Saturday, 9 September, saw girl bosses enter the elegant Mesh Club in Rosebank for the second annual #COSMOHustle2017 Career Workshop. COSMO Editor Holly Meadows explained the motivation behind the event: ‘With unemployment rife in South Africa, this career workshop is one of the ways that COSMO plays a small part in flipping the statistics.’ The #COSMOHustle campaign has been a consistent feature of the magazine, aiming to create conversations to make readers the best possible version of themselves. The workshop is the pinnacle of this, bringing together like-minded, career-focused women. The only thing louder than the hot-pink COSMO couch was the cheers as we kicked off the morning – Boschendal wine in hand. The dream team consisted of COSMO’s September cover star Ayanda Thabethe, CEO and founder of Orgella Media Allegro Dinkwanyane, rap sensation Rouge and the uncensored chat queens of Pap Culture.
The birth of Rouge is a tale of twists and turns as this rapper used every rock thrown at her as a stepping stone to reach levels many would envy. She took over the #COSMOHustle2017 stage with as much presence as you would expect from a raven-haired rebel and shared tips on how to command your life. Thereafter, Allegro touched on how you can learn and then earn in your industry. The famously uncensored sisters of Pap Culture shared tips and tricks on how to build a digital presence and speak your truth. The morning ended off with a Q&A session with Ayanda, whose journey from climbing the pharmaceutical corporate ladder, to her newest role as Top Billing presenter and Pond’s ambassador proves the saying that it takes ’20 years to become an overnight success’.
Here are the top 16 lessons I learnt during the workshop:
1 March to the beat of your own drum
In music circles, the term ‘allegro‘ refers to a quick music tempo, while also describing lively movements in ballet. After witnessing Allegro in action, this 27-year-old has once again proved that you are never too young to pursue your dreams. It is clear that she does indeed march to the beat of her own – fast-paced – drum and she has no intention of slowing down to fit in with society’s expectations of what a 20-something should be like.
2 Do what you love
‘It irritates me that young people see Fridays as Christmas, because that is how much they dislike their jobs,’ says Allegro. ‘Do what you love and work hard at it – I went into the industry with the intention to learn and then remove the L and EARN.’
3 Back yourself while you build
After completing her honours in marketing, Ayanda initially struggled to find a job and worked as a PA. ‘I knew that it was never my final destiny and so I made sure that every single day someone new saw my CV. Every discussion can take you one step closer to your destination,’ she said. Rouge also promotes the idea of building your skill before the big break. ‘During the waiting times, I would write songs every day as if tomorrow was going to be the day that my big break was going to happen,’ she says.
4 Be realistic
‘Realise that, as an entrepreneur, you will go broke – initially,’ says Allegro. However, lack of finances is a go-to excuse holding many back. ‘I started my company with R7 000. You need to ask yourself whether what you claim to be budgeting for is really something you need.’
5 Needs versus wants
‘By identifying and prioritising what needs capital first, the list of expenses when you start your business will be less daunting,’ says Allegro. Both Ayanda and Allegro note that an area of unnecessary expense is office space. Allegro admits that for the first two years, she ran her company from a coffee shop with free Wi-Fi.
6 Finding the perfect partner
Once you have taken the emphasis away from finances, you can protect yourself from the pitfalls of forced financial partnerships. ‘Don’t involve anyone just because they have money. Often they end up being your downfall,’ warns Allegro. Rouge also warns against this, noting that ‘when I signed with a label I didn’t read the contract, I just thought, “this is how Beyoncé does it” and I paid the price.’
7 Beat on your chest
When you have nothing else, just beat on your chest. Rouge’s acclaimed song Mbongo Zaka was crafted while sitting in her kitchen and creating the rhythm by beating on her chest because she didn’t have funds for studio time. ‘To this day, I come up with the beat for all my songs by beating on my chest – it reminds me of that moment and how far I have come,’ she says.
8 Feedback is crucial
As much as we need to have confidence in our vision, evaluating your progress at each step is very helpful. The ladies of Pap Culture highlight that one of the issues pointed out by fans when they just started was they would switch between languages. Although this was authentic to how the South Africa youth converse, it often excluded viewers who couldn’t speak that language and so they incorporated subtitles into their videos. Sharing opinions is beneficial to all. Allegro warns about issues like the Queen Bee Syndrome, noting that women cannot afford to be territorial. ‘Sharing ideas is our power,’ she says. ‘I am a product of mentorship and that is why my company runs the Boss Chiq mentorship programmes.’ Mentorship is a powerful tool that is taking on many different forms in the modern era. For example, it does not only have to happen face to face. ‘Reading your role model’s biographical book could teach you just as much about their journey as an hour-long coffee date.’
