The story on CNN about a muslim comedian who found himself sitting next to Donald Trump’s son, Eric Trump, on a flight to Glasgow on December 1st inspired the addition of a news page that will share with everyone the stories of people who we just happen to meet.
On December 1st on a flight back from Cape Town I was seated next to Christel Rohrs and although not a celebrity, in the exchange of introductions and brief chat that followed, it became obvious that Christel is a superstar in the real world, doing interesting things that make ordinary people feel special. Follow Christel’s story to be posted in the next few weeks.
No selfies or celebrity hype surrounding my chance meeting with Christel or the other amazing people I meet at the SuperReturn Africa Summit that I had attended in Cape Town. Nonetheless the experience, the starlike gesture of being awarded second place and the exuberance of such a prestigious event, took on a sense of celebrity fame and gave a glimmer of what being a star is like, a bit fuzzy and some what fictional, detached from reality.
Kusasa was selected to participate in the start-up academy, giving innovation and entrepreneurship exposure at the event and the opportunity to pitch our innovation to the first day attendees.
We are proud to have been included in the line-up to compete for recognition, and thrilled to have in our reception area the certificate as testimony to our achievement and a bottle of French Champaign for celebrating.
The entrepreneurs that feature in our line-up of stories, hardly fuzzy, no fiction, are unique willing to share their struggles and that keeps it real.
Imhanya from Harare Zimbabawe. Ketan Patel founder and CEO, is the driving force behind Imhanya, the deserving 1st place winner in the SuperReturn Africa 2016 Summit, Start-up Academy.
According to the Economic Freedom 2016 Index snapshot of economic fundamentals, Zimbabwe ranks 175th in global ranking and 46th in sub-Saharan Africa with a repressed economic freedom status which has suppressed entrepreneurial activity.
Poverty and unemployment are both endemic in Zimbabwe, driven by a shrinking economy and hyper-inflation and a hostile investment climate that compound the problems faced by entrepreneurs surrounded by large numbers of businesses going bankrupt.
Considering the problems Zimbabweans the poorest people in Africa facing economic ruin,are up against finding solutions are difficult and mostly left to government and civil society to address. Not so for Ketan,
Patel, his vision was to effect change. He identified an opportunity in the worst situation and set about tackling the problem with a revolutionary idea.
Ketan’s idea of recycling shipping containers, refurbished for attractive exterior aesthetics and a practical interior use, to become last-mile distribution hubs for fast moving consumer goods, financial services and LPG gas was just the beginning. Even the challenges and successful outcome of implementing advanced cloud technology to operate the hubs was dwarfed against the real success, making his vision to effect change, a reality.
Ketan and his team bridge the gap between the informal sector and formal distribution channels. Imhanya’s social franchise business model impact over 2000 lives with each pod and Ketan’s direct experiences in local circumstances has made this possible.
An outstanding entrepreneur, Ketan’s business savvy and persistence has enabled him to turn his idea through struggle and sacrifice into a business, and currently in a fund raising round, the struggle continues.
Most investors admit to investing in the person rather than the business and may have a vague inkling of the indefinable struggles and sacrifices that become part of an entrepreneurs DNA, but as every investor
wants to back the entrepreneur that can make it happen, show more interest in the entrepreneurs attributes often comparing popular examples of successful entrepreneurs to measure their expectations.
How do aspiring entrepreneurs attract, measure up and convince an investor to support them before they become recognised. Understanding the fundraising process and building a pitch is a good start for an investor to evaluate your company, but how do you convince an investor to support you, a first-time entrepreneur.
We are taking the next step to elevate investor CRM. Tell your story including the struggles and sacrifices,
confident in your own talents, untouched by the myths surrounding entrepreneurs, so investors and others come to appreciate your own unique qualities.
We are taking the next step in bridging the chasm between investor and entrepreneur. The emphasis on entrepreneurs in and of themselves in terms of their ability to make it happen is misplaced. The focus should be on the entrepreneurial ecosystems within which they operate.
Kusasa’s financial digital innovation offers the supportive environment in which entrepreneurs will depend to become high growth profitable companies, that I believe, will attract investors within the system to be co-financing patient long-term finance needed to affect change.
A chance meeting, a two minute conversation while waiting for the opportunity to reach up and retrieve hand luggage from the over head compartment before disembarking from the plane, was how Christel and I connected and although brief, I immediately realised, Christel is special and her “journey” tells an inspiring story for all women.
Christel’s laughter could be heard throughout trailer fourteen. It had been her home for seven months. She grabbed her running shoes and a cup of coffee, sat down and began preparing herself for her routine morning run. Shona noticed a South African magazine, lying on the table. “May I read your magazine?” shouted Shona as Christel was leaving. “Of course, enjoy it,” replied Christel. Celeste poured herself a cup of coffee too and sat down next to Shona.
