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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)

I’ve been reading a lot across social media platforms around Zambians (specifically) talking about not doing work for free.   I read it with keen interest.

As a person who has had to pay for services of another person, and have also had to charge out my services, I hasten to caution that the not working for free does not apply across the board. I’m a strong believer in knowing your worth, therefore you know when and how much to charge out your time to, but don’t have an exaggerated belief in your worth.   This blog is more for people coming up in the industry, still wet behind the ears, as opposed to those established as I feel the ones coming up are feeling they are established out of the gate.

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So before you refuse any zero paying jobs, consider these points:

Is It Really Not Paying?

Money is not the only currency for success. Sometimes you do things in order to get exposure, network or add to the portfolio. All of which will make you make more money, or gain more skills, which will make you earn more money. So it still comes back to money.

I’m always eager to learn and try new things. Sometimes this means that I don’t get paid for it, but then I have it under my belt and next time round I can charge for it. So I look for the ‘what’s in it for me’ before I say no, and equally before I say yes.

Sometimes I take on projects that don’t pay me because I want an opportunity to work with a key person, a cool creative collaboration with like minded people, or to network, or it’s a charity I believe in, or because it just seems like an awesome project! But I ensure I’m still working with people who appreciate the value I’m bringing and not just exploiting me.

Know Your Worth

The great thing about living in a global world is that anyone can hire anyone regardless of location. The problem with that is that you’re no longer competing with just people in your locale, or your borders only but people everywhere in the world.

So when you’ve taught yourself how to use photoshop, or how to shoot videos via youtube masterclasses (not hating, there are some good tutorials out there), your skillset will still not be as great as those who went to school for three years to learn.   But yet you’ll want to charge the same rates? True story, I have encountered this a couple of times in Zambia – I remember a Zambian DOP asking for the same daily rate as the guy who shoots with Spike Lee! I couldn’t believe it, ‘You’re having a laugh mate!’ Of course flying him in and paying his accommodation and per diem adds up, but the result of the product would still be night and day.

Before you demand your fee, make sure you’re worth it – and not just in your head, but from your body of work and your skillset. In the same regard, don’t underprice yourself, just know what you’re bringing to the table – what is your value add? You might be expensive in one area but your knowledge, or skill might save the client money in other areas, and not because you’re just greedy.  And always remember to be professional.

Know Why You Do What You Do

We hear it all the time: you need to love what you do so you’ll never work a day in your life. And we also hear ‘ultimately you have to pay the bills’.

I think you need balance. I believe when you love what you do, you seek out opportunities to be better, to grow. When you are better, ideally the best, the money comes. How will you ever be the best without practice, without seeking out new ways of doing things, without exposure? And trust me, just because your five friends tell you you’re the best, that doesn’t mean ish. Awards too are great – definitely a move in the right direction, but again, doesn’t mean much, unless it’s from a super respected and noted body. Being on lists is also a move in the right direction, again note who is the author of the list.   And they all add up.

You know you’re the best when not only do people seek you our, but actually you’re in the position where you can control doing things for ‘free’ because you make enough money to choose to do what you love, and to give back to those who need you to do it for free, or reduced cost.

However, what is paramount to all of this, is clients who can afford to pay you, must pay you, regardless of what your thinking around doing work for free is.   There is a difference between being exploited and someone genuinely not able to afford you and needing your help. And don’t sour a relationship just for a few Kwachas, there’s always give and take, who knows where you’ll be tomorrow, who will be willing to help you, and who will be waiting to push you down. Though people who know your worth, will also understand your position – ultimately free doesn’t pay bills.

At the end of 2015 I decided I was going to live life to its fullest potential and start really following my dreams, because up until then, I realized I’d spent a lot of my time pleasing people. My work was not what I considered my best because I was constantly compromising and conforming to meet what the client wanted. I had become all about ‘if they pay, they say’ and stopped arguing with them over ‘ugly’ products. Though don’t get me wrong, if they pay, they still say, I’m just more wary of which clients I take on – if they’re not ready to excel, or innovative, I’m not about that life.

