YFU Alumni Voices

Ayanda Siboto is an entrepreneur and YFU volunteer

Living in Cape Town, I have been working remotely from mid last year, so the transition to working from home full time because of Covid-19 was not too hard for me to get into.

However, as a self-employed person, this halt in much of our economic activities has me very nervous and you could say I kicked into crisis management mode, not just about how I can survive it, but how I can make sure that we come out the other side in a better place.

Bio

Ayanda is the Chief Networking Officer of Zimele Beauty Network and has 10 years of work experience in the Media & Marketing industry. She is actively engaged in volunteering as well as capacity & skills development.

With Zimele Beauty Network, Ayanda connects and supports beauty entrepreneurs by providing resources and the necessary information to help formalise, structure and scale their businesses. She also facilitates entrepreneurial workshops, and consults as an early stage business coach.

Her many other skills include content creation for entrepreneur development programmes, as well as advising on inclusive digital literacy, township economy and strategic stakeholder relations in this landscape.

Exchange and Impact

I went on exchange to Germany with YFU in 2006 where I attended high school and lived with a host family for a year. I later did an internship at the YFU Austria offices in 2017 and have been an active volunteer with YFU South Africa ever since I returned from my exchange.

My exchange year helped me find myself and the career path that I ended up choosing to pursue. It was realising how little people knew, and also how misrepresented we were as a country, when I realised the power of Media and Communications.

You can’t expect people to know what you don’t tell them. So essentially, that year I was teaching many people I came across many things about not just me as a person, but my culture and my heritage. And so thereafter, I knew I had the skills to go into Public Relations and definitely continue to influence and educate people through sharing information and knowledge.

That is still exactly what I do, except in the entrepreneurship space more specifically now. Back then, I pretty much told everybody to leave the country. The experiences allowed me at different life phases (I was 15 when I went on Exchange, and 26 when I went on internship) the opportunity to truly define/ refine who I am, by my values and not just my environment and who surrounded me.

I had such an affirmed sense of Identity, and that is something that I wanted to guide others in figuring out for themselves. I’ve volunteered as a Teamer for YFU South Africa since 2009, helping other exchange students coming into South Africa by organising workshops and Orientations, as well as for those who were going to Germany.

Similarly, this is why I went into business coaching, helping early stage entrepreneurs find their feet and and direction in their journey, because I know from experience what a game=changing phase that can be especially when you have support.

Advice

There is so much power and value to be unlocked in community. The one thing that has been a dominant and powerful effect in my journey, is that I’ve had the privilege of being immersed in community and many different cultures, experientially and professionally.

No one is an expert on how to navigate Covid19, but it poses an opportunity for us as a community to figure out together how to support each other through this drastic & accelerated life transition.

As much as we need and love family and friends, we also need a community of people that get your aspirations, that get your struggles and
your doubts, that can serve as your sounding board, business advisors, event plugs, those that continue to hold your hand, as you’re holding theirs.

A Community is a give and take, it’s a space where you are filled and where you fill a gap in someone else’s journey. Even though we are all advised to stay at social distance from each other physically, but make sure you remain connected to your community.

This article was originally published in the May 2020 edition of the African German Youth Initiative/ WESSA News Bite.