2012 Ideas Expo Botswana – Recap Part 1

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So I mentioned some time back on my Facebook that I had attended the 2012 Ideas Expo Botswana and intended to write a mini recap of what went down. I have finally gotten around to it! I took notes during the speakers presentations and although it won’t be as effective as watching their presentations, it’ll help you get an idea of what went down.

The aim of the two day conference was to open the minds of the attendees (most from the advertising industry here in Botswana) to new ideas and creative ways of meeting challenges. It is really tailor made for those in creative industries whether it be art, photography, design, advertising, marketing etc. And for those not necessarily in a creative industry could still learn a little something from the conference.

Ann Mary Golifer- Understanding the creative economy

Ann is a locally based visual artist and she did a short presentation on understanding the creative economy.

She began by doing a visual artistic performance that highlighted the plight of the domestic worker. Domestic workers, nannies or maids play very important roles in households by raising and looking after children and for those of us who grew up with nannies/maids/domestic workers know that in many ways they were essentially your second mother. However at the same time they are often treated very badly and underpaid. Ann likened this to the plight of the artist who is often under paid and expected to do work for free. She stated that for artists to be able to benefit from their work they have to understand the economy they are operating in and help that economy understand them.

Artists cannot continue to do work for free then one day expect to get paid. They must also collectively decide on standards concerning payment so that no one is under paid and other fly by night artists can’t demand too much which also repels the people that would normally pay for artistic work. Artists must take it upon themselves to communicate their expectations and they must also be aware of how it’s done in other markets around the world.

Personally this rang true for me in terms of my experience modelling. A lot of models here in Botswana do work for free or if they are paid it’s very little.  The danger of working for free is that people will then always expect you to work for free. By working for free we are allowing them to undervalue us. Models are often told “this is good for your portfolio”, granted if you are a new model this sounds attractive however if the person using your services will obviously benefit monetarily from your effort it’s only fair that they pay you.

I’m sure resonates with photographers, makeup artists, graphic designers, models, writers etc. If someone needs those talents, they should be prepared to compensate you for your time and effort. And they should compensate you respectfully.

Check out Golifer’s work here.

Vincent Moapare- Shaping structures that shape our lives

Mr Moapare was representing the Architecture Association of Botswana and his presentation centered on using Architectural design to shape Gaborone’s identity as a city. Because Gaborone is relatively a new city there is still ample opportunity to shape it’s identity through buildings. New malls and buildings are still coming up every few months.

Masa Center- one of the buildings in the new CBD

He presented a vision of Gaborone as a diamond city (much like Antwerp), because Botswana is one of the leading producers of diamonds in the world, diamonds can be a key part of the city’s identity. However at the same time, the diamonds will run out at some point so architects also have to start thinking about what will happen to the mines and diamond business buildings once they are no longer needed. Ideas architects had put forth included museums, apartment buildings etc.

The second part of the presentation was by architecture students that presented some of their projects. One was a building design for immigrants coming from other countries or villages within Botswana to conduct informal businesses in Gaborone. The student suggested a two story building design that would have a residence up stairs and an area for conducting business downstairs. The second student presented design ideas for using trash to provide insulation in buildings and as design elements in buildings. Both design ideas were quite creative and relevant. I hope they are put into practice one day.

Check out the AAB website here.

Kevin Aspoas- Entrepreneurship

Kevin Aspoas is the CEO and founder of The Jupiter Drawing Room, a South African based advertising agency. Being that he is a founder of a successful ad agency it was only right to have him present on entrepreneurship.

He started by delving into the state of markets currently and future trends. In previous years there was a huge push towards globalization with people trying to find the “one size fits all” for the world. However now individuality is the new trend and as such presents a big opportunity for those who are “different” or part of a niche. Being in the niche area of a market allows you to stand out and increases your competitive edge.

He stated that the most difficult part of starting your own business if the idea. Your idea has to unique or have a different spin on something that is already there in the market. In his words, you have to “see what others don’t”. Your ideas should capture the imagination and also be relevant within your context. If it’s not relevant there will be no market for it. Bounce your thoughts/ideas off other people and use their feedback whether positive or negative. Look at your idea from every possible angle and look at it critically.

Many entrepreneurs look to money to be the main motivating factor but he advised that it should not be the main driver however you do have to understand it and how it can work for you. Another essential element is understanding your business area, don’t go in blind!  For example if you are a writer but don’t understand how the publishing market works you are setting yourself up for failure, do your research!  READ. Read but don’t try to emulate other business giants, because what worked for them, may not work for you. Take a few lessons here and there and apply the ones that are relevant to your context. Even though Steve Jobs dropped out of school and succeeded, it doesn’t mean that’s your path too. And most of all he emphasized self belief. It will keep you going when times are tough.

Then he gave the following tips:

  • Do not take loans or borrow money from friends, save or borrow from your family.
  • Watch your cashflow closely
  • Only partner with people you trust
  • Discuss rules with your partners before signing anything
  • Start small and iron out issues as your business grows
  • Gain confidence at the right pace
  • Be patient, it takes longer and is harder than you think

How will you know when you have succeeded? When something unexpected happens that’ll show your progress. For example, if you are now being approached by potential customers rather than you constantly hunting for opportunities.

The last pieces of advice he gave during question time was to not be greedy and always stay ahead of the pack by constantly refreshing your idea.

I think his presentation was very valuable to anyone trying to be their own boss.

Check out the Jupiter Drawing Room website here.

And here ends part 1 of my re-cap, part 2 to follow soon!

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