“Jamlab aims to promote innovation in the continent and is one of the largest digital media innovation hubs in Africa. These webinars aim to bring alumni from different cohorts and for the alumni to share their entrepreneurial journeys,” said Phillip Mogodi, Jamlab accelerator programme manager, during an informational webinar which invited two Jamlab accelerator programme alumni, Kathy Magrobi and Siyabonga Mkholo, to discuss their companies and their entrepreneurship journeys.

The Jamlab Accelerator Programme is a six-month hothouse programme for early-stage journalism and media start-ups. It provides teams with the tools, facilities, contacts, and support necessary to realise their ideas and ambitions. The programme focuses on journalism and media innovations with the potential to transform information, conversation and public space.

Kathy Magrobi, the founder of Quote This Woman+, an organisation that aims to build a database of credible women experts and under-represented voices that newsrooms can easily access, was one of two alumni who presented during the webinar. The organisation is collating new narratives to broaden the news agenda.

“It takes 10 years to be an overnight success,” said Magrobi, quoting a women empowerment presentation, “Quote This Woman+ is coming up on its fourth birthday and we are far from being an overnight success, we are hanging in with our fingernails onto being alive and every year that we are alive is a celebration for us. We are a passion project that has stayed alive for four years because it is something that we strongly believe in and we are a group of people who believe in the ‘why’ behind our business”.

Magrobi said before joining the accelerator programme, they had a ‘why’ which was to close the gender gap in the news, however, Jamlab taught them to do the research and find the data that will help convince people to support their organisation and its aim.

The alumni advised entrepreneurs to not “over-invest into anything” and should execute their ideas in the simplest ways. She explained that Quote This Woman+ relied on individuals to help build their database pro-bono and only through funding the company was able to build the structured database they had envisioned.

“Our secret to success: do not spend money, it’s the best way to keep money in the bank and stay alive,” said Magrobi. She also noted the importance of being passionate about a company and its ideas or aim, “we have a small, committed team who’ve put the hours in and believed in what we have done”.

Magrobi said one of the many lessons she learned during her time on the programme was the importance of marketing on social media and data or metrics, explaining that for people to support your ideas these ideas need to be supported by data.

Quote this Woman+ recently received over US$50,000 from the Google News Initiative to support its tech turnaround. Magrobi offered advice on how entrepreneurs can secure funding and said it is important for entrepreneurs to “network, have a 2-minute speech elevator pitch and know your ask”. She added, “you get the funds you ask for and if you don’t ask, you won’t get the funds, you just have to keep asking”.

Siyabonga Mkholo, the co-founder of pocketstudio which has rebranded as Grapefruit, a software development company that specialises in creating digital solutions for creative industries said the accelerator programme provided a sound springboard which allowed him to discuss his ideas with Mogodi. “It helped to share these ideas with someone who had an objective lens,” said Mkholo.

He also spoke about the importance of mental health, and “often as entrepreneurs, we are not kind to ourselves and we always try to be ambitious but we forget about taking care of ourselves”.

Mkholo, who has spoken openly about mental health, said “it is important to find harmony in the work that you do and the life that you live, and help to find something that aligns with personal sensibilities”. He noted that it is important to have a routine that will take you out of work and also added that people should seek professional help through helplines and through toolboxes which offer advice on how to navigate mental health in the entrepreneurial space.

Furthermore, Mkholo highlighted the importance of a business model, which is to create and capture value, understand what value is and find a business model that makes sense to the context. He also pointed out the importance of customers and “loving your customers is your secret weapon”.

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