9 Remain disciplined
All the ladies warned against living beyond your means when you do start earning those randellas. ‘Often, debt occurs because you are trying to keep up with others – learn to trust the journey of yourself’,’ says Allegro. ‘Finances are about honesty with yourself,’ says Ayanda. ‘If someone else is in a different stage of their life than you, don’t feel like you need to force your finances to keep up with a standard of life that you are not at yet.’
10 Making short-term sacrifices pays off in the long-term
Although Ayanda had established herself at Johnson & Johnson earlier in her corporate career, she felt the move to L’Oréal would bring her closer to her dream of being a brand manager – but the move meant she would have to start from the bottom. ‘Despite my experience in the corporate world, I had relatively little marketing experience and so had to make the decision to take a pay cut and work as an intern.’
11 Lean in with leverage
During her time as an intern at L’Oréal, Ayanda pushed herself to gain experience in various fields while working in the lower ranks. This meant that by the end of her first year as an intern, she had the confidence and ammunition to approach her bosses for a promotion, knowing that there was nothing more that the current brand managers were doing that she had not already learnt. ‘This was my lean-in moment.’ The Lean In movement, as popularised by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, has been dubbed the new wave of feminism in business, encouraging women to demand the recognition they deserve. ‘I ensured I had done the work to back up my request for promotion,’ Ayanda says.
12 The boiling-pot theory
When discussing how she made the move and founded her company, Buzzworthy, Ayanda follows the ‘boiling-pot-theory’. The best time to move on to a new opportunity is when it begins to boil over. ‘Before I made the move from L’Oréal to the entertainment industry full-time, I would go to castings in between my lunch break,’ she says. ‘Only when it got to the point that the entertainment industry was taking over my corporate room for growth, did I make the change.’
13 The value of two years
‘What many people don’t realise is that just two years ago, I was sleeping on my sister’s couch in her one-bedroom flat trying to make it in this industry,’ says Ayanda. Her road to success also proves that it is never too late to pursue your passion. Many people are shocked to learn that Rouge also fell into her career late in life. Despite her lifelong love of music, having studied drama and film in Pretoria, Rouge only got into rap at 19. ‘Until then, I thought I was going to be a Lion King Broadway sensation,’ she says.
14 14 14 14 14 14 14 14 14 14
14 Focus on Brand YOU
‘Social media is not just a social-connection tool but is a self-marketing tool,’ says Ayanda. ‘I applied the various marketing lessons I learnt at L’Oréal to myself as the product.’ With 495 000 Instagram followers, it seems to have worked! Rouge jokes that she initially never took branding too seriously. ‘What is branding?’ she would say. ‘I am talented and talent is all I need.’ Over time, she realised that branding is crucial not just for the launch of a career but to ensure longevity. ‘Branding goes to your core – it is highly personal and emotional. My hair is probably the most recognisable feature about me, but I have been wearing it like this since I was a teenager – it has always been a part of me and by extension it became a part of my brand.’
15 Quality over quantity
Pap Culture advises that taking your time before uploading something has its benefits. ‘Young people are in such a rush to get out there that we are often cheating ourselves of the quality of content we could actually produce.’ With vlogs, relatability is key and there is a fine line between authenticity and commercialism. By ensuring quality sponsorship that make sense to the Pap Culture brand, consistency is maintained. This consistency in high-quality online content is also crucial. ‘Instagram is the gallery of your life and we work every day at building our show’s online CV,’ they say.
16 You never know who is watching
Many artists speak about their big-break moment. Rouge’s came when performing at a high-profile event among the top players in the industry. ‘Getting on that stage was hard as I knew that most of the people had no clue who I was and the others were all drunk,’ she says. ‘I had to make the decision to go on stage and perform as if every single person was there just for me.’ Her choice paid off and the next morning she woke up to hundreds of notifications. ‘I was so confused – at the time I had, like, 30 followers. Turns out AKA was in that audience and tweeted about my performance.’ Six months later and Rouge joined the likes of Moozlie and other powerhouses for AKA’s Baddest Remix.
There was a sense of camaraderie as women left the #COSMOHustle2017 workshop inspired and, most importantly, equipped.
Read more #COSMOHustle career advice here: