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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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I woke up this morning to a message from a friend of mine ‘You have to watch Survivor’s Remorse SO3E08, it’s the one!’.

Thankfully for me I’d taken a much needed day off, so was easy enough to watch it immediately.

The last few episodes of Survivors Remorse have been so enlightening, dealing with important issues such as colorism, circumcision etc, in such a way that reminds me why I want to create content. So I was eager to watch this episode.

I watched the entire episode wondering where the amazing message or insightful commentary was going to come in. I didn’t get it, they were just negotiating a contract. Being an entrepreneur – and so is the said friend – I thought the message was on how to negotiate a contract, how your kind deeds are remembered for positive negotiations etc. (It is kind of true). I got to the end and then had the ‘aha’ moment.

There were great nuggets of insight in the negotiation process, but the biggest were self worth and trust.

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The last few months have really tested my belief in myself and what we (my siblings and I) set out to do. I found myself angrier than usual at everything. We met people that we thought would be great to join our team and they turned the jobs down. I took it personally. Did they not know how much they would learn? Did they not know the fantastic work we get to do, even if it’s not always publicly visible? I was crushed.

In the meantime the online views on my talkshow were getting lower each week. I couldn’t understand it, but I was also focussed on how to push my main business forward. I just couldn’t focus on the talkshow at that point, but it was equally crushing that it didn’t seem to be resonating the way I would have liked it too. Didn’t help that a few days later I met someone who purposely sought me out to tell me everything that was wrong with my show. Don’t get me wrong, I can take constructive criticism, but there was just too many other things going on – you know that quote about being nice to people because you don’t know what they’re going through, at that point, I truly understood what it meant. I thought I was at my breaking point.

That experience taught me something. As much as I’m critical of celebrating mediocrity, and boy is there a lot of mediocrity in Zambia, you have to respect the effort, and remember most people are doing things with small budgets and doing things with no experience, in industries that are in infancy stages. While I hope they know it can be better, I know and understand how tough it can be to chase your dreams, especially in this environment.

But back to Survivors Remorse. The episode reminded me to remember how much I have achieved and that while I still have a ways to go to where I’m trying to get, I can’t lose focus on my path. People, circumstances and more, will come into your life to test you, but when you reconnect with who you truly are, embrace your greatness, all of that is water off a duck’s back.

You have to believe in yourself. Not because no one else does, but because so many people, people you may not even know, believe in you, are watching you, are rooting for you. Your actions do enable others to walk through the doors you open, to follow their own dreams. But it all starts with you believing in yourself first. Use that inner strength to weather the bad storms, because it is true, the darkest hour really is before the dawn (or after the rain, the sun comes out), learn to dance in the rain and ride out the storm (OK, I’ve thrown in pretty much every cliche I can think of, but it’s true, and I can’t emphasis this point anymore!). You don’t need anyone to validate you, you are enough. If your regular cheerleaders aren’t around, be your own cheerleader!

So no matter what you might be going through, don’t break, but do take time to regroup, recalibrate and remember your goals. Namaste (I bow to the divine in you)

I feel like 2015 was a pivotal year for me. It brought so many lessons and learnings for me.

Sometimes, we don’t always like the lesson or what it’s teaching us, and it can be painful to have to go through it at the time. But when you come out the other side, you appreciate the process. Life is not always going to be easy – no one has ever said it will.

December is the perfect month to reflect on the year’s experiences, to help in your growth and preparation for the next year.   I have always been the type of person who chooses self-reflection to help me be a better person, always aware that we can only be responsible for ourselves.

This year I’ve realized I’ve made lots of bad decisions, decisions made at the expense of myself, my happiness, my joy, my ambitions, in order to accommodate other’s happiness. Under ordinary circumstances I wouldn’t think this is a bad thing, but sometimes, it’s equally important to say no, and to put yourself first.

2016 isn’t about me not giving of myself the opportunity to make others happy when I can, but rather ensuring I’m taking care of myself, so that I can have those opportunities to give to others.

The aim is to live a life without regrets, so though so many things I wanted didn’t happen in 2015, I don’t want to dwell on what wasn’t but rather focus on making 2016 be the best year for me. With my cheerleaders around, I think it’s very possible to make that happen – just takes learning to say yes to myself first, and not to doubt my abilities.

I’m looking forward to a very different year and I hope you’ll carry on being part of my journey.

Have a great, fun-filled, prosperous and exciting 2016!

