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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!

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?

Harvey Spec meme

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!

My morning started with a 9am meeting with Adaobi and Gloria, the two women putting together the Fashion Master-class with leading stylist and fashion consultant Natalie Joos (if you watched House of DVF you’ll remember her during the challenge when the girls had to create their own photoshoots for a blog or something… episode 5 anyway).


The meeting was interesting as we talked about the valuable lessons that could come out of attending this master class. And then Gloria pointed out a fundamental truth – ‘the problem I’ve seen is that people in Zambia don’t really like to invest in growing themselves professionally’. A girl after my own heart! It’s exactly what I’ve always thought.

It’s well known that in the West, people get degrees not only to learn stuff but to advance their career, and advancing it more so by going to an Ivy League college (particularly in the US) whose name alone sees you through the front door (remember in Suits they only hired lawyers from Harvard). In Zambia we tend to think that development ends at going to University – if you were fortunate enough (or wanted to) to go. I didn’t go to University initially and worked my way up. When I wanted to ensure my career climbing could progress and also came with the right salary to boot, I went to University to pursue my MBA (the great thing about the UK is how they value experience as much as degrees so I was able to go straight to a Masters without having done an undergraduate degree). Before that I’d taken courses in project management, in web development, post graduate diploma in journalism, management course, you name it.

Education isn’t just attained in the classroom of course, and I grabbed every opportunity I could find to better myself and therefore increase my career prospects.

In Zambia, I find that people are happy to drop hundreds on a night out, or on a swanky luxury car they probably can’t afford, than to say I’ll take a couple of days, or weeks out to learn something valuable to my career/profession/business. When I was sitting with Gloria and Adaobi, granted I’m not in the fashion industry, but I thought, what an amazing opportunity to get a masterclass from this woman! Natalie Joos! She’s been on House of DVF! Ok, I do watch waaay too much TV. So not only that Natalie Joos, but the one who has styled editorials and spreads for Vogue, and Elle, and Harpaar’s Bazaar (and yes she can still call Diane Von Furstenburg her friend – or at least call her!)

Can you imagine the wealth of knowledge you could get from her? Except for one thing… the cost of K700 (approximately $100). Last week I had a mani/pedi, a facial and a couple of bottles of wine, costing me, yup you guessed it, $100!

I’m not rushing to get a ticket mainly because it’s not directly my industry – however, if I had an in-house wardrobe mistress or art director I would for that employee! I even contemplated paying for a couple of freelancers we regularly use for them to have the knowledge that I could later benefit from, but the reality is if they don’t see the use in it already, won’t I just be throwing money down the toilet? (and why should I pay for my competitors to benefit when using that same freelancer?)

Freelancer abroad that I work with are constantly learning and perfecting their craft – I know this not only because they tell me, but I’ve seen their growth over the years – but in Zambia, because of our acceptance of mediocrity, local freelancers (and even some company owners) don’t see the need to invest in themselves. And that’s why they don’t grow and as the country opens up to the rest of the world – which it will (thanks to the instability of some of our neighbours – not that we’d ever take advantage of their misfortune! We’re a Christian nation for Pete’s sake!), if you can’t compete on a global level, you shouldn’t even come out to play.

Training and development is a big area we focus on at Media 365 because it adds value to our product offering to the client. It’s not always possible, and of course it’s scary to think of investing in someone who will ditch you as soon as they have the skills (though my experience has also shown that since they don’t value the training and development they might ditch you before you even get to train them! I’ll name no names… Ok maybe they just didn’t like working here…), but it’s always worth a try.

It’s true that development isn’t just about spending money; internships (oh I have a blog post about that coming up!), work placements, online education, reading professional or industry publications/articles, mentorships and more, are all opportunities that you get for free.

But where else are you going to ask that one on one question if you don’t spend the money to meet that person, to learn and grow? And who knows where a chance encounter will take you? I met Bill Roedy, then Chairman of MTV Networks Europe, when I was hosting a plenary session. We hit it off and two years later I embarked on my eight-year career at MTV (hashtag just saying).

 *By the way, if you do want to attend the Natalie Joos Master class on the 30th and 31st of May go to for more details, or get tickets from Vala at Foxdale Court in Lusaka

18927278410021/ for more details, or get tickets from Vala at Foxdale Court in Lusaka

They say you’re only as good as your last success, so as we get close to wrapping the shoot of Love Games and it’s subsequent broadcast date of July 17th, I think, what next?

court set up

It could also be my insatiable desire for successes that never allows me to be complacent, and to be constantly challenging myself regarding what to do next.

