The lioness of Africa

The lioness of Africa

MASERU – GROWING up in Mafeteng, a small dusty town 80km south of Maseru, Alicia Motšoane found business exciting.

And so after school, she would buy second hand clothes from South Africa and sell on the market in her home town.

When she realised that clothes would not sell fast enough for her to make a healthy profit, Motšoane switched to selling home-made food on the streets.

She always looked for business opportunities. It was as if business was written in her DNA.

More than three decades after she first ventured into business, Motšoane is today among the leading women businesswomen in Lesotho.

Motšoane was one of the 10 women who were handed ‘the Lionesses of Africa” awards by Standard Lesotho Bank for their outstanding contribution in business last week.

The bank described Motšoane as one of the lionesses of Africa in business.

From a mere hawker selling second-hand clothes, Motšoane is now running a thriving business empire that encompasses furniture shops and a morgue.

Motšoane is running a chain of successful furniture shops, Prestige Furniture, represented in all three regions of Lesotho.

She is also running Sentebale Funeral Gap, a rapidly growing funeral parlour.

Motšoane says she founded her businesses on a platform of hard work.

She says she did not inherit any wealth from her parents who were mere peasant farmers in Kotata in Likhoele, a rural area in Mafeteng district.

Neither did her parents bequeath to her any property which she could sell to raise capital.

Her father was a goats’ breeder who depended on the sale of mohair to make ends meet while her mother was a school teacher.

She says their situation was sometimes so desperate that she was left with no choice but to venture into business to break the cycle of poverty.

Motšoane says her childhood came along with a whole lot of inspiration and a great deal of perception.

She matriculated from ’Masentle High School and then pursued Home Economics at the Lesotho College of Agriculture but unfortunately things did not work out well for her.

At the end and she had to enrol with another college, the Institute of Extra Mural Studies where she studied Adult Education.

She says she did not depend on a stipend from the National Manpower Development Secretariat during her college days, as do many students.

Her second hand clothes business kept the wolf off the door.

To get inspiration, Motšoane turned to books.

“I am the kind of a person who enjoys reading and learning a lot of things outside of my lifestyle,” she says.

“Just like any other person, I worked together with the lawyers and worked for a couple of years with Metropolitan Lesotho to gain some experience.”

“I have always been involved in business from the day I was able to establish communication skills. Ever since then I developed the love of selling clothes, food and anything from my teenage years.”

She says she “grew up in a loving and caring family which has always guided me all the way”.

“I do not define myself as a successful woman, even though some think I have made it in life.”

“I have not yet achieved much in my life but I am working hard to fulfil my dream of building a lot of property and bring more physical developments in communities,” she says.

Motsoane’s parents were both not wealthy but she says she picked important lessons from them.

She married a husband who was equally enthusiastic about business and they worked together founded Prestige Furniture and Sentebale Funeral Gap.

“For everyone who is in business, the biggest challenge is how to get capital to start. A lot of times, the banks refuse to loan the start-ups,” she says.

She says she has built her life on confidence, experiments and exploration.

“It is not just about the ability to solve problems. It is about the capacity to reach up,” she says.

She says she begins and ends each day with her mission statement, which is to live fully and have an impact in society.

But what are the biggest obstacles for women in business?

“We tend to stand in our own way. We create stories that hobble ourselves. We do not recognize the true value in our own inner coach and for that we need reframing,” she says.

“Many of us suffer from fear of failure. That is not clever.”

She says businessmen and women should be in a position to differentiate the money which belongs to the business and the money which goes into their pocket.

“Apart from so many challenges which I came across, I cannot forget the day when Prestige Furniture at Sefika Complex was burnt to ashes with about M5 million worth of furniture.”

 

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