MALEBOGO MARUMOAGAE: It is not about being your own boss, it is about finding a solution to a problem

This is a woman rooted in love. Love for her mother, work and for others. She is love. She is Malebogo  Marumoagae.

We were first introduced to Malebogo as a beauty queen when she was crowned Miss Botswana in 2006. Today, she still wears that crown, now as the belle of Belle Larissa. A consultancy company she founded in 2009 and went on to win a Woman in Business Award for, under the category of Young Female Entrepreneur of The Year in 2016.

Belle Larissa slayed at the end of 2017 when it hosted what would become the inaugural International Women in Mining conference (IWiM).  

Malebogo not only has a good business and a few awards to her name, she holds a degree in Economics and Population Studies, and an MBA from the University of Botswana.

I had a chat with her and this is her inspirational story.

Tell us about yourself.

I am Malebogo Marumoagae. I was born and bred in Tonota by one of the strongest women I know, Diteko Marumoagae. My mother has taught me how to be confident in my own skin, to respect others and myself and most importantly to know that I am nothing without God.

I believe in the law of attraction. That whatever you think, eventually becomes your reality. Even the Bible says in the book of Proverbs ‘above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life”.

I love reading, in fact, I have learned so much from the books I read and I am always encouraging anyone who wants to be a leader to make reading a habit and not a hobby.

Tell us more about Belle Larissa.

Belle Larissa is a BQA registered and accredited institution providing training on personal branding, professional image, and etiquette.

Our main aim is to assist individuals, young and old to be the best that they can possibly be especially in today’s world where there is competition in almost every opportunity that arises. For organizations, we assist their employees to align their personal brands with their corporate brand.

How would you define etiquette? Are we a people that care for it, especially locally?

Etiquette is simply a set of rules that govern socially accepted behavior. It is about showing respect and making others feel comfortable and at ease when they are around you.

The word may be new to some, however, etiquette is not a new thing. In our Setswana culture, we call it Botho. It is behaving graciously in any given situation. It is not an issue of whether people care for it or not, Etiquette is a requirement for civilization.

I wish I could confidently say our services have gained the attention they deserve. We have done our bit, but I still believe there is still much to be done.

Winning the Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year, how significant was that moment for you?

That was a very surreal moment. I felt really proud of my team and I. As you may know, our business is relatively new in Botswana so to have that recognition was a great confidence booster.  

However, we also understand that it means we need to keep working hard to ensure that we stay on top of our game.

In 2017, Belle Larissa hosted the first ever International Women in Mining (IWiN) Conference in Botswana. What inspired the initiative?

Yes, together with Brandneue Media, we hosted the first-ever Women in Mining Conference in Botswana in 2017.  This initiative was inspired by the need to promote greater participation of women in the mining industry.

The numbers show that the mining industry is one of the most male-dominated industries in the world and Botswana is no exception. We wanted to play our part by bringing together women, who are already in the mining industry, those with aspirations of getting in the industry, policymakers, and financial institutions under one roof, to discuss the challenges as well as come up with solutions to increase the participation of women in this industry.

What does it mean for you as an African woman being in business?

African women have from time been in business to feed, educate and take care of their children. It means so much to me that I am part of a group of phenomenal women who have either by choice or default found themselves in business.  

Being a woman and in business has never been an easy thing.  I hope I am able to inspire other upcoming business women to follow their dreams the same way I have been inspired by hard-working, women who came before me.

How do you suppose one can recognize themselves as an empowered woman?

For me, an empowered woman is one who has a choice to be whatever she wants to be.  She knows her worth, is confident in her own skin and is not intimidated by the success of other women.

An empowered woman stands for herself, speaks for herself and is the voice to the voiceless.  As she goes up, she pulls others with her.

What three principles would you say drives your business?

Our business is driven by the love to see other people excel and become the best versions of themselves. We believe in team-work as everyone has their own unique abilities which can contribute towards ensuring that our clients get quality service.


