Growing up, Lerato Motshwarakgole wanted to be so many things — a doctor, a lawyer and a scientist to mention a few. But one day, she realised she didn’t really want to be any of those, what she really wanted was to portray different occupations and lives in an artistic way. That realization was the first step for her into the creative world and performing arts.
A cultural activist and graduate of Theatre and Performance from the University of Cape Town, becoming an actress was not an obvious career path for Lerato who says she was painfully shy as a child.
For a long time the only people I spoke to were my parents and my sister. Acting somewhat cured me of that. Because I lived in my head for so long, I had found a way to channel my thoughts whilst ‘pretending’ I was someone else.** ~ Lerato Motshwarakgole.
Now an actress with acclaim in South Africa and her home country, Botswana, Lerato wants to make an impact by showing Africans that a career in creative and liberal arts is a viable occupation that can improve communities and change lives.
What does LM Consulting do and why did you start it?
LM Consulting is an education and training company that uses applied theatre practices to create a model and curriculum that can be implemented in schools throughout Africa.
I believe one of the major keys to solving Africa’s problems is to start with education — not only improving quantity by making it accessible to a larger number of people, but also improving the quality. I find that throughout Africa, the quality of education gets compromised on.
Applied theatre practices, specifically Theatre in Education and Drama in Education, are such an important methodology in encouraging communities to collectively share their experiences and stories, and to engage in active dialogue that affects and effects our communities.
All over the world, this practice is used by a growing number of countries to weed out the increasing expulsion of marginalized people and ignored issues such as HIV/AIDS and abuse. Such initiatives must be, and indeed are undertaken by various countries around the world in order for them to have a true sense of the sociological impression of that country in relation to its people and its specific issues.
I’m hoping that LM Consulting will be a first step to the assimilation of the arts in the school curriculum and into people’s daily conversations in general.
How would LM Consulting change the world?
No one can really speak to that sort of thing, but ultimately my mission for all of this is to show people that they can think expansively about the arts and it all starts with education. The knowledge economy is driven by creativity and the arts. To create a truly innovative continent we need to hone in on encouraging the growth of creativity and liberal arts in our schools, starting as early as primary school level.
How did you feel when you heard you were one of the selected Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs and what was the most difficult part about applying?
I was happy! The road of entrepreneurship is not an easy one; now, the hard work begins. Making it into the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program is part of that continuous journey for me. The purpose of life, I believe, is to contribute to making the world better. If you are not using your power, intelligence, influence, talent or business to solve a problem then don’t do it. Get up everyday to do the backbreaking work that draws you closer to your passion and purpose in life.
Some complained about the application process being long and challenging. I feel if you have a vision and a solid business plan, filling out the application becomes a labour of love and deep passion to share that plan. I applied with no expectations. I completely carried on with my life and pushing my dreams while waiting for the official announcement of successful applicants.
What is your major business challenge and how do you intend to address it?
The whole idea of art and creativity being a novelty is something that is still foreign to some people. Every parent in the world dreams of their child being a doctor or a lawyer or a pilot, but they don’t lend the same respect and gravitas to their child being a painter or an actor or a sculptor.
I keep having to hit that wall of narrow mindedness everywhere I go. The mandate of my business plan is really to change that mindset so that in 10 to 20 years, we have created a generation that can use their arts training in all spheres of their lives and careers, and know the importance of investing in the arts.
What keeps you going as an entrepreneur?
Nothing motivates me more than when I meet parents who say my successful journey as an actress has motivated them to encourage their children to study Dramatic Arts. Gone are the days of undermining actors and creatives and their importance in society. It is now a viable economic investment as seen in countries like Nigeria where the acting industry is alive and booming. Let’s live expansively!
Any words of encouragement to someone who is thinking of starting a business?
The biggest advice I can share, professionally and personally, is to learn how to respect people and nurture your relationships. The things you do for yourself are gone when you’re gone, but the things you do of others remain as your legacy and your reputation.
Every day for the next few days, we will share the stories of 30+ African women entrepreneurs whose ideas can change the world. These women are idea and early stage entrepreneurs, with businesses less than three years old, who are beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme.
We are sharing their experiences in hopes that their stories will inspire someone out there to take the leap and go after their dreams. Hope you enjoy their stories as much as we enjoyed putting them together. Follow our daily stories using the hashtag #TEEPcofoundHER or visit cofoundHER (www.cofoundher.com) for updates.