Lessons in Motherhood & Business

Flame Tree Initiative Fellow, Dineo Mkwezalamba (left) and social entrepreneur, Trinitas Mhango and her baby (right).

Flame Tree Initiative Fellow, Dineo Mkwezalamba (left) and social entrepreneur, Trinitas Mhango and her baby (right).

Most social entrepreneurs that Flame Tree Initiative works with juggle several projects. Entrepreneurs, by nature, are multi-taskers. However, those who balance motherhood and business seem particularly expert at managing a deluge of tasks and responsibilities.

As a mother of seven-year-old twins and an eighteen year-old daughter, and as a social entrepreneur, Flame Tree Initiative fellow, Dineo Mkwenzalamba, is an example of a woman who does it all. This month, as we celebrate Mother’s Day, she shares with us the lessons that she learned in motherhood and in her work as the founder and managing director of Dzuka Africa.

FTI: Please tell us a little about what you do?

DM: I wake up every morning with the hope that I can add value to emerging entrepreneurs’ lives. My passion is to co-create social solutions with a community I belong to. Most emerging entrepreneurs have an idea that can create employment, solve or mitigate social/environmental problems but most lack the tools and expertise that can enable them. They face the lack of operating space; lack of business acumen; lack of capital to start the business; and access to market. We [at Dzuka Africa Startup Hubs] create a conducive environment for emerging entrepreneurs to strive [to succeed] by providing onsite services such as business incubation and accelerator programs that we run through our incubation hubs. We also offer offsite services like social entrepreneurship programs that we render in community day secondary schools, and township entrepreneurship programs for peri-urban and rural areas.

FTI: With so much on your plate, how do you balance your responsibilities at work and your time with your family?

DM: I have come to realize that running a business is a lifestyle. Family and business are choices we make and they turn out to be full-time jobs that are impossible to quit from once you have firmly made such a decision. By acknowledging that business is a lifestyle, [it] has to be designed to co-exist with your family lifestyle. It makes it more acceptable to juggle these two heavy balls. I am not Dineo the Social Entrepreneur from 8 am-5 pm and Dineo the Mother from 5:30 pm -7:30 am. I am just Dineo.

FTI: Have you made any adjustments to your personal and professional life to juggle these two roles?

DM: I had to make adjustments to my personal life to accommodate family, friends, and business. My days start at 4:30 am up to 9 pm, six days a week. To create a balance, I have learned and still learning to create a lifestyle where all three aspects sync-in naturally. I had to allow myself to build a team that knows certain areas better than me; to share responsibilities; to allow myself to have mentors that guide me; seek help when I have shortfalls; and to allow my business place (where I spend most of my day), The Dzuka Africa Startup Hubs, to have activities that accommodate my kids to be in the same space as me. We have programs (Lil Wiz Kids - kids’ coding classes, and Picasso – kids’ art classes), to allow me more time to spend with family and with friends, [I can spend time with them] by sharing meals and attending entertainment sessions at The Hub Café.

FTI: Is there a lesson or a skill that you've learned as a social entrepreneur that you apply to motherhood?

DM: Being a social entrepreneur, I have learned to constantly encourage positive impact (inspiring change through participation) within the community, work with limited resources, allow other people with different perspectives to share their thoughts, and build as a community. This has helped me with motherhood. Understanding that my family is equally a community, I have to create the same impact and [welcome] different perspectives, celebrate creativity at large (we normally have limited resources) and focus on sustainability.

FTI: Is there a lesson that you've learned in motherhood that you are able to apply in business?

DM: Life is not a rehearsal. I have never been a mother to seven-year-old twins nor an eighteen-year-old daughter before in my life. Every day, I work on understanding them and their needs and demands and still try to be the person that can help develop them into the great people they are meant to be. It’s a constant learning phase. I have discovered that each child is unique with unique gifts. This has helped me to be more patient, to be more accommodating, and focus more on people’s strength and acknowledge their weaknesses. I build a team to achieve a collective goal, most importantly have fun doing that, as life tends to be very unpredictable.

FTI: How has motherhood changed your views about your work and your approach in business?

DM: Firstly, I have realized that I am the role model for my family - I am the first person they see every day and when my kids are young, they see life through my eyes and actions. My approach - life can be too short. Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. I spend more than eight hours of my day dedicated to my work, but I have embraced my work to be part of my day to day with my family, I embrace social change by looking into life pressing issues and co-create or co-design solutions as a community.

FTI: Your children are still pretty young, but what would you like them to understand about your work?

DM: They need to understand that we work to make the world a better place. It’s important to notice your passion at an early stage. If you can find the means to make your passion inspire or have a positive influence on others, that can be great. The things that drive us make it easier for us to create solutions for challenges in the sphere we exist in. This can ease work pressures and burden as you will not chase deadlines but chase fulfillment, [which also] can create your livelihood.

FTI: What would you like to say to other women like you who are balancing motherhood and entrepreneurship?

DM: Take the anxiety out of entrepreneurship. You have your whole life to be an entrepreneur, this is not a destination with set timelines. Create realistic timelines and goals. Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle you create - try to create a more positive one that you can wake up every morning to face.

FTI: Anything else that you would like to add on the subject on motherhood and entrepreneurship?

DM: Motherhood and entrepreneurship are almost the same. You cannot rush them. They both have phases and each phase demand certain characteristics and expertise. Don’t be hard on yourself. Each child is like each business - given the same opportunities they still might not turn out the same. Try to learn as much as you can from each experience, try to have as much fun as you can, try not to lose your authenticity, and enjoy the journey. Phases both motherhood and enterprises go through: birth, infancy, growth (boom or prosperity), maturity, and letting go (the exit clause or leaving home). Embrace each phase – life is not a rehearsal, you don’t get to pause and cut.