Lebo Biko, owner of Indigo Flame and independent marketing strategist describes herself as a catalyst and an agitator who is inspired by South Africa’s possibilities, ignited by the untapped potential of the continent and a strong proponent of female advancement. She believes that her core purpose is to help Africa rise by unleashing the power of its women, and I couldn’t agree more with these sentiments!
From working at Coca-Cola to heading up a big marketing department at Nedbank, Lebo is someone you definitely want to know more about, especially if you’re looking for an inspiring role model making changes every day around her. She’s also a wife and mother of three children, who she says I am a wife, and my husband and I have 3 beautiful children who “keep us on our toes”! Enjoy this interview I did with her! She truly is one phenomenal woman!
Tell us about your beginnings…
I can’t believe that I started my career almost 20 years ago! I can so vividly remember the first suit I bought for my first interview and my very first day reporting for duty at Coca-Cola South Africa (as it was called then)! Since then, I have worked in both local and global management consultancies, as well as in financial services. My most recent corporate assignment was as the Executive Head for Strategy, Marketing and Communications for Nedbank Business Banking, a division of the bank that services medium-sized businesses, where I was the business strategy custodian, overseeing its development and execution, the chief customer officer, and oversaw the marketing and communications activities of the business, both internal and external. Over my career period I have honed my skills as a strategy and marketing professional, able to operate across a myriad of markets, industries and business functions.
What does your current career entail?
I think I can safely call myself a “slasher”, with a portfolio of interests, all of which are linked to my purpose. Primarily, I work as a consultant. After a career break taken in July 2017 to reconnect with myself and my young family, I established Indigo Flame earlier this year, a value proposition and customer experience specialist consultancy that ignites brands and helps organisations unlock value. My belief is that your value proposition is the soul of your brand; your lighthouse; that place within you where you draw strength, energy, direction, fire! Without clarity and certainty of this, you are lost. At Indigo Flame, our mission is to help brands find their core-their reason for being and their source of sustainable growth. I have a bias towards doing this for SME’s, specifically woman-owned ones, with a African outlook.
What made you choose this particular career?
For three main reasons – to have more ownership of my time; to do more meaningful and impactful work that combines all things I am excited about. I have always had a thrill for trying to help organisations get clarity on who they are and what they stand for, what compelling value they offer their targeted markets, what differentiates them and makes them a better option than the next guy, and what they need to have in place to consistently deliver that proposition. I have an unashamed bias towards helping SME’s and most specifically a drive to helping women take their rightful place in the economy, supporting them in enterprise establishment and growth.
What are some of the great things about it and challenges?
As this is fairly new for new, so too are the experiences. I can imagine that I will have a long list in a few months. What I have loved is the flexibility it has afforded me, being able to spend more time with my family in the process. I jealously guard that.
I have also loved how my mind has been opened up to explore possibilities, the conversations I have had with like-minded people and the collaborative spaces I am working in.
I have been blown away by what people are doing in the same spaces that I am interested in.
My biggest challenge has been action because of a fear of failure. Like Shonda Rhimes, this is my year of saying yes and my theme is “execution”… not to overthink but rather to focus on doing. But the little that I have done has been so well received that it’s given me the courage to move onto the next step and the next thing.
What advice can you share others on what they can do to reach the top. Any words of wisdom?
Trust yourself. Back yourself. Because if you don’t, you are unlikely to find somebody else who will.
Start… something; somewhere. If like me, you are a deep thinker and live in your head a lot, with a fear of failure you find it difficult to transition from your head to action. You’ll never know how great you can become, and the world will never experience you fully, if you don’t act on your thoughts.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. As perfectionists, many of us suffer perhaps from needing to know it all and have all the answers. You don’t have to. Surround yourself with a mini personal board of directors, people with different skills and perspectives who you can reach out to every now and then to seek guidance and help. I’ve also learnt not to be afraid to reach out to strangers- people that I admire or accomplished experts. You’d be amazed and how receptive people are to assisting.