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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7 effective strategies to start any organisation: Lessons from Julie Nixon

You have to prepare a plan to execute your business solutions. An idea will remain that until it's put into action Click To Tweet

Julie Nixon was educated in the United Kingdom before immigrating to South Africa in the late 1980’s. After undergoing extensive Retail Management courses with a leading retail chain, Julie utilised her broad experience in sales, merchandising and human resource courses to streamline the Gone Rural operations.

Julie arrived at Gone Rural in 2005 to take on the position of Workshop Manager and was promoted to General Manager in 2007 with new responsibilities including Sales, Human Resource courses, and Logistics. As head of sales, Julie oversaw a one hundred parent sales increase in three years which in turn quadrupled the women’s income during the same period. Julie due to her successes was given the position of Chair Person for the “Swazi Secrets” (a women’s empowerment company started by Her Majesty the Queen Mother) where she served a two-year term.

While chairing this organisation, Julie realised that though artisans in Swaziland are hardworking and talented, they do not make much income. This led her to start a fair-trade organisation called Swaziland Fair Trade (SWIFT) which ensures that supply chains are fair while creating opportunities for fair wages at grass roots level. Julie is passionate, dedicated and committed to improving the lives of the people of Swaziland and has managed to secure a grant for a three-year capacity building project for handcrafters in Swaziland.

If you are planning on starting any organisation, here are 7 effective strategies you can learn from Julie Nixon.

1. Identify the need for the community and possible solutions

To start any type of organization, you will first have to discover the need and then provide solutions. The core purpose of any organization is to fill a need –be it goods or services, the organisation must provide some satisfaction.

This was the case of Julie who discovered that though artisans in Swaziland are highly skilled and talented with an abundance of natural raw materials, they had no way of getting their beautiful pieces to the market.

The artisans had capacity needs such as proper costing as many of them did not cost their labour into the product which meant it was actually costing the artisan to produce and sell a product. This led her to provide a solution by starting a system where all will benefit and as she has always been a big supporter of Fair Trade, she decided that would be the best way to make a difference.

Thus social enterprises like those in the Fair-Trade model ensure that their supply chains are fair, they create opportunities for fair wages at grass roots level and they are transparent and inclusive. This is a model she supported, which is why Swaziland Fair Trade (SWIFT) came into being.

2. Prepare a plan or strategy to execute these solutions

After discovering the need and possible solutions, you then have to prepare a plan or strategy to execute these solutions as an idea will remain an idea until it is actually put into action.

Julie’s plan for SWIFT is to grow the local economy and create more socially responsible companies that operate under the principles of Fair-Trade. Thus, a network of businesses that work together as a united front to protect the weakest members of their society.

With this as the fundamentals, Julie set out to put her idea into action by;

Targeting a group

Every organization needs a focus group for it to function, as if you do not have people believing or patronizing what you intend to provide, then there really is nothing to give. The target group for SWIFT was local handcraft or food producers who have a marketable product and a will to create jobs through the application of Fair Trade standards.

Making a list of services to be provided or goods to sell

What do you intend to give this target group? Julie carefully crafted a capacity building, mentoring and coaching, training and development program to capacitate the highly skilled artisans of Swaziland. The training was supported by trade linkage opportunities and sales platforms such as the Bushfire Marketplace, to ensure members “earned while they learned”.

Marketing strategies

Making a list of how to communicate your plans to the target group. This can be through word of mouth, social media etc. depending on who your target group is.

3. Get a mentor, attend workshops and do some research

As you are working on getting your organization out there, you also have to work on yourself and that is by getting a mentor who has been in that trade or industry for a while, attending workshops/school and doing some research.

Julie attended workshops by Paul Meyers the Chairman of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) who called for the setup of country networks that offered an alternative to the classic capitalist model and became active in spreading the word about Fair-Trade.

As you're getting your organisation out there, you also have to work on yourself by getting a mentor Click To Tweet

4. Invest in the organization

If you have chosen the path of starting an organization, then you must already know that this organization will run on money and time. This means you should be prepared to invest with both your money and time.

SWIFT was started with zero finances but with decades of collective business knowledge. Their vision was pure, capacitate handcrafters at grass roots level, to promote Fair Trade as an ethical business practice and a will to grow their domestic economy.

In the very early years, SWIFT used membership contributions to hire a part-time country manager and the company Julie worked for Gone Rural, allowed her time to work setting up SWIFT.

5. Start small

Rome wasn’t built in a day so be prepared to start small unless you already have your funding and professionals who are willing to sacrifice their all for your dream. If not, you would have to start alone, with a partner or with a few employees and with time, you can increase your workers or even train interested beneficiaries to work with you.

