Dudu Brooks, 55, is a cheery optimist. She is a happy woman who still cannot believe that she has won the Business Woman of the Year Award in the Women In Business Association (WIBA) Excellence Awards last Friday.
“It is as though I am in a movie. It is surreal. I am loving the attention as I am still attending to calls and those passing by the shop to share in my excitement,” she says, brimming with excitement.
What was supposed to be a 45- minute engagement with the formidable businesswoman turns into two hours of complete bliss as she re- lives her journey to being announced Business Woman Of The Year.
“Like all the other nominees I had wanted to win but I was comfortable with whatever was to be the outcome. Running a business is no walk in the park. It takes a special kind of woman to shoulder the huge responsibility and I was ready to celebrate whoever the winner would be,” she says and goes on to explain how her passion for quilting was stumbled upon.
““It was truly an accident waiting to happen. “She says.
She started off in the insurance industry, working for IGI Insurance Company and even had the brilliant idea to open her own broker business.
“I got my first break through the assistance of business moguls; Satar Dada and Gulam and through the business they gave me I opened an office from their warehouse in Lobatse rent free. I then operated a mobile branch in Kanye.”
As the business grew she expanded to Jwaneng and divided her time between the two offices.
It was during this period that Brooks met her future husband.
“I was taken aback that this British man was smitten with me and I was clear that I wanted nothing to do with him. I assisted him with his car registration and insurance and thought that was the end of it. What would my family and people say? I thought to myself. Besides I was uncomfortable with the thought of the “me nice” label that often comes with dating a white man. Little did I know that I would marry him and build a life with this man.”
The Brooks have been together for thirty-four years and married for thirty.
The couple moved to the United Kingdom in 1984 to 1989 before returning home with their first born; a baby girl.
The family then relocated to South Africa where they welcomed an addition to the family; a bouncing baby boy.
It was in SA that Brooks approached IGI Insurance Company to do some work for them.
“I realised I could work from home, we had a granny’s cottage and could employ a driver. I had also done a computer studies course in the UK so I could offer my services. I put together a proposal for the IGI Gaborone office and they facilitated a meeting with the Joburg counterpart. Brooks excitement turned sour, as the meeting did not go as planned.
“I met with a disrespectful, condescending and rude man who clearly had no interest in my offer but still took my proposal. I left his office in tears. As if that was not enough, my baby got ill in the car. My daughter who was quite young at the time comforted me and said “Mommy don’t cry, God will give you something great” I have never forgotten those words,” Brooks says
The idea of quilting started with the thought of making two blankets for the children; one to stay in the car and one for playtime.
“My inspiration was blankets that my aunts would make in Shoshong when we were growing up. To say my passion was unleashed is an understatement. I got materials and started sewing. I even bought a Bernina sewing machine.” Brooks says.
It was the feedback received from family and friends that made Brooks realize she was onto something. Her passion grew and she got involved in quilting associations and even became a member of the Abu Dhabi Quilt guild.
“It was exciting to be a part of exhibitions, challenges, cultural exchange programmes and competitions. I travelled and interacted with other quilt enthusiasts. I wanted to find out how one could also make money from this new love so when the opportunity to franchise the Bernina brand came up, I jumped at the chance even though I did not have two pennies to rub together. I just could not pass this chance.”
Winning Business Woman of the Year award is a great boost to Brooks business and she intends to use her new status to further highlight the plight of the old women of Old Naledi and push dreams she has for exposing many more to the fulfilling world of quilting.
“Quilting offers opportunities I wish to see Batswana take advantage of. One can sell, use the works for charity, auction and even capture our history using the works. There are so many avenues that can be exploited for the benefit of many and this is where my focus lies.”
DuduBrook Quilting Loft in Fairgrounds houses exquisite works of different quilt techniques and uses.
She continues to provide a learning environment for others and vows to pursue her dreams of opening a quilting academy and hopefully a museum.
“ Around the world, people are making money whilst sharing their passion with larger audiences. I do not see how Batswana cannot be a part of this. If you look around, we are missing out on opportunities. We are not the ones supplying curio shops around the county or taking advantage of this untapped market.”
Brooks says living in Joburg, Dubai, Abu Dhabi complemented by her quilt travels to Canada and the US have been an eye opener.
“We care capable of producing high end stuff and integrating this skill at school level so as to promote self reliance. The award is a push to continue working towards setting a place where women like the old Naledi grannies can learn.”
Away from the machines and making beautiful pieces full of stories, Brooks admits to love a good party.
“I love to dance and for a while I had wanted to be one of the Mahotella Queens. Who knows, maybe that dream will one day also come to pass,” She says with a smile