But before I made that decision, it ate at me. I looked at some of my past work and remembered the high I got from being true to my inner spirit – the spirit that some times runs wild but appreciates nice looking things!

2016 was going to be about me, and doing things that I wanted to do, throwing caution to the wind! Or so I thought.

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January 2016 I decided to embark on a passion project. Before I could even get started, we suddenly had more work than expected – Q1 is usually very slow, with things only really picking up around April/May.

While I was counting our blessings, I was also wondering what would happen to my passion project, pushing it to the back of my mind, ‘we’re too busy’, I told myself.

And then a friend of mine said ‘you’re scared.’ I was going to protest, instead I walked away annoyed by the comment – do I look like I get scared?! But deep down, I knew she was right.

I had minor panic attacks worrying about whether it would work or not, I reached out to several friends and people I knew in the industry who I felt had more experience than me for advise. Some came back, most didn’t. I focused on that. If I couldn’t get the help from these people, how on earth did I expect to make this work, what would I do?

But I also had so many supportive people in my corner – people I didn’t even know where there, including some incredible women who I am beginning to believe God brought us together for a reason.

Yet there was still a lot of back and forth on my part. First I was scared it would be lame – I’m not about mediocre. That thought was spoken by someone in my inner circle – ‘you are not the type of person to allow mediocrity, why would it be now?’

Of course I could point to many a times I thought I was involved in mediocrity, though it wasn’t of my doing so, fair point.

I had a1001 excuses not to do it. After awhile I realized that my fear was not of just being mediocre but actually of doing a good job. It seems weird to have such a fear but there is just a much pressure with being good and maintaining or exceeding!

And on my mum’s birthday I decided to bite the bullet and just do it! It seemed fitting to do it on her birthday – she is an extraordinary woman to me, so good time to ‘jump’.

It was a great experience! Ok it was running late – another story. But when it was done, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t freaked out, only messed up my lines once. It was awesome.

I might not use it – despite me appreciating I don’t have to be fantastic all the time, it can be better so why not do better?

The important thing for me was to let go of the fear and listen to my truth, and follow that truth – good things await those who are true to themselves!

It may not be the dream exactly, but it’s a step closer, without doing this, I would have been so much further from all I imagine for my life. And that’s what’s the most important thing.

Coming soon…

after the show

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?!

view from the room

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?

view from the lobby

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!)

So this happened. I was asked to speak on a career panel for Peace Corp Zamba’s first urban-based Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World), which is a worldwide ignition to foster the global movement of gender equality and youth empowerment. This particular Camp GLOW was for 30 high achieving secondary school girls from compounds in Lusaka. I was supposed to talk to these young women (aged 15-17) about what my job is, benefits, challenges etc but also give them some career/life advice.

As you’re probably aware by now, empowering young girls and women gives me life. I find it so important, not only because of the empowering and inspirational women I know, but because I think it’s hard being a girl, those of us who have made it through to womanhood owe it to our younger selves and those coming up behind us, to light the way for them. So I was more than happy to attend.

No validation needed

The event was kind of like a speed dating session. I sat and every 5 minutes a group of 6 young girls came to sit with me and ask me questions. The problem (or the good thing for them) was that most of these girls already knew they wanted to be doctors or accountants. Funny how things haven’t changed in the last 50 or so years.

To be honest, they weren’t at all interested in what I did – ok one was – and they kept calling me a journalist, sigh. But I didn’t lose my temper with them – I have no problem with journalists, I may have been trained as one, but I’m not a journalist. Frustrated by the inability to ask me questions that challenged me – yes, I know, I was there for them, not for myself but I figured if I had to answer one more time what challenges I face in my work I was going to walk out of the room! – so instead I opened it up for them to ask me any question that interested them, not necessarily about my career. The young girl next to me was eager to ask ‘Why are you not married?

The question floored me.

I’m not used to people asking me why I’m not married – except for the men trying to hit on me. And I paused for a second. The truth? I told her.

