By Sinazo Mkoko
Katie Mohamed is a dynamic and charismatic television broadcaster and businesswoman. She has wielded her influence as a media personality and businesswoman to advance conversations around gender equity, and the role of women in the global economy.
She is also the founder of W-Suite – a movement which aims to make room for women at the table by driving the acceleration of women leaders in position of power and Influence and to co-create a new culture of leadership that is inclusive and drives meaningful participation of women in the development of thriving communities, strong female economy and great nations.
She has mentored many South African women and has played a vital role in connecting influential South African women, and creating a network of high-profile activists, engendering further conversation and action around gender parity – both locally and globally.
Please tell us about your career path that led to you becoming the CEO and shareholder of BrandFusion?
I come from a village in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. My dreams have always been bigger. Coming from an improvised neighbourhood, my goal was to leave to chase these dreams. I was born into a Muslim family with very a strict religious parents. I was named “Khadija” which means born before her time. I believe in my core that my papa had a visionary reason for naming me this. He wanted me to live beyond my obstacles and think ahead of my time. I studied Fashion Design and soon learnt I had zero patience for that, I just wanted to be as stylish as I could be.
So, my next passion was Marketing. Coming from an apartheid era, these positions were limited to predominantly blue-eyed, blonde haired women. They made being in this sector so glamorous and attractive. I wanted to be in that space of excitement. I was fortunate that I received great opportunities (especially as a woman of colour) during the late 1990’s. I eventually got into media and broadcasting for nearly two decades and that last decade has been the most fruitful and transformational for myself, when I embarked on the entrepreneurship journey. It has been full of risk and reward. I am currently the founder and shareholder of a Marketing and Communication agency, called Brandfusion, an integrated business hub founded on the core principles of collaborative intelligence.
You’re constantly involved in initiatives (and productions) that empower young girls and women out there, why is this important to you?
When women are living a safe and fulfilled life, they can reach their full potential contributing to an empowering society. Women alone have power, collectively we have impact. I feel a great sensation of “helpers high”. When you provide tangible motivation, inspiration and assistance, it generates a feeling of gratitude and satisfaction. Research shows that we tend to act unselfishly when we watch others do the same. It is like going into a perfume store, you can’t leave there without getting some on you. I have created a sense of belonging that does not feel isolated, keeping things in perspective that we are not meant to be in this world on our own. We have a purpose and the more you do for others, you actually do more for yourself. It gives me incandescent joy knowing that I am a change agent for a part of the story of the world. I view the world so differently through my causes, and the rewards far outweigh any acknowledgements here on earth. It is for the greater good, I find solace and comfort knowing that it is an act of piety.
How did the idea of the W-Suite movement come about and what motivated you to start it?
What we want and what we need are not the same. Part of defining your story is being able to differentiate your wants from your needs. That way you are able to focus and direct your efforts appropriately. Mala Youssofzi says: “How can we all succeed if half of us are left behind.” This has really stood out for me, and when I was at an investment summit in 2018, I noticed the lack of representation of women in the room and felt that as an agent of change, I have to continue to play an instrumental role in transforming mentoring and impact, creating networks of collaboration, connectivity and communication. As the founder of W-Suite, a movement that aims to spark conversation, advocacy and action towards shifting the balance and to make more room for women at tables, by driving the acceleration of the gender agenda and co-create a culture, driving meaningful participation of women in the development of thriving communities, creating strong economies and great nations.
Please share some of the challenges you’ve encountered as a woman in this industry and how do you overcome them?
My challenges have been both internally and externally. My earliest challenges I faced was to be able to become self-aware and understand my personal habits. I needed to become adaptive and reflect on my flaws. I needed to understand that as much as I can be so motivated I will have to learn to accept failures as well. In order to be effective, I would have to take my emotions out, step out of my comfort zone and be a great ambassador for my brand. As for help and support. This is one of the most empowering feelings when you reach out and believe that you are not alone. Reach out! Put aside your fears and take risks. Engage in regular activities, conference, networking, podcasts and just keeping abreast of currency. Identify initiatives that are aligned with your overall business goals, have significant impact and have good financial value. That is a winner! Once you establish presence and earn recognition, you attain a sustainable business.
Please share some of your proudest milestones in your career?
My first big break was starting my career in broadcasting. I knew then that the path within the media space will be my path of my roadmap towards achieving my goals.I have various noteworthy projects within the advertising space. Accomplishing my projects involved and seeing them to fruition has been a huge career milestone. I’ve been acknowledged by clients, board members and senior executives at the height of my career, been invited to boardrooms and seats at tables, which most professionals strive for. I have been celebrating these milestones throughout my journey. I look fondly and reflect on the journey today and am proud of all that I have achieved. I had created a brand name for myself and most recently embarked on the greatest milestone, publishing my memoir.
Looking at successes of both BrandFusion and W-Suite movement, are they both going in the direction that you’ve always dreamt of?
I am grateful for the opportunities that have been presented to me and have allowed my vision to grow. I had missed opportunities because I was not clear in my vision. I am overwhelmed and have to believe in personal resilience! Both have found a purpose and strategic direction, because I have not been taking a long term view. In my experience, during the early days, we sacrificed to make ends meet, now that we are establishing the company to be a culture for collaboration, creating and delivering value. Now it is all about elaborating the game plan. As I evaluate our performances, I am crystal clear that I need to make a few changes as we sometimes feel like we are on a hamster wheel. So my efforts are in business development and looking ahead on what are the passionate prospects I can dedicate myself to.
How would you describe your leadership style?
My leadership style is definitely a visionary one. I am progress focussed and ensure I inspire and motivate as I go along. I am assertive, fast paced and decisive. I want to constantly drive efficiency. I see the potential for how the world should exist and then I take steps to get there. Just as I take responsibility, I can also take risks.
What is your “why?”
My “why” is to leave the world better than when I found it! Focusing on fostering a life well-lived and focusing on bringing value to myself and others. It is about connecting to what I am passionate about and when you understand that which gives you a deep sense of purpose. Why do I get up each morning? What legacy will I leave?
Do you have exciting plans for the coming year?
My vision board seems to be talking to me. I’m planning to travel for both business and leisure. There are exciting work projects ahead including my book. I’m soon to be a published author (dream) I am writing a memoir called Brave, Today – a book that is deeply personal. I stitch my narrative together through a series of stories that would evolve into life lessons. My insight into people’s behaviours, motives and attitudes is particularly thoughtful, proving a refreshing philosophical take on our understanding of personal, familial and business relationships. I navigate my story via a consciously reckoned thought-stream of unique defining experiences, but it is my clarity of human analysis that will really resonate with readers. These pages will have you provoked, motivated, and inspired – often simultaneously. My book may be about my history, but it is written with such empathetic sagacity that it provides every reader with valuable insights into both their immediate lives, and the fabric of life itself.
Do you have an inspirational message for our readership?
To believe that we can insist on what we require, to lead, to shine, to connect and to inspire others who have the same connection needs to be fulfilled. To live our lives purposefully. To live with authenticity, intent and purpose. Define your purpose, align with your passion and practise this gift of fulfilment