Lessons from Chenesai: How to be authentic organic entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship is not just an activity, it is a lifestyle committed to the development of the dream Click To Tweet

Being a successful female entrepreneur in Africa’s current economic and cultural context is an arduous journey. Calling organic entrepreneurship impossible

Despite being a marginalised group, women entrepreneurs in Africa have great potential to positively impact the economy of the continent. It is time, we as women discussed credible models for emerging entrepreneurs as well as winning solutions in womenprenuership.

Here are some key principles I have learnt along my path pushing the clothing brand Chenesai, it’s still a journey I continue walking in confidently despite the challenges which I emerge from more determined. I’m an avid believer of sharing skills of the trade with my fellow womenprenuers in the continent.

1. Define your vision.

Vision is born from action. Engage your ideas and define your vision. One must be able to fully conceptualise how their brand will operate and relate to consumers at its pinnacle. An entrepreneurial spirit becomes paramount to sustaining this vision and seeing it through to the climax.

Entrepreneurship is not just an activity, it is a lifestyle committed to the development of the dream. It is an attitude, a psychological and physiological engagement completely dedicated to achieving the ultimate goal. So, how does one afford the luxury of investing in that dream?

2. Be your own capital and collateral.

Believe in yourself enough to invest mind, body, and soul in your vision. Capital remains the main challenge that continues to dominate the dialogue on entrepreneurship in Africa. The solution to this is to start where you are and with what you have, then work your way upwards. Pessimists may be quick to dismiss this view citing that a few dollars cannot start up the multi-million empires they desire. However, to be an entrepreneur you need to always see the glass half full instead of half empty.

When I started Chenesai, I transformed my study into my factory. I did not even own a sewing machine, so I offered the space to a design student in exchange to use her machine for my designs. From the arrangement, I saved up to purchase my own machinery.

In the four years, I have been working on Chenesai, there hasn’t been a single day where I had extra capital to bankroll my projects. I’m continuously searching innovative ways to develop at each stage as I go along, that is my capital. Quid pro quo deals are an effective way to secure services and inputs you may require. Find what services you can offer in return for products and services you need from others.

Securing a loan may seem like a necessity for your business but what this essentially entails is that your activities and course are determined by your commitment to repaying the debt. Organic growth allows you to make mistakes, learn, improve and expand.

To be a successful organic entrepreneur you need to always see the glass half full Click To Tweet

3. Be solution driven

You don’t have enough time to dwell on challenges. Perfection is a myth so act! As Motswana female tech entrepreneur, Rapelang Rabana puts it, “the most powerful ideas come from solving your own problems.” It is important to never think of challenges, I live in solution mode.

I had to do most of the work by myself, in the beginning, I could not afford to employ a trained designer. Instead of giving up and holding the “challenged” placard as justification for failure, I thought innovatively, tapped into the unqualified resource pool and trained my first employee from scratch.

Because I personally trained her on all the essentials of my business, she thoroughly comprehends my vision and works well to complement my efforts. The idea is to consider your surroundings and continuously devise effective strategies to utilise resources and opportunities to power up your business.

4. Possess an autonomous mind

Entrepreneurship is a test on your mental state. Keep your mind clear. This should be established from the onset and maintained throughout the running of the business, it must become a lifestyle. For one to be able to make effective decisions, they should have as much control of the factors in play as possible.

Limit obligations and understand that it’s a long and lonely walk. Refrain from engaging in relationships, friendships, activities and commitments that will affect the course of your business negatively. Every activity you partake in must bring growth to your entrepreneurial spirit or feed into the vision in some way.

It is important to never think of challenges, I live in solution mode - Chenesai @Inspire2Aspire Click To Tweet

5. Honour your time

Put a price tag on your time, maximise every hour, minute and second of each day operating on 100% productivity. You are expected to wear different hats as you grow your enterprise, as such your time is gold. When I made the decision to venture into Chenesai, I left my job at one of Zimbabwe’s top law firms and settled on a much smaller one to afford me the time I need to invest in my dream.

I now work 3 days a week and the rest of my time is dedicated to my brand. If you need to keep an 8 to 5 job, then every minute outside of work must be accounted for. Create and own your flexibility outside of the office or workplace and make the time for the business.

6. Tackle the gender barriers

Finally, for now, the strategic deviation has got to be embedded in your DNA if you are looking to succeed. While we continue to work to address cultural structures that deprive us (women) of several opportunities, we do not have the luxury to wait for things to change.

We need to actively find ways to get around the issues we face as women entrepreneurs. Find inspiration from your multiple roles and where you can, merge them with your passion. For example, as a mother, I include my son in all my projects because I must play my part in raising him (do not forget the dads) and looking after him. I have developed a line of clothing, “King K” which is inspired and dedicated to him.

