Mentoring: Bridget Motswasele

Sunday, August 31, 2014

You've heard it before: “If at first you don’t succeed, try again.” Sometimes you may feel like that’s just a saying, but it is absolutely not. And Bridget Motswasele founder and MD of Tsenelo Ads is living proof of that. Despite what others could perceive as a "major failure", Bridget picked herself up and did it again. Despite losing everything, she started from the bottom again and worked her way into a new venture. Bridget admits there is no magical way to have success in business outside of experience, education and delivery. Her story stresses one of the most important lessons of all in life and that is to 'never ever give up'. Here is her inspiring story.

Inside Woman: How did you get to know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour?

Bridget Motswasele:  I have always been a church goer from childhood but never understood nor had a personal relationship until I started visiting a bible based church.  I learnt about being born again and the next step was just natural.

Inside Woman:  What role does your faith play in your life as a business woman?

Bridget Motswasele: Being a businesswoman requires a lot from a person.  Business is tough and you need a personal friend that will always be with you, a friend that will always go forth and prepare the path for you.   When He said I’ll never leave you nor forsake you, He meant it.  You need faith to communicate with God.  You need Him to reassure you that you are on the right path. Faith helps you to draw from God when the pressure becomes unbearable.  I still wonder how most people go around life without faith (believing).  You lose a lot of friends due to a pressured schedule but faith enables you to have a friend 24/7. You need wisdom as sometimes your own understanding is not enough.  You need faith to help you access contentment, wealth, health, wisdom, strength, and to be able to humble yourself towards fellow human beings. You need faith in God that the strategy you proposed to your client will yield necessary results. You need faith that you will be favoured and that all things work together for your good. 

Inside Woman:  What did you do before your started Tsenelo Ads?

Bridget Motswasele: I was first a volunteer at a community radio station and then I started working part time as a promoter while I was doing my first year at tertiary.  I then became a government employee but took a low salary so I can set my foot in the media industry, worked my way up to a managerial position. So yeah, I can safely say I started from the bottom and now I am here. 

Inside Woman: What inspired you to leave your position and start your own business?

Bridget Motswasele: I’ve always known that I wanted to be my own boss but I wasn’t sure on how to go about it. I knew I had to work to gain experience, sharpen my knowledge and see how things were done.  I actually volunteered at a community radio station right after my matric but then started a catering business with a friend.  I then went back to being employed as I didn’t believe in myself enough at the time.  I finished my tasks very early in the month and still felt that I needed more work.  It was as if the runway wasn’t long enough for me.

Inside Woman: What are the ways that your background and experience has helped to prepare you in running your own business?

Bridget Motswasele: In addition to my volunteering and working for the government, I also worked for a small organisation where it was just me and the owner so I had to do everything. I also worked for a media agency where I had to work on international brands and a client agency where I determined my own objectives and implementation plans.  All this experiences gave me a 360 degree understanding of the needs from various quarters.

Education wise, I studied public relations and management, media management and I have a diploma in digital marketing. I also did various short courses in the media industry and topped it up with an MBA to ensure that I covered my ground.  However, my previous employer had Small Business Units which one could say they were your own business that you were fully responsible for.  That gave me background training through and through.  It really toughened me. 

Inside Woman: Can you talk us through the process from first having the idea for Tsenelo to actually realising the dreaming and any challenges that you faced along the way?

Bridget Motswasele: I stumbled into it through a late friend, who proposed that we start a new business drawing from our strengths.  When we started we were four in the team but then our first investment was a huge loss and that led us to split. I then modified the name to Tsenelo Ads. I knew that I can’t go back to old job and media is what I had studied and I had the necessary experience.

I had lost everything I had so I had to take time off to strategise. I went back home to stay with my parents and that made me feel empty as a person.  I had great family support and used the time to know God and draw much closer to Him.  I took a yearlong break and bought a lot of self help books.  I attended church and started serving which built me up.  I spoke to a reverend where I was attending prayer sessions and he gave me Habakkuk 2:2: “write the vision, and make it plain upon tables,  that he may run that readeth it’.  I’ve never looked back since.  I always write my goals down with timelines and take them to God without fail.  God is an over achiever, He never fails.

Inside Woman: What services do you offer at Tsenelo Ads?

Bridget Motswasele: We do media buying, supply marketing collateral, event management and training.

Inside Woman: What do your clients gain from working with you versus other Media companies?

Bridget Motswasele: We always endeavour to exceed the client’s expectations, manage our deadlines very well because that is the key to our business. Given our experience we are able to offer long term clients competitive pricing coupled with added value as our business is about rands and cents.

Inside Woman: How do you market your business?

Bridget Motswasele: We market ourselves online and prefer personal selling as it gives us a chance to explain to a prospective client what we are about.  We however get a lot of business through word of mouth from our satisfied clients.

Bridget Motswasele

Inside Woman: How did you fund your business?

