Having watched (and admired) her rapid rise as a media entrepreneur, blogger, MC and philanthropist, we finally developed the courage to ask Olwethu Leshabane to feature on our platform. Having won the glamorous title of Mrs South Africa 1st Princess, Olwethu is an influencer who possess character, grit and heart. More about this prolific mother, wife and boss below…
Olwethu, having people admiring you seems to have been part of your destiny! It is your time right now and one cannot log onto any social media platform or attend an important event, without catching a glimpse of you. Aside from having the illustrious job of being a wife and mother, you are an MC, media entrepreneur and successful blogger. Take us through the journey to where you are now…
Hahaha… I love how glam and fun you’ve made it appear. But I am in a journey of getting all that I came into this world for right now. Aside from being a wife, mom of two beautiful boys, a blogger and media entrepreneur; I am an intrapreneur as well, carving and navigating the media world. As of February this year, I joined a media agency – Dentsu Aegis Network – and it has been an amazing ride so far. I am still wrapping my mind around the employment space and also trying not to drop the ball on, The Red Wings Project (an NGO that advocates for and seeks to make a tangible difference in the access to sanitation of underprivileged women and young girls in Africa), as well as my media entrepreneurship and Mrs SA 1st Princess commitments.
I giggle a little at the ‘It is your time now…’ because I feel like I have not even begun. Having just crossed the mid-twenties mark, I evaluated my life and set certain targets. Then I had to devise plans on how to get there, so all the planning and strategizing is now in action. Be stretched now, work hard and smart now, then reap later. That’s where I am now.
I think what stands out most about you, is the fact that you are an influencer and social media icon that actively uses her large following to make a difference. This can be seen through your ambassadorship of the Red Wings Project, an initiative that addresses the issue of lack of sanitation for South African women. Why is it important for you to use your influence to create change?
This life thing is not about me. It is the people that I move, motivate and influence positively. By nature I am a giver. A giver of myself, my mind and my intellect. So when the events around the founding of RWP happened, it fitted so well into my philosophies as a person, who I am and what I am about:
- A giver
- A women empowerment advocate
- An advocator
One of your most notable accolades was landing the spot as Mrs South Africa 1st Princess. What do you think attributed to your success in landing this prestigious title?
I went into Mrs SA with a strategy that had two attributes:
- Leverage the platform to highlight the need for representation amongst young black married women in healthy, tolerating and happy relationships (married or not). I was honest and very pure in my approach; who I was on the journey, on social media and in-person were and always will be in sync.
- I gave the judges no choice but to place me – I worked hard to prove myself and literally worked for the title. There is a lot of behind the scenes work that I did, a lot of pageant research – and I made sure I prepared for every single opportunity that was created ensuring I always put my best foot forward.
Things rarely happen for you because you are likable and have worked the smartest and hardest; sometimes you have to consistently be prepared and put your best foot forward. It is hard to ignore consistency and people that raise the bar.
You currently run a blog that showcases your life as a mother, wife, activist and as you so phenomenally put it, your day-to-day as a “mompreneur”. Tell us more about your entrepreneurial endeavors.
Besides my blog, I am a digital strategist. The future of digital is so bright and SA has not even scraped the surface of it. As mentioned above, I’ve taken up a post at a media agency earlier this year. For now, my focus is on growth in the digital space and expanding my knowledge of it.
You are a huge advocate of informing black women of the extended hours and exerted effort they need to put in to be equal or just as successful as their Caucasian or male counterparts. Could you offer some personal insight into what sacrifices and additional undertakings you have had to make as a black woman to achieve the success you have today?
I particularly see this every single day whether it is work or play. And until we stop gathering in coffee corners in our work and private spaces, we will never fully be able to tackle this issue head on.
I am one person who is not afraid to raise their argument in this particular conversation.
When it comes to race relations in SA, we are far from redress and far from being equal to not just our male and white female counterparts but mostly our white male counterparts.
Statistics show that in 2015 68,9% of the workforce top management made up of white people with 78,6% of it being men. White men are being recruited to top positions at a rate of 42,1% compared with white women at a rate of 10%. Black, Coloured and Indian men are at a significantly lower rate of 17,9%, 3,3% and 6% respectively. And we haven’t even touched on Black women yet – the statistics are worryingly low.
We need to stop babysitting this image and start taking action and yes, of course, it might take me longer to get to the top because place me in the same interview with my male counterpart, I might need to have my credentials verified compared to his. Another factor is one of risk, am I as a black women willing to lose a job because I pushed too hard for what I am entitled to or do I hold onto what I have (though unmotivated) and endure for the sake of a monthly salary and keeping black tax at bay.
What do you believe are the steps that black female-owned businesses still need to take to become strong competition of other affluent businesses and corporates?
- Be open and hungry to learn.
- Ask questions and reach out to mentors – don’t stop until you have answers
- Invest in yourself first before asking someone else to invest in you.
- Don’t treat your business like a baby. It is a business, take the emotion out. Money knows no emotion, when you buy that dress at Woolworths, money doesn’t scream “don’t let me go”, so make decisions that will grow you and grow your cash not stroke your emotion.
- You need to learn to be flexible and agile with your business plan and your execution – nothing in blueprint ever works out exactly as it is written
- Under promise, over deliver – Always
Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and business women?
The only things you can control is you. So be stern with yourself, be your own minds’ CEO, feed yourself with what you would feed a growing baby – spiritually and physically.
Get up – you control this
Dress up – you control this
Look good – you control this
Show up to your job/next gig/interview – you control this
Do your absolute best and don’t let outside forces decide your mood and who you are.
Take us through what a typical work day looks like for you…
- Wake up, Shower and Get Dressed
- Wake my boys up and get them ready for school
- Prepare kids’ school lunch
- Get in the car and drop them off at school (my husband and I take turns)
- Get to the office, then read my emails over some coffee
- Depending on the kind of day (meetings, strategies and execution of work)
- I leave the office at around 4pm and collect the kids (my husband and I take turns)
- Prepare dinner
- Dinner, Bath and bedtime for the boys
- Then I put in some work and prepare for the next day
Some days differ depending on events, castings, travels (I try make ins and outs of cities if I have a meeting) and if I’m shooting anything but the above is pretty much my standard day.
The biggest sacrifice I’ve ever made is… sacrificing my full time studies to work full time due to financial constraint in University.
The greatest self-marketing/branding tool is… Dress up for the job/position you want and not the one you have. Then when you get the job/positions you want, set the standard a few notches higher. Always look the way you would like to be addressed.
Best investment… education. Always learning and reading. PS. If you have data, you have money to buy a book that will leap you forward in your career or your state of mind right now.
Worst money mistake… Taking out a loan I could not afford to pay off in my early twenties. Thank God I was finally able to pay it off – although it took me about 3 years.
Advice in 3 words… Rise. Conquer. Repeat.