 

Stay Blessed!

Sometimes we forget our blessings. It’s easy to do when we live in a world that is obsessed with consumerism and self-, and instant-gratification. Looking at our friends lives on Facebook we can get caught up with envy and focusing on what we don’t have in our lives. It’s easy. But yet we need to be reminded of our blessings.

I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Juba, South Sudan on a project I’m working on about using participatory theatre for peace-building and conflict resolution/transformation.

Before I got to South Sudan, I had people not only ask me ‘why on earth’ I was going to South Sudan, but also caution on safety as it’s a country still at war. I can’t lie, I was a little fearful. But I felt I needed something to do, and getting out of the country to go to a country I’d never been to before seemed like an opportunity not to be passed up.

My first encounter was the process of getting an entry permit. As we don’t have a South Sudan embassy in Zambia, UNICEF in South Sudan had to facilitate getting an entry permit that we needed to have before arriving in Juba. I literally got mine enroute to the airport. But at the airport they needed a print out before they could allow me on the plane. Have you seen a business centre at KK International? Thankfully my grown grandson (it’s a cultural thing) was there to help and convinced a lovely lady at the courier office to help me get a print out – thanks Sekani and Bwalya!

My journey to South Sudan took me via a night’s stay in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and arriving in Juba lunch-time of the following day. As I waited in the old terminal (Terminal 1) at Addis International Airport, I feel somewhat at ease that so many people were flying to Juba. Then I noticed that most of them had light blue passports – the UN passport. Still, it was better than being on an empty flight to the unknown.

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I arrived at Juba International Airport about an hour and a half later. A colleague from UNICEF Zambia had already given me a heads up about the airport but no one could truly prepare me for the chaos.

The international airport was tiny. It reminded me of the Solwezi airport (and Solwezi is our economic hub too, or was, so maybe that’s not saying much!). On arrival, as I queued to get my visa (not really sure the point of the entry permit to be honest), the first thing that hit me was the overwhelming stench of urine. This was after I already almost passed out by the extraordinary heat that hit me when I stepped off the plane! South Sudan is close to the equator after all.

There didn’t seem to be order in the way things were done but I patiently went to the section that said visa on arrival. In front of me was a white woman from the UK who was kind of flirting with the security officers/immigration officers but in a condescending kind of way. It is a thing that I notice even elite black people do – treat the ‘poor, unfortunate people’ with a friendly but condescending tone (i.e. I really believe you’re an idiot but I’ll use the simplest of English for you to understand and I’ll smile at you and treat you like a happy baby with my cooing and aaahing). I shook my head and rolled my eyes.

I finally got my passport stamped and out I went to collect my bag. There was no luggage carousel so I could easily identify my bag, have security rummage through it and put a sticker on it, verifying it had been checked, and good to go.

This was my first thought of being grateful. We spend so much time in Zambia complaining about our poor infrastructure and inefficiency but it’s miles ahead of the Juba airport! I was suddenly grateful for, or at least appreciative of what Zambia has.

I walked out of the hall, and I still hadn’t seen my pick up. I remembered the Welcome and Security Pack I had been sent that clearly said, ‘don’t get a cab, go to the other UN drivers and ask them to radio a UNICEF driver for you’. Which is exactly what I did!

The driver in that UN car was extremely helpful and offered to drop me off at my hotel that was literally round the corner. As we’re driving away we see the UNICEF driver. But the UN driver won’t let me exit the car until the UNICEF car was parked directly behind us and the UNICEF driver was out of the car – the robberies are real he said.

I was slightly startled by that – was my family and friend’s fear justified if I couldn’t just get out of the car?!

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I was three days late to getting to the workshop, and as my UNICEF colleague drove me from the hotel to the workshop venue, I looked around the city.  The first thing you notice is the amount of UN cars on the road, including UN hummers!  There was some presence of the military, not heavy, but considering the city was supposed to be demilitarized, there was a clear presence of them. I saw land cruiser pick up with army in there, and what was clearly a dead body. I hoped this was just the body of their own colleague and not some poor person killed – I decided it was best not to ask questions you might not want the answer to.

It was great getting to know the workshop participants, 17 of them representing 9 of the 10 states of South Sudan. All super friendly and ready to engage and participate. They got the methodology of the two methods of participatory theatre we were testing out, and quick to see how it could be applied to their own communities and situations. Brilliant!

