the bank afterward.
In order to perfect her skills, Maphano went to nail art school and make-up artistry school in South Africa.
“Initially Phano ea Bophelo was supposed to be just a rehabilitation centre for trauma but it turned otherwise. However, the funniest part is that actually clients upon visiting the spa find both body rejuvenation and mental rehabilitation.
“The social worker in me actually comes in handy because most women who come to the spa are usually laden with lots of problems and need an ear to listen. This is actually their safe haven where they can de-stress and connect with other women.”
At the initial stage of the business, Maphano collected clientele in her room through social work marketing. Even now, social media and word of mouth advertising have helped built up her brand and increase her clientele. Maphano’s perseverance and dedication has paid off as she was honoured and crowned victor in 2016 at the Finite Women appreciation awards under the entrepreneurship female category.
Her parents have been her biggest supporters and she speaks fondly of them as her role models. They inspired her to venture into business; having travelled the road before themselves. Maphano credits their advice as instrumental in helping her navigate the various challenges that face her business. Her innermost desire is to see
Maphano’s innermost desire is to see Phano ea Bophelo grow to greater heights and create more employment. Her last words are an encouragement to everyone, especially the youth to let their voice be heard and challenge stereotypes.
“Never give up on your dreams and remember you only have one life to live. Getting a second chance in my life moulded me into the strong, beautiful black woman I am today.
“What drives me every day is that I only have one life to live and the only thing I know how to do is to love because I don’t know what dead people do,” she ends with a chuckle.
They are double trouble, double threat and authors of the twin book; “Distinguish or Extinguish Yourself”. They are well known as the Ts’ita twins in Lesotho and around Southern Africa as the two powerhouses serial entrepreneurs. The Ts’ita twins have a knack for success in developing and creating multiple enterprises that solve Lesotho’s high unemployment rate.
The twins, Nts’epeng and Ts’epang Ts’ita have managed to consistently build one business after another. The Ts’ita twins empower Basotho women through the Finite women awards and build patriotism among the Basotho nation.
For their many efforts the twins have received numerous awards. Among them are the Mantsopa award (2010), the Commonwealth Leadership award (2014), as well as the Gender Links awards.
The Twin Talk brand is said to be the brainchild behind the many companies that both you two own? What birthed it?
We began creating our brand from an early age due to being twins. We always loved to entertain people, whether it be guests at home, students at morning prayer parade, and fellow school mates at scripture union service. This grew to performing with celebrities at local concerts and ultimately we refined it to a more structured collective of ‘Twin Talk’.
It was largely inspired by great and renowned world speakers. Of course, BAM group was centred around this. We have always had a dream to own businesses. This was nurtured from an early age as our father was a renowned businessman. He always encouraged us to visualise our lives as independent women who would not get into a relationship for financial security, but for real love.
As serial entrepreneurs whose main enterprises are socially driven, how has this shaped the business ventures you pursue?
We began our first business in 2005 called BAM Consultancy, it helped us grasp the basics of business and harness our skill into perfecting our craft. However as the entrepreneurs that we truly are, one company was not enough to feed our passion to provide the service.
There was so much needed out there, with so little needed to address the needs of the customers. We decided to venture into other industries such as media, later on arts and culture promotion, and eventually general promotions. Today we are still opening doors to more entrepreneurial opportunities. This is exciting for us as we get to explore new opportunities and not necessarily focus on one stream of income.
What role does social entrepreneurship play in your business endeavours?
All the business ventures we have embarked on to date at their core try to address our societies’ most pressing social problems. We are intent on ensuring that we engage with individuals and communities at large, while also creating platforms for sharing with people and experts in various fields.
This is formalized in our corporate training ventures through BAM Consultancy. We train on business skills such as financial management, use of new technologies, recruitment services and project management. We also provide training on softer skills designed to help build leadership, management and self-mastery for those needing to excel.