Solution driven thinking and time management will solve a lot of the issues we face as women. That along with the compact rules I have shared from my experience, I am confident that we can all prosper as womenprenuers in Africa!

Personal branding takeaways from Adenike Oyetunde

We share lessons from Adenike Oyetunde's successful personal brand story, which is inspiring audiences. Click To Tweet

Personal branding expert, and Forbes contributor Glenn Llopis says; “A personal brand is the total experience of someone having a relationship with who you are and what you represent as an individual”. The boom of social media has also come in handy for personal branding. This is seen by individuals taking over the social media space (thankfully social media can afford us all our mini reality show) for self-promotion. Individuals may be as inauthentic, but their pages are curated to take on a persona.

This goes by the Dramaturgy Theory by Goffman, where personal branding is regarded as a self-presentation. It is an act or drama in itself classified into the ‘front stage’; a premeditated image for everybody, and a backstage; the authentic self (not for everybody). Goffman’s theory seemed to have paid off a lot more at the onset of social media, when social media tended to be only for solidifying public image.

Now social media content that get the most engagement are those of pages that have the ability to be vulnerable. Rather than centered on a premeditated image, they have a human face, add value, and connect genuinely with the audience.

The social media content that get the most engagement have a human face and add value Click To Tweet

Let’s talk about a successful personal brand story, Adenike Oyetunde, who has been up and about her authentic self and is inspiring audiences.

Introducing Adenike Oyetunde

Adenike Oyetunde is a spirited lawyer and on-air-personality. She was diagnosed with Osteogenic Sarcoma (cancer of the bone) at age 20 when she was in her second year in University. Adenike eventually had to accept the Doctor’s diagnosis and go for a limb amputation, after refusing to admit that she would live without one of her limbs for the rest of her life.

Adenike’s personal brand message: Inspiration

It’s rather a sad one to have your limb amputated but Adenike is such an energetic, happy, and inspiring soul. I like this statement she once made: “I, my name is Adenike Oyetunde, and I am living my life like it’s golden.”

Adenike admits to the news of amputating her limb dropping like a bombshell, as the Doctor was as direct as possible. She had to even be the rock for her family because her parents didn’t take this so well. “I actually saw my dad crying… I would have to not cry before my mum because she was going psychotic.”

Adenike’s is a case of courage and radiating so much positive energy. Yes, this was her source of strength, to pull through those times. Adenike survived it and now uplifts the world. Her message is such an inspiring, and uplifting one. She takes to social media every day to radiate light. Here is what I love about her -she’s a fun, free-spirited, warm and a good-natured soul.

Brand authencity: Her social media is such a fun and relatable place

The soul of Adenike’s social media page is in its spontaneity. It is not curated and comes with a ‘random’ vibe. Every Wednesday on her page, she shares funny witty randomly curated words from social media on ‘Wordy Wednesday’. Adenike sounds so relatable on social media, you would think that you have met her in person (and yes you have).

Adenike also shares stories of upliftment. ‘Miracle Mondays’ are Mondays where she shares stories of people who have had miraculous interventions on social media. The warmth of her personality shines through all the time. And therein lies the authenticity of her brand.

The authenticity of Adenike's brand lies in the warmth of her social media personality Click To Tweet


This is Adenike’s watchword, I think. She is like somebody who lives for everybody else; selfless. One of my initial encounters of Ms. Adenike was during one of her social impact causes, when she was raising funds for a cancer patient on world cancer day.

Adenike is so passionate about spreading the word on cancer and other social causes. She recently launched Amputees United for amputee-activism, and January this year she began the gratitude jar challenge for people to tell their gratitude stories on social media for the 365 days of the year.

5 lessons learnt from Solange Knowles

Get a healthy dose of motivation courtesy of Solange Knowles Click To Tweet

Solange Knowles’ recent album, “A Seat at the Table”, provides commentary on her experiences as a black woman in America and places her amongst the most talented artists of this generation.

I’ve played the album over and over again since it came out, and each time I feel more empowered and encouraged as a young woman. Her melodies are woven in with stories that we can all take inspiration and a little guidance from. Here the 5 things I’ve learnt from “A Seat at the Table”:

1. “But I’m not really allowed to be mad.”

It takes a lot of restraint to sing in a cool silky voice when your songs speak out about the injustices you’ve experienced because of the colour of your skin, or when you’re trying to work through the hurt and anger you feel.

We often face a conflict as women; do we raise our voices and risk being labelled as loud and angry, or remain quiet with our voices barely heard. How do we effectively get our message across without coming off as the ‘angry black woman’ when we disagree with someone? I’ve come to find that people are more attentive when you speak in a composed, self-possessed voice, with your words carefully thought out. This way, you avoid hurling insults and jabs that do nothing but foster more resentment.

2. “Ain’t no apologizing for all the things you want.”

Have you ever been told that your strong opinion or confidence is too intimidating? Or, God forbid, that a woman who is self-reliant and self-assured won’t find a husband? Being a Motherland Mogul means we know what we want and we go out and get it.

Being labelled bossy or a control freak is the side effects of being a badass who knows her business and herself. The negative labels from the naysayers shouldn’t deter you from you doing what you want, but rather should drive you to work hard and be proud of how much you have achieved.

3. “Fall in your ways, so you can wake up and rise”

Trust your intuition. That little voice in your head, she knows what’s up. Trust your instincts, who knows what glorious journeys they will put you on. When you take the time to listen to your intuition the challenges to realising your goals become minor obstacles because you know where you’re going. Your gut is your compass and it doesn’t hurt to follow it.

Don’t discredit your feelings; ask yourself why you feel a certain type of way, are you content, are you doing what you love? How you feel internally shows in what you put out to the world so self-reflection and assessment will foster a more creative, intuitive and stronger you, becoming a more positive force in what you do.

4. “Be weary of the ways of the world”

Have the difficult conversations. We are living in a time when people are so divided on a myriad of political and social issues. The instinct is to avoid these debates because engaging could ruffle feathers, bring friendships to question or have you never wanting to attend another family gathering.

But how do we create and foster change if we don’t ask the hard questions and challenge each other? Part of this is listening to what others have to say, even when you struggle to agree or even understand their point of view.

5. “Don’t let anybody steal your magic”

gif love friends sisters prince janelle monae natural hair solange Black Girls Rock carefree black girl black girl magic made with tumblr

Celebrate yourself and your success. You’ve got a lot to be proud about, from large milestones such as graduation or a new job to the small things like finally getting to the gym. We are who we are, we’ve gotten here whether it is through chance or some detailed planning.

The people and experiences we have encountered have such a profound role in shaping our ideologies and path. So don’t take it for granted. Don’t think your path is less significant because it is different from that of your friends and family. You are your own success story and appreciating that is one of the best ways to take care of yourself and keep you pushing for more.


Career Lessons from Toolz

Tolu Oniru (popularly known as Toolz) is a big name in the Nigerian media industry. She was born into the royal Oniru family. Toolz is an on-air personality, talk show host and radio presenter. Currently, Toolz hosts The Midday Show on Beats 99.9 Fm and anchors her show called The Juice.

Everyone knows she is one of the best when it comes to radio presenting. But what exactly sets her apart from her colleagues? What drives her? How has she being able to create a name for herself in the media industry over the last few years?

Here are four career lessons we can learn from her:

Hard work

“Hard work does not necessarily guarantee success, but no success is possible without hard work.” – Dr T.P. Chia

While hard work might not necessarily guarantee your success; it definitely improves your chances of being successful in your career. I define it “as that extra effort you put into achieving your desired goal.” Toolz has carved a niche for herself, created a name and built her image through her relentless effort and hard work.

Be passionate about your work

“Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.” – Simon Sinek

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines passion as “a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.” Passion for one’s work goes a long way in having a successful career. Toolz’s passion for celebrities, entertainment, music, and media has helped grow her career.

She loves what she does and she makes sure she puts her best into it. Whether she’s airing the Midday show or anchoring the juice, you can tell from how enthusiastic she is about her job from the way she relates with her audience.

Whatever career path you find yourself in, ensure that you have a passion for your work and use it as a source of motivation and direction.

Be willing to start

There are so many ‘what ifs’ in the career field. “What if things go wrong? What if I am not cut out for this? What if I make a mistake on air?” I am guilty of this habit too; I worry about the ‘what ifs’ before giving myself a chance to start. Before Toolz moved back to Nigeria, she worked with MTV Europe and Walt Disney pictures. These two companies gave her the confidence she needed to go far in her career.

In an interview with The Daily Mail, she talked about how her interest in broadcasting grew as she worked at a radio station in London. That prompted her movement to Lagos in 2009.

So no matter what career path you are aiming for, give yourself a chance to start. You will be surprised how far you will go. “If you take another step, and another, you will be surprised to know how far you can go from the point you thought was the end.”

Have a support system

According to socialwork.buffalo.edu, a support system refers to “a network of people- friends, family, and peers that we can turn to for emotional and practical support.”

In an excerpt from her interview with The Daily Mail, Toolz said, “my family have been supportive, but they don’t really get involved – my father wanted me to be a doctor/lawyer, so he wasn’t particularly thrilled with my decision to get into entertainment. Now he sees me on TV, in magazines, hears me on radio and he respects how hard I have worked.”

