Gaona Means Business
While many radio personalities are mainly entertainers, Gaona Tlhasana decided to use her presence on radio to drive her passion- igniting entrepreneurial development in Botswana, through her weekday 3 hours show on RB2-The Urban Flava’s. She decided to do more than just educate and inform her listeners but to be an agent of social change.
Her first 2 years on radio took her on a rollercoaster ride, as she tried to find her feet and reach a level of comfort in what she was doing. Having worked alongside other RB2 personalities and also looking up to other radio presenters in and out of the country, it took a while for her to find herself and to be comfortable just being different because she had initially thought a typical radio presenter is one who is quirky, funny and a disc jockey, but with time she gained the confidence to be bold enough to just be her authentic self and to use radio as a platform to address what was close to her heart-youth and women empowerment, entrepreneurial development and personal growth and development through inspirational and empowering content, which would have a social impact. “That’s when I decided what I had to offer my listeners had to come from me, not imitating someone,” says Gaona.
It was through this passion that she established The Business Factory segment on her show, The Urban Flava’s. This platform came at a time when youth unemployment was starting to escalate with an influx in unemployed graduates and she wanted to empower her listeners with knowledge and skills on being enterprising and using their passion to generating income for themselves. The show invites successful entrepreneurs to inspire aspiring entrepreneurs and SMME’s by sharing their journey’s and key lessons they have learned from their experiences, also invited, are financiers, investors and any other service provider that can help create an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Botswana. More over The Business Factory is a free platform for upcoming entrepreneurs to get exposure as a lot of start-ups do not have marketing budgets. As someone very passionate about women empowerment, she is concerned there is more interest shown by men, to take advantage of this opportunity availed on the show, than women, and she calls on more women entrepreneurs to step up and be a part of this great opportunity.
This intelligent and proactive 31 year old young lady does have some entrepreneurial background as before she started with RB2 in 2006, she was a hair dresser and had plans to start a mobile hair salon. She was brought up in an entrepreneurial family and that continues to inspire her today, which is why she decided in 2009 that she had to find a way of using her presence on radio to help promote the cause. She says the feedback from listeners has been amazing and the listeners get a chance to interact with their invited guests on this segment by calling in, through email and social media, and she has been able to grow the show through the constructive feedback the segment has received.
The segment aims to help change mind-sets as Batswana are generally used to the idea of being employees and “climbing the ladder” versus creating that ladder by running their own businesses. Even when young people want to seek alternative sources of income through entrepreneurship, the societal mentality is often demoralising as risk taking and failure are not encouraged or celebrated though they are inevitable with entrepreneurship. She believes this lack of enthusiasm may be due to people having fear of the unknown as entrepreneurship is a path that most of the older generation has never taken. But fear is cured by knowledge and taking action. “The more risks you take and mistakes you make, the more you learn because now you know what to do or not to do” she says adamantly. The Business Factory is meant to help bridge that gap, especially with such a high rate of unemployment especially amongst youth. “Starting a business and creating employment for yourself and others is the solution for individuals and the nation,” she says.
She also took a similar approach when she set-up her Facebook page “Gaona Tlhasana” that currently has a following of almost 40 000 people, by giving small businesses the opportunity to be profiled on the page every Friday, even though it proved to not be sustainable, as very few entrepreneurs took advantage of this with another challenge being the quality of businesses young people had. This in itself was an indication of the mindsets and attitude most of our youth have towards entrepreneurship.
The current entrepreneurial landscape in the country may be one of the issues that discourages young people but she urges Batswana to start thinking of and understanding that the world we live in is a global village that Botswana is part of. The 2 million people in Botswana are not the only market that needs clothes, food, electronics, services and entertainment as examples. Africa alone has closed to 1 billion consumers and a portion of that is most likely a market you have not explored and yet viable.
She further says a lot of young people want instant gratification and want quick returns, but that is not how business works. “We don’t have the hunger and drive. We are too comfortable such that even the major problems that we face do not seem to inspire us enough to want to help come up with solutions for them” she says of the youth of Botswana.
Gaona was one of the 15 Batswana, from over 500 Batswana applicants, to be selected to join a group of 500 young African leaders for the Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF) programme, due to her interest and her role in Botswana’s entrepreneurial landscape through The Business Factory. During the 6 weeks she spent in the Unites States of America for MWF, she realised that a lot of young people around Africa who are from even more disadvantaged communities than us, are playing critical roles in developing their countries including in the business sphere, which led to the awakening of the sleeping giant in her, and inspired her to come back and do even more for her country. “I believe I was selected because I want to see social transformation in our nation, and I am doing something about it, I am part of the movement,” she said when asked why she thinks she was selected from over 50 000 applicants from around the continent.
While in the US, she learnt a lot about social entrepreneurship. Nowadays entrepreneurial minds have discovered that solving social issues can be turned into a profit making venture for sustainability. Communities have a lot of problems and solutions exist in our youthful minds. These solutions can be enterprises. A business minded person finds a solution to an already existing problem or challenge.
“This is what I learnt and it is an element I want to introduce to The Business Factory as Batswana are not as aware of the concept as other Africans and yet business can be established from such models. As an entrepreneur you should be asking yourself, “what problem am I solving,” before, “what products am I selling?”
There is nothing wrong with donations and some causes do require donations but where possible she would like to see young Batswana entrepreneurs in the social entrepreneurship space. This will not only help the country and the continent to stop receiving hand-outs and donations, but also be able to solve its problems in a sustainable manner. As some young Batswana are starting to take seriously the role they can play in shaping the business sector, it is crucial that they learn now the importance of the value chain and the power of collaboration. Through her show, listeners and guests are able to connect, network and form partnerships.
She also emphasises the power of mentorship. The concept is not common in Botswana but she believes Botswana has a lot of great minds that young people should be reaching out to, for mentorship.
As she has always had passion for entrepreneurship, she will in good time, run her own business but will still continue to inspire and empower Batswana entrepreneurs and urges young entrepreneurs to take advantage of opportunities availed for them to grow and develop their businesses, like The Business Factory!
By: Lenah Kedikaetswe
Stylist: Tumie Nthutang
Photography by: One Motlhabane
Wardrobe by: Gilded Sands by Aobakwe Molosiwa
Location: Sky Lounge