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Woman of valour

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Woman of valour
Dineo Shaleshando

Dineo Saleshando takes on new business terrain

Sassy, calculating and extremely driven, last year Dineo Saleshando took the bold decision to leave her lucrative position as Barclays Bank Botswana’s Retail Lending Director to start her own business, Express Credit.

With over 13 years experience in the banking world, the 41-year-old Mochudi native is well equipped to run a micro lending financial institution.

Less than a year into her new role, the University of Botswana (UB) Economics and Accounts graduate sat down with The Voice’s Tshepo Maphanyane for an in-depth chat.

Q. You built quite an impressive portfolio in banking, why give it all up for entrepreneurship?

A. Throughout my life I have always been different – my background growing up, studying in Mochudi, going through hardships; life was without any luxuries.

I decided to push myself to do better and attain more; I decided I would go into business.

So for as long as it goes, I have, in one way or the other, been engaged in some sort of business.

Q. Did this influence your choice of studies at UB?

A. Not at all, the truth is when I went to UB I had no idea what I wanted to study!

I toyed with the limited options I knew, which were being a teacher, nurse, police officer or a doctor – nothing more, nothing less.

I did not know any better as I had little exposure of what is out there.

Then, when I got to University, there was a whole array of subjects to choose from.

It was quite overwhelming for a young girl from Mochudi!

It was really by default that my marks allowed me to do Economics and Accounting.

Though I had no idea what it was all about I decided to pursue the course anyway.

Q. So you ended up, quite by chance, choosing a course that suited you perfectly?

A. I had initially signed up for PESC (Pre Entry Science Course) to prepare to study to be a doctor.

As fate would have it, I did not do well in one of the subjects (Physics) and had to abandon the course and opt for something else.

It was during my Accounts and Economics course that I realised I was never meant to be a doctor but rather an entrepreneur.

Even my friends will tell you, throughout varsity and my first job as a graduate trainee at Standard Chartered, I was always selling something.

I would travel to Joburg and buy leather jackets (laughs) and sell them.

One time I travelled to Ghana and brought gold earrings and necklaces to sell! They were the ‘in thing’.

I would sell literally anything, as long as there was a need for it.

Q. So you have always harboured dreams of owning and running a business?

A. Of course! Though, upon completion of my studies at the University I had not made up my mind as to what business line to pursue.

I knew I was not the 8 to 5 type, however, I entered the job market.

This was good for me as it provided the much-needed training ground and brought me on a higher pedestal professionally.

It was being in the corporate world that I got to learn the skills and competencies that have built the entrepreneur I am today.

Q. You are entering the market at a precarious time, with giant entities closing shop and many continuing to struggle; why take the risk?

A. That’s an interesting question. The truth is that the journey of any businessperson has its ups and downs – the fall is a critical step that allows one to regroup, assess and plan accordingly.

Q. And what falls have you experienced?

A. The first major venture I entered into was not to be.

We had wanted to open the first citizen owned bank and heavily invested in those plans.

I quit my job to go set up shop, as I believed the skills I possessed were adequate to get the business started.

The reason I say I fell is that when I quit my job, I did not have a plan and this presented enormous challenges when our plans couldn’t go ahead.

We submitted our bid with the regulator but it was not successful despite the huge investments that were made.

I did not have a plan financially and had no idea what I was going to do. There were school fees to pay, mortgages, cars and a household to run.

It was really bad! I sold my car I loved so much just so I could downgrade to one of those Chinese imports.

I drove it from 2013 till last year when it was involved in a car accident.

Q. What do you say to those that feel to make it in business in Botswana, one must be connected – are you connected?

A. It is a total myth. During the application process of the banking licence I was in partnership with people from opposing camps politically.

However this broke the glass ceiling for me, as I was able to work with anybody as long as there was a common vision.

I don’t see why we must create those barriers.

In Botswana a lot of people will tell you that if you’re a member of the opposition then you’ll have limited opportunities but I doubt this is true.

I follow the same processes required regulatory and have found the people I have generally engaged with at any level had absolutely no issues with executing the work at hand.

I try to stay away from the personal, unrelated politics issues, as they have no consequence to what I wish to achieve!

Q. Why Express Credit? Is it an offshoot of the citizen bank you had hoped to open?

A. Express Credit is part of the bigger dream, which is still to open a citizen owned bank; I will forever chase that dream!

I found that Express Credit is a huge opportunity and a stepping-stone towards that direction.

When the banking licence failed, we started looking at other options, such as to set up a micro lending institution and later turn it into a fully-fledged bank or perhaps take up any other financial related business.

My interest has always been in the financial sector, so when I was invited to be a part of this venture I took it with open hands.

Q. Who owns Express Credit?

A. Express Credit is part of an international group based in Europe.

In Europe it has been operating for 15 years and in Africa for about a year.

Currently it has operations in Botswana, Zambia, and Namibia.

I am the Director and Chief Executive Officer of Express Credit.

Q. How are you different from other money lenders?

A. We commit to a 30 minutes turnaround time and that’s what we deliver on.

We realise the customer we serve may not necessarily be a customer that cannot access finance from a bank but is someone that wants their money quick.

From assessing a customer’s documents to approval, 30 minutes is what we take.

We offer credit to different customer sectors in the market.

We are looking at diversifying our product holding to be inclusive and this will be launched in time.

Q. What security measures do you have in place to ensure a return on your investment?

A. We have a robust collection programme that entails deduction at source and if that’s not possible we have collaborated with other stakeholders.

We also deploy various technology advances to collect.

Q. Where are you based?

A. We have offices in Gaborone, Maun, Francistown and we will be opening a branch in Palapye in the next four weeks.

In addition we have a wide network of agents to service all parts of Botswana.

Q. And how have you invested in these locations?

A. The significant amount of investment Express Credit is making entails, employment creation for citizens, collaborations and partnerships through short and long term contracts, e.g. service providers and infrastructure.

We don’t see ourselves as a fly by night and we endeavour to make a difference in people’s lives.

This is through the inclusion of people that are currently not catered for by the mainstream financial institutions or commercial banks.

Q. Away from work, you seem to be just as dedicated to your home life as a wife, mother and all the other responsibilities you shoulder. How do you balance it all?

A. I have been married for more than 15 years and to be honest I married my friend. My husband is extremely supportive of me and always encourages me to be Dineo.

I am outgoing and not a conformist. From early on our partnership is one of respect, loyalty and dedication to our family.

It is important to choose a partner that allows you to be you. One thrives in such circumstances no matter how tough it gets.

We also have the most amazing landscapes in Maun and a trip there always leaves me rejuvenated.

Q. What drives you?

A. More than anything to make a difference in others lives.

I believe in inspiring others to be their best, especially young women.

The economic system works best when we invest in unleashing potential in others. Confident and centred individuals make better decisions that not only impact their lives but have a positive influence on others as well.

We need to teach the girl child that it is okay to be smart, to be driven and not be content with a pretty face only to land a man. One must be more than a pretty face!

Q. It’s finally Friday, what are your plans?

A. If I had all the money, I would be getting away.

I love to travel and experience new places with my family.

But I will be home catching up on my reading and I’m sure I’ll indulge in some wine!