Having a good support system goes a long way in building one’s career. They are the people who encourage, support and stand by your side; they do not give up on you. In this present time where people seem to burn out easily, having a strong support system can help keep you going even when you want to give up.

8 markings of a strong #MotherlandMogul, as told by Mary J. Blige

Does Mary J Blige teach us that strong business women remain authentic? Find out how here Click To Tweet

I have been a fan of Mary J. Blige since my childhood in the early 90s and have taken great inspiration from watching the way that she has blazed trails, set trends and overcome adversity, both in her career and personal life, from then even up till now. This, in addition to the fact that her songs tend to surround themes such as female empowerment, make her a favourite.

With a title like “The Strength of a Woman,” her upcoming album seems set to carry on this important discussion. So, to celebrate, I was inspired to share 8 markings of a strong business woman through some of my favourite Mary J. Blige lyrics:

1. “Take Me as I am or have nothing at all”

There is a saying that goes “if you try to please everyone, you’ll end up pleasing no-one”. Although it can be tempting to make your business all encompassing, one of the things that Mary teaches us about strong business women, through songs such as “Take me as I am,” is that they remain authentic.

When I say this, I mean that they are self-aware enough to know where their talents lie and who they can best serve. In other words they niche down.

An example of this can be seen via the overlap and differences between She Leads Africa and my blog. Both cater to women but they have different niches- in that SLA caters to business women whereas my blog caters to Christian women. Some of the benefits of having a niche in this way are that:

  • It allows you to play to your strengths
  • It allows you to work with the kinds of people you like to, making your business a joy rather than something you dread
  • It sets you up as an expert in your particular field, making you the “go to” person in your niche or specialism
  • Being seen as an authority has a positive effect on profit margins

2. “All I really want is to be happy”

Through songs like “Happy,” Mary shows us that part of the reason strong business women are able to be so authentic is because they know what makes them…well…happy! Not only that, these women have developed goals; so, they know what they want to achieve in future.

They also honour their dreams by going for them. This knowledge of self may have been hard won- especially if it was something that they didn’t always have- but, once it’s developed, it is what guides their business practices.

3. “No more drama”

In songs such as “No More Drama”, Mary is teaching us that strong business women refuse to tolerate negative entities. This is because they’ve battled through too much to make their businesses what they are today to let another person destroy it with negativity.

They are, however, also wise enough to know when the “drama” is coming from within (through things like fear, self-doubt or negative self-talk) and so will do the inner work needed to shake those things off to progress as well.

4. “Hate it or love it the underdog’s on top and I’m gone shine, homie, until my heart stops”

Sometimes it is not possible to eliminate negativity because it is coming from a family member or colleague, for example. Through songs such as her remix of 50 Cent’s “Hate it or Love It,” Mary teaches us that in such situations, we always get to choose how much we are willing to be affected by other people’s opinions or attitudes.

We may not be able to control nay-sayers or “enemies of progress” (as we Nigerians would call them), but we can control our own reactions. Strong business women realise that, and so they refuse to slow down, give up or let anybody steal their “shine”.

5. “…As long as it’s you by my side, I’m stronger”

In addition to breaking away from the negative sources in their lives, strong business women seek positive relationships and collaborations. According to another Mary song, this means relationships that make them “Stronger”. As already implied, this entails being around people that:

  • Love you for you (only suggesting alterations be made to contribute to you growth and progress, rather than make you feel “less than”)
  • Support your goals and dreams
  • Are positive sources of influence.

By the same token, strong business women are able to do and be the same for others (in the knowledge that a win for one sister is a win for us all and does not detract from them in any way).

6. “In each tear, there’s a lesson…”

Through songs such as “With Each Tear” Mary shows us that strong business women are constantly learning, even if the teacher comes in the form of a mistake or failure.

They roll with the punches, extract the lessons from that season and use it to become better rather than bitter.

Tweet: Mary shows us that strong business women are constantly learning, even if the teacher comes in the form of a mistake or failure

7. “I can see in colour, the first sign of spring…”

Mary demonstrates, through songs like “I Can See in Colour,” that strong business women lean towards such optimism because of a hope and faith in God, or another higher power, who means them good and not evil. This gives them a sense that everything, including bad things, happens for a reason; that even if the bright side of a situation is not immediately apparent- it will be.

They also understand, in line with one of my favourite songs (Total Praise by Richard Smallwood) that, that higher power is the source of their strength in the first place.

8. “[I] put my life all up in these songs just so you can feel me; so you can get the real me”

I’m going to end this ode to Mary J. Blige and strong business women with the song I began with- “Take Me As I Am”. In it Mary sings the words in the title of this 8th point. When we share these things with others, we let people who have the same challenges know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

In being unafraid to share the good, bad and ugly of her life with her fans through her music, this is exactly what Mary does- teaching us that strong business women encourage and build others up. They use their platforms for good and live in such a way that they inspire others.