In my twenties I was focused on my career, I never thought about marriage. Maybe this had to do with my father insisting I didn’t date while in secondary/high school so that I didn’t lose sight of my goals. Or it could just have been that deep down I knew that if I got into a serious relationship, I might be forced to compromise on my goals and dreams.

Now that I’m realizing my dreams, I think it’s more I simply haven’t found the right man – certainly not one that has asked the question, and I’m not the type of woman who’d ask a man.

And that’s how the day ended; me, uninspired by the young girls because of their lack of energy. But I don’t entirely blame them. There were some pretty amazing and inspiring women on the panel, powerful and super successful some of them were. But I don’t think the young girls truly understood the magnitude of these women so didn’t fully appreciate the opportunity they had to meet one on one with these women (myself included if I have to be honest).

Anyway, I tweeted my thoughts on the session and ended with the question the young girl asked me – I honestly thought it was amusing. When I read all the replies to that tweet, I was a little shocked, maybe even a bit disappointed that I had caused such a reaction. A lot of people, mainly women, thought it was sad that this girl trumped all questions to ask about marriage.

It got me thinking, why do we think it’s so wrong for women to want to get married above everything else? Does marriage, and aspiring to get married make you less of a woman? Did the feminist movement and now the girls’ empowerment movement get out of sync?

Perhaps I misunderstood it, but I thought the point of the feminist movement was to allow women to have choices to be what they wanted to be and to do what they wanted to do, freedom from judgment. And now, us women want to judge another woman for wanting to choose marriage over a high-powered career? If she’s getting an education and then chooses to get married is that so wrong?

What if her husband is a good match for her who supports her to be a better person than she is now, and if her partner is helping her reach those career goals, should she want to pursue them?

Empowered and married

Does being empowered mean you have to shun marriage and be a #BOSS only? We should be teaching young girls that marriage is an option, but one of many options and all are ok, as long as it makes them happy. I think that’s the most important thing – being happy, by your choices you make, not choices forced on you. It’s like now being empowered is making it difficult to just be a girl and be happy and like pink, and like cooking, and all the things that used to be gender specific to a girl. Now you’re the cool, empowered role model if you’re an engineer or a geek or something that used to be male dominated.

I remember one of the last words of advice a few of the women on the panel gave was ‘don’t be one of those women who just wants to look for a rich man to take care of her and buy her Brazilian weaves’. I didn’t say anything but thought to myself, ‘yes, make your own money so that you can look for a rich man to partner with you so you can both be doubly rich and buy Peruvian hair because who still wears Brazilian hair anyway?’ LOL. (sidebar:  money really isn’t that important ehem)

Serious talk though, must we be the women to judge the other woman? They are some women that I can judge (don’t get upset that people call you a ‘ho if you behave like a ‘ho), but these are girls getting ready to go into the world, there’s so much they are already going to be judged for, why should we add to that stress?

At the end of the day, like I told the girls, no matter what they choose to do, they are queens and no one can take that away from them, as long as they remember it and embrace it.

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.

entrepreneur definition

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).

entrepreneur quotes

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?

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!

Words fail me when I think of the state of our healthcare in this country. It is nice to know that as old as he is, our first president, KK ,will still seek treatment locally rather than being flown out of the country, making us believe there is hope for our health care.

Sadly, I don’t think there is. Not unless government truly means to focus on, and commit to it. Development comes from having a healthy population. Your health shouldn’t be determined by your socio-economic status.

I have talked about healthcare in this country before, and I’m doing it again because of the injustice and unacceptable behaviours that I keep witnessing or hearing about to do with our health care. Last week Thursday, my niece was taken to Levy Mwanawasa General – the massive hospital by Chainama that was only recently built. This poor little 5 year old had fallen out of a tree and broken her arm – bone sticking out and all.

Friday we went through to the hospital to see her and found she had had the bone shaved, but that was about it. The doctors had all gone to march in the labour day parade (or so they said) and there was no one to attend to her.