Love Games has been a great run – if you’re a regular reader of my blog, or avid follower on twitter, you’ll know that it came not without it’s own challenges. Challenges that cost us – economically, as well as spiritually! It also allowed us to see people’s true colours – really in business not everyone is your friend despite what you think! But we learned, and season two has gone far more smoothly, and while we’re still over budget, it’s not ridiculously over budget – it’s a much more expected and manageable (in theory) amount. While I’m happy with the way it looks, I wonder how the audience will feel about it, it’s such a different feel to it. But I’m proud of it, so guess that’s more important.

Back to my ‘what next’ dilemma. Sometimes in life you have to give up this to move ahead. In our case that means downsizing. Perhaps we did it too early anyway. There’s a lot of lessons learnt in running your own business, it’s not all glamourous, it’s a lot of late nights, hardwork, and huge responsibilities – not only to ensuring that you meet your legal obligations but also taking care of your staff. I recall someone visiting the office and saying that the way the boss sleeps, is different from the employees. And it’s so true I’m sure. Our stresses are definitely different.

So all these considerations are necessary when making the decision of what to do next. But in life, as my better half says, ‘courage is doing what you are scared of’. We operate in a state of fear of the unknown, sometimes crippling us to make decisions and incapacity to actually move.

The problem is that you don’t know what the outcome will be, until you try. I feel like I’m coming full circle – back to the beginning – which is scary. But I’ve learnt a lot of lessons, which will help me build an even more successful brand, as scary as it is, you have to dust yourself up and keep it moving, what do you have to lose?

I am looking forward to make next step, even if on the surface it looks like a step back, as it should put me a position to take a giant leap forward! I can’t be afraid of the future, and I can only look back to reflect on lessons learnt but not dwell on it.

Wish me luck and I’ll keep you posted!

I was watching an edition of Extreme Make Over: Home Edition where this kid said that after being diagnosed with Leukemia and discovering his blood type was B+ he decided to make that his life motto. In my mind I thought he was talking about the average grade you can get, and didn’t really understand it – is it my over-achieving mind that led me to that? Of course he meant your attitude in life should be positive.

I’m always inspired by people who don’t seem to let anything affect them. They always see the glass as half full and nothing else. Truth be told I pretend those people irritate me, but I guess I kind of envy them. I don’t think I’m a negative person per se but I’m definitely not one of those eternally optimistic people either. Partly, I think it’s my disposition, I’m a problem solver and very driven, I don’t see challenges as an exciting hurdle to cross but yet another problem I need to solve. I guess I drain my own personal resource by doing this and frequently feel down.

My boyfriend is one of those people that never seems to let things get him down – he says that it is what it is so there’s no point getting down about it, it resolves itself always. And I can see why he’s right. Even in our relationship he says I need to focus on the positive and not think about the small negatives (which the positives far outweigh).

Running your own business it is hard to take the negatives (or challenges) and just roll with them, because there are a lot of them that can impact the success of your business. But at the same time, constantly worrying about them doesn’t help either. Every once in awhile you need to check out of whatever you’re doing and take a step back to look at the bigger picture – so that you can remember to stay positive!

Last week I did just that by going to Livingstone with some girlfriends. I didn’t take my laptop – which was a big deal for me – and I pretty much turned off my cell phone – even scarier than not having my laptop!

The next couple of days were spent exploring the mighty victoria falls – what an amazing natural beauty and so powerful. We jumped off a gorge, a 58km drop in 3 seconds – crazy, and then did a sunset cruise to observe the wildlife along the banks of the Zambezi river while enjoying a cold beverage. It was bliss. I may have been a little too social for my own good coming back exhausted but far less stressed than when I left.

Where you drop into the gorge!

Back in Lusaka and back in the office, it occurred to me how much the energy of the management team affects the rest of the team. My positive, more relaxed demeanor also allowed the team to be more relaxed and excited about the weeks ahead, and looking at our task list, it’s important to keep this attitude up as there are long days and hard weeks on the horizon.

My boyfriend and I got to a hurdle in our relationship, one that we (ok me) discussed for hours, but also kept me awake as I thought about what to do. In the end, I decided to trust him and myself and to not make the issue bigger than it was, I decided to be positive and have a little bit of faith. Was it the right decision? Only time will tell but at least I’m feeling happy and that’s what counts.

I’m still going to join the gym though – it requires a lot of energy and will power to have a positive attitude!