For me, that’s empowering Christian women by promoting the contributions of strong women of faith (both past and present). What is it for you? Once you know that, like Mary, you’ll know your purpose.

6 ways to remain calm under tight deadlines

shehive accra deadlines she leads africa
How do you keep your cool under stressful deadlines? Click To Tweet

Even if you’re lucky to have a job that doesn’t entail working with deadlines, one thing for certain is there will be a time in your life where you will find yourself under an intense pressure situation, that can either make or break you at work.

While it’s good to work with deadlines, they can be incredibly stressful. Deadlines give us an idea of the amount of time we have to work on something and help us to complete tasks on time; that’s the good. The bad? Tension mounts and we start to feel like we’re running out of time the closer we get to a deadline.

The biggest secret is to remain calm. Here are a few tips on how you can remain composed under deadline stress.

1. Make sure your deadlines are realistic

If your deadlines are always too short, you’re likely to feel stressed from the moment the deadline is set. The solution is to figure out whether the deadline you’ve been given is realistic; then to have a sense of how much time is needed for the task.

all-stressed-out-gifIf you’re given a deadline that seems unreasonable or too tight, find out whether the deadline is flexible and if you can make a case to have it extended. Deadlines are real but sometimes they can be negotiated. Don’t be afraid to ask for more time if you feel the deadline is really unworkable.

Deadlines are real but sometimes they can be negotiated. Don’t be afraid to ask Click To Tweet

2. Choose a positive response

I came across this quote which says; “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” When faced with a situation that puts you under pressure, you generally have two responses. You can choose to change either the situation or your response to it.

Even if you have no power to do anything about the set deadline, you have the power to choose how you respond to it. Instead of thinking negative or allowing the deadline to make you tense, you can choose to refocus your thinking to a positive response. This will lead to a positive action, such as “I can do this” or “How can I do this?”.

A positive response will help you to remain calm and focused on what needs to be done. Learn how to defeat the panic signals.


3. Think about the progress you’ve already made

Instead of freaking out, it can be tremendously helpful to take a minute to reflect on what you’ve accomplished so far. Do this first before turning your attention to the mountain that remains ahead of you.

During a challenging workday, focusing on the meaningful progress you’ve made so far, can boost your emotions. Also, it can motivate you to keep going until all the work is done. It is the “small wins” that keep us going, especially in stressful scenarios.

It is the “small wins” that keep us going, especially in stressful scenarios Click To Tweet

4. Listen to a relaxing song

Certain people are naturally gifted with a calm personality, and it gives them a competitive advantage under stressful situations. But if you know you’re not one of them, you need to learn some calming practices. Calming practices are a lifesaver  when under pressure.

When under stress, you can strengthen your calming muscle by listening to music that really relaxes you. Listen to a calming song until you feel deeply relaxed. The experts say music has a unique link to our emotions; it can be a highly effective stress management tool. So put on your earphones and turn that music on.


5. Take a deep breath

That feeling when you look at the clock and your heart rate starts going up. The easiest way to remain calm under stress lies in something you already know: you just need to breathe. When you’re feeling stressed, take a few minutes to focus on your breathing.

Close the door or isolate yourself from all other distractions, and just sit in a chair and breathe properly. The process of controlling your breathing will help your brain focus only on the task at hand and will lift the cloud of stress from your head.

cookie-sigh gif

6. Total recall

Can you recall one or two situations that caused you serious stress in the past? Remember how you handled that stressful deadline and came out victorious! Bring back that feeling of being confident and being in control of the situation.

Let the positive experiences from your dealing with stressful situations guide you wisely through the new challenge you are facing. Remind yourself that today you are stronger than yesterday.

this_whitney gifYou can tackle it just like you tackled it before!

Looking back at 2016’s lessons

barbara mckenzie kendi sapepa lessons
It’s crazy to think what a difference a year can make, @Kendibone_S shares her lessons Click To Tweet

As we stroll into 2017, I wanted to take a look back at it, and see what has stood out as really important lessons learned in 2016. First up, we have;

Listen to your inner voice

As cliché as it may sound, sometimes when working on certain projects or people, there is often a small voice telling you to say ‘no’. Yet whether it doesn’t make sense financially, does not suit your brand or just a personal reason, we often agree and suffer the consequences of it.

I have slowly started getting used to saying ‘no’ to making clothes that do not complement my brand or my brand’s style. After reading how saying no, can be one of the best self-care, I’ve been slowly getting into saying it more.