As I was starting to praise these activists who all stated how much they wanted peace in their country, who felt deeply hurt by the injustices and violence inflicted on their people, that affected all of them, there was also something I noticed was similar to the Zambian participants, as we’d done the same workshop a week earlier in Lusaka; their addiction to their cellphones.

It was constant! Some at least had the decency to answer the phone out of the room, while others had no qualm answering it in the workshop room during the exercises or the facilitator explaining something. It wasn’t a big room, so all sound carried!

At first I thought, ‘how rude!’. I personally get offended when people take a phone call in the middle of a dinner or learning opportunity, just think it’s rude. I don’t know why people are obsessed with their phones. I’m not chained to my phone, I don’t stress about missed calls, people can text me, call me back or I can call them back! It’s not that serious. Hence the reason it’s called a ‘Cell-phone’ you get imprisoned by it! (I saw that on Facebook!)

Zambia was a similar thing; mainly their cellphones, but generally an inability to focus. And it led me to an overall problem we have: Indiscipline

Discipline gets a bad rap at times, probably because somehow our mind goes to the military when we think of discipline. But really discipline is about focus and self-control.

These are key areas we need to grow and develop generally. How are we going to develop or succeed if we’re indisciplined?

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To lose sight of your goal, or what you’re trying to achieve because you’re easily distracted is a bad thing, a sign of weakness. It takes strong will, determination, and lazer focus to stay on your course. You see examples of it all the time, the people who succeed have like a singular focus and drive; determination and discipline.

But generally, I see most people don’t have the focus or discipline to achieve the success we’re destined for. In fact, I think we’re getting distracted by tools and systems to stop us from achieving success – because of the power you hold when you have reached your full potential. So many people and organisations try to stop us from achieving this potential and we fall for it by not being disciplined.

Even in my own life, I realized that I wasn’t living up to my own potential because I was getting distracted by little things (and some pretty addictive TV). So when I saw the behavior of the people in both Zambia and South Sudan and thought, how can we achieve economic freedom or peace in our country if we can’t be disciplined? If we can’t focus on what we want, how on earth will we ever get it?

I believe in doing a lot of self-reflection, you can only control yourself and your actions, and becoming the best version of yourself requires constant reflection, away from external perceptions and distractions. So as I was getting disheartened by these displays of indiscipline and lack of focus, every time I went back to my hotel room, I would reflect on the day – the words I heard people say, and then think to my own life. What blessings has my lack of focus or discipline stopped? How many times do I say I want something and then struggle to pursue it, or stop midway through to pick up something that doesn’t take me further on my path to achieving what I desire?   Too many times to answer.

I’m back in Zambia now, grateful for my blessings, for my family and friends and their prayers. I’m also more focused on making 2016 the year of my making by leaving distractions and indiscipline in 2015!

Hope you’ll join me for the ride

(PS taking photos in Juba is illegal, but I took these photos before I knew that – for real!)

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?

Happy New Year!  It’s almost the end of January but I feel we can still celebrate the new year.

Red-Roses

I had made a conscious decision to blog more this year, and then struggled to decide what to blog about.  I find blogging is cathartic for me.  But I also want it to be useful for people who take the time to read it and not find it just being about me, me, me.  I also want it to be meaningful.  There is no point of complaining and doing nothing about what gripes you.

The struggle of what to write ended when I listened into a radio interview with opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema (last week now).  HH, as he is popularly known as, did overwhelmingly well in the just ended presidential by-election, but he is going hard on how he was cheated by ‘known’ people at the electoral commission.

I don’t think that it’s impossible that there was election misconduct, but I think we choose what we need to focus on.  I think for the allegations to hold any water, HH needs to take this case through the courts of law – though they might be corrupt too right?  The point is don’t complain without doing anything about it.

But more than that for me was really a concern of how bitter he sounded about losing – and he lost by 2%!  How can he not be proud or grateful of that considering that it was the same electoral roll as 2011 and that only 37% of people voted!

It made me think of the mindset of a lot of Zambians I have encountered over the last 4 years.  Generally speaking they come across as negative people, the ones who see the glass as half empty ALL the time.  And they are anything but supportive, especially of other’s success.

It makes me think of the role that our leaders play, especially our political leaders and how that influences our way of thinking and behaviour.

When I speak to my friends and other enlightened people we all speak in amazement of how well HH did in this campaign.  The reality is when you count all the numbers there were more people who wanted PF out than wanted them in.  BUT there are some fundamental issues that HH has to overcome, but let me not get side tracked, that’s not my point here.

