Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa of West Africa’s Ashanti Empire

Yaa Asantewaa was named Queen Mother of the Ejisuhene (part of the Asante or Ashanti Confederacy) by her exiled brother Nana Akwasi Afrane Okpese. Prior to European colonization, the Ashanti people developed an influential West African empire. Asantewaa was the Gatekeeper of the “Golden Stool” (Sika ‘dwa) during this powerful Ashanti Confederacy (Asanteman), an independent federation of Asanti tribal families that ruled from 1701 to 1896.

 

The Flag of The Republic of Ghana
containing image of the Golden Stool

 

The story of Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa is a story of the modern history of the nation of Ghana, Africa. In 1896, Asantehene (King) Prempeh I of the Asanteman federation was captured and exiled to the Seychelles islands by the British who had come to call the area the British “Gold Coast.” Asantewaa’s brother was said to be among the men exiled with Prempeh I, deported because of his opposition to British rule in West Africa.

 

In 1900, British colonial governor Frederick Hodgson called a meeting in the city of Kumasi of the Ashantehene local rulers. At the meeting, Hodgson stated that King Prempeh I would continue to suffer an exile from his native land and that the Ashanti people were to surrender to the British their historical, ancestral Golden Stool – a dynastic symbol of the Ashanti empire. In fact, power was transferred to each Asantahene by a ceremonial crowning that involved the sacred Golden Stool. The colonial governor demanded that it be surrendered to allow Hodgson to sit on the Sika ‘dwa as a symbol of British power.

 

The Sika ‘dwa or Golden Stool

 

At this time, Yaa Asantewaa was the Gatekeeper of the Golden Stool. After this meetings, the Ashantehenes of the federation gathered to discuss the British development. Upon hearing some of the Ashantehenes entertain surrender to the British demands, it is reported that the Queen Mother Yaa Asantewaa rose and said the following:
“Now I have seen that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our King.
If it were in the brave days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye, and Opoku Ware, leaders would not sit down to see their King taken away without firing a shot.
No white man could have dared to speak to a leader of the Ashanti in the way the Governor spoke to you this morning.
Is it true that the bravery of the Ashanti is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be!
I must say this, if you the men of Ashanti will not go forward, then we will. We the women will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields.”

— Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewa

Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa (picture of unknown date)
The Ashanti-British “War of the Golden Stool” was led by Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa with an army of 5,000. While Yaa Asantewaa was captured by the British and deported, her bravery stirred a kingdom-wide movement for the return of Prempeh I and for independence.
Early map of West Africa  (cir. 1625 map of pre-Asanti/Akan federated state)
Ashanti Empire (Asante Empire) during the 19th Century

 

Today, Ashanti is an administrative region in central Ghana where most of the inhabitants are Ashanti people who speak Twi, an Akan language group, similar to Fante. In 1935 the Golden Stool was used in the ceremony to crown Osei Tutu Agyeman Prempeh II (ruled 1935-1970). Independence from the British colonialist was secured in 1957. On August 3, 2000, a museum was dedicated to Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa at Kwaso in the Ejisu-Juaben District of Ghana.
Article Source: Black History Heroes

Remembering the Forgotten

There are people that our society forgets, people that we fear…they are the people that I once feared…These are the men and women that dress in orange. The people whose wrongs have been amplified and their mistakes are louder than others…These are the men and women behind bars, people who are deemed to be unfit to be participate in society.

On January 12th 2017, someone reached out to me and invited me to speak at the Boksburg correctional services facilities to motivate the inmates. I first thought to myself, this must be a con-artist; there is no way I can believe this. As life has it, there are people that come into your life to confirm that this is your purpose. I met three people from three different walks of life that confirmed that I needed to use my gift as a motivational speaker to go inspire those that society, including myself, judge ever so easily.

As I walked into the jail, I felt my heart racing. When I saw the inmates, I felt more and more afraid…I was incredibly overwhelmed. Every episode of prison break that I had ever watched came rushing through. We walked through different gates and reached a final gate which was closed and we had to wait for it to be opened. This is where the inmates were. I found myself in a pool of orange and out of fear, I held on ever so tightly to the prison warder and she wrapped her arms around me for comfort.

What I did not know was that I would be able to use my gift to inspire the inmates and in so doing I would learn so much from them. The men I met in that prison touched my soul. That day, I knew that my calling to be a speaker is greater than anything that I had ever imagined. As I walk this journey, I know that my journey is guided and that my gift of speaking is not for me but to give hope to others and to move them towards their own greatness. I know in my heart. This was the first of many visits to reach out and touch those that society forgets.
A key lesson I learnt on this day is that one needs to be open to listening when life guides you. Many of us are stuck in the rat race and rarely take a minute to answer to the call on our lives. In my role as a management consultant, I have been fortunate to advise various client in both corporate and public sector. A lot of us are physically free but have numbed the passions that lie within our hearts. We have learnt to quieten down the voices that try to remind us of our innate talents.

