“I’m a proud Black child born in the African Continent raised by a strong black woman. I am a student of life and an ambassador of love, life and laughter. I am Kelebogile Olivia Molopyane nee Mosweu.”
Kele, as she’s known to family and friends, grew up in a township called Garankuwa, 65 kilometres from Pretoria, the executive Capital City of South Africa.
Prompted by her own life experiences, she is committed to offering practical support to those who need it most.
She toldLoop: “My childhood was chaotic. The first ten years were the best because they were spent at my grandmother’s. From then onwards it went downhill fast. I stopped living and experienced surviving. I became invisible as my mother’s marriage to my stepfather swallowed me whole. I have literally blocked out most of that period as a defence mechanism. My takeaway was to be a better parent. To offer a better environment than I ever experienced.”
Food was rationed and there was barely enough space to house theextended family gathered there, but Kele said her favourite childhood memories were at her grandmother's house.
It was there that she found solace.
“She had 8 children; 6 boys and 2 girls. We all stayed in an 80sqm house rich with love and laughter despite the hardships that apartheid presented at the time. Christmas was my favourite holiday because that was the only time I experienced a buffet of food with no harsh rationed portions or policing of what you ate. We had food of all kinds including the watermelon. Back then that was the only time of the year we ate watermelon.”
Now a qualified Mindset Coach, Kele has also authored a self-help biography which she says is meant to act as an empowerment tool and a beacon of hope for women who would’ve shared similar experiences.
She is also the proud founder of AB4IR, a non-profit organisation whose primary aim is to educate and empower entrepreneurs on the continent.
“I am currently CEO of the AB4IR Digital incubator where I work with start-ups in the ICT sector, helping them bring their ideas to life. So what do I do? I contribute to the betterment of our world by sharing my knowledge and experiences for the growth and development of others. I have had the idea to create an incubator for at least four years. I became vigorous about it early last year. The funding only came through this February and we are sprinting through this corona pandemic.”
With the support of government and private sector sponsors, Kele’s NGO offers co-working spaces, business incubation, and support programmes meant to inspire creativity.
AB4IR also offers coding and programming seminars to students and unemployed youth in an attempt to bridge the digital divide.
“AB4IR is a concept that I have been pregnant with for way longer than even elephants get pregnant. It aims to bridge the digital divide in the ICT sector by imparting the skills to the less prevailed and availing technology and innovation. Through our business incubation programme, they will be supported by business mentorship and access to markets and funding. I am very passionate about this project and I plan to have partners all over the world so that we can have exchange programmes to empower these start-ups and introduce them to the concept of worldview.”
Asked how she’s able to find balance, the mother of two said multi-tasking and compartmentalising are second nature.
She explained thatsome of what she went through as a child, the many responsibilities she juggled while going to school, prepared her for life as it exists today.
“I have always had to juggle a lot of things from a very young age. Since my siblings were much younger than me I was practically their mom. I dropped them off at day-care, picked them up, cooked, cleaned and somewhere had to make time for school. Then at some point, I worked 2 jobs while attending varsity part-time and managed to get my degree in record time. So I learned about multi-tasking quite early in my life.I also learned if you do what needs to be done when it needs to be done you don't need to stress about overtime. To this day I have always kept a principle of not bringing work home. I chose to be present for my children. To this day I play all sorts of games with my kids. I want them to enjoy me.”
Kele said her life hasn’t always gone according to plan, even so, she’s grateful for all she’s been able to accomplish.
“Initially I was going to be an Occupational Therapist, then a Psychologist and finally I became a Business Development professional. I had loved that Occupational Therapy was a fairly new concept to the black market. I had always wanted to be different. When my friends went to medicine, Physio and IT, I wanted OT. However, between feeling sorry for myself, family politics, racism and lack of funding, I could not see through my OT degree. Later in life, I took myself to school through the advice of a mentor and I registered for a business degree. I do not regret my decision. I still have a bucket-list affair with being a clinical psychologist and I think to a great extent that is why I studied consciousness coaching.”
Unable to afford university tuition, Kele worked part-time at a retail store while pursuing administrative courses. It was at this juncture, she met the woman she credits with introducing her to business development.
“I landed an opportunity to relieve the Chief Director's secretary at the National Department of Tourism who became my mentor. She encouraged me to study part-time for a business degree. This was where I was introduced to business development. This became where I landed my first full-time job too. I fell in love with business development; working with start-ups, organising events and travelling. This is where I got an opportunity to get on the plane for the first time and travel overseas. I have never looked back since.”
Kele said every challenge and trauma she has endured, every obstacle she’s met on her life’s journey has pushed her to pursue something better.
“I’ve experienced emotional, physical and sexual abuse like so many other women around the world. I kept a journal, I played some good music, I went to therapy, I cut off negative people, I started loving myself, hugging myself and putting myself first. I learned to say NO and be okay with it.”
She said first-hand knowledge about the challenges plaguing the more vulnerable members of society, strengthens her commitment to educate and empower those in need.
She said her passion, drive and determination are fuelled by the memory of her grandmother who she described as a pillar of strength.
“I hope she looks down on me and is proud of me. But also, I came from a poor background but I rose out of it. I have since made it my mission to support and encourage others like meand help them realize theirpotential. I was blessed to have had mentors that carried me through and shaped the powerhouse that I am.”
By her admission, hers was a chaotic childhood so she’s determined to end the cycle by providing a stable and loving environment for her children.
She said: “When all is said and done, my children are the reason I wake up every morning. There was a time I had given up on myself and on life. Since having them, I am fuelled every day to be the best version of myself for them and for other people that experience my space.”
More than anything, Kele longs for the day that women around the world would stop acting small.
She said the time has come for women to stand-up, show up, shout out and be counted.
“You are enough, you have everything you need to get to where you want to be. Not everybody will like you and sometimes people will hate you because they envy you and that’s okay, that is their business, let them deal with it. Stay focused. Be clear about the WHAT and the HOW will fall into place. The universe will always send you the right people to help you with the HOW when you are clear with your WHAT. There was a time I had 2 jobs -7:30am – 4:00 pm, Monday to Friday as a temp secretary and Friday to Sunday as a temp Supervisor at a retail store- all this while attending classes in the evening for my business degree which I passed in record time with 14 distinctions. That was only possible with the help of God, the universe and the clarity of the WHAT. Everything is possible but only if you think so. Lift others as you rise and see what becomes possible.”
When asked what she wants her legacy to be the mother, author and entrepreneur said she wants it to be known that she left the world better than she found it.