Tshiamo ‘Dambe’ Molapisi is no stranger to some of the big brands in South Africa having worked with Hunters Gold, First National Bank, Lenovo, Ackermans and Strictly Come Dancing.
Armed with skills and years of experience, she later packed her bags and came back home to fulfill her dream of creating and strengthening brands. In August she coordinated the inaugural Women in Business Excellence Awards (WIBA) and the event turned out to be a success, which did not come as a surprise to those who know that she is lady with a Midas touch. The 32- year- old ‘brand enthusiast’ talks to The Voice about her aspirations.
Q: You successfully coordinated the Women in Business Excellence awards, which means you are also a businessperson, tell us about it?
I have a consultancy company, Merge Brands, which, I started in January 2014. It’s still a one-employee company and I operate from home but plans are there to grow big, have an office and create employment. The company specializes in public relations and marketing as that is what I was trained in and where my passion lies.
Q: A number of young people now start companies to beat unemployment, was that the reason you decided to be an entrepreneur?
Far from that and I must say I have been lucky to get good jobs, which were somehow a dream come true. I did my Public Relations studies in South Africa and went on to work for big organisations, which gave me exposure. I am talking of companies based in Joburg, Durban and Cape Town which also means I was also exposed to life in these big SA cities. In my work I handled Hunter’s Gold marketing campaigns, Ackermans, FNB, Lenovo and Strictly Come Dancing, these are big brands that I have been fortunate to work with and which shaped the entrepreneur that I am today. And by the way, I was part of the behind the scenes team that worked at Strictly Come Dancing on the year that Double HHP won and if you check the sleeve of his album Acceptance Speech, you will find my name there.
Q: You seem to be a lucky and hardworking person, but you still haven’t answered my question?
I am coming to that, anyway after gaining that experience in South Africa I decided to come home and apply my skills but I needed to work first to gain local experience so I approached Mpho Balopi of Native Impressions for a job and was fortunate enough to be part of his team. Some of my accounts there included BPOMAS medical aid scheme and Botswana Life. I worked for Native Impressions for a year before joining Mascom as Communications Strategy Officer where I worked for three years before quitting to do what I had set out to do?
Q: Were you not afraid of leaving full time employment with a guaranteed salary every month end?
Not really but I must say I got comfortable at Mascom as I was there for three years instead of the initially planned one year. And besides I wasn’t earning a lot of money that could have tempted me to stay on the job for longer.
Q: And so far would you say you made the right move at the right time?
I think I did, what is important is that I am fulfilling my dream. Yes there are challenges here and there but that is part of life, part of business.
Q: Back to WIBA, I understand you made lots of money from the event, how did you manage to do that?
(Laughs) Says who? Look what I can tell you is we managed to pull together a successful event that is now going to be held annually. It was not an easy thing to do considering that it was being held for the first time but I guess my proposal was good enough to attract sponsorship even though I had to knock on same doors over and over again.
Q: Being a businesswoman yourself and having worked with other women in business, do you think there is a level playing field for women to compete with men?
Absolutely, women should just prove that they are equally capable and also take advantage of opportunities presented to them. We should learn to support each other, we have the numbers and united we can make a change. We should also appreciate ourselves and the character traits that make us women and never want to compete with men in wrong way to prove our worth. We should just be firm and professional as women.
Q: What’s your dream in as far as the business world is concerned?
I am interested in technology and would love to develop products using technology and skills I have acquired over the years. I also hope to venture into cultural tourism one day with more emphasis on preserving and showing off our culture to the outside world.
Q: Any role models or mentors?
Yes, my family, friends ex colleagues and bosses locally and in South Africa. I can’t name everyone but I would want to mention Bilkiss Moorad, the deputy chief executive officer of Botswana Life who I approached while still managing director at Barclays Life. She is one woman I look up to and who gave me a nudge to take the risk and fulfill my dream of starting my own company.
Q: Any advice to other upcoming entrepreneurs especially women?
As entrepreneurs we must constantly improve our leadership skills, we must be brave and stand for what we believe in. We must believe in our strengths and also acknowledge our weaknesses. We must never allow our perceived success to get into our heads. As Pinkie Setlalekgosi (of Sprint Couriers) once said, we must never say we have arrived once we feel we fulfilled our dreams. We must strive for more and work hard all the time.
Q: Let’s talk a bit about your personal life, where did you grow up and what were your aspirations?
I was born and bred in Gaborone, Mogoditshane to be precise; I am the second child in a family of three girls and a boy. I did my tertiary education in South Africa and when I enrolled at Tshwane University of Technology I was meant to do fashion designing but when I got there I changed my mind and studied Public Relations and fortunate enough my parents were ok with that change.
Q: And you are obviously married seeing the double barrel surname, so you also believe in not doing away with the maiden surname.
Yes I am married and have a three-year-old son. Actually I don’t have a double barrel surname, its only my email address which is like that as I was avoiding sudden change which was bound to cause confusion in my network especially in South Africa, with time I would change the address as people would have gotten used to my new surname. Not that I have issues with using a double barrel, it’s a personal decision and personally I wouldn’t do that as I think it’s hectic.
Q: Thank God it’s Friday, what’s up for the weekend?
My husband is based in Jwaneng and comes home every weekend so we normally spend our weekends as a family; actually it’s normally a braai for three that is him, our son and myself. Today (Friday) though we have a friends gathering so will spend the evening with friends, Saturday be with family and this Sunday my son will probably force me to go to church as I promised him I would do so this weekend.