Today reminded me that the state of being free begins in the mind and in our works. We need a society that moves towards purpose, a society that is committed to changing the norms and following their calling…The road less travelled and heeding the call of your purpose is a soul fulfilling one… This is my purpose and calling.  Embracing it has brought me a joy like no other. My heart is filled to the brim with contentment and happiness.
To live a life of purpose, we must be willing to be uncomfortable, to hear our heart racing and still take another step towards our destiny.


About the author:

20170523_163249Lebogang Chaka holds a Master of International Business and a Bachelor of Business & Commerce from Monash University. She has also studied African Studies to understand the needs of the continent.
She is currently enrolled with the Gordon Institute of Business Science to pursue a PhD with a focus on informal sector entrepreneurship.

She has worked in the advisory division within KPMG, Accenture and Deloitte. She served as the Deputy Chairperson of the Employment Equity Committee at Deloitte. Lebogang founded her own boutique management consulting firm called Afro Visionary Legacy.

Follow Lebogang on social media: TwitterLinkedIn and Facebook.

An Interview with Nothando Moleketi: On Feeding Her Passions & Maximising Her Potential

According to career coach Emilie Wapnick, adaptability will be the single most important skill which organisations and individuals will require in order to thrive in the 21st Century. I heard her say these words in her Ted Talk titled “Why some of us don’t have one true calling”. During her talk, Wapnick centres the discussion on a term she has coined, “multipotentialite”. Emilie Wapnick defines a multipotentialite as someone with many interests and creative pursuits. So, instead of having singular talents and passions, multipotentialites have many talents and passions. She also argues that multipotentialites possess very critical strengths, which tend to be overlooked in our society which unfairly favours specialisation. These strengths include: the ability to synthesise ideas and make connections, rapid learning and (wait for it) adaptability. Wapnick also believes that multipotentialites have skills which are critical for innovation, which many argue happens at the intersection of various disciplines. Hearing this prompted a lightbulb moment for me and, surprisingly, a few friends who also liked and shared the talk after I posted it on social media. For as long as I can remember I’ve operated across different disciplines- my academic background is interdisciplinary and my work experience has been interdisciplinary- and I’ve successfully risen to each challenge which has opened up even more career opportunities for me. Does it get any more multipotentialite than this? Potentially yes, it does.

As I was preparing to meet Entrepreneur and Chief Operations Officer (COO) of ReWare, Nothando Moleketi, I stumbled on very interesting facts about her creative pursuits. Nothando is also the Creator and Editor of the Jozi Foodie Fix Blog, a platform she uses to fuse her love of food, travelling and writing. In addition, she’s one of the original Founders of The Wknd Social, a monthly brunch movement that has built a reputation in Joburg for fusing good food, great music and an uber trendy vibe. Nonetheless, besides being an avid foodie and social butterfly, Nothando has built very impressive credentials having carved a career as a Strategist with both Management Consulting and Telecommunications industry experience, and has now transitioned into entrepreneurship and taken up an Operations role at her startup. Food… Telecommunications… Strategy… Operations… Whether Moleketi identifies as a multipotentialite or not, she is certainly no one-trick-pony.

Nothando 1

MR: I’d like to start with understanding a little more about how the idea of ReWare came about, especially since it’s the first of its kind in South Africa to offer certified pre-owned smartphones to consumers. What were some of the case studies and insights that you picked up in your research on the pre-owned smartphone market in other geographies that helped guide your business model and capitalise on this gap in South Africa?

NM: We started by working with a Spanish based company called Zwipit, an e-commerce platform which buys back pre-owned devices from individuals in exchange for money. Zwipit is also a supplier of pre-owned devices for a company called Car Phone Warehouse, in the UK. Car Phone Warehouse is similar to ReWare in that they sell certified pre-owned devices of different grades to consumers. So, Car Phone Warehouse then became a model reference for us because of their success in the UK and their link to Zwipit. Gazelle in the US was another good case study for us, especially since they managed to be successful despite the larger mobile operators like Sprint AT&T having buy-back and sell models as well.

