I had the privilege of interviewing a joyful ambitious young lady. She was bold enough to attend the Blaze BYOB events. Her pitch was unique, strong and original. A characteristic that gave her a pass to participate in the Blaze byob season two.
Despite her presence on air short lived, her free spirit is not dampened. In fact, she is more ferocious to achieve her goals to become her own boss. She recognizes that being an entrepreneur, her greatness is required from her internal toughness. Sybril Atemo is one tough lady, graceful, jovial and creative. She reveals her moments at blaze and has nothing but good advice for entrepreneurs like her. Read on my exclusive interview with her.
Incase you missed the episode, you can always catch up here
- Tell us about your entrepreneurship journey before the Blaze BYOB show?
I have been running an online magazine called Vangarde Afrika since May 2017. Our mission is to Inform, Inspire and Empower Creatives and we do that through the monthly issues that come out every month. Like every other young entrepreneur, I had challenges in accessing funds to scale up my business, access the right networks and improve the quality of content our readers get. I joined Blaze to learn more about how I can better my business and the experience so far has been beyond amazing!
• What would you say are the top 3 things you have learnt from the mentorship show?
The top three lessons I am taking with me from Blaze would be
1 The importance of team work: Team work because on BLAZE, the challenges are carried out in teams and you have to work with a group of people that you are probably meeting for the first time on the show, put aside everything that may affect your productivity and focus on the team’s objectives.
2 A ‘no-excuses’ mentality’: The show has crazy timelines and the expectations are so high when it comes to the challenges. If you don’t deliver you definitely lose in the challenge so you have to operate with an ‘all-things-are-possible’ kind of mentality.
3 G.R.I.T: The competition is tough. You are battling it out with 11 of the most brilliant youth entrepreneurs in the country, have very tight deadlines and experience tough challenges. Giving up is an option which none of us was ready to take so that builds the GRIT spirit in you. No stopping before the finish line!
• What is the best lesson you learnt from the show?
The biggest lesson I took from the show would be that, it is possible to give more than a hundred percent, be extra, dedicate the best version of yourself and still ‘fail’. Even after that, you are still expected to be strong, pull yourself together and move on. (Beyonce- Year of 4) For a long time that was just one of the many quotes in my notebook but after I became the first contestant to be evicted, I felt in the flesh. (She chuckles) I had to live it. I really gave my all when it came to the challenge and never in a million years would I have imagined that I’d be the first contestant to go home. The price of being ‘too ambitious’ I guess haha. No one owes you anything in this life and when I found myself in that moment, I had to pull myself together, remember my strengths and forge on like the winner that I am! That to me was the ultimate definition of G.R.I.T. Also, for the record; I am not a good leader, I am not a bad leader- I am an EXCELLENT and EFFECTIVE leader.
• What is the biggest challenge you faced on the show?
Being team leader on Week 1 had to be my biggest challenge. We had gotten quite comfortable around each other and it hadn’t hit us yet that one person would be going home every week. Getting to manage my team (F1TSTOPS) and seeing how everyone reacted under pressure as well as how strong their team work skills were was crazy.
• Why were you shocked to be the first evictee?
I am a very hard working and optimistic person and I never expected to be the first person to go home. I had given my best and thought the judges would look at the situation the same way but they did not see that and I ended up getting evicted. It was very painful for me at the time but now, I realize that everything I was supposed to learn from the Blaze experience required me to participate actively in just one episode. I still don’t think I was evicted fairly but that is now water under the bridge. Moving on swiftly to better things! The future is sooo bright!
• Briefly tell us about your business idea- why are you so passionate about graphic design, photography and writing?
Design, photography and writing are just but a few of the avenues that I use to express myself as a creative. For a long time, my dream was to work with one of the leading magazines in Kenya, to be specific. I applied unsuccessfully until one day I figured out, why not just start my own? And boom! Vangarde was born. I always knew I’d work for a magazine at one point, just didn’t know it would be mine! My dream is to create an African type of ‘Vogue’ and document all levels of crazy creativity from the many talented people here. I am just getting started. Watch this space.
• What have been some of your failures in running your business, and how do you rise above them in them in the spirit of G.R.I.T?
First of all, I don’t believe in failure. Let’s refer to it as learning experiences or re-direction. Some of the challenges I encountered were putting together a strong team that was down for the dream and ready to do whatever it took to deliver. I had to drop some joy riders along the way who were my friends and that wasn’t easy at first but it had to be done to protect the dream. Another lesson I had to learn at first when I had next to zero readership after the magazine launched was to be consistent throughout the process and to never give up. Last year a time like this, my magazine was just but an idea. Less than a year later, I am on national TV because of that particular idea. I encourage anyone reading this to never give up.
• What’s next for your business now that you are out of the show?
I am now focused on improving the quality of content that we will be publishing and getting more writers and content creators from all over the continent. I have other plans in the pipeline but I don’t want to mention them now. I’d rather show you the results haha. No jinxing!
• What would you do different if you are taken back to the show?
I’d do nothing different. I gave more than a hundred percent in the one challenge I was privileged to be a part of and have absolutely no regrets about my time on the show. There is no phone call I could have made that I didn’t, no strings I could have pulled that I spared. I left no stone unturned. Of course, I have my own lessons that I picked from the show but if I went back, my execution and how I conducted myself would be just the same.
• Who do you think currently has the best shot in winning the final prize?
You are putting me in a pretty awkward position, she says laughingly. Right now, I have four favourites in the show and I’m sure one of them will go home with the grand prize. Daisy, Monicah, John Kennedy and Rono. Very brilliant minds. All the best to them!
• Apart from media what other business do you admire?
I am a born creative. I love media because it allows me to communicate my vision to people whether it is through talking, singing, sharing photographs and such. Media just happens to be the vehicle I use to express my creativity.
• How long would you stick with a business idea before giving up.
I don’t know what giving up is ! Most of my entrepreneurial ventures are passion driven so I have never ‘given up’ on something because I felt it wasn’t working. I have put several ideas on hold but giving up? Never. Not me. I wouldn’t be the best person to advice on that. I can relate with to frustration but giving up? I don’t know what that is!
• What can you say to a young aspiring entrepreneur who doesn’t know where to start?
Dear Young Aspiring Entrepreneur,
We both know you know exactly where to start! You are just in the ‘doubting’ stage and that is totally okay because guess what? Doubt is part of the creative process! You already know what you want to do (it’s a sin to not know what you want to do)so now, take the next most affordable step to progress. It could be opening a Facebook Page, getting your business registered, designing a logo, buying a domain, or even writing down the business plan and vision! As Oprah advices, ‘Every day ask yourself, what is the next right move? ‘ What is the most affordable move you can take? Do that! Above all, be ready to fail greatly, make uncomfortable decisions and embarrass yourself (smiling) all for the sake of the dream!
All the best,
• What book do you think every budding entrepreneur should read?
I am a big fan of Paulo Coelho. Like I mentioned previously, most of my entrepreneurial ventures have been passion driven. Don’t get me wrong- I love love love money but am more into the things I do for the love of the craft. I am a dangerous dreamer and I relate to most of Paulho’s books because they appeal to the ‘child’ in me and encourage me to pursue the ‘unrealistic and impossible.’ The Alchemist and Brida are two of my favourites. Everyone should read those!