Our promotions services recognize individuals and help them and their impact to be felt socially within their circles of influence. Finally, our various publications focus on women, youth and the general public, as well as entrepreneurs. They also address social issues at a familial level.
We also provide mentorship services on group and one-on-one levels. We know that social evolution is centred around inspiring individuals to be brave enough to take on challenges at a scale that makes a signification impact for themselves and their environments.
What birthed the concept of the Finite Women awards? What does it mean to be a ‘finite woman’? Do you think that after four years running, the awards have achieved their ultimate aim?
We’ve always loved creating opportunities that put women in the forefront, that is one of the reasons Finite Magazine itself was born. It was something for Basotho women to be proud of. Being finite for us was the essence of completeness, of attaining a certain level of achievement.
A finite person is someone whose story does not need to be refined any further because they appreciate who they are and are proud of what has made them be. It is about being a ray of hope to others, and sharing experiences to help others know that they are not alone.
In 2016, the awards are in their 5th year of existence. This milestone was marked with the introduction of the Male Appreciation Awards. The awards are growing stronger and broader each year. Their impact is felt by those nominating and nominated, they are more vigilant about what is happening in the women empowerment space.
What challenges have you come across as one of the few female business moguls in Lesotho? How did you overcome them?
When we started out in business, the challenge was mainly on age and not being taken seriously because we were women. We entered an industry dominated by males, and were new entrants. Obviously some people did not believe we could do it. Some did not trust us, others did not like us and some made it their business to chase us out of business.
Perseverance, the love of what we were doing, our belief in what we could achieve, our daily practice and implementation of our EQ and our faith in God made us push beyond all these negativities.
Being women with a strong sense of independence, one would think that we dominate our families, and particularly our husbands. This is not the case at all and we try by all means to practice what we preach.
A husband is a partner and needs to be treated with the respect not practised in the boardroom. We have extremely supporting and loving husbands who encourage us to excel in our business areas, and for that we are forever grateful. We create time for our children and contribute largely towards their growth, all with the mercy of God.
Among the many titles you hold, includes that of being authors and activists. What was behind the whole concept of your amazing book, “Distinguish or Extinguish Yourself”?
Initially, our academic qualifications led us to believe that financial rewards are embedded in the skills learned from school. We were in the hard science fields at university, and had always wanted to prove that we could do it in the “men’s” world.
However, our opinions changed as we started gaining wisdom of the world’s problems. We realized that soft skills are at the core of every human’s intrinsic satisfaction. The notion of writing our best seller “Distinguish or Extinguish Yourself”, was born! Afterwards, we embarked into setting up a real solution for women and youth, entrepreneurs and communities at large. We did this through solidifying the Twin Talk brand, and ultimately establishing BAM’s philanthropic arm.
We provide training and mentorship services to minority groups in an effort to build their aptitude, confidence and delivery skills. Through this all, we emphasize a skill that we even went to train and are now qualified for, which is Emotional Intelligence, known simply as EQ.
What can Lesotho and Africa expect from you in terms of expanding the business and contributing to the continent? What advice would you offer to young, up and coming female entrepreneurs?
We can only do so much “individually”, but collectively as organizations, associations and countries a lot can be achieved. Our intention is to share and partner with as many as possible. We focus on information dissemination for empowerment of individuals, communities and nations at large.
We intend to expand as much as we possibly can to reach anyone we can touch through our various tools and services. To our fellow women entrepreneurs we say do not rely on your femininity to get to the next level. Use your brains, your willpower and your passion. And never undermine yourselves, or underestimate your capabilities. All is possible once you are driven by, “If they can, why can’t I?”
As we continue to build a legacy for generations to come, what we know for sure is that corruption, lack of empathy, lack of drive and ultimately lack of vision leads nations to peril. We thank God for His Mercy to have kept us alive thus far towards impacting lives positively. We hope we are doing just that and will keep on doing just that for as long as we live.
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