Why a strong community is a solid foundation for success

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To experience sustainable success, it is important to understand the things that matter most. For Sibahle Alkema, Marketing Manager: Advocacy and Community at Yoco, it’s about giving yourself grace – accepting that there are times you’ll get it wrong, but that you’ll do better when you know better.

Sibahle is a big believer in failing forward – whether in the office, where her focus lies in helping Yoco find ways to strengthen its connection with its community, or at home.

Sibahle’s journey to Yoco has a surprising start – much as her journey to motherhood is an unconventional one.

She explains that, although she studied law, she always harboured a love of the eventing industry, which she first encountered as a University of Western Cape student taking part in promotions. “I’m an extroverted introvert, and events gave me a chance to connect with people on a comfortable level,” Sibahle recalls. She hadn’t considered the industry as a career option, however (mostly because her parents were set on her following the legal route), until she took on a part-time job as an events coordinator at South African Breweries. This was followed by a stint in marketing before Sibahle realised she wanted to build on her skill set with a marketing qualification.

She joined Yoco shortly afterwards – but, one year after she started as the company’s events manager, the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, halted the hosting of events. That’s when she started focusing on growing the Yoco community, instead. “My role had always been an interesting one, because it was highly experiential. I wanted to bring our brand and products to the community in a way that made it real for them. But as the role evolved, it became more about creating experiences that connect them with the brand and with other entrepreneurs.”

This shift entailed creating brand advocates; people who love the Yoco brand so much they wanted to tell others about it, thus becoming inadvertent marketers.

Sibahle is highly enthusiastic about the path her career has taken. “I love our community,” she says. “I love engaging with them, and meeting so many different entrepreneurs at different stages of the business life cycle.” Having grown up in the township – like so many of Yoco’s merchants – she feels proud that the brand has created a platform for these entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and, in so doing, to make a difference in their communities. She’s equally proud that Yoco has created a space where business owners can share conversations; one they own themselves to help each other along their business journeys.

Sibahle was working to build the Yoco brand while she was building her family. She married in 2021, just two years after becoming a Yoco staffer – and she and her husband adopted her niece in December 2022.

This is when Sibahle comes to realise the value of being part of a community herself. “I’m grateful for the support provided by Yoco. It’s beneficial to have the flexibility and to work from home – it means I can do school runs and be there for my daughter when she needs me.”

“Motherhood is the most fulfilling thing I have ever experienced,” she says – but it’s also a hard teacher. Becoming a mother to an 11-year-old girl, who has firm opinions and all the moods of a tween, can be humbling. That’s why Sibahle’s number one parenting tip is to be real. “I’m a perfectionist, so obviously I wanted to be the best parent I can be. Obviously, though, things don’t always go according to plan. I try to give myself some leeway and remember that I’m only human. We all make mistakes – but tomorrow gives us another chance to try again. There are times when I am going to fail, but so long as I am failing forward, that’s ok.”