Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Khalila Mbowe, championing social entrepreneurship

Photo by Gevas Lushaju of Khalila Mbowe 

Khalila Mbowe 29,  is a social entrepreneur the Managing Director of ‘Unleashed Africa’ acompany she founded in 2015. Mother of two Raphael 8 and Belle 3, she packs a ball of energy in her stride. 

Since finishing High School at St Mary’s Secondary in Dar es Salaam, she jumped into the work force. Doing odd jobs here and there then landing her first credible gig at the young age of 18, back in 2006

“I came in all raggedy at 5pm, earlier I got called at 4;00pm saying  ‘hey where are you there’s an interview ‘tadara tadara’ can you show up’, I’m like ok cool…The Managing Director  asks me some questions, nothing on my qualifications… He shows me some advertorial artworks, asking me to interpret them. I didn’t know they were advertorial artworks, to me they were like paintings. So. I am like oh, this could mean that and this could mean this…” Khalila

She came out of that interview and was hired in two weeks to work for then FCB, an Advertising Agency in Tanzania a wing of ‘Lowe SCANAD group’.  Working as their Copywriter in two months, she was promoted to Account Executive handling one of the notable telecommunication accounts.  

Within a few years having handled notable campaigns like ‘wazazi nipendeni’ for USAID.  A national behaviour change communication (SBCC), pushing for safe motherhood, in ensuring healthy pregnancies and safe deliveries for women.

Khalila Mbowe MD of Unleashed Africa
By 2008 she had saved up enough money to go to college at Taylor’s University in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. Hustling with network marketing she managed to earn her own pocket money, returning in 2010 with an Advanced Diploma in Mass Communication specialising in Marketing & Advertising.. 

Due to a family crisis she couldn’t continue with her education to attain a degree. Still with her work experience she easily got back in the corporate world, working in branding at Airtel, then working in a Managerial position for Buddies, a TV production company from Uganda that was looking to franchise in Tanzania. 

“In the capitalistic economy all companies believe in the bottom line,  this is why I am so passionate about social enterprises. In this framework capacity building encourages social entrepreneurship…See the bottom line can not just be money because for companies to thrive people need to be able to spend…” Khalila

It’s this belief that pushed her to register her own company ‘Unleashed Africa’ dealing with Marketing, Events, Branding and the Arts, all steered towards youth un-employment, girl child empowerment & social business & innovation.  So far Unleashed Africa has employed over 20 people, some as consultants or part time and few on a full time basis.  

Khalila (third from left) in Sept'17 at the Youth Conference for
Social Impact of the Aga Khan Development Network recently
As a communications expert she has worked with several organisations including BRAC, Bits & Bytes Conference, Vodacom, JHU, Total TZ, Uongozi Institute, Aggrey & Clifford, TED Global, Preferential Trade Area Bank (now TDB Bank) and the Sera project among others. 

Recently she was a speaker at the ‘Aga Khan Development Network’ in their Youth Entrepreneurship for Social Impact conference. As well as participating in the 'making finance work for women conference' organised by NMB Bank in Tanzania. Khalila is also an artist, a self taught choreographer who has had the chance to work with the likes of local celebrity Ali Kiba.

She affirms the journey to self employment hasn’t been easy, at some point she had forgo her home & car. Leaving her youngest with her partner whilst living in a guest room with her son at a friends house. All to finance ‘Unleashed Africa’  whose vision she maintains “I believe everyone has a calling to solve a problem…” 

Earlier this year she became a member of ‘Women in Finance’ network , that operates in several countries in Africa as part of the Graca Machel Trust. She’s currently studying long distance for a degree, on Entrepreneurship in the disciplines of Business Administration. Through the University of the People in Florida USA, we caught up with her to learn what makes this kick ass lady tick…

Tell us of your hobbies...

“I love reading…I’ve learned a lot from youtube. I mean a lot, from DIY projects to how to organise my business, learn fun games for my kids… Travelling fuels my spirit the chance to step on new soil gain a whole new perspective from other people’s customs; the feeling of being in motion just excites me…I am also part of ‘Gypsy divers’”.  Khalila in her spare time also ventures into scuba diving sharing with me spots like ‘White Sands Beach & Sea Cliff beach in Dar es Salaam as places she’s gone scuba diving.

If you weren’t being a Social Entrepreneur, what would you be?

“Hmmn, I would be a world class performer-artist, actress…” Khalila through her company Unleashed Africa has explored her love for the arts by erecting a ‘dance studio’ which has seen her flexing her muscles as a dancer and choreographer though to a less degree than the team she hired. She also sings on various open mic platforms like ‘Lyricist Lounge’.

What’s your go to style item?

“I love scarfs, I find them versatile, you can wear them on the head or around your neck in various styles. And the colours, oh the colours, they just add a spark to any outfit.”

Some of your best wardrobe finds…?

“I like working with local tailors, translating designs I’ve spotted in a magazine or on the net.  My tailor ‘Mama Mushi’ is a ‘God sent’. Plus you’d be surprised what you can find in a thrift stall, I’ve gotten some of my best outfits at stalls in Mwenge.”

Your favourite places to spend the weekend?

You know how they say having a child changes you, well I’ve found I am still the same it’s just my priorities have changed. For instance I can’t attend that poetry group meet every month, even though I want to. As I’d rather be home reading bedtime stories to my kids and yes you better notify me a week in advance if you want me to attend that concert. That said I love spending my weekends with my kids.”

Some of your best destinations in East Africa

“Zanzibar, who can argue with those turquoise beaches, also my home town Kilimanjaro. Is among my favourite places in EA, the climate is just right.”

A peek into your bucket list?

Khalila with Emma Kawawa, one of her mentors
and a fellow member of the NFNV network in the Graca Machel Trust
I have this silly wish to make snow angles, I haven’t been to a country which has snow.  So it’s in my bucket list to visit Europe & or North America during the winter.

Are you a collector, if yes what do you collect

“Yes uhmn, I collect coins, books…”

Moving pictures that have impacted you...?

“I am hooked on the Television series ‘Suits’ for a while now.  Plus I have a healthy love of Animation & Cartoons pictures, I’ve watched ‘Beauty & the Beast’ more than 6 times. True story I have most of Disney songs in my head.  

And no it’s not my kids influence we fight on what toons to watch…Avengers both the movie and series is another favourite. I also enjoy watching documentaries and movies based on true stories like ‘The Founder’ on MacDonalds.”

Among your great Reads? 

The Bible, Hinds feet on high places

Favourite musicians, bands?
Khalila (middle) with fellow colleagues inside Unleashed Africa, at the
'Making Finance Work for Women' summit organised by NMB Bank in
Oct this year

I love Jazz, Soul, Gospel... artists like Melody Gardot, Jill Scott, Rose Royce, Bethel Music are frequent on my playlist.

Favourite website?

Whats a constant in your fridge?

Water & fruits. 

Article was first published in the East African Newspaper here

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