What advice would you give to young women who want to be their own boss?

For me, it is not about being your own boss, it is about finding a solution to a problem or problems facing our society and then putting together a team that shares your vision and working together towards achieving that vision.  

For anyone who wants to take that path, I would say, it is not an easy road to take but if you want it so bad, you need to put in the effort, develop yourself, read extensively and have a never-give-up attitude.

Thulisile Gama: I get paid to play with sand

“I remember when I had just started as a junior metallurgist, I had to give an operational instruction to one of the teams. A man from the team told me that he will not take an instruction from a woman. I was shocked!”- says ‘Mining Powerhouse’, Thulisile Gama, who is making a name for herself in the Mining and Metals sector.

Thulisile holds a BSc Metallurgical Engineering degree from the University of the Witwatersrand and is a Senior Metallurgist at Tronox KZN Sands.  She has served as chairperson of Tronox Women’s Network, a global network aimed at supporting the professional development of women in engineering. She is a mentor to young girls, particularly those from the rural areas.

Dressed in stuffy, hot overalls with big safety boots on, climbing high staircases of tall metal equipment, with temperatures higher than 1000oC, her work environment is not an easy one at all!. “I get paid to play with sand!”, she says playfully.

What made you choose your field of work and what has made you stay in it so far?

Mining is the backbone of South Africa’s economy. I joined this industry because I am passionate about natural resources and I wanted to be part of the bigger picture. There is never a dull moment.  From supply-demand dynamics of different commodities, advancement in technology, or the status of the global economy, each day brings something new.

All these changes affect the industry and as engineers, we are forced to implement more innovative solutions to ensure the survival of companies. I enjoy the variety of work and the daily challenges that my job provides.

Confidence, self-esteem, and assertiveness are key aspects for women to be heard. Click To Tweet

Take us through what you do on a typical day at work. 

There is never a ‘typical’ day at work and that’s what I like about my job. One day I find myself sitting in long strategic meetings, and the next day I am offering solutions to process issues at the plant. Each morning I review the production of the previous day and ensure that the quantity and quality are within specification. Initiating and identifying continuous improvement ideas that will save cost is also something that I incorporate into my daily decision-making and thinking.

I constantly remind myself that as women, we have the same thinking ability as men. Click To Tweet

How do you manage to get your opinions heard in a room full of male engineering experts?

If I’m invited to a meeting, I believe that my technical skills and opinions are needed and I deserve to be there. One thing that I constantly remind myself of is that as women, we have the same thinking ability as men. When voicing my opinion, I make sure that I do not allow myself to be interrupted in the process. Confidence, self-esteem, and assertiveness are key aspects of being heard as women.

Some studies have found that women tend to leave their engineering careers after some time. Why do you think this is the case?

 A lack of female role models in mining is a major contributor to female engineers leaving the industry. Having role models who are the same gender as you, who have walked the same path can go a long way. For us women to influence the world of mining, we need to to be more accommodating of females and build a network of solidarity. It is important for women to support other women and serve as mentors to young girls.

In South Africa, mining companies have been driving to up their female employee numbers by offering women bursaries. Sometimes, women study engineering only because they are offered a bursary. I’ve seen this happening especially to African people from disadvantaged communities who cannot afford to fund their own studies.  Some realize only when they start work that engineering is not for them and quit.

For us women to influence the world of Mining, we need to build a network of solidarity. Click To Tweet

How can young women interested in the mining industry better prepare themselves for a career as a metallurgist?

For young females who are interested in pursuing metallurgy as a career, I would say ‘go for it!’ It is a challenging environment but with lots of opportunities.

When I started work, I didn’t want to acknowledge the gender barrier but I have come to see my gender as a strength and I now focus on leveraging it. Invest time in researching about this field. Enter this industry because of passion, not money, and find yourself a mentor or role model.