HH can’t seem to appreciate the success he gained, and I think he should be focusing on how well they ran the race, and that there is still work to be done and that that’s what we need to focus on.  Don’t be a sore loser.  Show what true character and leadership is about, you don’t stop to complain and moan, we roll with the punches and keep moving.  Roll up your sleeves and get back to work.

We’ve all been there, feel like something is unfair, and we want to cry about it – and we do, just in the privacy of our homes, but to the world we put a strong confident front.  I would have respected him more if he’d done that – and if he’d shown up at the inauguration.  It shows strength of character, maturity and integrity.

So if a person who is standing to run this nation is bitter and negative, how will I, the person on the street know to be any different?

I’m not negating our own responsibility, or that of parents to teach us to have a positive, appreciative, supportive outlook on life, I’m just saying it’s hard to fight against the grain.  Having leaders that perpetrate the negative cycle is a problem for me.

Leadership is not only limited to politicians, or people with power, money etc, it’s within all of us to be a leader;   A leader in your community, in your school, in your household.  Character building is so important for that leadership role.

I try not to steep down to the negativity, but sometimes you do get caught up in it, I try really hard not to surround myself with negativity – and what I define as negativity is complaining, lazy, can’t do attitude, unsupportive and the world owes me a favour types.  I find it draining and all consuming, almost to the point of inaction to progress.

As a type A person I don’t deal with failure very well – my personal failure that is, and as a type A overachiever, I have very high standards for myself.  But I always remember my sister saying to me – ‘Don’t forget to smell the roses’.  At the time I thought it was such random advice – of all things she could have told me as my older, wiser sister!  But it has been among the best advise I have ever received.

When you smell the roses you are grateful, you are happy, and you are at peace.  In that state, you can achieve pretty much anything you want – or at least find the strength to deal with the tough times.  You learn that to fail is to learn.  It builds character and resilience (“What is resilience: Once you have been through hardships, grievances and disappointments, only then will you understand what is resilience.” – Jack Ma).

End of last year (and beginning of 2015 too) I felt so out of control, so many emotions as a result of not feeling that I’d met half my goals, and slightly (if I have to be honest) envious of my amazing sister-friends and their achievements.  I felt my life was not how I’d envisioned it.  I wasn’t smelling the roses.  I got down on my knees, prayed for guidance and I let go of the negative feelings to focus more on the roses and the blank page 2015 provided.  I now feel happier, have some clarity, and I’m excited for what the year has in store.

I think all of us need to take up our personal leadership role (while still holding our political leaders accountable) and question the characters we want to surround ourselves with, as well as those of our leaders.

And smell the roses every day!

Running your own business can sometimes turn from fun to thinking in numbers. I use this phrase and people think it’s funny, but it’s true. When you start out it’s all fun and games, your overheads are low – maybe you only have your salary to think about – but as you start to grow, and plan to grow, those numbers become very real.

In a society where people are uncomfortable to talk about money openly, it almost seems like a crime to insist on upfront payment or payment in full before you do work, for some people they even worry it makes you look desperate! But cashflow is the lifeline of a business (I know I blog about this a lot because it’s so critical to business yet continues to be a challenge in Zambia for most SMEs). And clients (and other people) can sometimes take the piss. I have one job as an example where the client didn’t want to pay anything upfront and insisted on paying on deliverable, and because they are a Fortune 500 company, it didn’t seem like a bad idea. What we didn’t bank on was their silence on delivery and their constant shifting goalposts. We signed and delivered the product in December 2013 and we’re still waiting for a final sign off to get paid (yes that would be 8 months later…).

And that’s one extreme example but there are similar examples I can give. The other condition that also boggles the mind is the 30 day payment after delivery. I understand it where you’re the middleman like we often are, because you’re relying on a client to pay you so you can honour your commitment and don’t want to over promise only to not be able to honour your word. But I don’t understand it when you are the direct client. You knew you wanted the product, you knew how much it cost, and you knew the time in which it was going to be delivered – why is the money not ready for payment? And where is your obligation to pay me when I have delivered the product?

So why should I assume all the risk for you? The client is not God and we need to stop acting like they are. Yes we depend on them for our survival but as an established business they also depend on you for their own deliverables, and in some cases, justification!