Don’t be a lone-ranger

Although I work best when working alone, I have come to appreciate how much collaborations can help and grow your business. Learning to mingle with industry leaders, influential people and chatting to some —even if it’s just to ask a question— has really made a difference in my business’s growth and reach.

Working with both like-minded people and “unlike-minded” people, helps you see things differently or in some cases, build on what you already have. Simple things like collaborating with a start-up courier company can help you lower your costs and help them grow their client bases and develop their track-record.

Make your customer service your best marketing tool - @Kendibone_S Click To Tweet

Value your clients

They are the lifeblood of your business. Make your customer service your best marketing tool, simply because it is far more organic and real. A referral from a trusted friend is far more effective than a paid for Facebook advert.

Not to say that one should not participate in paid advertising, but when you cannot afford it, your customers will do it for you, free of charge. And when they can’t, you simply engage in some referral-based marketing and offer discounts and free gifts for every new clients they bring. This is totally worth it and far more effective.fierce gif


We as entrepreneurs often spend each and every waking hour slaving away at building our businesses and often forget to take care of ourselves. Like in emergency airplane situations, you are instructed to put on an oxygen mask on yourself before you can help anyone, even children. One must take care of oneself before they can take care if their business.

I started practising self-love recently, when I painted my nails after months of not making time to do it. Self-love need not be extravagant, it just has to be something that makes you happy. Something as simple as buying yourself an ice-cream cone and taking a walk or giving yourself a half-day from work, can go a mighty long way.

Get uncomfortable

It’s crazy to think what a difference a year can make. I started off the year with just my clothing brand and its online store, but the tail-end of 2016 I had an actual walk-in boutique that opened early December.

Before this I had fears about the cost and implications of opening a store, possibility of zero sales, being unable to cover overheads, and for a long time was paralysed by it. But as the famous meme says, the magic happens outside the comfort zone.

if-you-believe-lavwemThere are those who are happy to not try anything and that’s all right, but for those who dream and wonder if they would be successful at something, just do it! It’s okay to fail, it says you tried! Most of us are very quick to drown ourselves in the negatives and consequences of taking a chance, that we barely come up for air and say; “but what if it does work?”

As the next famous meme goes; “What if you fly?” We need to train our minds to be selective in the kind of thoughts that we allow into our heads, we need to be as selective of those thoughts as we are with our selfies, clothes and so on. The mind is a powerful thing.

We need to train our minds to be as selective of thoughts as we are with our selfies Click To Tweet

And with that said, I look forward to starting off the year on a high note.

Lessons we can learn about building a social brand from Seatbelts&Openspaces

thuto sekate seatbelts&openspaces being lizzie
It is important to incorporate a social issue that can be part and parcel of the story behind your brand Click To Tweet

Social branding is important in trying to build enterprises that are btoh sustainable and socially responsible. We can learn a few lessons from Seatbelts&Openspaces CEO, Thuto Sekate.

Seatbelts&Openspaces is an ethically social brand which produces sustainable merchandise including up-cycled arts and crafts, clothing, and décor made from organic material, old clothes, trash and scrap material.

1. What influences your brand?

For Thuto, a #MotherlandMogul making vintage clothing with environmentally friendly products, her influence is from her past.

“Seatbelts&Openspaces is a result of an ethical father and mother. My dad once worked for an NGO that dealt with social issues, then moved on to work for a can recycling company. Later, my mother started a glass and paper recycling company while I was still a minor. So caring for the environment was naturally drummed into me.”

In university, she had the experience to cover a topic of sustainable fashion. This exposed Thuto to her calling to address her social issue of choice through eco fashion.

When building a social brand, it is important to incorporate a social issue that can be part and parcel of the story behind your brand.

Source: Seatbelts&Openspaces Facebook
Source: Seatbelts&Openspaces Facebook

2. Clearly define your brand

Through her platform, Thuto directly addresses environmental issues, making clothing from waste or recyclable material. She also upcycles, with ethical practices such as using natural dyes like coffee and tea in her production.

Thuto’s focus is incorporated in every fabric and material she makes which is clearly visible in whatever she sells. Through her style of fashion, Thuto reduces the carbon footprint by handcrafting her work.

There is a conscious effort in her work to ensure that her brand clearly associates itself as environmentally conscious and friendly.

Thuto Sekate directly addresses environmental issues through Seatbelts&Openspaces Click To Tweet

3. Learning from others

“I am definitely following other social brands, both fashion for their trends and just eco brands for the information of staying eco conscious.”

Thuto learns a lot from more developed socially responsible brands that help her find better ways to structure her business. This way, she can improve her process and technique as well as raising her integrity associated with being a “woke” brand.