Having an engineering degree doesn’t mean that you are not going to crawl and get dirty. You need to work your way up the ranks, starting at the bottom. It’s also important to be teachable. Be keen to learn and take the initiative to do so. Focus on building strong fundamentals when you start as a junior, you’ll need those as you progress in your career.



How do you let your hair down after a long week of solving complex engineering problems and ‘playing with sand’?

I spend time with my awesome son and read a lot when I’m not at work. I enjoy the outdoor life, exploring new places and different cultures. Running also liberates me. Also, I have a passion for fashion and I’m planning to start my own clothing line in the near future!

Do you have a business or career story to share?

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Twitter Chat with Olebogeng Sentsho: The importance of women owned businesses in male-dominated industries (Oct. 20)

women owned businesses olebogeng sentsho

Women have been making their way through traditional male professions for a while now. The latest industry to be tackled by women is mining. How is this move affecting the industry and the pioneering women that have decided to take it on?

Join us Thursday Oct. 20th for a twitter chat with Olebogeng Sentsho, founder of Yeabo Mining, a 100% black-woman owned business that focuses on waste management in the mines and also offers administrative and financial services related to mining.

If you’re a woman looking to break into a male-dominated industry, a swag-assisting man knowing how to support women in these initiatives or just curious about boss women in South Africa, then you should definitely be a part of the chat.

Follow She Leads Africa on twitter and use the hashtag #SheHiveJoburg to ask your questions and participate in the discussion.

Topics that we’ll cover:

  • Why male-dominated industries need more women
  • The perks and set-backs of an all women owned business
  • Challenges of being the only woman in the room
  • How to reduce gender imbalances in more industries
  • Advice to women trying to break into the industry, and men who want to help them

Twitter chat details

  • Date: Thursday Oct. 20, 2016
  • Time: 8am NYC // 1pm Lagos // 2pm Joburg
  • Location: Follow She Leads Africa on twitter and use the hashtag #SheHiveJoburg

male dominated businesses twitter chat

About Olebogeng Sentsho

Olebogeng Sentsho is a serial entrepreneur with interests in mining. She is currently the Founder and Head of Operations at Yeabo Mining, a strategic waste management company with plants in and around Limpopo.

Olebogeng studied law at the University of the Witwatersrand and is currently pursuing her Masters degree in Business Administration.

Mrs Sentsho is also the Founding Chief Executive officer of the newly founded Mining Innovation Initiative of South Africa: a non-profit organisation of businesses and individuals in mining and mining services. MIISA works to promote, enhance, innovate and improve the mining climate in South Africa by catalysing innovation and promoting thought leadership and mining development to the general public, protecting the rights of mining businesses, and assisting these businesses to improve their sales and profits while actively enhancing their contribution to the communities in which they exist.

A recipient of the inaugural “Outstanding woman in Mining Award” at the Youth in Mining Business awards, The Head of the Mining and Technical Engineering Services Sector at the Progressive Youth in Business Organisation and a panelist at the recently held “Youth in Mining Procurement Transformation Summit”, Olebogeng is passionate about investment, the African economy, mining and socially responsible business practices. She believes that a more structured and Afro-centric approach to mining will grow the African economy and enable Africa to benefit from the minerals it rightfully owns.

Olebogeng believes in the dawn of Africa’s secondary economy driven by industry and the green economy.”



Olebogeng Sentsho: We must be Afrocentric in our approach to mining and the economy

The mining industry may not be first choice for a young woman looking to start a profitable venture. Not for Olebogeng Sentsho. Olebogeng is a one woman force shaking things up for the better in the South African mining and waste management industry. Her company Yeabo Mining is completely owned by black women but it doesn’t stop there. Through her initiatives, Olebogeng works towards improving rural communities and empowering women. Here she shares insights into the mining industry and why it needs to be Afrocentric.

