We spoke to Maemu Lambani. A young lady from Limpopo Province. She has her own digital marketing agency and recently, has realised her dream of having her own dishwashing soap on shelves of local stores. She has dreams for both her digital marketing agency and her cleaning products.
BD: Please tell us about your upbringing.
ML: I grew up in Ravele Village, a village in the Limpopo Province. I was raised by a single mother. I have three brothers; two younger and one older. We grew up in poverty as my mother was unemployed and we depended on social grant money for survival. It was a tough upbringing, however I was a happy child. There was a lot of love at home. My Mom loved and provided for us as best as she could with the little we had. We are a Christian family, which for us meant we spent a lot of time going to church. I was bright at school and as such, I enjoyed going to school.
BD: It cannot have been an easy upbringing. Tell us more about the household you grew up in?
ML: It was mainly a Christian family. My mother is a pastor. Full of love. We did not have a lot of material things that other kids had, many times, we couldn’t even get a full uniform. I remember at some point I used to carry a plastic bag to school as a back pack. We lacked tremendously on the financial side, but emotionally, we were fulfilled. We always knew we were loved by our Mom.
BD: A loving home is important for a child’s life, especially outside of home. How were your school days?
ML: I was a very bright student. I went to the local primary school. I can say I was a dream student to my teachers as I always worked hard and I was disciplined. I used to get teased by other students outside the classrooms because of the quality of clothing I used to wear. However inside the classroom, it was my time to shine. School was my escape from my reality at home. Upon completing primary school, I got a bursary. This scholarship is for students who come from poor backgrounds but who are strong academically. This scholarship allowed me the opportunity to go to a school in town, a Cambridge school. The scholarship paid for everything, from tuition, boarding expenses and food. So from this point my life changed. This scholarship showed me there was more outside of poverty.
BD: Did you study after high school? If yes, what did you study?
ML: After high school I did a few internship programmes. Namely at Bona magazine, Media24 in Cape Town and Quirk, the digital agency. In this time, I was trying to figure out which path I wanted to take. I learned that I wanted to be a business person, within the digital space. I went and studied a higher certificate in business management and I also did a diploma in digital marketing. I continue to study short online courses with the hopes of enhancing my knowledge and skills.
BD: At the tender age of 20, you started a digital marketing agency. What inspired this?
ML: I knew I wanted to be in the digital space, however I had difficulty finding a job. I was eager to learn more about the industry. I then opted to do job shadowing’s, many of which were unpaid. As soon as I felt confident with the knowledge I had obtained, I started my digital agency. I started off by servicing my friends businesses. In 2016 I registered my business and I can say, that’s when I started knocking on doors.
BD: Did you always want to become an entrepreneur?
ML: I cannot not say I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. At some point I wanted to be a doctor, and as time progressed, that changed to engineering. The only reason I did not study engineering was because my science mark was low. I also cannot say I stumbled upon entrepreneurship as I grew up around my grandmother who sold cooked food, cigarettes and traditional beer. She raised her children and assisted in our upbringing with the money she got from her business. From her, I always knew it was a valid and sustainable career.
BD: What are some challenges you faced upon becoming an entrepreneur?
ML: The biggest challenge for many businesses, especially self- funded, is capital. In the beginning stages, you are the only person who believes in this dream. You have to make things happen for yourself because no one is coming to rescue you. Being a woman in the business space is also challenging. I felt disrespected many times. It was also suggested at some point that I should consider partnering with a male to make my business more credible. Which I did not do.
You will never be prepared for the amount of business admin that needs your attention, especially when you have to do them personally. In as much as I studied business management, I struggled with the application of that knowledge. Another challenge starting your own business is that you will not make money immediately. You might have a good month where all clients pay on time, but for the most part in the beginning, say the first three years, it is easy to spend more than what you are making.
BD: There are many marketing agencies, what makes Fearless Trendz unique?
ML: What makes Fearless Trendz unique is that most agencies offer clients packages and prices for those packages. However, at Fearless Trendz, we tailor our packages to the client’s budget. We sit down with the client, find out what their digital marketing budget is, and from there, we work from the client’s budget. We don’t turn a client away because they only have a certain amount of money.
BD: Apart from Fearless Trendz, you have your own brand of dishwashing soap. How did you come up with this and how is this going?
ML: This mainly comes from me being a person who thinks ahead. I believe that digital marketing will not be as relevant in the near future. I also wanted to do something different on the side.
BD: What is it like seeing your own product in stores?
ML: It is exciting seeing something you’ve worked hard for become exactly what it should be. Knowing that someone is going to purchase it and use it at home is rewarding because that is exactly why you made it.
ML: Initially it was hard for me to take in criticism, but lately, it has become easier for me to take it in and learn from it. I have now learnt to remove my emotions from the criticism and find the lesson.
BD: What is the most rewarding part about being an entrepreneur?
The most rewarding part is doing what you love. Knowing that the success or failure of this entity is dependent solely on how much you put into it.
BD: Where to from here?
ML: Hopefully grow the digital agency. Service more clients and ultimately create more employment. I also seek to expand the spotless cleaning product line. We seek to produce more cleaning products like disinfectants, fabric softeners, foam baths, etc.