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So this has been long coming!  Each year I try to sum up my year with some reflections, and thoughts for the new year.  This year I thought I’d do that while I was laying on the beach in Koh Samet, Thailand, sipping on a cocktail, counting my blessings.  Alas I was busy still doing work – but on the beach in Koh Samet, so I can’t be too mad!

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2016 was an interesting year for me – perhaps a year I entered into a different cycle of my life.  I ended the year completely burnt out but definitely worth it.  While 2016 was a ‘surviving’ year for most, it was a challenging year for me.

At the beginning of 2016, if you recall I blogged about this, I decided it was time to believe in myself more and push myself to do things that scared me.  At that point I had already been toying with the idea of launching a female led talkshow.   I wanted to give women a voice, I wanted to actively engage in dialogue that contributed to the development of the country and our lives, and I wanted to show that women can and do support each other.

There were many times in that process of developing the show that I wanted to quit – it was scary, not easy, not to mention costly.  But I told people about it, knowing they would hold me accountable to ensure it happened.  And it did!

The show was quoted in the Daily Mail, and now it’s airing on Zambezi Magic – across the region.  My heart literally stopped as I thought about that – people outside of Zambia are seeing my face and listening to what I have to say… it is surreal.

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But that was just the beginning of the year!

Loads of work in the middle of the year, and then my most challenging work fell squarely on my lap – Our Perfect Wedding Zambia.  The project that gave me sleepless nights and exhausted me (and had me looking like a homeless person).  Adapt the hugely popular South African show, how hard could it be?!

Hmmm.  Let me back track a bit.  The set-up of our company is usually myself and Mary write the proposal, secure the deals and client manage.  Tasha does the research and insights.  Freddy is the creative lead – he directs and produces.  We still work on the creative side inputting in character development, script, wardrobe, art direction etc.  But in a very basic way that’s the make-up.

So after writing the proposal, doing the pitch, we win the bid!  Great.  Just one small problem; Freddy is unable to direct or produce the show.  Probably the obvious decision would have been to hire someone to direct.

I like to think of myself as a business person, I looked at the numbers and realized it would be pointless for us to do this show if we hire a director.  I’d just produced and semi-directed (ha!) a talk show, how hard could a 4-day reality shoot be?

Famous last words.

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I like to surround myself with people who are good at what they do but also people I can work with.  There were a lot of people in the industry who I thought had bad attitudes and who I just couldn’t imagine doing a 52-day shoot with.  So I chose a crew I thought I could work with, mainly young up-and coming and hungry.

No one had shot a reality show before, or one of this nature.  In fact client expectations were to exceed even what the South Africa’s were doing, the pressure was immense.

I’m pretty sure I spent a lot of time crying and wishing I could quit!  But quitters don’t win and winners don’t quit.

When I wasn’t shooting, I was in editing mode.  It was non-stop.  And pleasing the client was even harder.  Some of our seasoned editors were also suffering, getting the format right was hard on everyone.

The season is coming to an end and while I can definitely agree there were some bad episodes, there were also some amazing stories and great couples – it almost made me believe in love again! LOL.

I did learn though that maybe hunger wasn’t enough, on certain projects you have no choice but to put personal differences aside and bring in the best people for the job, at least close enough to the best (though not sure they would have done it for the budget).   However, because of the attitude of some of the crew, I know I will be working with them for time to come, because at the end of the day, attitude is so important in getting ahead and moving past mediocrity.  The ones who chose to be unprofessional, well those are their career choices.

I was then fortunate to get away for 10 days to experience the sights and sounds of Thailand.  It was exactly what I needed.  I didn’t get to consciously do the reflections I needed but I think the downtime, the rest and recovery allowed my mind to settle, clear out the noise and focus.

There were things I wanted to do last year that I never got to do, my experience last year proved that anything is possible, so this year I plan on soaring, trusting in myself – in God – and taking that next step to greatness.  We can all achieve it if we believe!