However, the challenge we found in South Africa, as compared to these other international markets, was that the up-take of e-Commerce is still relatively low, especially when it comes to selling phones online. When we initially tested the Zwipit model locally we realised that we came in prematurely. We subsequently spoke to the larger mobile service providers in SA, and they confirmed that the local buy-back model is fairly immature. But interestingly, we were still receiving tons of e-mails and Facebook messages from people asking where they could buy our phones, which led us to believe that there was a market of pre-owned smartphone consumers out there. We then conducted more local research and focused on online classified websites and retail second hand details, which offer a large informal market of people looking to buy and sell pre-owned phones. What we discovered was missing from their models was the guarantee and certification, and consumers want to know for certain that they won’t get ripped off when they buy pre-owned items.

Another big learning from trying out the Zwipit model was that we needed a physical presence in order to be accessible to consumers. So we approached the large retailers. When we pitched to Edcon, they had the right enthusiasm off the bat, they felt strongly that the idea aligned to their consumer-base and they have a significant footprint across the country. Our products were also attractive to Edcon because we stock a variety of smartphones, including i-Phones, which they didn’t stock, but had been getting a lot of demand for. And, because we were targeting value conscious consumers in the market, we strategically wanted to align our business with a retail partner that not only had a strong footprint but also a broad spectrum of consumers in South Africa.

MR: In your former roles in Management Consultant and in Telecoms you’ve had very strong experience as a Strategist. How have you managed to transition from being a Strategist into an Operations role which requires you to keep the nuts and bolts of the business together?

NM: When I was in Consulting I found it a lot easier to develop a strategy for a client, because I was detached from their business and I didn’t necessarily fully appreciate the deeper operational intricacies that would be impacted by the strategy. In my current COO role, I am responsible for using the strategy as a guide to developing a more detailed breakdown of how our operations must support the strategy. I’ve realised that because I have an operational role now, I often get bogged down with the day-to-day running and have to make a concerted effort to take a step back and think about whether everything that I’m doing is in fact contributing to our overall strategy and goal. This isn’t always easy because switching to thinking strategically requires you to engage the creative side of your brain, whereas operational thinking uses the more systematic and logical side of your brain. Being able to effectively think both strategically and operationally is quite a mental challenge.

Nothando 2

MR: You strike me as a woman with many passions- from Strategy, to Entrepreneurship, Telecoms and even food blogging. These are all interests that take time to work on and master. How do you balance your various passions and manage your time?

NM: Balance is a work in progress. But I believe that there’s a time for everything and right now, I don’t think the ReWare opportunity will come around again. So my current focus is entirely on the business and you’ll notice that I haven’t blogged in a few months, instead I’m more active on social media (which I find is less time consuming than writing a full blog post). Even though I’ve taken a break from food blogging, I try to do something food-related at least once a month- like eating at a new restaurant or attending an event. It’s important to occasionally fuel my passion and keep engaging with people in the food industry. Striking a balance between work and my other passions was a lot easier when I was in corporate because it’s a very structured environment and so you can have dedicated personal time.

When I worked at Zomato the appeal of the role was that I would have the opportunity to fuse my passion for food in a corporate environment. But when Felix approached me with the Zwipit project, plus the opportunity to develop ReWare from scratch and also be a minority shareholder in the business I couldn’t turn down the offer, especially because I was at a point where I knew I wanted to work in an environment where I had that greater sense of ownership. However, the challenge in the entrepreneurship space and with having a greater sense of ownership is that it becomes much harder to police yourself while working, which means you end up working a lot more and you sacrifice your dedicated personal time.  I struggle with adrenal fatigue and I know of other entrepreneurs and high impact individuals who do too. As an entrepreneur you can end up pushing yourself so hard because you’re so focused on building the business, that you neglect sleep, eating well and exercise. Balance is so important, but as I say, it’s a work in progress.

And lastly, I would certainly add Ashish Thakar of the Mara Foundation to my guest list, particularly for a more casual chat on unlocking further opportunities on the African continent.

MR: What are some of the more personal things you’ve learnt since deciding to pursue entrepreneurship?

NM: Firstly, when I was deciding to join the startup I was very conscious that the business would require significantly more work and time from me in order to grow, and so I wasn’t prepared to join unless I had shareholding. Secondly, through a lot of introspection I’ve come to terms with the some of the underlying factors that made me feel valued as an individual before pursuing entrepreneurship. For instance, although I had financially prepared myself and saved before making my move into entrepreneurship, I underestimated how much of my identity would be challenged by the fact that I was no longer earning a stable salary, and for me earning a salary was a big part of how I identified as being an adult. Also, if you’re an entrepreneur who is keen to grow their business, when the business starts to generate income you will tend to want to put money back into the business versus pay yourself. Everything in entrepreneurship is self-inflicted.

Nothando 3

MR: Knowing what you know now about working in the startup environment, what are some of the characteristics you look for in candidates who apply to work at ReWare?

