All Photography By: Al Nicoll Photography
The recent Essence Festival hosted in Durban South Africa this year brought an array of topics and debates to our local shores. Essence Festival is originally from New Orleans and this is the first time the festival has been hosted anywhere in Africa.
As my business partner Al Nicoll and I were asked to be part of the Essence Festival Media Team at the 2016 event and while we were working most of the time I did get to watch and listen to some interesting aspects of the event. The first I’d like to tell you about is the Female Owned Black Business Entrepreneur Business Breakfast.
With the focus being specifically on what African woman are achieving what opportunities they are being given to start up their own businesses and what impact that has on the market. You can bet I as a self started entrepreneur myself was listening very closely. Even when holding a flash tripod in the air.
The panel featured some of South Africa’s most successful and influential female business owners in our recent history. MC was the stunning Tumelo Mothotoane. An honor to hear the ladies give their personal thoughts and business tips to the full hall of budding female business owners.
Africa is a large place let’s just get that out of the way. Often I find myself getting frustrated when visitors or travelers post something along the lines of ” I went to Africa” or “I’ve been to Africa”. Please mention WHERE in Africa you have been. Not only is Africa incredibly large but so beautifully diverse with such different cultures and landscapes.
Anyway. To be honest listening to some of the statistics that were being dropped on the panel shocked my. Blew my mind is a better phrase. SA what on earth is going on? Where is the support for young entrepreneurs in general? Yes I know there are a few programs here and there but we NEED far more and far better managed prospects. And truth be told as a Black Woman in this industry I too have felt the wrath of what’s lacking. I don’t like gender biased anything’s but these facts and stats are too real to ignore.
Something the legend herself Basetsana Kumalo said really struck a cord with me. She started talking about her home life and the fact that she is very conscious about how she is raising her children and creating the roles within her household for both genders equally. Recalling how she grew up and watched as women were taught to cook play with dolls and be meek and mild in a sense. And how boys were taught to play with cars help dad fix the car and be the “man of the house”.
And how that idea and that mentality of raising children needs to be addressed. If you want strong daughters strong women then you need to install that respect faith and fairness in their lives from an early age. Let them know that they CAN do what work they want. That they CAN take up strong roles and run their own businesses. Empower others and speak up.
So Basetana herself talked about the fact that her son cooks with her and her daughter plays with cars too because it is important to empower our youth and to let the next generation know that they can change the world they can change their futures for the better.
Personally I am lucky in that aspect. I have always been around pretty strong and outspoken females but I have also watched some of those same women have their strength taken away or judged or ignored for exactly what it is. And that scares me and saddens me as I notice it happening even to my own generation. Don’t let anyone take your power. I don’t care who you are what gender you are how old you are.
“DONT let anyone steal your voice. When you let that happen you let them take who you are. – CeecesTravel”
So what is the solution? What can we do to support each other create awareness around what is happening and change it? There is a famous saying about the fact that complaining about something wont change it doing something will. So what do we do? That’s a tough question but there are many answers.
My favorite answer from the panel? Making sure you create your vision and knocking on doors and if those doors don’t open then climb through the window. That’s it. You HAVE to speak louder then everyone else. You have to shine brighter than everyone else. And its not about money or networks etc.
As long as you are you 100% committed to your brand and your businesses those business partners will notice you. Introduce yourself to EVERYONE even if its the guy who holds the door open for you at the shop you NEVER know who you are talking too. You have to be your own biggest fan because truly not everyone else will be.
South African women are some of the strongest woman on this planet. We are a force to be reckoned with. We are STRONG and we are only getting stronger. I believe in me. I believe in my brand. I believe in my talent. And I have managed to build and start all that I am at this moment in point with almost NOTHING.
I came out of something that no one I know or have met in my new ventures even knows. They don’t know where I got my strength from? They don’t know why I sometimes butt heads with walls but they do know if I say there is gold behind that wall that there WILL be gold behind that wall. -CeecesTravel
The breakfast was beautifully laid out with many of the attendees dressing up in traditional African headwear. After the panel talks everyone was able to chat and network among themselves and the atmosphere was truly a refreshing one.
You can catch all the latest news events and ventures that I am on by following me on TWITTER at @CeecesTravel. I am MOST active on my Twitter platform.
And As Always……