Have a great 2017!  (I won’t even promise to blog more because… well life gets in the way, and I’m busy on my grind and living my life!)

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So I did it!  I ran straight into the fear and launched my online talkshow!  Those of you who regularly follow my blog know that I’ve been hinting at doing something ‘big’ since January, and this is it.

But, boy, how many times I came close to scraping the entire project – even after I had already shot the episodes! LOL.  The fear of failure can be so powerful that it can stop you in your tracks.

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Add to that, that I have been so vocal on bad quality works and the mediocrity that is rampant in Zambia, and I just never thought the episodes were good enough.  And as if that wasn’t bad enough, drama and conflict behind the scenes made me want to pack it all it, it was just too hard!

But I had committed to it.  I talked it through with my life coach, who couldn’t understand my hesitation, and so I closed my eyes and jumped!

Even when it went live, I held my breath, waiting for the trolls to come, my friend in Nigeria telling me not to worry – ‘even Oprah has haters’ he said.  Hmmm yes but Oprah can then jump in her private jet and go to some fabulous destination, drink mojitos, have massages on the beach and not let any of that negativity get to her.

The number of people watching the first episode kept growing, within a week over 1,000 people had watched it.  1,000 people!  Ok, I wish I could say there were 10s of thousands, but you have to start somewhere.  And that start was encouraging.

Friends shared it, friends called me to give me their positive feedback, but still I held my breath.

Three episodes in, and I haven’t had any trolls, had some great constructive feedback, and generally people believing there was a need for what what I was trying to do – foster a community to shape not only the country we live in, but also the positive female community we don’t always talk about.

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My father watched the third episode the other day – he was surprised that I could speak on any issue that I wanted lol – but he was impressed and supportive as well.  My father is not an easy person to impress.

As the episodes unfold, as I still cringe at the imperfectness of it, I am excited about where it could go.  Hard for it to go much further right now, because it was self-financed by Media 365 (like us on Facebook!) and we only have a finite amount of resources to put into passion projects, but the scope is huge.

My focus was on Zambia, spurned by the elections and the governance challenges I was concerned with, but it’s more than that now, there are so many issues that women (not only in Zambia) have challenges with, issues that I could be lending a voice to, giving a platform to, making it a much rounded show.

Sponsorship is hard to come by in Zambia, I find the marketing people in most large corporates have a very parastatal way of thinking – i.e. let’s not do anything original or creative, let’s see what works in the market then jump on it.  It’s exactly what happened with Love Games.  Sponsors wanted to come in at the end, when it was too late.

But knowing this, and because it is an owned property, I’m trying to ensure the numbers stay up so that someone  will want to sponsor it and keep it going.  I only have about 6 more episodes in the bank (6 more weeks of content, yay!), so I really do need people to keep watching, sharing and discussing it, hoping that will lead to sponsorship of season 2.

I have learnt so many lessons on this journey though.  Some about friendships – man have I seen the ride or die’s in my life – and they’re global, UK, South Africa, Nigeria, and of course Zambia.  I’ve learnt that even if it’s not perfect, and the intention is honest, people will appreciate it.  And of course, that the only thing you have to fear is fear itself.

There is so much in this process I don’t control, and I have to trust others – that’s also taught me lessons, there are people you can trust to be professional, and to make it work, and there are people who just want to get paid.  Be very wary of those just trying to get paid.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not mad about the people wanting to get paid (we all want to get paid!), I just can’t afford them on my team right now, I need people I can trust me to want to make it the best possible project, to give me their all, at cost, for a bigger reward in future.

But that can never overshadow the gratitude I feel about the people who have been there, the ones who simply watched, gave feedback, let me vent, let me talk out my crazy ideas, turned out graphics in hours, not days, and just helped bring this project to life.

There is still a long way for us to go in Zambia in raising the creative standard, but sitting around complaining about it won’t help.  Same with shaping our country, being armchair critics is easy.  But it is time for action (cue Redman lol).

This is a new chapter in my life – I never ever saw myself in front of the camera – still don’t – but I also want to be involved, want to be awake, and be part of the change I want to see.

Thank you for all those of you who have already watched HerStory, if you haven’t watched it, check it out and share with all your friends and family!  Help me get the 10s of thousands views!

Thank you in advance! xoxo (yes an ode to an old favourite! lol)

Recently I was asked to share my experience of TEDxEuston, it wasn’t hard to do.  It was a great experience.  Nonetheless, here is my testimonial of #myTEDxEustonStory (think you can find other stories with that hashtag on FB and Twitter).

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I share my experiences, my lessons learnt, from rising up the corporate ranks to trying to grow a business in Africa because I believe we all find lessons in everyone’s experiences. But when TEDxEuston asked me to speak on their stage, I was beyond ecstatic, if not a little afraid.

TEDxEuston is all about Africa. The Africa we wish the world would see. The Africa that isn’t about the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative, because we know that narrative is yet again a single narrative, but about the many facets of Africa, good and bad. But discussed among like-minded people who share a passion for the continent makes it more of a conversation than a single truth to be believed, no questions asked.

I was humbled. I didn’t know anyone was watching the work I was doing, the work we were doing here in little old Zambia. When you’re trying to be a game-changer, you get lost in the trenches working your butt off that you don’t know that other people have noticed your efforts.

I hope to do work that not only contributes to growing the creative industry in Zambia, but to help make us a better people to develop our country, to lift our people out of poverty. Ultimately, we are the ones who will drive our countries forward, not the government, as we have seen already.

Being able to not only speak to, but engage with, people who share a similar passion and desire for Africa was one of the best experiences of my life. I knew I was not wrong in my thinking, if other people felt the same, understood my truths, then I had to be on the right path.

Having that experience not only encourages you, but gives you the necessary motivation to keep striving to achieve your goals, sometimes pursuing something bigger than yourself is hard, and can be demotivating. The energy in that room, on that one day, is electrifying. It’s a room where different stories, different narratives, many untold, are being shared by us, for us.

Before speaking at TEDxEuston I was inspired by many TED talks (still am), I thought about how many exceptional people there are in the world (still do). I also never realized or thought, how difficult it is to step on that stage and share one thought and explain it in 18 minutes!

While I still feel that I didn’t quite get my point across, I still have people, years later, who have seen the video say it made sense to them and they shared my opinion. That still encourages me.  (The truth of the matter even in conversation I can’t stick to one thought – it evolves!  Sometimes I even forget what my point was…)

The fact that those ideas can happen on one stage and then be shared across the globe through online spaces, that is extremely powerful. It creates discussion, understanding and shared values and beliefs about the potential of Africa – an Africa that can truly rise. TEDxEuston does this in a way that hasn’t been done before – as far as I know. The focus on Africa only is the power of TEDxEuston. Who else has that singular focus and discipline? What else can be more special and important. Yes, that wasn’t a question.

My journey to my goals hasn’t ended, far from it, but speaking at TEDxEuston was a phenomenal step in cementing my future dreams and ambitions. And I met some great people that I still keep in touch with!

In fact the way the TEDxEuston was organized and the way the team connected with me, and mentored me through the process of getting ready to step on the stage, helped me when it came to me helping to organize a business conference here in Lusaka.

So the lessons from TEDxEuston were not just about sharing and connecting my vision with others, but were also so many lessons I learnt, from the other speakers (many of who I continue to follow their work online), to the organisation, to the people in the audience who I had the pleasure to speak to and learn about the great stuff they were doing too. TEDxEuston was so much more than just being a platform for the speakers, but the connections you make as an attendee too!

This is #myTEDxEustonstory.

Watch my TEDxEuston talk below:

 

 

What an entrepreneur does

A couple weeks ago was the Nyamuka Zambia National Business Conference, I was fortunate enough to be involved in the design and implementation of the conference.