Fast-forward to Monday and finally the child was seen by a doctor, who then said her arm was too swollen to be put in a cast, so they were going to have to wait another day before they could put the cast on.

Now I’m no medical doctor or expert in that sense, but surely there can be longer medical implications with not resetting the bone? Including possible other infections.

The worst part is that my cousin (whose child it was) is barely literate with limited education, not even understanding her basic rights. Though not that it would have helped her to know her rights because trying to enforce them at a Government clinic is probably just a waste of time to be honest. I understand that the medical stuff are overworked, but let’s be honest, they also have serious attitude problems – stank ass, rude ones.

I argue, would our medical care be any better if our ministers or government leaders went to these facilities for treatment? Or are they unconcerned because they are privileged enough to go to any healthcare facility they choose to go to – within or outside of Zambia?

And the reality is that since the masses don’t vote based on issues, the politicians don’t need to do anything about health care because people won’t vote them out of office because of it. Besides, how many of the masses know of any other way than long queues, absent medicine in hospitals, doctors who don’t talk to you, but talk down on you, dodgy linen (if there is an available bed), missing doctors, and nurses and just appalling services generally?

Would a proper voters education drive be useful to provide more understanding to voters on their value and what they need to be looking out for to get better voting going in Zambia, and to maybe light a fire under politician’s butt’s to get them to care enough to actually do the work that we can hold them accountable for?

These are just some of my thoughts thinking about this child – in fact I need to check in to see if finally she’s had the cast put it and let’s hope no complications have arisen.

*This post is not endorsed by the Nyamuka Zambia Business Plan Competition – All views are my own