Bridget Motswasele: I started with zero budgets and borrowed from friends and family.  From there on I started saving and re-investing the profits back into the business.

Inside Woman: Who were the biggest inspirations for your career?

Bridget Motswasele: I read and read and read.  I have a huge collection of self help books, business books and like studying as well.  Coupled with the Bible then you are filled for life.

Inside Woman: What’s the one thing you wish you’d known when you started?

Bridget Motswasele: I wish I learned that the business world runs 24 hours.  You will have less sleep and even when you sleep you mind doesn’t stop working. Your brain keeps on looking for solutions to challenges that you left unattended.

Inside Woman: Do you ever think of giving it all up?

Bridget Motswasele: Yes I do, when the business starts stealing my family time.  I think I compromise them a lot.  At some point I was studying, running businesses (Tsenelo Ads, Brimes (décor hire) and Endeavour Trading (construction) while managing my family with only 24 hours like everyone else.

Inside Woman: What were your most significant challenges in achieving this success? 

Bridget Motswasele: Having clear goals and entering into a written contract with myself and not bridging the contract no matter what.  Volunteering meaning you work without pay and sometimes backtracking and taking a salary knock so as to set my foot in the industry.

Inside Woman:  What outside resources (Business Chambers, Business Women Association, etc) were or you have found to be helpful to you?

Bridget Motswasele: None, I didn’t rely on them a lot but I chose my friends very well.  I have friends who are very smart, so I use (yes use) them as a group of thinkers that I keep around me.  We pick each other’s brains when stuck and what I like is that they already know my background well and know where I want to go.  So the advice is never superficial.  I also have a supportive and brainy husband (lol), who seems to know everything.

Inside Woman: It is often said that to achieve great success, “it’s all about who you know.” Do you agree, and if so, how do you apply that?

Bridget Motswasele: I only agree with it if we are referring to God.  For me you need to build a bankable brand, a brand that carries a lot of weight and can be trusted.  That is experience, education and delivery.  Then wherever you knock, they are bound to answer and open the door for you.

Inside Woman: What is a realistic time-frame for an media agency to show results of growth?

Bridget Motswasele: It really differs from agency to agency.  Some people started with huge media budgets but some start with a few thousands.  As you build your brand and deliver then clients get to see your work and there more satisfied clients you have the more you get.

Inside Woman: What pressure or stress do you experience? How do you handle it?

Bridget Motswasele: Our environment is highly pressured because you are always working against deadlines.  Time is a currency one cannot afford to lose as it has a potential of ruining your business reputation. You receive approvals late and that means you still need to perform miracles to get the advert placed in the media at the agreed date.  Sometimes you work overnight with your printers to ensure that the collateral requested for an event is branded and delivered on time.  Where there’s a will there’s a way.  Nothing is impossible.  Building strong reliable relationships helps because when stressed you know who to call to make things happen for you.  You need to be balanced to survive.  Your heart and mind have to be in the right place, you have to be spiritually sound, physically you have to be healthy and strong and you have to be solution driven.  In that way you are able to absorb stress as it comes and provide solutions. 

Inside Woman: What is the best business advice you have been given?

Bridget Motswasele: ASK.  Ask and it shall be given unto you, Seek and ye shall find, Knock and it shall be opened unto you.

Inside Woman:  If someone was planning to set up their own business right now, what advice would you give them to help them on their way to success?

Bridget Motswasele: My advice would be don’t’ start a business because it is fashionable or because you want money.  It is tough and you have to be strong willed.  Be clear of who you are and know your strengths and weaknesses.  So you know what to look out for in prospective business associates.  Be grounded and be willing to put in the time working for others because experience is the best teacher.  Be willing to work for nothing as sometimes you need that first client. Do pro bono work to boost your business profile and confidence. Go an extra mile for your clients to leave an indelible mark. And don’t forget to ASK. 

Inside Woman: What advice would you offer women who want to advance their careers while preserving time for their family, faith, and other personal priorities?

Bridget Motswasele: When the world turns against you your support structure is always your family.  They will always help you to pick up the pieces and walk. So for me my family is my oyster. The key is that you should spend as much time as you can with them. Time lost and moments missed can never be regained.  There is no remote control for family.  They cannot pause and wait for you while you complete your last report. You will not be able to rewind the first word uttered by your child.  Ensure that they don’t miss you too.  Family is what builds you up.  It gives you a belief, values and fuels you from inside out. There is only one YOU so give yourself to your loved ones.  In my world there is time for family and there is always time for every other thing.

Inside Woman: What is your vision for your business?

Bridget Motswasele: To be an oasis for future generations. To build it into a solid family business that future generation can draw from.  No matter what you want to be you will be able to gain experience from it and be able to grow from there.

Inside Woman: How do we get in touch with you?

Tel: 011 367-0635

Web: www.tsenelo.co.za

Facebook: Maswahla Bridget Motswasele

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