Prior to the conference I’d already been questioning, both to myself, and with friends, if Zambia really has entrepreneurs. This was brought about by a visiting British DFID (Department for International Development) key senior official, who had mentioned he’d had a conversation with other Zambians (or people living in Zambia), and put the same question to the small group of people (entrepreneurs/business owners and others) gathered for the private lunch at Latitude, ‘does Zambia have entrepreneurs?’. At first I think we were all vocal in our support for the Zambian entrepreneur, but as I thought about it more, I also began to wonder if it was true…

Merriam Webster dictionary defines an entrepreneur as ‘a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money.

Hmmm well if we look at that definition, I question do the majority of ‘entrepreneurs’ here operate a business by taking on a great financial risk, or is it simply out of no other choice? We have a serious employment crisis and sometimes people have no choice but to start a business, but does that make them an entrepreneur?

I have fought with countless supplier and market stall holders about giving me a discount on mass purchase but they would rather I leave the entire purchase than give me a discount – is that willingness to risk loss in order to make money? Or is that stubbornness? I have too often seen people willing to lose a sale in the (miscalculated) hope that someone else will buy the product.

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Forbes.com in an article say Entrepreneurs, in the purest sense, are those who identify a need—any need—and fill it.”

So if you see your friends opening a car wash and you take the space next to it and open a car wash – does that make you an entrepreneur? Was there a need for another car wash? We see this a lot – it’s like that strip on the road to the Copperbelt, it’s like an endless stream of the same fresh produce, what makes the potatoes or the tomatoes at one stand different from the one right next to it?

An entrepreneur, as defined by, Sir Richard Branson is an ‘innovator, job creator, game changer, a business leader, a disrupter, and adventurer.’

This definition I prefer.

However, I don’t necessary ascribe to the need to create jobs, it’s a nice thing to do, especially in our economy, and to help bring people out of the cycle of poverty, but I’m not going to create jobs at the expense of my bottom line. I’m sure Sir Branson meant this too, but it’s easy to take things out of context to suit what you’re selling, especially if you’re an aid agencies.

As I already mentioned, a few weeks ago we had the pleasure of being part of the team to design and implement a business conference. The first thing that struck us was the criteria (or lack of) to determine the entrepreneurs who were to impart wisdom at this conference. The committee members were throwing out all sorts of names with nothing more than good publicity to back up their chosen candidates. Once we defined an entrepreneur by key terms, clear criteria, it got a little harder to choose.

But I then I understood where the British guy and his guests were coming from, perhaps we focus so much on the popularity of this term that any jim and jack can be called an entrepreneur now.

As I continued to struggle with this conundrum my sister sent me an article that really hit the nail on the head – 3 signs you’re a fake entrepreneur. It put even more things in perspective. The author, Dale Partridge, Founder and CEO of StartUpCamp.com, says you really shouldn’t even call yourself an entrepreneur until you have accomplished your first business goal. He added working for yourself does not necessarily make you an entrepreneur. According to Partridge, the three signs you’re not an entrepreneur (or you’re a fake entrepreneur) are:

You’re a freelance rockstar: You trade your time for money. That doesn’t make you an entrepreneur.

You’re an employee at your own company: I’mma just leave this here…(Ok this one made me cry…)

You’re employable under the right conditions: Let’s say government does create those 50,000 or whatever figure it is now jobs that they promise, and loads of other people are hiring, would you be able to get a job? Do you want a job? If you are willing to take a secure, well-paying job, over chasing your dream, you’re not an entrepreneur.

While there is nothing wrong with testing out your business as a side hustle while you still have a job, as Justin Chinyanta put it, “the lawyer who has a farm on the side, is not an entrepreneur, he is still a lawyer. Don’t confuse being an entrepreneur with a life-style choice.”

I could understand 1 and 3 but in my mind I tried to justify number 2. I mean, if we didn’t have such poor work ethics, and could find skilled labour, would this be such a problem here? It really is a bitter pill to swallow, hard as I’d like to, maybe it can’t really be justified, you’re simply not an entrepreneur if you’re an employee at your company.

