Norma Young is a journalist graduate and entrepreneur. She is freelance writer and editor and has her own online business. During the lockdown in South Africa, Norma edited and self-published Homemade an anthology of essays and recipes, and published We Need More Tables, a book she had been working on for years.
As a freelancer, Norma was already accustomed to using her home as her office and having a self-directed but deadline-driven schedule. However, she was impacted by a drop in her editing and writing commissions so she started thinking about how to generate new revenue streams, using her existing skills, within the limitations of the lockdown. She had the idea of approaching people in her network to contribute towards an anthology of essays. The inspiration for the theme of Homemade was born out of all the home cooking Norma had been doing – both to save money and limit contact with the outside world. She had been enjoying all these homemade meals and thought others might have stories to share celebrating the meals and memories made in their kitchens. She reached out to her friends, acquaintances and professional contacts, inviting them to submit their personal stories.
She notes that her motivation levels sometimes dropped but she pushed through. It helped to set an overall project deadline and daily goals. Regularly ticking items off her to-do-list gave her a sense of accomplishment and motivated her to carry on. Additionally, she was excited to see the final book so that inspired her to work consistently and complete it within the planned period.
Norma’s advice to budding entrepreneurs: “Start with a dream that’s within reach. With each dream you can then keep pushing yourself further. Start small and through those small achievements keep building towards the bigger dreams.”
Keith Mafu is a young entrepreneur who launched Vulalula, a small business that developed a hands-free door opening mechanism, a much-needed solution to the need for limited skin-contact with shared surfaces. He used the time of unexpected solitude to analyze and re-examine his priorities and his future and wondered if his job was at risk. For him, the lockdown solidified the importance of entrepreneurship and being your own boss. One of Keith’s goals for the company is to create as many jobs as possible during this difficult time to stimulate the economy, in whatever small way he can.
A social entrepreneurship focus is very important to Keith and a big motivating factor. He is putting into practice the old saying “be the change you want to see”. One vital lesson Keith has learned as an entrepreneur is that you must become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Treat every experience, whether it’s a success or failure, as an opportunity to learn something new and grow.
Keith’s advice to aspirant entrepreneurs: “As a young entrepreneur, never give up, even when you believe you’ve hit rock bottom. Continue to persevere because opportunity can arise during the most difficult moments of your journey.”
Theatre actress and vocalist Alexis Petersen added short-film producer to her CV when she co-produced and acted in “Please, Mr. President, Please”. It is a commentary on the enhanced violence and social injustice South Africans have experienced during the COVID-19 lockdown. The 5-minute 49-second film was created and produced by Alexis and her partner who are both performing artists. They launched the film in April 2020 on their social media platforms. When they saw news reports and heard in their own communities some of the things people were suffering during the lockdown, they felt moved to say something. Using their talents and skills for artistic expression, they conceptualized and executed the film which will hopefully be the first of many more digital projects they deliver.
From South Africa to Italy, many people have wanted to do something altruistic to contribute to managing the spread of COVID-19. At the start of the global lockdowns, Italian actor Michele Morrone was just becoming widely known outside of Italy. He used his Instagram to give traction to #stayhome. Doing regular Instagram live chats with fans he encouraged people to stay home, take care of themselves, and be considerate of others by adhering to the lockdown rules. He told positive stories about his struggles and journey as an actor in the decade he’s worked to establish himself. He shared how 12 months earlier he didn’t even know where his rent money would come from and couldn’t imagine that a year later he’d have multiple acting and music projects going. He emphasized how putting in the hard work consistently, especially when investing in your craft, will eventually pay off. Instagram became a tool not only for self-promotion but also to spread a positive message.
These 4 people, in their various capacities, used their wits and the resources they had available to be impactful in the world and enhance their own careers. Hopefully, there are things you resonate with in their stories to inspire you to think about your goals and plan how to work on them.