Last month we decided that due to these conditions and the environment we operate in, as well as the reality is that as a boutique agency we have to pick and choose which clients we can work with (we’re just not big enough to take on lots of clients at any given time, and we dedicate a lot of our energy, creativity, solutions etc to a client), so we decided that clients had to pay either a percentage or the whole amount (depending on the job) upfront in order for us to proceed with the work.

Of course this didn’t sit well with some of our clients, they felt it was a trust issue, or to some that it was a desperate move, but the reality was we just needed to spread the risk, and that way also ensure the client themselves were committed.

I feel like, as we are a small agency, doing a lot of administrative work ourselves, it was not the best use of our time to be chasing clients to get paid. And quite honestly, if it means we’ll lose some clients in the process, I doesn’t bother me as much as it will finally give us time to focus on our R&D for our internal projects! And will eventually lead to a bigger pay day! I truly believe that when one door closes, God opens another. So it might hurt at the time when you have to turn down the job, but use the time to focus on growing your own business by focusing on your strategy and strengthening your own internal skills and systems. That’s how I look at it – preparing yourself for the clients who respect your work and your business.

Money is such a sensitive issue. I have lost friends and even family over it! People do irrational things when they are stressed over money. I know, I’ve been there. But step away from the situation and take the emotions out of it. It’s not personal, and don’t treat it personal. I’m too grown to let money get in the way of relationships, but others aren’t always so. There is nothing you can do but wait it out, if the relationship was important enough they’re come back (clients, friends, family).

In Zambia, there are very few people and businesses, who are 100% financially stable all the time. Most of us are going through stuff and we need to understand that, so try and put yourself in the other person’s shoes and don’t make assumptions. But you have to protect yourself first, if you can’t afford something – financially, personal time etc – then don’t do it. It’s better to be honest that to expect something that doesn’t come to fruition. People may hate you at first, but when the emotions pass, and they’re mature enough, they’ll understand.

I’ll try and stop talking about money matters on my blog, but it really does impact a lot that goes on in my professional and personal life in Zambia. Hmmm I’m pretty sure I’ve written this exact blog before – that’s how bad it is.

In the last year or so I’ve seen more Proudly Zambian labels than ever before. I never really thought much about it until the other day when I heard about a foreign agency that was in Zambia to help an NGO with a reproductive health challenge for young Zambians.

First I was furious – this is exactly what Media 365 does – and then I thought, ‘ok, Media 365 does need to brand itself better so that people know we exist and what we do’. I did have a fleeting thought that this NGO did know us because we had done some random posters for them back in the day but more to the point, I never even saw them put in a bid in the papers for a local agency to undertake this work.

I’ve never been one to bow down to the blame game so really did look within ourselves (as in the company) to understand how we missed out on this opportunity but at the back of my mind I couldn’t help question why it is that we simply don’t support or buy local.

It then reminded me of a topic of conversation that I’d been part of about this false economy we’re buying into of this 6% growth and being one of the fastest growing economies in the region. Except for the fact that a lot of that money is going to foreign owned companies, sometimes not even within the company!

Ok so they are two separate but related thoughts. Let’s start with local and the proudly Zambian concept.

A lot of countries have used this technique to boost local business and I suppose instill a sense of national pride. At first I used to ignore it. I’d buy the best product at the best price regardless of where it was manufactured/produced etc. But as a business owner I started thinking about where my money was going. If I bought local, I was empowering a business owner who could then pay his employees. It is hard to think in those terms when you’re only spending K20 (less than $3) on something. But those K20s add up.

My other gripe with supporting and buying local was that local needed to be good enough to compete. I still believe this but how will they get good enough if we don’t support them enough to grow? Look at YoYo crisps. I like to use them as an example because if you compare their packaging to say Amigos’, it’s like night and day. YoYo’s can easily compete with international packaging, I actually bought a pack before I knew they were Zambian! Or think about Boom. Boom has been around for longer than I can remember, but their packaging has definitely improved again comparable to international brand’s packaging. The support of their mass market consumer allowed them to get to the next level. So if we don’t support local today – and give them honest feedback – how will they grow tomorrow?

So unless it’s truly bad, I do try my best to support local. How else will we stimulate our economy if we don’t support local?

And that goes back to the 6% growth and fastest growing economy thing. I think it’s now a given that the economy will be stimulated and grown by entrepreneurs, and that job creation will be done not by government, but by private sector. So if we’re not supporting local, how will local entrepreneurs help with sustainable wealth creation?