NM: I’m actually very passionate about hiring and upskilling people. It’s very easy to hire people who will do what you tell them to do, whereas it’s harder to find someone who will fit into a startup environment which requires initiative, energy and a higher level of resilience. We look for candidates who are likely to display the same amount of passion and energy later down the line as they did when they joined. We also like to use management consulting recruiting techniques, such as case study tests, just to see how analytical people are and whether they are willing to persevere through a problem. I personally like to hear about the passions that candidates have outside of work, because I want to know what they find most meaningful and whether that will align to the role and our business.

MR: This is a bit of an off-the-cuff last question, if you could have dinner with any entrepreneur or industry guru in the world, where would it be, who would it be with and why?

NM: [Laughs] Hmm, the where is easy because my favourite restaurant is Overture at Hidden Valley in Stellenbosch where Bertus Basson serves delicious modern South African cuisine (click here to read Nothando’s review)…

When I think about the who, I would actually love to have a dinner with some of the up and coming female entrepreneurs on the continent, with Oprah at the head of the table. I would love my dinner party to include the likes of Aisha Pandor of SweepSouth, Guiyani Monteiro of We Are Ants, Jewellery Designers Henriette Botha and Jeanine Benjamin, Swaady Martin of Yswara; and serial connectors Yasmin Belo-Osagie and Afua Osei of She Leads Africa. I’m also very inspired by the women creating products and experiences by African women for African women. These include the women behind The Perfect Hair and Suki Suki Naturals hair product brands, so I’d love to have them at the dinner table too. I would also want to engage with the women behind Travel Noire and Tastemakers Africa travel brands.

If I had dinner with an industry guru, it would definitely be with Lei Jun CEO of Xiaomi currently the third largest smart phone manufacturer and distributor. And, I suspect our conversation would be dominated by the topic of supply chain, I would love the chance to pick his brain on this.

And lastly, I would certainly add Ashish Thakar of the Mara Foundation to my guest list, particularly for a more casual chat on unlocking further opportunities on the African continent.

I find it curious but not coincidental that Nothando would seek out high performing, multi-passionate candidates to join her company or her heavy hitting dream dinner party, because there is serious power in intersectionality. After all, she clearly has multiple passions herself. Harvard Business Review defines entrepreneurship as the process by which creative ideas become useful innovations. And, innovation is defined as the capacity to turn an idea into a successful service, product or venture. Interestingly, one of Nothando’s proudest moments as an entrepreneur was when she saw the ReWare display unit on display at an Edgars store for the very first time, and this was after just 12 months of the business’s existence. I imagine that the display unit was a manifestation of the hard work that her, her business partner and their team had invested in the business- it was proof that they had turned their idea into a successful product. I also wonder whether Nothando could have achieved this feat without the having a strong grasp of the three super-powers of multipotentialites: the ability to synthesise ideas, rapidly learn and adaptability. My guess is that she’s nailed these skills, but balancing her passions and building on the strong trajectory of her business keeps her on her toes. A famous multipotentialite once said, “I’m not a jack of all trades; I’m a master of many”. Whether you identify as a multipotentialite or not, the lesson is to introspect on where your talents lie, explore your passions and pursue career opportunities that maximise your full potential.

Article by: Magcino Radebe | Mbewu Movement Founding Member

Magcino Radebe holds a Master of Philosophy in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (University of Cape Town). She is an Executive Assistant in Financial Services

An interview with Aisha Pandor: On the Magic of Entrepreneurship & the Sharing Economy

We’ve heard it all millennials– from being branded narcissistic and entitled to optimistic and innovative. Nonetheless, I was encouraged by Forbes Women Africa which recently featured a spread of diverse, African female millennial entrepreneurs. It was refreshing to see a positive narrative of young African women who are bringing fresh ideas to the continent and making their mark in the world.

Aisha Pandor was one of the poised young women on the cover of this issue. Aisha is co-Founder and CEO of SweepSouth, an online home cleaning service platform established in 2014 which connects clients with Cleaners in minutes. Interestingly, just before the release of the Forbes cover, I had been over-thinking how to approach Aisha for an interview for weeks! Earlier in the year, I heard her being interviewed on the 702 Money Show. During the interview, she mentioned that her and her husband / co-Founder (Alen Ribic) had just secured R10m funding from the Vumela Fund for their business. So after hearing Aisha speak on the show and then reading her interview in Forbes, I knew I had to muster up the courage to ask her for an interview, and she very graciously accepted. Having seen glimpses over the years of Aisha pushing her business, I was highly impressed by her story, her energy and how her hard work was really starting to pay off. What I admire the most about Aisha is that she’s a maverick. How many times have you heard that there are no black women in the science and technology sector or that the informal sector is excluded from technological innovation? Instead of accepting the status quo, Aisha victoriously hacks the system and makes her own rules in casual millennial swag. And as a mom, she consciously hopes her approach leaves an impression on her daughter. In fact, talking to Aisha reminds me of the famous “Think Different” campaign by Apple that goes: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The rebels. The troublemakers. The ones who see things differently. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Here’s to Aisha R. Pandor.

