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Don't be threatened by others' success

By Caroline Okello | July 21st 2019
Ndanu Kilonzo Kimani, Chief Executive Officer of Okuhle Spielworks Limited

I always aim to wake up at 5am. I have two children, both very young — one is soon turning three and the other is almost ten-months-old. l always want to spend time with them before I leave for work. When I wake up early, I have some quiet time in which I pray, mediate and think about and visualise the day ahead as I like to be prepared mentally. Most days I leave home for work at 9 am.

Okuhle Spielworks Limited is a content production company. Okuhle Media, based in South Africa, and Spielworks Media joined ventures and the aim of our partnership is to tell the African story to the global platform. We are deliberately putting out content for global consumption. What I do as CEO on a day to day basis is different every day, but some things — like business development and marketing — remain constant in relation to running a company. We have a very small team and because of that a lot falls on everyone’s desk. We meet on Monday, Wednesday and Friday to assess how work is going and to come up with new ideas for projects. My role is to drive that agenda every single day and keep it on track. I try to be done with meetings by noon so that I can focus on other aspects of work. In the rare event that I have meetings the whole day, I have to work after my children go to bed at 7.30pm. I do this because I don’t like today’s tasks spilling over to the next day. I try not to go past 9 pm with work.

In this industry, everything changes so quickly. What we were working with on Monday, for example, might not necessarily apply on Wednesday, so we’re constantly on our toes. That keeps the job exciting; I don’t like routines. The fact that I love what I do also keeps me motivated. I’ve always wanted to be in the creative industry. In school I was involved in drama a lot, writing plays and poems. The arts don’t have to be a side hustle or fallback plan and for me to have come this far in this industry is a proud accomplishment.

One of the challenges we face is not a lot of people understand what we do. It is easy to go to the bank and explain that you sell phones and get financing but telling them you sell content usually needs a lot of explaining. We have had to bring people from the bank to the set to show them exactly what we do.

The best career advice I’ve ever received is one I read and it’s something I’ve lived by since: stick in your lane, your portion is secure. It took me a while to finish campus and everybody I knew was ahead — one time you hear someone has become a manager, the next time they’re driving, whereas I was still trying to figure out what the creative industry had for me. Then I read that line somewhere and it reminded me that everybody has their journey. When I read that, I cleared all the noise and worked with the assurance and confidence that if I put in the work, what’s mine will come to me. It’s also the best advice I’d give. It’s okay to get other people’s stories to inspire you, and to pick lessons from their journey, but at the end of the day put in the work and be focused on what you’re doing and with time it will pay off.

My evening routine is dictated by my children’s. Because Okuhle Spielworks is an international company, we do have a lot of conference calls, sometimes at 5pm. If that’s the case, I try to be home by 4pm and play with the children. Later, I will go to my study for the conference call. If I don’t have a call I will spend time with them until they go to bed.

I love reading, and the last great book I read is Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. I loved the idea she spells out on choosing courage over fear and that done is better than good. Sometimes we focus on something being perfect before we put it out, but she reminds the reader that done is better than good.  

Outside work, I love to spend time with my family and to exercise. I love CrossFit, yoga and running, and used to do a lot of all that before the children. I recently got back to running. I’m very passionate about nutrition. I am plant-based—they call it vegan, but I prefer calling it plant-based — so I spend a lot of time experimenting with recipes and sourcing for fresh produce. 

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