There is so much talent locally – and yes I’ve gone back to my irritation with competing with foreign agencies – but we don’t support this local talent. Even think back to our local TV and film industry. People like Mingeli Palata are continuously putting out films – and I admire this because the response is often so poor, as in poor turnout to watch the film, but we’ll go out for some other big budget movie. Bollywood and then Nollywood are some of the biggest industries in the world because the citizens support it. No one is going to tell our stories and get the nuances that make us Zambian, so why aren’t we going out more to support local productions?

Instead we look for something negative to say, some way to bring down that person, that product, that company. It’s like it’s something in the air. There is just way too much negativity in Zambia, that even one with the most positive disposition can’t help but find themselves bowing down to some of the conspiracy theories – ‘that person hates you’ ‘there is a group of people – a cartel – trying to bring you down’ and that then takes away your responsibility to do better and be better. We only have ourselves to blame for the fact that our economy may be owned by foreigner, or the poor turnout for our shows (film and music alike) because we don’t support each other, and we’re not striving for the best. We all start from somewhere.

I always remember the fact that people would look for a reason Love Games was good – oh they had foreign crew on it, oh they got money from this donor blah blah blah. The foreign crew were here to help, but answered to a local director, a local producer – they weren’t calling the shots. And the local crew who worked with them increased their skillset. Learning is part of the process of getting better, to getting ‘good enough’ to compete internationally – seeing as some people think we can’t right now.

I wish government would also get better at supporting local, and being more proudly Zambian. Ok the idea of now tenders going to companies that own at least 50% (i think) of the company is a good one. But more often than not, government is still awarded things to foreign companies.

A few months ago, I went to a talk at StartUp Junction where our deputy commerce minister Miles Sampa was the featured guest. There were several things that were shocking about what he said but the key one that stood out (or at least related to this post) was that he said he got the logo for his constituents football team logo done by someone in Pakistan!

I get it, it was probably cheaper to do it in Pakistan. But you’re in government, you of all people should be supporting local businesses! And there are loads of kids who could do a logo for next to nothing – hell he could have held a competition to get one done for free!

I think it’s our collective responsibility to support local, this is how we’ll see our economy really grow, how there will be equitable wealth creation and will stimulate better local products and services. So if there is one thing I’d ask you to do is go out and buy something local – and I’m not just talking about bread, but be more conscious of your purchasing power and use it to grow your own economy so that we can grow it.

slap-dee-computicket

I was really thrilled to get a ticket to Slap Dee’s Unplugged last night. Slap Dee is one of my favourite artists, I think he is consistent in releasing hits and is one of the hardest working artists in Zambia (my impression of him). So this piece is not to diminish anything about Slap Dee, or to be on a hater tip, but I believe it’s enough of talking about mediocrity, we have to tell it like it is, and hope it will help improve our creative industry. Also I’m not an expert in the music industry, I speak as a person who wants to see the industry grow and who also appreciates a good live show. So I can’t help but ask, when attending these events that have been done before, why in Zambia, we choose to learn the hard way and not go to those who have tried and tested it already?

Firstly I think Slap Dee had a great idea of doing an unplugged show. It wasn’t the usual concept of unplugged, but it was different. So I commend him for trying something different.

So as it was after work, we got to Nasdec on time – early even, we got to the venue just after 7, the tickets said the event started at 7.30.

By 8.30 I was tired and irritable and Slap Dee was no where to be seen. The band came on briefly and played a couple of tracks to entertain the small crowd. But soon after, they too went off stage! At this point I decided if Slap Dee wasn’t on stage by 9.30 I was going to leave – I had work in the morning, I live out of Lusaka city, and hey, it was cold, my warm bed was waiting!

Shortly before 9.30 Slap Dee arrives on stage! Just as well, as I really was going to leave, even if Mary was in a much more supportive mood than I was!

It was by no means a massive turnout, but there were enough people to support him and feel the energy of love and appreciation. This is the second time I’ve been to an event that has not started on time because the artist, or the artist management has wanted more of a crowd. My experience is you lose people in the wait. Also there were people in the bar waiting for the show to start, so everyone was waiting for something! Personally I think it’s rude and you disrespect your fans (no matter how few of them are there), and it becomes a catch 22. You earn a reputation of not being able to start on time, so why should people show up on time? This is probably why, in Zambia, people choose not to show up on time – there is an expectation that the event won’t start on time, so why should we be hanging around waiting?