MR: Let’s first talk about your career pivots. So your academic background is in the Sciences and you have a PhD in Genetics. When you left university you decided to work in Management Consulting. After some time you then quit that to become an entrepreneur and started SweepSouth. What do you think has driven your career pivots and what do you think these decisions reveal about yourself?

AP: My team and I have recently been doing strength finding exercises so that we can understand each other better as a team, and what I’ve found out about myself is that I’m very input and execution orientated. I enjoy working with data, analysing information and drawing on that information to make decisions and execute. This is why I enjoyed being in the Sciences and research, because I was able to take in information on how biology, our bodies and genetics works [input], and then develop gene therapies for people who were sick with genetic diseases [execution]. Research and execution was also a key theme in my Management Consulting experience. Now, at SweepSouth, I find myself really enjoying gathering information on what a happy home means for both our clients and our Cleaners, and what’s driving the domestic cleaning sector [input]. And then I use that data to tailor our service to our customers and run an effective business [execution]. So I’d say the consistent theme in my career pivots has been using good data to create a meaningful impact.

Sharing Economy 1

MR: What is SweepSouth and what does it aims to achieve as a company?

AP: SweepSouth is an online home cleaning service platform that’s all about creating happy homes. We aim to manage activities that people either don’t have the time, or expertise, or desire to do themselves in their homes. So whether you’re a busy mom, or a young professional, or you’re looking to provide services like cleaning, we have a platform to make it easy for you to create a happy home. In the future we want to provide a total home services solution, including plumbing, grocery shopping, nanny services etc. So we want to understand all our clients’ home needs well and cater to those needs.

By the way, I love the idea of the “Sharing Economy” and creating a platform that allows users on either side of the platform to transact based on trust. Although that trust may be breached at times, that happens in life anyway. But, what the “Sharing Economy” ultimately allows is for someone to earn money providing a service by connecting them to someone else who is willing to pay someone an honest rate to receive a service.

MR: The “Sharing Economy” is an exciting concept, but SA is a generally conservative society with a high crime rate and trust barriers. Do you think the local market is ripe enough for the “Sharing Economy” to flourish?

AP: Yes, I think we’ll get there. We have a strong youth population, and even when we look at what millennials typically share on social media versus older generations, it’s very different. For older generations, the idea of posting a photo of themselves on the internet when they’ve just woken up in the morning or in the bathroom in front of the mirror wearing a bikini, is just bizarre [Laughs]. Yet young people do this all the time, despite the dangers of what could potentially happen to those photos. So there’s this level of trust that’s becoming more normal, and there’s certainly a part of society that’s embracing this new sharing world. For the majority of South Africans, I think the change to a sharing economy may be slower because we can be quite conservative. But, when people see the benefits of the services offered, they’ll come around. Johannesburg is actually one of Uber’s fastest growing markets internationally. Sure there may have been some initial distrust and there were incidents that Uber had to deal with, but people needed this convenience and got over it relatively quickly. We had similar initial trust issues with customers on SweepSouth- people had concerns about how they knew for sure someone would show up after they had given us their card details- and again customers got over that very quickly.

MR: Now that you’re in the tech-startup game, and having not been in technology previously, how did you equip yourself with relevant skills you needed for your business? Did you learn how to code?

AP: I did learn basic code, mainly so that I could understand what Alen was doing and so we could have intelligent conversations about what the platform needed to do. Other things I had to learn included financial modelling. Not financial modelling for a company that’s existed, but for a business that’s completely new where a lot of the modelling is predictive and based on a different set of assumptions. I spend a lot of time doing research online and because I have a strong research background I’m good at discerning information.

We’ve also been through a few rounds of funding and what’s been exciting about this is when we’ve received funding from overseas that’s been through completely new funding vehicles in the South African context. For example, when we received funding from an overseas venture firm called 500 Startups they use a funding vehicle called a KISS (Keep It Simple Security). KISS funding uses convertible notes, which are a form of short-term debt that convert into equity, typically in conjunction with a future financing round / when the startup gets larger (more here). And so we had to figure out how to fit this into South African Company Law, with the help of our lawyers who were also working on this type of deal for the first time. As CEO, I’m responsible for protecting the company and our assets in conversations and negotiations with investors. So I’ve had to learn these skills quite quickly.

