The CEO and co-founder of FORT, Shukri Toefy, a creative production company present in five African countries, speaks about a ‘youth board’ and why failure has never been an option for him.
- What are your plans for promoting youth development in Africa?
They are our future target market that will consume our content. [The stance] is so important for us that we started a youth board [with people] in their early 20s and we can ask them what is cool. [We ask them] is Snapchat still cool and are they still on Instagram? Because as we get older [as a way] to future-proof our company, we need to have our ear to the ground to know what young people are talking about. As the CEO of a creative agency, I have quarterly meetings with my youth board in which I speak to them to find out what are they wearing, where are they going and what is cool and not cool anymore, so that I can be better resourced to implement that with my clients and the rest of the people. It is a cool way of future-proofing who we are and what we do.
- What was your biggest risk?
It was starting our network across Africa. I think we put a lot of money in opening our offices in Kenya and Nigeria. If we count the flights, legal structures etc. it would be an estimate of R2 million ($136,000) to R3 million ($204,000).
- What has been your greatest challenge in the industry?
Our greatest challenge right now is that when we are in recessionary times, [so usually] marketing and communications is the first thing that is to be cut. Secondly, independently, African companies don’t have the financial backing that some of these globally-owned agencies have. So they don’t have the ability to go out and scale up [on production] like they could.
- Who is the most influential person you have worked with?
The Oxford facilitator I met in June…gave me a different perspective on life and I came back with so many tools on how to see the world and view things. He calmed me down.
- Your views on mentorship…
I have had the benefit of having coffee or breakfast with highly successful people and I think that is one of the most valuable things you could have as an entrepreneur, to actually have people that you could bounce off ideas with. That you could learn from them and their mistakes and they could guide you.
- Your biggest fear…
I am not fearful of failing because I don’t think failure is an option. I just don’t see it. It is not constructed for me…You can’t beat me. Today you might beat me and tomorrow it will be me [on top of things] because I see it as all part of my journey.
- What would you say to your 16-year-old self?
Slow down and enjoy the ride because it goes so quickly. I was in a hurry to try and take advantage of every opportunity that I had. [As a young person] you have that militancy in you to say ‘you need to take every opportunity that comes your way’. I think that is why I am here but you later realize that it is all part of the journey and there is no such thing as failure. It is about failing forward and it is about failing often. And it is about seeing it as a much bigger journey rather than your day-to-day failures.
Quarantine Reflections: How Businesses Must Lead From The Heart Now
Bisila Bokoko, born in the Equatorial Guinea, raised in Spain and now resident in New York as a businesswoman, communications consultant and motivational speaker, is a global citizen like no other.
Straddling these regions for her wine and sports retail businesses and a library project she is spearheading in Senegal, Bokoko has been on self-quarantine for the last four weeks in her Manhattan apartment, after a recent work trip to Spain.
Here, she sheds light on the Covid-19 crisis that she says has made her more reflective of how she needs to rethink her businesses. “It is an extremely confusing and challenging time with such a huge impact on everything,” she says. “Life is never going to be the same again.”
The coronavirus outbreak has changed the way we eat, shop and consume, she adds, with the most dramatic change happening in retail, because of changing values and new priorities.
“The center is going to be the human being, and the wellbeing of the human,” says Bokoko. “And this will not be from an individual perspective, but in relation to each other. We have to be a more collaborative economy, because how we are, will affect everyone else. As leadership, we now need to lead from the heart.”
In this FORBES AFRICA interview, Bokoko speaks to Managing Editor Renuka Methil, also about how the current crisis will throw up new opportunities for local African art and the fashion business.
‘The One Thing I Want To Do Before I Die’
Thembani Biyam was appointed Head of Strategy & Monetisation for OLX South Africa when he was only 28. Now, as the Head of Growth at Orderin, one of the top three online food delivery companies in South Africa, he is responsible for strategic projects, product, design and growth marketing. He speaks about his best and worst investment experience.
What do you splurge on?
Definitely food; it’s the way to my heart. Then travel. Then tech toys, mostly photography and videography stuff like drones and stabilizer sticks for shooting vlogs. I love vlogging and editing for fun.
What has your worst investment blunder been?
My best and worst experience was investing in cryptocurrency. I got in late but bought some Bitcoin and Ethereum, and my investment grew about 350% in six months. Problem is, it crashed real quickly too. I got a lot of it out in time but lost a lot of it as well.
If you had to work but didn’t need the money, what would you choose to do?
Develop high school, university and professional basketball in South Africa to, at least, the European level. It’s the one thing I want to do before I die. I was an aspiring basketball player in high school but there were no proper structures in place to fully develop and the options for me to play professionally didn’t exist. I want that for my kids.
Where do you not mind waiting?
At home. If I am out in the world, I hate waiting for anything.
Fast food or home cooking?
Home cooking anytime. But fast food delivery every now and then doesn’t hurt (especially if it’s from Orderin).
Do you own anything you consider priceless?
Nothing material. More memories and perspectives.
Should people work for money or fulfilment?
Both. We all have to eat and do nice things, right? Those things cost hard-earned [money]. I would say, if you can continually optimize your career towards work that provides a combination of both, but increasingly nearing fulfilment versus money, that would be a win.
READ MORE | ‘Worth Billions and Millions‘
What kind of debt is okay?
The type that is income generating is the ‘most’ okay. Robert Kiyosaki talks about debt that generates income like property loans, business loans, and even credit card used for positive income-generating activities. Then, there are scenarios where you may really need debt to bail you out, but hopefully, you have savings and liquid investments for that. Then, there is a grey area around things like cars, phones etc. For this category, I would say, just make sure you can afford it from your income.
Do you follow a strict budget?
I do my absolute best to. There are some ‘treat yourself’ months sprinkled in there.
Would you rather never be able to express yourself accurately or always have to say the exact truth?
I always have to say the exact truth. A world of never being able to be a little colorful and fun in expressing myself would be a dark world.
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