“She felt smothered and trapped in her marriage, yet believed that love would conquer these feelings and that she should not give up trying”. Shona was reading from the South African magazine, took a sip of coffee and continued reading . . . .”At the tender age of 20 years, her idealistic view of love drove her to marry her first love, despite the concerns of her family and friends. As the relationship became more strained and she was the outlet of his anger outbursts, she withdrew even further from her friends and family, and clung more to him, hoping this would lessen the outbursts. She still believed that love would conquer all. She also believed that the blame lay with her and as a Christian she was not to get a divorce.
Her eyes grew dimmer each year due to the emotional pain she was experiencing. Her behaviour became more robotic and daily life became a greater challenge. Finally after thirteen years, she found the courage to leave her marriage. It was a painful and traumatic journey. Her self-esteem and worth were battered and she never imagined that she would ever be able to help others, who like her, felt worthless. What a wonderful journey lay before her—from the poor in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal, to the prostitutes in Thailand, she re-discovered herself. Today she knows: You can find healing and a new life in foreign places.”
Shona took another sip of coffee as she continued reading:
“The painful journey towards healing began in July of 2000. A friend saw the lifelessness in Christels’ eyes and believed her when she said, “I would rather die, than live like this!”. She offered Christel accommodation in her garden cottage for a few days, and this provided some space away from home to decide upon her future.
Shona stopped reading and in shock, said out aloud—“Is this Christel, our Christel who is in this trailer?” She continued reading to find out.
“It was a long and hard road to freedom. Eventually on 21st August 2001, she received her divorce. She had no energy left to fight, she walked away with her freedom and will power to start again, both financially and emotionally. She had lost her home and belongings, but she had her freedom. Her friends and family supported her through this time although they had no idea of the trauma leading to this. They were supportive to ensure that she would be safe and did what they could to help with the loneliness and the fear of the unknown that she felt. She was still influenced by his behaviours and phone calls and the memories from 13 years with him, in her small town. She resigned from her management position, had a garage sale of the possessions she had left and sought a new life.”
“Two months later, she left for America, to Fort Lauderdale, to seek a job in the boating industry. She worked as a hostess on a luxury motor yacht that did charters to the Bahamas and the Virgin-Islands. The cleaning work and dealing with guests was the perfect job for this time. With only 5 crew members who all got on well, she had time to work through a lot of pain. She still felt the need to make contact with her ex-husband. Leaving the relationship was more emotionally challenging than what she had anticipated. There were many wounds that needed healing. Fifteen months of working on the motor yacht, allowed her to save a substantial amount of money to re-establish herself. She was overwhelmed by the freedom to enjoy life again, to feel valued and appreciated. It felt strange yet right to be able to spoil herself with new clothes and luxuries, which were forbidden fruits in her marriage. Christel felt enormous gratitude to have experienced new places, kind hearted people and everyday pleasures again.”
“With great excitement and also slightly perplexed, Shona and Celeste couldn’t help looking at one another with the same look of agreement—this is Christel who lives in our trailer. They couldn’t help themselves, they both remained mesmerized by the story. They continued to read on.
“. . . After 14 months on the motor yacht, Christel was given the opportunity to do a road trip with the mate on the boat. He was the most honest man she had met. She felt comfortable with him and he created a safe environment for her to heal and enjoy the first true vacation she had had since childhood. They travelled for three months, travelling 10500 miles across the USA, beginning in north Miami, through to Minnesota and Wisconsin, then down through Texas and back up to Oregon, travelling south to San Francisco, California. While in Oregon, an opportunity came up to study Stott Pilates, which was a passion she had, and it would come in useful in the future. Christel experienced a change in herself as she began to feel more empowered to make her own choices and to know she was responsible for the consequences.
In September of 2002, Christel returned to South Africa and began pursuing instructing Pilates and personal training, both being her passion. It became apparent to Christel that her life had been protected by the presence of God throughout her most vulnerable moments. Even in this period of healing, and in her own hopelessness and despair she saw there was hope and potential surrounding her.
The research she had done on YWAM (Youth With A Mission) inspired her to seek out the courses they had to offer to do mission work. This led her to Los Angeles to do a 5 month school with YWAM in January 2003 and began yet another journey of healing and adventure.”
This is the first chapter of Christel’s book, which she wrote and published to help women and children struggling in abusive relationships.
Christel has counselled women and girls as a volunteer with an NGO in Thailand and says “ I am so passionate about counselling and walking the journey with people, because without changing ones mindset, it is virtually impossible to expect actions or bad habits to change.
In the book, I elaborate more on the adventures and also, through my life story and the emotions expressed, it becomes apparent to the reader, why I (and others) stay in abusive relationships….. and although they may have strong characters and come from decent families, getting out of these relationships is not always easy, but it is possible and my story gives hope for that”.
Christel’s book is on sale as this revenue helps sustain her volunteer work in Thailand, however, Christel will send us more chapters of her story that elaborate on the adventures and emotions that map her journey.