You can’t get away with that in developed countries anymore. If the ticket or event did not state that the doors open at 7.30 and show starts at 9.30, then it’s unacceptable to start two hours late! The audience is less forgiving in the west – they spent money to see a show, not to be disrespected. The least the artist can do is sincerely apologise for keeping people waiting. Don’t take the piss.

But despite what perhaps artist management might have considered a ‘low’ turnout, I thought it was a great vibe, and it made it feel intimate. Slap Dee really engaged with the crowd and I think it was easier because it was a smaller crowd (by small I’d say there was just under 100 people there). One of my favourite moments was when Slap called this young kid (ok in his 20s) to the stage to rap the lyrics of one of Slap Dee’s tracks and the guy knew the lyrics word for word. Priceless!

However, the next thing that was appalling was the sound. This was sound provided by the well known Ringman. I’ve never met the guy, but heard about the good quality sound he’s supposed to provide. The sound was terrible. Nasdec is not the greatest venue for sound, but as always, the best solution to deal with the problem should be identified, rather than focus on the problem. It was as if Ringman couldn’t be bothered to find that solution. I may be hard on him as this is my observation as a bystander. Despite the sound being bad, he left his station to go and sit with his friends in the bleachers. To me that’s unacceptable. But I’m a solution oriented person, I believe it’s not enough to shrug your shoulders and walk away, but that’s just me, I’m passionate about what I do and always want to be the best I can be.

And I do think there are enough people who have good expertise – and care about their reputation or are passionate enough to give the best possible services and who are solution oriented. Those are the people you should be looking for if you care enough about your brand and the experience you want to deliver.

There were so many things that could have been done better with just a little consultation, and there are enough people (Media 365 included) who, with enough notice, would be happy to help with free advice to ensure the show is the best it can be. Not for the credit, but because they care about the industry. Including with stage design – his stage was far too small for the number of people on it, and there was only a scoreboard as the backdrop (well it’s on the wall at Nasedec!) – was still so random.

Partnerships, or certainly more people to share ideas, experiences, lessons learnt etc stops us from learning the hard way. A case in point, when I try to do something new, I don’t trust on my own judgement or through prayer alone (!), I look to people in my network, or extended network and see who has done what I want to do before, or who can provide me with relevant insight, and then how I use that insight to improve what I want to do. We employ this approach at Media 365 too – not everyone knows everything, but there are lots of people who know a little about something, put that together and you get valuable information!

I don’t put the onus all on the artist’s feet – our industry is so small so yes the talent does get more involved that perhaps they would in some other countries, but his management team also need to take some of the heat for the botched up issues. I think sometimes this is the problem of the entertainment industry, it’s full of egos, it’s glamorous, it’s sexy, but there is hardwork to be done, and someone has to do it.

I’m sure the lessons learnt from last night’s show will be applied to tonight’s show, so a lot of my issues and experiences will not be the same for the show-goers tonight, and so should enjoy it far more. I just don’t feel that there is any need to learn the hard way and it’s time we really focus on bringing our A game and competing, even if it’s just at a regional level.

Being an entrepreneur is not easy. It’s so easy to get caught up in the glamour – everyone speaks about being an entrepreneur like it’s sexy and so cool. But it’s not easy (yep I said easy three times!).

Even when you read or hear about times when entrepreneurs fail (usually the ones who are now super successful), you think, it can’t have been that bad because, well look at them now. Their definition of failure must be that they had to drink sparkling wine rather than Veuve Clicquot.

But failure is a part of the journey of being an entrepreneur and the definition of failure is different for everyone. Sometimes it’s the feeling of personal failure.

This feeling is what prompted my hiatus this month. Failure might be too strong a word, maybe dissatisfaction is what it was. I wasn’t where I wanted to be, the company wasn’t where I wanted it to be right now. But these were my personal ambitions so it’s easier to beat yourself up.

africa transformation

Either way my close friend’s wedding was a good excuse to travel and do some internal house keeping. Not quite a yoga holiday, but I envisioned lots of soul searching, reflecting and exercising.

What I did not expect was to attend a conference.

I believe pretty much all my time is valuable and it should be spent enriching myself – even if that is lying on the couch watching a movie to still my mind. But I also thought being in a city as vibrant as London, I should find ways to stimulate my brain. Reaching out to my contacts to go into their companies and find out new innovative technologies they are using, new approaches, just something that would re-energise me.