MR: Please will you walk me through the process and time it took for you to identify this business opportunity, define the business model and then develop a technology solution?

AP: It took us 4 or 5 months to go from concept design to building the platform to launching it, which is a short amount of time to build a platform from scratch. But we were so focused and we knew exactly what we wanted it to look like. Also both of us quit our jobs to do this full time, so we had to work quickly before we ran out of money.

We launched a Minimal Viable Product (MVP), the basic concept which would allow a user to book a Cleaner end-to-end, and after that we continued building based on the feedback we received from friends and our clients. We would also conduct analysis on how users interacted on our site, i.e. what users were clicking on, what questions we were getting and whether that meant we needed to improve our UX or include questions in our FAQs. We also have a dual rating feedback system where clients rate Cleaners and Cleaners rate clients. We’ve been very attentive to our customers and pay a lot of attention to feedback.

Looking back, there was absolutely no way we could’ve created as good a product in such a short time span while still working in corporate jobs. But I wouldn’t advise this for everyone. In fact, my parents were against the idea of us quitting our jobs, selling our house and cashing in our pension, while we have a child. My mom said to me: ”You have to have at least 3 years’ worth of savings before starting a business”. I responded “Mom, who in this day and age has 3 years’ worth of savings?” [Laughs]. They were very nervous, but in the end they knew that we would give this idea all that we had, and even if the idea failed we were still educated and employable.

Being a mom 2

MR: What do you think ultimately made investors believe in your business and award you R10m funding?

AP: Firstly, I think the most important success factor is having a strong founder team. Clashes between founders are a very common reason why startups fail, but Alen and I know each other very well. We also both understand the spheres in which we operate in well. Alen is a brilliant technician and I’ve been great with knowing the market and managing the operational and the people side. I also think we both have the potential to grow this into something really big. A lot of startup founders have great ideas, but aren’t able to scale up their business.

Secondly, we gained a lot of traction over a short period of time. We’d only been around (launched) for a few months when we first engaged investors, but we were able to show that within that year as a small team of two, there wasn’t a single month that we had less growth than the month before, even though at times we had been out of the country.

Lastly, the idea itself is something we are passionate about and is relevant to South Africa because we’re creating work opportunities for people very quickly, which has resonated with the objectives of our investors. If you have a successful interview with SweepSouth, you get on-boarded very quickly on the system and in less than 24 hours you’re able to get bookings. So there’s a very quick turnaround for Cleaners to start working and earning money.

MR: You’ve given some insight on what it’s like working with your husband, Alen. Some people are quite cautious about starting a business with their spouse or partner. What has your overall experience been like pursuing entrepreneurship with your husband?

AP: We went into business together because we have complementary skills and because we were both over working for other people. Fortunately, I love working with my husband. I think the fact that we have complementary skills, we have a shared dream for our business and we were able to pool our resources together into this project were key success factors. If we were both developers or if we were each working on different business ventures, I don’t think things would’ve worked out the same. But, when you’re in a relationship with your business partner, there is the risk that working together will affect your personal relationship negatively and starting SweepSouth was a scary decision for us as a family. Our daughter was 3 years old when we launched the business so we had to be okay with the possibility of not being able to pay for her school fees sometimes and we saw how selling our house was quite distressing for her. For anyone considering pursuing an entrepreneurial venture with their partner, it’s a hard decision, there’s a lot at stake and it’s definitely not something to be taken lightly.

Entrepreneurship 3

MR: What are the challenges that you are most proud to have overcome in your journey so far as an entrepreneur?

AP: Having a child who is so well grounded, is something I am very proud of. Our daughter is quite mature for a 6 year-old and understands that there’s something bigger that we’re trying to achieve. She was around during the days when we didn’t have an office and there were queues of people standing outside our home wanting to apply to SweepSouth. She understood that those people were looking for work and needed help accessing opportunities. I’m very proud that my daughter has seen me build something from scratch, first-hand and very early on in the journey. Hopefully one day we can look back with her and remember the day we sold our house and we were in tears driving away from it, but we did this because we knew we were moving on to something bigger.

I’m also really proud of building SweepSouth and the actual work we do every day with our amazing team. No matter what happens to SweepSouth, I’m proud to say that Alen and I did this. We went from just two women who were on the platform in the first month, to having hundreds. Now we’re able to pay out hundreds of thousands worth of salaries in per month, which means there are people and families who are actually benefiting from our platform, the work we do every day and having access to work opportunities. I think that’s the magic of entrepreneurship, it’s when you have an idea and by the sheer force of your will, you build it up to something that’s bigger than you and impacts a lot of people.