Source: Seatbelts&Openspaces Facebook
Source: Seatbelts&Openspaces Facebook

4. There will be challenges still, SLAy

In countries like Botswana, building a eco friendly brand is not common or well known as part of the business process. So not everyone will understand immediately your work.

“Awareness of the cause is still building up in Botswana, so very few people understand the deeper meaning of the brand. The educational part of the need for such a brand needs to be built before we can successfully make a significant social impact.

I guess that’s why Seatbelts&Openspaces is a need. Our attempts are to close that gap of understanding and rocking the brand while creating employment opportunities for the youth. Mostly the balancing of profit and good will.”

Beyond looking to make a profit, your brand has to look at long-term sustainable solutions to ensure it meets its targets and impacts its community positively.

Building a social brand requires realizing that you improving your space in one way or another Click To Tweet

5. Be a game changer

Building a social brand requires realizing that you are different and improving your space in one way or another. Your platform can influence others on how they perceive social challenges around them, especially now in Africa.

“The possibilities are endless for us, we are the actual future. With the amount of “woke” young people in my circle alone, my faith in humanity is restored daily. Photographers, weavers, bloggers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, online store owners are each tackling different social issues.

From documenting poverty in photos, offering artisanal skills to the less fortunate, selling art made by locals all over the world at fair prices, giving locals an opportunity to grow beyond borders or awarding free medical services, with the help of crowdfunding. We do need to make profit, but it should not be at the expense of others.”

Seatbealts&Openspaces does not shy always from realizing the task of changing the narrative on consciousness in business in the Motherland. Neither should you.

A Day at #SheHiveJoburg: True SheHive fashion is epic

10:00: As a Joburger for the past few years, it was my first time experiencing Maboneng, where SheHive Joburg is taking place. Driving into Maboneng, which is known for it’s eccentric culture and vibe, you forget that you are in Joburg.

SheHive Joburg was held at the OPEN Collaborative City Workspaces on the 4th floor. I walked into a space with music playing in the background, and I was filled with excitement.

10:45: More people started arriving, registering and received their #MotherlandMogul name tags. You could sense the excitement, not only for the event but the great venue SheHiveJoburg was being held.

11:28: We had a full house, and it was time to start! Ellen, the MC, welcomed all the ladies. We found out that Joburg was the final stop of the SheHive tours. I must say, bringing women together around the world with such an event is an awesome initiative and learning experience.

To break the ice in the room, Ellen asked that the ladies turn to the person next to them and introduce themselves. This intro also had to include a selfie! Who doesn’t love selfies?!

After taking the selfies, we needed to post them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #SheHiveJoburg. The ladies with the best caption on what they want to learn on the day would win a prize at the end of the day. Of course this was well-received. We love prizes!

11:35: The SheHive signature rap battle begins. The All Access ladies were the judges for this segment. The #MotherlandMoguls got into teams of 6 to prepare their rap.

Team names included Captured Africa, African Butter and African Dream. The best four names went to the final round to battle it out.

After watching the four teams battled for the rap title, I must say that Africa Has Got Talent! The judges finally announced the winners and Captured Africa took the title!img_0350

12:01: SLA Co-founder, Afua spoke about building winning partnerships. The ladies in the audience split into groups of 5-7 for the business exercise assigned by Afua. The exercise required that the different groups come up with a business name, a natural bath and body product and a partnership that would best align with their product.

Preparing for the pitch to their potential partners filled the room with excitement. I discovered that Motherland Moguls are creative, and having this experience will help them in the future when they pitch to their soon-to-be partners.

13:03: Networking is valuable but networking right is more valuable. Ellen encouraged the ladies to speak to 3 people they do not know during lunch, and of course, take more selfies and post on social media.

13:06: Lunch time. This was the perfect time to take more selfies, take pictures using the SLA props to and most importantly to eat and mingle.

14:00: Once lunch was over, Victoria, the Marketing and Social Media coordinator from Kisua announced that everyone is legible to a 15% discount on their first purchase at Kisua!! This was one of the many highlights of the event, the #MotherlandMoguls loved this.

Then, the media panel began with Susan Younis, Janine Jellars, and Leslie Kasumba. The panel was a discussion on their career journeys to date and the lessons learned in the media industry. Who better to learn from than from these media moguls!?

The media panel gave us pointers on how to know which offer to take. One of the panelists, Janine, pointed out that not every opportunity presented to you will be an opportunity you should take. It’s important to know what is good for you and understand what your path and your purpose is.

15:20: The next speaker was Irene Charnley, who is the CEO of the Smile Group. Her presentation was centered around the importance of you. She gave us pointers on how Motherland Moguls can be guided by their core values. Irene also asked a few members of the audience to tell us what their core values are.

This was important because what your values are should speak to both your personal and professional life. A lesson we took from the presentation is to always be present in everything that you do.

