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Sibabalwe Sesmani | South Africa | Organic Route!! I got my first taste of entrepreneurship when I was 9 years old, selling popcorn. I was always a dreamer and a rule breaker. Entrepreneurship was something I was always destined for, but always draw the line between family and business. My 1st business failed sadly from allowing family loans that never got paid back. My 2nd business was selling clothes that I no longer wanted at the age of 11, but learning from my experience I kept a ledger with all my customers names, summary and days they received their pay cheques. On their pay days, I would go and collect. With that grit, I was able to purchase my first cellphone - a Motorola T190. The excitement died down very quickly as I realized most of my friends didn’t have cellphones yet. I could say I have always had an entrepreneurial flair, but did not have the perfect term as yet. Fast forward, May 2014 I graduated from the University of Johannesburg with a Bachelor of Commerce in Economics and Econometrics. That same year, my 9 months contract with my former employer was running out, but luckily I was offered a sales position at a film and television company. I stayed for 3 months, but I then later quit and began working for another company where I had worked for 1 month. During my time there, I met my very first client. I offered to help them with their company's marketing strategy using social media or media as my outlet. I did not even have a term for it back then, but I later researched it - “public relations.” October 2014, I committed to my startup company full time and I decided to call it Unorthodox PR and Media Group. In my years and experience in this space and business I realized that there were not many black, young female entrepreneurs who are successful that come from backgrounds like mine. I grew up in a township in Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape, one of the poorest provinces in South Africa. I realized that when I was younger, it was rare that I identified with the very few ‘successful’ black women, also seeing a successful black woman growing up in those times in South Africa was rare. Entrepreneurship for me is more than about making money, which is a very important aspect, but it is also about imagery. Little girls from impoverished backgrounds need to see more black women that come from similar backgrounds ‘making it’, this gives them hope and enlarges their dreams.

What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?

Value. I often did not know the value I brought to my clients and undercharged my services. There were a lot of internal battles that I had to overcome like being and feeling confident in the work we produce, being aggressive in what we wanted and deserved, renegotiating offers we were not happy with and always feeling smaller than everyone else in the room.

What books are you currently reading? And your recommendation for entrepreneurs to read?

The 3 most recent books I have read are ;

The alchemist by Paulo Coelho: This taught me that we are never in full control and God ( or whomever you believe in) will always leave you ‘hints’ or ‘clues’ about your journey. The recent 2 books are ‘My Second Initiation’ by Vusi Pikoli and ‘Still grazing’ by Hugh Masekela. These 2 books are about South Africa’s turbulent history which answers some questions on our social, political and economic landscape. It is important for every entrepreneur to know the history and current climate of the environment they operate in. As for recommendations, I do not have specific books, I would only advise entrepreneurs to identify their weaknesses and try to turn them around by reading books on their weaknesses. Also I am very spiritual, so I would recommend books that feed the entrepreneur’s spiritual belief.

Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?

How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?

My mom and dad were very supportive, but I do not think they fully grasped that starting a company leads to many broke days before one can break even and even start paying their own salaries. The contention came later, when I had to rely on my parents financially from time to time, that’s when they would doubt if the business would work or not. With time they came around and saw how passionate I am, and how set I am on making the company a success. In hindsight, I can’t really say what I could have done things differently as I think the journey took an organic route.

What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?

Knowing that I do not need anyone or anything besides God and He will use anything and anyone in order for me to succeed.

What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?

The immense value I bring to the table.

What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?

No one owes them anything.

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