MR: On that inspiring note, what closing advice would you give an entrepreneur?

AP: Firstly, being very focused and precise with what you want to do is important, especially when you are doing well, because that’s when you can easily get distracted and veer off into a different direction altogether. Secondly, have a good business partner, because it’s an extremely hard journey. If you’re starting a business from scratch there will be really bad times and your self-worth will be challenged. I’ve found that having a support system outside of the business isn’t really enough to get you through the emotional journey. You need to have a business partner who understands the challenges and can keep you motivated.  Thirdly, be passionate about something that’s beyond the money and the egotistical side of business. So make sure you have a vision and a mission that’s meaningful, because that’s what becomes the “why” which you have to fall back on when the “what” becomes really hard.

Roughly this time last year, Mbewu Movement founding members had dinner with Joyce Kim, co-Founder and Executive Director of Stellar, a fin-tech company based in Silicon Valley. A piece of wisdom that Joyce shared with us was to “discover the things that you do that make you proud as hell”. Having met both women, there are many things that I think Joyce and Aisha have in common, one of them being that they both leave you with the feeling that YOU can actually change the world. I’m sure many #youngpreneurs, side-husslers, working mothers and power couples are inspired by Aisha’s incredible story. Most importantly, always remember to think different.

Article by: Magcino Radebe | Mbewu Movement Founding Member

Magcino Radebe holds a Master of Philosophy in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (University of Cape Town). She is an Executive Assistant in Financial Services.

In the midst of RSA celebrating freedom…we acknowledge that ‘Black Girls Rock!’

Watching the Black Girls Rock awards and listening to Michelle Obama’s speech talking about her own experience: “when I was a girl, I had parents who loved me and believed in me. I decided that I wasn’t bossy. I was strong. I wasn’t loud. I was a young woman with something important to say. When things get hard, that’s not always a sign that you’re doing something wrong. It’s often a sign that you’re doing something right. I want you to work as hard as you can. Learn as much as you can.  That is how you will go from being black girls who rock to being black women who rock”.

I dedicate the above speech to all the beautiful women in my life and it does not matter what the colour of your skin is, South Africa is a rainbow nation and we must stop seeing black and white only. We must see the world for all its beauty and see one another as brothers and sisters, as one big family. I would like to take this opportunity to write about how grateful I am for all the amazing women I have in my life, from my mom, grand ma and Aunts; I’ve learnt how to love, to nuture, to be humble, to be strong, to pray and care for other human beings and the importance of education. From my amazing cousin, I have learnt the importance of reading; I’ve learnt the importance of confidence, being content, and the importance of knowing who I am and being comfortable in my own skin.  From a good friend of mine, I have learnt that with a strong mind, willpower, resilience, soul and a strong sense of spirituality you can achieve all the universe has to offer, and I have grown to be this wonderful human being who wants the best for others

I am grateful to you Mbewu ladies, for taking time in reading and responding to my emails, for being interested in what I wanted to do in my community and making a difference in this beautiful country we live in. You are all phenomenal women; you are a true living testimony of black girls who rock and growing into black women who rock. What is amazing about you all is that you are not doing this for yourself but you are doing it for all your peers, women around you and the next generation to come. Having an opportunity to attend your mentorship programmes and participating in your volunteering programmes as a Mbewu community member, I have learnt that you are the living proof of your Mbewu name, the Seed that you are planting to all of us and those Kids from uThanduwazi Academy program is a seed of a beautiful flower that blooms beautifully. Keep inspiring young people, I wish  you all the best and wish your forum growth.and may your legacy live on. You guys have inspired me to convince my book club ladies “Puo Ya Basadi” to be part of the Soweto book club programme, I believe in team work and believe these amazing ladies will contribute towards the success of the programme.

Black girls, we will rock by empowering women and acknowledging one another, by seeking others to create growth and transformation which means that we need to stop seeing colour in one another, because of inequalities that have been imposed on us, it is our responsibility to ensure we empower people of colour. Remember God put us here as human beings to help one another, to be kind and generous to all those around us and to stop seeing colour and using Apartheid to our detriment. Rather use your past and your divine nature as empowerment tools for the future.  It is time we start to celebrate and acknowledge one another’s achievements. It is time to pat someone’s back and say “Well done sisi, you rock”. It is time to stop looking at each other as competition or a threat, but look at each other as warriors who are brought to this world to help one another to achieve their dreams.