I’m officially done at MTV – well not really, my official last day is the 2nd of May, but I took holiday time so that I could get my relocation stuff done. The last week was highly emotional for me – not because I was terribly sad to be leaving, but because I was overwhelmed with everything I had to do – professionally and emotionally.

It was so bad, I was worried I was going to have a break down. Add to that stress, my father wasn’t well and I was so worried about his prognosis, it was hard to focus. I also suddenly had people I’d barely worked with questioning my decisions – that really irked me. By end of day Thursday, I thought I was going to explode. I actually wondered if that was who people with high blood pressure felt. I worried for a bit what was happening to me.

So despite Friday being my last day, I decided to work from home in the hopes of helping calm me down. I spent the morning doing emails and still felt stressed. So I took time out and did some gardening. Ok, I attempted to mow my lawn. Despite doing a very bad job – patchy, wasteland is what it ended up being – but I felt so relaxed after that. I’d always heard that gardening was therapeutic, but being your typical city girl (despite being partly brought up on a farm), I didn’t think it would work for me.

I guess it was just the process of shutting myself out from the world and focusing on, well, nothing. My therapist says I’m too empathetic (can you be too empathetic?) and that it drains me of energy – not the energy that you use for physical activity, but the spiritual energy that sustains us. As the last couple of weeks have been intense to say the least, I guess I’d used up all that energy and was burnt out.

Too often in life we keep moving, even when we need to stop and recharge. And why does that surprise us? Even I live by the phrases money never sleeps and sleep is the cousin of death. I do believe that we should always be progressing, but I guess I’ve always thought of that progression as being financial or material, but not spiritual. And by spiritual, I don’t necessarily mean higher power sort of thing, but just feeding our souls, and personal growth from within.

I still have some work to finish, but I’m also taking time out to be good to myself. A couple more weeks and I’ll be back in Zambia, I want to go home with my mind in the right place, and return to a feeling of calm.

In the meantime, I’m going to experiment making key lime pie. Though as I don’t have a sweet tooth, I’ll have to find someone to share it with 🙂

There are few things in life I hate more than asking for help. It’s just not in my nature. I’m not talking about help for a chore or a project, those are things I can live with. But asking for help in terms of emotional support – that’s hard for me.

I don’t like to be seen to be vulnerable, or ‘weak’. I always feel like when you’re vulnerable that’s when people take advantage of you, and I don’t like to not feel in control.

As I get older I’m starting to realise that emotional support and strength is important for your self-development and that we all need a network of support we can call on when in need. This network should be made up of people who you trust, people you know love you no matter what. That way you’re not afraid to feel vulnerable in front of them – knowing they won’t judge you if you fall apart.

This last week has been an emotional roller-coaster for me, and I’ve found it quite difficult to deal with all these emotions – there hasn’t been enough neat little boxes to put them into. I’d also asked my sister to come and help me move back to Zambia, when she said she didn’t think she could it really hit me hard.

Today as I thought about why it was so important for my sister to be here, I realised it was because I needed her. We’ve grown apart in the last 10 years or so, but she’d always been my best friend – we shared everything, our lives had been so intertwined. But more recently it was more her life I knew about and she knew next to nothing about mine.

Have her come and be here with me wasn’t so much so she can help me pack (who am I kidding, I’m hiring packers – no packing up for me!), but more about having her share the of this chapter of my life, so that she could experience a part of it, even if it was just the last part of it. I also hoped that it would be an opportunity for us to bond again, see if we can get back to being best friends. And even if we can’t, maybe we could just bond, I do miss my sister-friend.

My therapist asked me why I don’t tell her this, rather than keeping the hurt and disappointment in me – but that emotional conversation is not easy for me, not easy for me to tell someone that I need them. He said it would be a great learning opportunity for me to do something different as I try and move my life in a new direction. I was psyched about the opportunity. Couldn’t wait to get home and call her.

I did call her, but didn’t tell her how much I needed her or how much I missed her. Instead I gave in and agreed to stay in London 10 days longer, so that she can do what she needs to do in Zambia and then come to London for 11 days. I can’t say that I’m thrilled but at least she’ll be here right?

So I might have missed out on that opportunity to open up, but I think I’m going to start doing it with my inner circle. I have more to gain than to lose by doing it. And let’s be honest, no man is an island, sooner or later I will really need someone and it’s nice to know that that circle of support exists and that I can tap into it.

I also know that I’m blessed to have the family (including my non-blood family of my close friends) that I have, so I need to start letting them into my life a little bit more, and actually respect the bonds for what they are. Our relationships are what we make them, and to develop we need to start strengthening those bonds – our emotional beings require them.