My sister asked me to visit her in Oxford – see her new apartment – ok it was more than that, she wanted me to visit – her dose of home to keep her sane. Honestly I wanted to stay in London – mope if I didn’t have anything else to do (which I didn’t). But I knew my father would never leave me alone if he knew I never went to check in on his baby girl.

She had arranged for me to go with her and her friend to this conference on Africa put together by the Said Business School and the Oxford African Society. iROKOtv were going to be present and I’m truly fascinated by them as a business. They really are proving that there is a demand for African content and online is a platform to feed this need. So I figured going wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

The conference started shortly after lunch with a keynote speech from Kennedy Bungane CEO of Barclays Africa (i.e. heads up all Barclays outside of South Africa). Mr Bungane did speak a lot of sense – actually his response to questions were better than his speech – but I have real issues with the lack of creativity and risk taking of the banking sector in Africa so I was a bit hostile to that talk. It’s great for banks to talk about supporting SMEs and entrepreneurs but it really is just talk, they need to put their money where their mouth is! My question – that I only thought about after his talk – was why can’t relationship managers have more of a function of helping to develop SME’s – helping them getting their ducks in order so that they can remain in business and therefore be more profitable for the bank? He did challenge those in the disapora to help local entrepreneurs by providing them with non-financial support, such as processes to operationalise their businesses etc – but why can’t the bank do that? That bank would add more value to their clients and might even take the lead with the number of banks they have to compete with in market – I’d pay more to have those services too.

african-internet2456-620x354

The next session we attended was on how technology was helping businesses transform. This session surprised me as it really focussed on the internet – which I didn’t expect – I thought it would be all about mobile phones, as that’s usually what is talked about when referring to digital technology and Africa. John Mathwasa CEO and founder of SEACOM really blew me away in his talk. It’s so amazing to listen to African’s working on the ground, succeeding and challenging the way we think about things. His big idea was about the skies above us, the fact that are orbital space is already owned by foreign entities with their satellites, but how else will we connect the rural masses if not with satellites?

He talked about the disruptive entrepreneurs who find an opportunity in chaos. For Africa this is particularly important because let’s face it, we live in a chaotic society. It reminded me of a talk I attended at Bongo Hive with Irene Banda from FSDZ talked about how as entrepreneurs we should be looking to address a problem (not, as Bob Collymore put it find a solution and then look for the problem to apply it to!).

But John didn’t stop there, he talked about the challenges of start up capital and how we could all become Angel investors, even if it means investing in your young nephew. It’s kind of that idea again of bringing people up as we come up – isn’t that just another definition of Ubuntu which we inherently believe in? We just need to act on it more.

This is something I’m also passionate about – seeing that the financial sector isn’t really working for us (to an extent), we do need to see a new way to support each other’s businesses and get businesses lending to one another, bringing each other up.

After the short coffee break, we went onto the Thinking Digital, Delivering Entertainment – the one I was really looking forward to – the iROKOtv panel. It was an interesting panel. There was Jessica Hope Head of Global Comms iROKOtv, Arthur Bastings EVP for Millicom and Audu Maikori CEO Chocolate City Group. Three different and interesting perspectives.

Audu Maikori CEO Chocolate City

iROKOtv are seeing huge traction especially with Africans in the diaspora, but the reality is that again, so many people on the continent are yet to access their services because of the challenges of the internet. Audu’s answer – for Africa, we still need a hybrid offering. We also talked about training. At the end of the day, the capabilities of the internet and other mobile technologies are a great platform, but we need the content for the platform, and the reality is that, a lot of people simply don’t have the formal training to produce the high quality exportable content (actually the moderator asked what we needed to do to make the content exportable, i was thinking, lady where have you been, it’s been exportable for ages! we just didn’t have the platform or the believed interest to sell it!). Audu agreed and spoke of his conversation with Nigerian officials to look into developing more centres of excellence for the arts.

I left the conference making new connections and feeling totally inspired. We can’t forget the numerous challenges that Africa still faces, but the reality is the opportunities are even greater! As entrepreneurs we need to be focusing on how to find those opportunities that also bring others out of poverty – either through job and wealth creation, or by creating opportunities for better qualities of life and that the African transformation is now. We need to take hold of it, or allow others (i.e. those not of the soil) to do it and make money off us, our rich resources, our creativity and everything else Africa has going for it.

I’ll have to write a part two of this blog as I have to run now – people waiting for me! For now, I’m inspired, and everyone should attend the Oxford Africa Conference at least once if they can!

Happy Africa (Freedom) Day (well weekend now).