Black Girl Rocks pledge by Iyanla Vanzant

http://www.blackgirlsrockinc.com/take-the-pledge-2/

blk grl rck

Guest Blog Post by Busi Mkhize, Business Analyst in the Finance Sector by day and a life optimist by choice and a Mbewu Community Member

“I” – A Promise To Myself

“Peace to fashion police, I wear my heart / On my sleeve, let the runway start / You know the miserable do love company / What do you want from me and my scars? / Everybody lack confidence, everybody lack confidence / How many times my potential was anonymous? / How many times the city making me promises / So I promise this – I LOVE MYSELF”
– Kendrick Lamar: “i”

No one is born self-confident. In this fast paced complex and transformative world, self-assurance and self-assertion are the fundamental tools which one ought to acquire and hone in order to navigate through life at one’s full potential. These all start, however, with self-confidence, something which develops over time as children learn skills and start to achieve their goals. At the Mbewu Movement 2015 20LeanIn mentor session delivered by Dr. Vuyo Mahlati, we learnt it was through her quest to be heard and to take her rightful place at the table in patriarchal rural Transkei, that she developed her self-confidence and self-assurance as she was forced to prove herself equal to her elder brothers in her parents’ eyes. Life’s lottery of being the last born girl to her parents and the sibling to four older brothers, meant she not only had to transcend youth and gender, but race, classism and other various prejudicial factors in apartheid South Africa on her journey to LeanIn.

Dr. Vuyo Mahlati imparting a wealth of knowledge and experience at the Mbewu Movement 20LeanIn mentor session.
Dr. Vuyo Mahlati imparting a wealth of knowledge and experience at the Mbewu Movement 2015, 20LeanIn mentor session.

Fortunately, self-confidence can be learnt at any age, like building with Lego blocks, each victory is witnessed with each step. Your skin is a travelling bag of your existence, therefore your earliest experiences as a child can either build your confidence to power your dreams or weigh you down like a heavy load. It is through taking the time to know yourself that you discover your identity which informs your path and destiny. Your identity and who you are deep down form the molecular basis which should remain constant regardless of the change in the circumstances around you. In the words of Dr Mahlati, “Never let shame rob you of your identity“. As highlighted in Kendrick Lamar’s song “i” “Peace to fashion police, I wear my heart / On my sleeve, let the runway start“, wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve signifies a marker which you identify and radiate yourself to the world.

It’s important not to lose one’s identity, but more importantly to leave an indelible mark which tells your story and adds to the stories of those around you. As Kanye West said in his debut album College Dropout: “I could let these dream killers kill my self-esteem or use my arrogance as the steam to power my dreams“. This self-conscious declaration serves as the fuel required for one to push through in the pursuit of one’s dreams.

Subjugation and repression are part of the hurdles one has to face in order to test one’s self confidence and/or assertiveness; however it is important to know the difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness. Dr Mahlati made this distinction clear in that you first have to start by understanding the territory you are in as well as understanding those around you. Fresh from London School of Economics, with a Masters in hand, Dr Mahlati entered the corporate world under a new dispensation ushered in by South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994. Contrary to popular belief that the journey to success in the corporate world is one dimensional, Dr Mahlati’s journey, was not only unique, but one of transcendence as she moved into a world dominated by “old white men” to take her seat at the helm. One would instinctually seek to erase all that is reminiscent of the “old way” in which things were done. However, Dr Mahlati recognised this as an opportunity to extract the good that resides in the old and to forge it with the gusto that resides in the new. In doing this she gained the respect of those who came before her and those who were to come afterwards, playing her part in mending a broken South Africa.

This journey has not been without thorns, as there was much resistance from the old guard. However, this led to Dr. Mahlati digging deep within herself to tap into her inherent self-appreciation that served as a compass in a fragmented environment. She affectionately stated that “although people terrorised me, I became“. The key ingredient in her journey was not to lose sight of the bigger picture, but importantly not to lose sight of self.

In his song, Kendrick impassionedly pleads: What do you want from me and my scars? A defensive question we generally ask when unsure of what informs us. However, a song of transfiguration is heard when that question is followed up with introspection – “How many times my potential was anonymous? / How many times the city making me promises“. Echoing the reverberations of Dr Mahlati’s words, it is important to appreciate self and to be clear and realistic. This realisation is embodied in Kendrick’s words when he states that: “So I promise this – I LOVE MYSELF“. Although no one is born self-confident, a declaration of self-love plants and nurtures the seed of self-confidence and self-assurance.

This post was kindly contributed by our guest blogger, Lebo Phaladi.

Lebo is an Associate in the anti-trust/competition law department at ENSAfrica. But importantly, he is a young South African with a tenacious love for law, society and Africa. Our readers can find Lebo on LinkedIn.