SWIFT started with a Country Manager and an Office Manager, then trained 8 women on an intensive Train the Trainer program, the top 2 became the Business Development Managers. They also hired an Operations Manager and a Marketing Manager where they linked members to each other to learn from the best.

Best practices held four times a year where members with the best practices such as packaging, costing, production or reporting open their doors to other members for a specialized training day.

Be prepared to start small unless you already have your funding Click To Tweet

6. Brand your organization to attract investors, clients

Everything you do must brand your company well to attract the needed people. SWIFT’s logo speaks of inclusivity, it is a circle representing the infinity of life, the birds represent Swazi products flying across the globe, yellow is for their natural recourses, red represents their past and blue is for peace and prosperity for all.

Their mission, their vision, and their ethics have helped to create a strong brand that stands for ethical business practices, inclusivity and the upholding of the principles of Fair Trade, partners want to be part of this movement working towards a more just business environment. Their membership is vocal in their support of SWIFT as a network and encourages organizations to join.

7. Build networks wherever you go

There are people out there who are looking to support, recommend and assist your work. It is your duty to find them and you wouldn’t find them by staying in your home and not making contacts with anybody. Take advantage of every opportunity you get to connect with others who can help promote your organization. Also, learn to stay in touch with everyone you meet.

Take advantage of every opportunity to connect with others & learn to stay in touch Click To Tweet

Julie understood the essence of networking when she granted an invitation to join an exhibition in Botswana for President George Bush at the event where he launched his HIV/AIDS funding initiative. Through this, Julie met high-level personages including Andrew Card who was the Chief of Staff for President Bush. Julie says she still has Mr. Card’s business card in her wallet.

Nontobeko Tshabalala: Working towards being a woman worth watching

Nontobeko Tshabalala

Young people hold the answers to achieving sustainable development in Africa. These wise words come from Nontobeko Tshabalala. Nontobeko is from Swaziland, she is a journalist, blogger and social media extrovert. She believes that good writing enhances the experience of life and is working towards fulfilling that. Nontobeko is passionate about the youth and their involvement in making worthwhile contributions to the discourse around issues such as gender disparity, Afrocentricity. Nontobeko talked with our SLA contributor, Itumeleng Mphure on becoming a woman worth watching.

How did you get into journalism?

For the longest time, I wanted to be a lawyer but when I got to grade 12 I didn’t think that I would be happy as a lawyer in 30 years’ time. Then I had a conversation with my father and he told me that there can only be satisfaction in a salary if there is job satisfaction.

So I applied for journalism at the Durban University of Technology because I love reading and writing. I went to a Technikon where they teach practical skills. What lead me into journalism is actually the reason why I wanted to be a lawyer for the longest time. It is because I can make strong arguments and find evidence to back it up.

Which publications have you written?

Before I moved to Ethiopia I was working at the Swazi Times as features editor and I am still a weekly columnist for Swazi News. I have also worked at the Sunday Tribune (Durban) and Soul Magazine (South Africa).

Nono 2

What’s the best you have written so far?

Every time I write an article I write it as though it’s the best I will ever write. When Lupita Nyongo had just won an Oscar and received a lot of publicity I wrote a piece about how it’s important to see dark girls in the limelight so that girls who look like that know that it’s okay to be dark. I wrote this article because there was a big debate over Lupita’s dark skin.

Makila James who is the US Ambassador to Swaziland took that article back home for her family to read because she felt that it resonated with every black person. It is time for Africans to accept their different tones of their skin colour.

What are you most passionate about?

I want to lend my voice to the continued liberation of women. I don’t have a definite plan of where exactly I see myself in the future but I know that my passion will lead me to a place where I can advocate for women.

What’s currently on your mind?

Furthering my studies. My professional experiences surpass my academic qualifications and that makes me feel uncomfortable. Right now I am at the African Union (AU) and the tables I am sitting at require me to further my studies.

Nono 6

What lead you to joining the AU?

I have the constant desire to be better and improve myself so when the call for the African Union Youth Volunteer Programme came, I applied and now I am serving as the Special Assistant to the Chairperson of the African Union Commission. I was chosen as one of the Media Institute of Southern Africa’s (MISA) Women to Watch in 2014 but I am constantly working towards being a woman worth watching.

What’s your fondest beach side memory?

It was in Mozambique. I went to apply for a visa to France and I had lunch by the sea side. It was a very stressful day but I eventually got my visa. I had lunch at the seaside and also took a walk. It was so calming and that’s what I remember most about it.

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