Often times when entrepreneurs are asked what influenced them, they reflect on short term experiences. We hardly look for clues as far as our childhood to ascertain what, who and how we were inspired to set out into this courageous path of uncertainty instead of the predictable security of formal employment.
My story began with my mother, who stretched her meek, public service salary to successfully raise four children single-handedly. At some point growing up I realized that my mother was not just a civil servant; she always had a side hustle to add to her income.
In Botswana, the norm is to go through formal education, get a degree then find a job, and then climb up the ranks until you retire and that is it. My mother found that route to be impractical in her circumstances and instead tried it all to supplement her income. This essentially makes her an entrepreneur, albeit part-time, mainly driven by her determination to provide for her children as best she could.
Growing up witnessing such persistence and strength taught me that it is possible to forge your own path by venturing into entrepreneurship. She is the reason I have turned a skill she taught me—producing our locally acclaimed non-alcoholic ginger beer Gemere—into a budding beverage manufacturing business and brand – Just Ginger.
Not only was I fortunate to have a supportive mother, but I also had a circle of friends who would tell me how talented I am when they saw me wearing a skirt I had sewn from an old pair of jeans and fabric (scraps from my mother during her avid sewing stage) and would even ask me to make them similar garments from their old jeans. As my pool of friends evolved over the years, I have managed to surround myself with people that inspire me to grow and believe in myself and my capabilities.
Even though the support of my mother, siblings and friends have made the strongest impact on me, there have been many influences in my journey of becoming. My experiences in formal employment have shown me how to effectively lead (and follow) a team, taught me the importance of emotional intelligence and empathy as well as skilled me with the tenacity to manage projects even through failure.
Recently I discovered the significance of having a mentor or two, and the importance of a peer network. This road is not meant to be ventured alone and when in need of reassurance of the decisions you make and general guidance, it is best to consult trusted, like-minded individuals who are more experienced in the field you are. The most important motivation for me, the reason I have the passion and foresight to build a legacy, has to be my son Zuri who teaches me every day to be patient, to have gratitude and the importance of having a life beyond the business.
The process of becoming an entrepreneur is never-ending, therefore it is important to take stock of those who come in and out of your life because role models are everywhere. They are those who motivate, encourage and ululate at the growth of the business and the quality of the product. Mentors can be found in friends, family and most especially in other entrepreneurs who are further along on their journey than you are. Forge a relationship based on trust and empathy and do not be afraid to ask for their counsel when the need arises.