So if I have to be asked again, are there entrepreneurs in Zambia? Yes. Just not as many as we think there are, and even those of us who call ourselves entrepreneurs need to examine ourselves closely.

I think I did start out as an entrepreneur – all my co-founders did. But at some point to ensure your survival (at least in the Zambian context), we had to become the technicians, the employees to ensure the business delievered. This happened more recently because of bad hires and then a fear of hiring the wrong people again! (Never underestimate the financial cost of hiring the wrong person).

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But what do you think, do we have entrepreneurs in Zambia? And how do you define an entrepreneur?

Someone said to me ‘If I got recognized for my work by a white person, I’d be so upset, I wouldn’t even accept it’. I laughed at first thinking they were being silly or upset by something (race is becoming more and more of an issue, everywhere).

I actually didn’t think much more about it until about a week later, another colleague in the office mentioned ‘African privilege’.   We had a huge discussion about this in the office, about how African’s have the privilege of getting away with sub-standard, mediocre products and services because the West believes that’s as good as we can do.

The same colleague cited similar examples as the guy who didn’t want his work recognized, citing people who get put on a pedestal by the West, whose ‘work’ is lauded as good, when we secretly wonder if they are dyslexic (lots of people are successful and dyslexic) or don’t have spell check on their computer (all hail spell check!) and other questionable traits.

African privilege. It doesn’t even spur us to be greater than we are, and why should we, if we still get praise, financial and other rewards by being sub-standard?

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Zambia is so different from places like Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria, not only because they have economies bigger than ours, but the nature of their work. In Zambia, so many people are making their living through government or donor cheques. But in places like South Africa, they’re not even about that life. But yet they are still getting paid!

Their work is not judged through the tainted glasses of the donor community, who paved the way for African privilege, but in the cut throat, competitive commercial world, where private sector have dollars to spend and expect to get what they paid for. In fact speak to a top South African production house about a USAID or other donor contract and they have no idea what you’re talking about ‘who or what is USAID?’ they’ll ask, while trying to negotiate their next multi-million dollar deal to do an award show.

Our private sector has not helped matters. They aren’t willing to through ad-spend to local agencies but have no problem paying top dollar for the same people we work with in South Africa to come here. Because the donor agencies are supposed to empower local capacities, they generally have no choice but to work with locals and rather than do their own due diligence they end up working with just about anyone – to be fair and all. But then complain, behind closed doors, ‘what do you expect? It is Africa, you can’t expect the same quality you’d get in the US’. Well…

African privilege. It makes the mediocre feel good about themselves, and gives us something to hide behind when we invariably also mess up – it’s hard to stay winning all the time. It makes us complacent.

Sometimes I wonder, when your work is being recognized and given accolades and all, do we laugh internally and say ‘it was pretty ish, but I’ll take your rewards anyway’, or do the same people actually think they did a good job?

I know I have extremely high standards, as my sister says, we shoot for the stars and land on the moon, but I’ll beat myself up about those missed opportunities, about the printer not printing the highest quality, about having to work with a low res jpeg.   One of my suppliers, and good friend said to me ‘your passion is not paid for nor appreciated so why do it?’ The answer was simple, because I know I can make it better.

Making it better because I don’t live by African privilege nor do I want to – I don’t plan on being on the cover of Forbes for some sub-standard crap. But I’m also learning that there is no point in my running the company to the ground because I’m working outside of the client’s budget. So in the last half of the year, I’m on some ‘If it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense’, that and if you don’t want to innovate or be creative, I’m just not interested.

Life is too short to live it in beige. I also have my legacy to think about it, and it can’t be based on African privilege.

As Justin Chinyanta said last week, African entrepreneurs must run twice as hard as the entrepreneur in the West and East to just stay in the same place. I’m not trying to stay in the same place so that means running even harder.

Ok, enough ‘talk’ from me, time for me to put my money where my mouth is – see you soon!