16:17: After that inspiring session, we needed a comfort break where more networking happened and Motherland Moguls bought branded t-shirts. We even had some ladies change into the t-shirts as soon as they bought them.

16:35: The last speaker of the day was Dorothy Amuah from Luxury Focus. Dorothy spoke of her journey after finishing her MBA,  and seeing that there is an opportunity for luxury to expand in Africa. She came back to Africa to see where she could play her part in growing the luxury industry.

We learned about the luxury business and for many of us, it was an eye-opener. We definitely learn something new everyday!

img_007217:15: Motherland Moguls got an opportunity to share their stories about themselves, their businesses and initiatives and everybody loved this. Having platforms such as SheHive that give women opportunities to talk about the great work they do are vital.

To end off the day, the rap battle winners and social media winners claimed their prizes and it was time for cocktails and more networking!

#BossingFromBirth: Lessons you can learn for your career/entrepreneurial journeys from #SheHiveJoburg

lessons #bossingfrombirth shehive joburg she leads africa
Lessons on #BossingFromBirth from Linda Mabhena-Olagunji and Vere Shaba #SheHiveJoburg Click To Tweet

The final #SheHive tour was in Joburg this November. The Motherland Moguls in Joburg got a chance to hear inspirational talks from women making strides in their respective industries, giving us lessons on #BossingFromBirth. Two of the women were Vere Shaba of Shaba and Linda Mabhena-Olagunju of DLO Energy Resources Group.

One of the many valuable lessons we took from Linda and Vere was their entrepreneurial drive from an early age. Both women started in the corporate sector. Linda started off as a lawyer at one of the top five firms (Bowman Gilfillan) and Vere started off as a Mechanical Engineering at WSP Group but both left to start their own companies.

The aim of only making money is not a good idea to get into business

For some people, the driving force to starting their own businesses is to only make money. If you get into a business base with the intention of only making money, people will definitely see through that.

Vere pointed out that what helps in getting into business is having the passion for it. This is an important lesson because the passion is what will drive you to make your business and career path work.

In business/career failure will happen but it's all about having a good comeback Click To Tweet

Make sure you always have a comeback

Whether you’re in building your business or building yourself in your career, failure will happen but as Linda had pointed out, it’s about having a good comeback. It’s about continuing even after the failures and making sure you fail upwards and keep moving. You need to be resilient.

As with any business or career path you choose, things probably won’t go as planned or what you have wished for, so you need to ensure you have a strong support system. A support system could be your colleagues, family and close friends. Have those people around you who will encourage you to keep moving. Most importantly, you need to have a extraordinary confidence and belief in yourself, Motherland Moguls!

Value networking

Every person that you meet could be your potential client or business partner, therefore creating networks and maintaining those relationships is key. Always make sure that you leave a good impression on people.

This should not business or career wise but also all aspects in your life where you’re constantly meeting and working with people.

Planning is key! & other advice on #BossingfromBirth from Linda Mabhena-Olagunji & Vere Shaba Click To Tweet

Commit your dreams and thoughts into writing

Planning is key! It’s also important to commit everything into writing. Once you commit a thought to writing or once you tell someone about a dream or thought, you should hold yourself accountable. Ensure that you execute on those dreams and thoughts that are on paper. Linda pointed out that: Your word is your bond.

Making plans is important, and plans change but as a chaser of your dreams, learn to be adaptable. With all the changes happening, always make sure you know what your end goal is and whatever you do aligns with that end goal.


Put in the hard work

With growth, comes more learning. Learn and master your craft. It’s very easy to see through you if you don’t know your craft and you can easily lose credibility for that. Know that you are on a consistent journey of learning. You never really arrive at a destination of learning and once you feel that you know it all, then it’s probably time to check-out. This doesn’t mean stop learning, but it means find something that challenges you and continue the journey of learning everyday.

#MotherlandMogul tip from Linda: Make a plan, and know that your plan might deviate. Know and write down your short, medium and long term goals and execute on them.

You need to be clear on who your client base are and understand them to be a boss from birth Click To Tweet

Understand your client base

To understand your client base, ensure that you surround yourself with them. You need to be clear on who your client base are and understand them.

This will help in you better positioning yourself based on who your client base is. Everything about you and your brand and how you carry yourself, should align with your brand.

#MotherlandMogul tip from Vere: Have a clear plan about what you want, your client base, your brand and Live Your Brand!

Know when to continue or give up

In some cases, the breakthrough happens just when you’re about to quit. Stick through it during the hard times. Yes, it won’t be easy but it is so fruitful to work hard to make your own dreams a reality than to work hard towards making other people’s dreams a reality. When you know that this is your passion, continue until the breakthrough.