 Strategic waste management? What lead you to that industry?
As an investment analyst, I was exposed to many proposals in many fields. One of the proposals that came across my desk was for a tailings plant on one of the mines a client was looking to invest in. The plan was flawed and subsequently abandoned by the mine owners. I then requested their permission to improve their model and approach investors for funding. They agreed. Unfortunately, the project was capital intensive and any capital that was coming my way would take months to get to me. I had to make a living so my husband suggested we go pick up steel balls on an abandoned mine and sell them for cash. We did. We made R150 000. From there we approached other mines and realised that the service was in demand. That is how we started.
How did you make the switch from waste management to finance?
Once Yeabo Mining was up and running, we noticed a huge demand in requests for collaboration. This was not because we were the best at what we were doing, it was because our collaborators needed the funding an operation like ours could source.
We are 100% black female owned and the legislation in South Africa is such that we receive preference when we apply for funding. There are also more funding opportunities for businesses that are owned by young, black women. Once we isolated this need, we thought it prudent to investigate and set up a fund that supports junior mining operations. We currently have four clients on our books who mine silica, manganese, gold and chrome.
IMG_0384How can waste be converted into a revenue stream?
Many of the products used in the mining process and the by products of mining still have value even though they have been used. For example, steel is used in the liners that line equipment in the concentrator plant. Once they are worn out; they are discarded and replaced. Each liner weighs 2 tons and there can be 18- 34 liners per plant.
We retrieve the liners from the dump and sell them to a recycler for R1900 per ton. Combine this with about 300 tons of steel balls and you have a legitimate revenue stream. Also, when a specific mineral is removed from the ore, other minerals that are equally valuable remain. Most mines ignore these other minerals if they don’t form part of their core business. Yeabo Mining exploits these minerals and processes them. These are just a few of the ways we generate income from waste.
Considering the sometimes tense nature of mining in South Africa, does social responsibility feature in your business?
Social responsibility is a big part of why we do. Yeabo Mining supports female owned SMME’s (Small Micro medium enterprises) by giving them preference when we do our procurement. We also mentor several young people, many of whom are trying to start businesses in the industry. Mining is treacherous and having someone who is already in the business looking out for you is an advantage.
Also, Yeabo Mining collaborates with community outreach programmes that educate and empower young people in the fields of maths and science. We are a proud patron of the Mining Innovation Initiative of South Africa (MIISA).
BxKqZz12You mentioned that you are engaged in other initiatives, tell us about them.
MIISA is a holder of rights for several initiatives. There is “Let your light shine”, a renewable energy initiative that teaches women how to build solar lamps and sell them for cash. We also have Innovo Health Systems, which provides mobile hospital facilities for rural communities and the MIISA school for Mathematical Excellence and Science Innovation which are a series of pop up schools in the Sekhukhune area of Limpopo that facilitate maths and science clinics for secondary school learners.
The primary goal of these endeavours is to create an industry where South Africa can beneficial its own minerals. We want to ensure that mining builds sustainable, well serviced communities in the area where the specific mines are based. Mines have to be catalysts for change and improved living conditions. It cannot be that Africa provides the world with wealth yet that wealth fails to translate into improved living conditions and lives of the Africans who live and work in these communities.
We must strive to be Afro-centric in our approach to mining and the economy. All efforts must be made to ensure that wealth is not in the hands of a few. No one makes it if we all don’t make it. An inclusive mining economy that focuses its resources on social upliftment and education is a catalyst for an Africa that produces leaders and productive contributors to the country’s GDP.
What advice would you give other young African women looking to make a change in their communities?
As young women in Africa, our mandate is clear. It is incumbent upon us to provide skills and leadership for the improvement of our communities. We can’t sit and wait for opportunities to participate; we have to innovate, pioneer solutions for ourselves so that we can lead the agenda of a transformed and progressive African economy. These dreams cannot be achieved by a continent with hungry people. We must focus on the immediate needs of our people and find our own rhythm for the advancement of our continent. We must take responsibility for our future.

This has been really insightful. Lastly, what was the last picture you took on your phone?

Hahahahaha!!! Bad hair day!!!


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