Wednesday, August 10, 2011

BATSWANA doing business creatively: Mpho Laing

You know, as over-the-top as people that don’t know me may view me, ke ngwanyana hela wa Serowe, that takes anything that comes and doesn’t fuss. With that said though, I say, there is a totally exciting and different world out there that is worth exploring. This exposure helps one appreciate both the finer things and little things in life. So as much as I may at times get frustrated with the pace of things back home and snail-pace growth of my favourite industry, fashion/entertainment, I still appreciate being a Motswana and the unique opportunities I’ve been showered with in my beloved country.”

This week we speak with Mpho Zcephalya LAING better known as Ms Laing within Gaborone’s fashion-aware community. She has had and continues to enjoy a successful career in lifestyle consultancy as fashion editor, stylist and events coordinator. Born in Serowe, Botswana she currently lives between Gaborone and Lagos, Nigeria. Why you ask, well she is Project Manager – West Africa, for Global Village Partnerships; an International Company that is in over fifty countries around the world.

It’s always been my dream to come to Nigeria. Having met a few Nigerians in RSA, the US and Malaysia; their confidence, egos and on top of the world personas intrigued me. And me being me, I had to come to the source of all the excitement, haha!

My role is to produce the Best of Nigeria series, which basically celebrates the success stories of this country through profiling the leaders in various industries – best of entrepreneurs and enterprises. I still fly the Flag high in the Fashion and Cultural industries, as work progresses in Naija.

A day in the life of Mpho
Interestingly, I do not have one day that’s similar to the other. On a normal basis it is emails before I head off to see various prospective clients to make presentations, or in some instances to follow-up on the clients I had met before. Being the social being I am, early evenings are mostly filled with cocktails, corporate receptions or drinks with new contacts. These kind of set-ups have proved to be the best network platforms thus far. And simply put, I’ve been hit by the Naija bug!

We mention her recent stint as covergirl for local lifestyle magazine Lapologa and her upcoming feature in Naija's FAB mag – wondering if the 'behind the scenes' girl who used to be a wardrobe consultant for magazine and film alike has become GC’s IT girl?
Haha! IT girl sounds so cheesy... Though it is always great to be appreciated. Grown-up girls like me don’t really look at things like that as the ultimate or even a barometer for our worth. Otherwise, I would grow a bigger head in Lagos, because I feature in weekly publications more than I can count; this here is a Media and Red Carpet buzz society. There are many other things that I need to achieve than be on a cover of a magazine. When I am where I want to be, I’ll still be happy with being behind-the-scenes.

On what to expect from Mpho in the next couple of years
More like, what do I expect from me. I’ve never been the one to conform to societal pressures nor beat myself up to expectations by external sources. Like they say, ‘The unknown is yet to be discovered,’ and I am on my journey.

Despite this wanderlust, does she ever miss home
Other than magwinya, serobe, bogobe ja lerotse le seswaa*; it has to be the laid back peace of mind that is unique to this Gem of Africa we call Botswana. We don’t realise this sometimes, but we are a special lot with priceless presence. Most important on that list is the love of my life - my darling daughter Lame and family, of course.

Having previously worked on a Best of Botswana book we ask her about her association with that particular initiative
That is a project that will always stay close to my heart. What more can a girl ask for than play a major role in helping brand her country and celebrate the success stories with the whole world. I Managed the project and worked with my friend and ‘brother,’ Thapelo Letsholo from scratch. This has inspired my move to West Africa to run and Manage the project out here, as a shareholder too.

The state of fashion in Botswana– is there an industry or isn’t there
Quite interesting that just a year ago, this wasn’t a very appealing industry to most, but today we are talking a different language. Most young girls want to be models, thanks to the likes of Kaone Kario and beauty Queens like Emma Wareus, and almost every fashion design student/graduate wants to host a fashion week or run a modelling agency. Question is, do we have a big market to absorb all these activities or are we just going to run down the quality and expectations of the consumer to a point where we lose the little interest we’ve so far managed to build? Major players....hmmm, let’s give it a few more years.

We talk Naija
It is beyond words how I’ve been embraced by this non-conventional, challenging, exciting, chaotic, energetic and extreme society. I have never felt like this about any other country I have been to. The most interesting thing about Nigeria is that you either love it or loath it, and there is also a very thin line between treading the right circles and the wrong ones. And if you are here for work, the influential and right circles are a priority.

I love the confidence and energy that Nigerian people hold within them, be it a cook, a driver, a CEO or a criminal, they give their all into what they do and aspire to be the greatest. Life is expensive here, so one cannot afford to be redundant. And I just chuckle when people back home say all these ignorant and negative things about Naija, because there is a lot we could learn from this ‘work hard, play hard’ nation. And of course, they could learn a few things from us too.

Mpho’s last words
My ultimate dream is to see Nigerian investors spend their money in Botswana, something a lot of them would love to do but have never explored, as bigger and more aggressive markets like RSA have appealed to them more. There is a lot we could also bring into this country. These are a few things I am working on at the moment, including very close to my heart project that I am launching end of August in Gabs. I’ll be partnering with Urban Space to import Ankara (Traditional Fabric) female designs to Botswana. Quite excited about this venture and looking forward to its growth.

We’ll be watching this space dressed no doubt in the Ankaras Mpho is soon bringing to our shores …

* a list of Setswana cuisine including but not limited to tripe and freshly ground beef

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting interview. There really is something quite exciting about Nigeria, a manic energy we don't have in Bots. Looking forward to hearing more about your projects.