There are a couple of things I’m very clear about when it comes to my entrepreneurial journey: Not everyone is (and should be) an entrepreneur; and you don’t need a business plan to get started. Imagine my surprise then, when I was asked to be a champion for the Nyamuka Business Plan competition! But it also spoke to my core belief that it is entrepreneurs that will build our nation and fix our economy – just look what entrepreneurs did for America, why can’t we do it too? Nyamuka Zambia logo However, had I not chosen to be a champion, I would have been submitting my own business plans right about now – I think, like my sister, I’m becoming a serial entrepreneur, I’ve got the bug now! Nothing gives me more joy than owning my own company and setting my own course, and making a difference in my community.  There are so many opportunities ripe for the picking, and technologies that allow us to do more, and do it better!  Today, innovation and disruption are really more than just buzzwords. Not unlike most people in Zambia (of my generation) my parents weren’t entrepreneurs or business people, they were public servants, so I didn’t have the spirit for business until I did my MBA (which I really started in order to move up the corporate ladder and make bank). But I was fascinated. I loved strategy, I loved hearing about the story your financials tell about your business, and I thought, why not me? Fast forward four years and while I wouldn’t trade a thing, I also wish I’d had way more practical experience than just theory. I met with someone from Bank of Zambia yesterday (on an unrelated matter) and he said something that struck a chord with me. He said, people say doing business in Zambia is hard, but those are people who haven’t tried to do business in other markets like South Africa or Nigeria. I kind of saw his point, but still, we have our own challenges. Getting financing is one of the biggest challenges in Zambia. Though I’m of the school of thought that you don’t need money to get started. Media 365 was started with just enough money to register the business. It’s not yet the success story I wish it would be, but it makes enough for us to still be in business! Obviously there are some businesses that you do need money, and a lot of it, to launch, but there are many that don’t. So when Shalin and Namaya (from Nyamuka Zambia) came telling me about the opportunity for start ups, or existing businesses wanting to expand to a new service or product line could apply to win K250,000 and it’s not a loan, happy days! Now what’s the excuse not to start your entrepreneur journey?! BIZ-PLAN-NYAMUKA-PRESS-phase1-app However, for me what was even more important than the money (because if there’s only a couple of winners…) was the mentoring and business coach support, to really ensure your business is sustainable. As an example, if you hired someone – a really good person – to write your business plan, expect to pay about 8-10% of the amount of money you’re looking for – so if you want the K250,000, you could easily pay K25,000 just for an expert to write your business plan. There are people who are cheaper – but remember you pay for what you get (in the simplest, most crude terms). Now through Nyamuka Zambia you also get business coaching and mentoring support to write your business plan– for free! Again, if you know my thoughts on entrepreneurship in Zambia, you know that I believe deeply in the need for mentorship, coaching (from those already in the game) to provide necessary and practical skills and techniques for success and sustainability far more than I think we need the money (though we do need the money too).  You can still get so much wrong with the money and no guidance. Sometimes when I’m asked to speak on entrepreneurship, I worry I come across suicidal! Not because I bemoan all the challenges and play the blame game and complain etc, but because I keep it real. It is not easy being an entrepreneur. They say you have to survive the first 1,000 days (do the maths that’s almost three years), and then after that it’s plain sailing. Well, again, is anything in life ever that simple? But in the four years that I’ve been managing Media 365 there are key things that I have learnt as an entrepreneur: Plan, plan, plan: I did just say that I don’t believe you need a business plan to start. I don’t. But you will need some sort of a plan that outlines your vision and how you plan to achieve it. As you get into the groove of your business you have no choice but to have a business plan so that everyone is on the same page and your investors and banks can understand where you’re going. Obviously the sooner you can do your business plan – even before you start the business – even better. Your clients are your life-line: It’s easy to just want high paying clients (especially when you’re in the service industry) but don’t treat your smaller clients badly too – they often pay on time and sustain you! Your suppliers are equally as crucial, the credit facilities they offer help manage your cashflow, and they can be instrumental in your ability to deliver to your clients. So treat them nice too. Always treat your clients nice! Word of mouth and bad reputations can kill your business, and especially if you’re in the creative industry – it’s a small industry. At the same time, know your worth and don’t allow clients to exploit you. Know your financials: Don’t make the mistake of leaving your finances to your finance manager, accountant, financial firm or your bank! Know what’s coming in, what your expenditure is, your gross profit margins, everything! Check your statements regularly and keep your bank charges in check. Understand your balance sheets, and all the financial reporting.  Know your money and know the story your accounts are telling you – and don’t be afraid to ask your accountants to explain things to you. Be complaint: As you move up in the world (get more and more clients and more established firms), your clients will want to make sure you’re complaint and the government will want its money! Compliance can make the difference between landing that job that makes you coins, or with potentially losing your business due to not being compliant! Growth and Sustainability: We always want to grow as business owners – ok maybe not all of us, but the more ambitious of us do! But don’t grow at the expense of risking the sustainability of your business. Plan your growth, and retain your profits to allow you to grow! However, in all things you do, think about sustainability. Mentors, Cheerleaders, Friends, Family: They are all important as you try to realize your dreams. Mentors are super important because they give you advice that’s important for your business – why make mistakes that can be avoided? – and they can open your eyes to other opportunities. Mentors can help you see above the noise – making sure you’re not getting lost by it all; when you can’t see the wood for the trees. Cheerleaders, family, friends can all support your vision and give you the motivating boost you need when things get tough and they are just the necessary support to keep you sane. And stay awake from the negative people. Nothing more ugly and energy sapping than negative people who don’t want to celebrate you. Though you also want to make sure your cheerleaders, friends, family tell you the truth – no point in someone flattering you to make you feel better when your product, service really is shite. Be passionate and have fun: Running a business is not all about doing what you want to do, when you want to do, and disrupting industries just for the fun of it. You have to pay the costs of running a business – staff, overheads, taxes etc.   So it’s not all fun and games! But if you don’t have the fun, if you don’t have the passionate, you’re not going to want to be there for the long-haul and the sleepless nights, the depression, the failures (because they will exist). You have to love what you do, be proud of your achievements and celebrate them, and be prepared to roll up your sleeves to work for that vision! That said, I wouldn’t change my career choices, including becoming an entrepreneur, for the world. So start yours, or strengthen it and apply for that business plan competition – download the forms today, deadline is on the 6th of May!