Behind the Scenes: #UpgradeYourself #Tour

On 29th June,2019, the upgrade yourself team conducted its final session in Mzuzu. How did this start?

On 4th January 2019, God dropped an idea in my spirit. This was to bring together a team of exceptional young people in Malawi who will conduct a series of sessions in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu focusing on personal branding.  Immediately the names Charles Lipenga, Tendai Munemo, Tendai Banda came to mind.

I quickly sent voice notes to these guys and they all responded positively. Tendai Munemo was already onboard before she finished listening to the Voice note.

‘Actually, this has been revolving in my head too!’ -said Tendai Banda

And Charles Lipenga said ‘…let’s get this done. I like to train people who are serious.’

With this statement by Charles, we agreed that every person who has to attend this session has to pay a fee. Because payment demonstrated that seriousness Charles was talking about.

With this positive feedback a WhatsApp group was created. By the way, everything about the sessions has been planned through this WhatsApp group.

We spent days discussing the concept of the tour with every member pitching their ideas. We developed the name of the tour, the topics, and share responsibilities.

The first session was planned for 23rd February 2019 at Mhub in Lilongwe. The Poster was shared on social media on our respective pages. Lumuli Mwakasungula, spared some money and boosted the post on my social media page to reach more people. May God bless him. He also went further to print the posters and pasted at Mhub. He covered all these costs.

On 8th January, I got this message from Ndondwa Mijoya

“I just saw your post for the ‘upgrade yourself’…every bone in me would love to attend but I obviously can’t because I am not around. I was wondering if I could instead sponsor 2 females to attend the workshop?…’

This was followed by a message from Thom Khanje who asked if his 15-year-old was eligible to attend upgrade yourself.

Then, Njabulo Dzonzi came in with his offer to do both photography and videography.

Ikenna Anyadike from Nigeria offered to run a session online all the way from Nigeria. Due to other factors this option was not explored further.

This experience reminded me of this quote by Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

The night before the first session Tendai Banda, Lucky Gondwe, Tendai Munemo, Charles Lipenga and myself spent a good part of our night refining our presentations and putting together everything to ensure that the event goes on smooth.

That morning, before the session, thieves broke into my house and took some valuable items. I discovered this when I woke up in the morning. This incident could have spoilt my day, but thank God, I continued my day like nothing happened.

Another possible hiccup was the fact that Tendai Banda had a crash of programs. She was expected to speak at another event on the same day, around the same time. She managed to address this crash and was able to deliver at both events.

My favorite part about the Lilongwe session was the co-learning that happened from both the participants and the facilitators. This co-learning became our signature mark in all the upgrade sessions we conducted in Blantyre, Lilongwe, and Mzuzu.

At the end of the session, Holmes Burton, one of the participants, said ‘Sukez is my role model. Please if you know him or meet him, let him know that he inspires me a lot.

Before the message was delivered to Sukez, he reached to me first. He said and I quote ‘I would like to join the upgrade yourself team in Blantyre.’ As you can see from the poster, he did not only join the Blantyre session, but also the Mzuzu session.

Lilongwe was done, planning for Blantyre started. Ulala Kondowe, founder and Executive Director at Girls Network Malawi got on board. Since the majority of the team was based in Lilongwe, Ulala did much of the running up and down. I can say that without Ulala, the Blantyre session couldn’t have happened.

Now, we got credible intelligence from people who knew Blantyre well that the turn out will be low. This was even reflected in our registration figures. I remember a few days before our event, another event happened in Blantyre, which was very important, and the team did an excellent job at advertising. However, they managed to get less than 10 people to attend.

This, coupled with the challenges we were having with the Blantyre hub, was really concerning. Slowly we were beginning to lose faith.

‘4 people have paid and 3 others have expressed interest to attend the function. Others have joined using the WhatsApp group link, but no indication of paying or attending…I propose that we give ourselves a date by which if we still have not received any additional interest, we call the function off and re-strategise…’-wrote Tendai Munemo

Then Ulala Kondowe followed, ‘…with my past experience conducting functions in Blantyre, people here are usually reluctant to part with money even for a good cause. I would suggest we cancel the event, re-strategize and lower the fee…’

Seeing the spirit of negativity taking root, Tendai Banda then responded

‘…if we have don’t have the numbers then we may have to consider promotions…also if you have a Facebook page and money maybe do a promotion targeting people in Blantyre’

I then joined the positive vibes party with this message

This is what I will say. Let us remove any thought of cancelling. And invest our energies, time and mind to think of ways to pull this event off. I know that this group can come up with brilliant ideas that can still make the event work…whatever the case this event has to happen, and more than 40 people have to attend’

I wish I could say that this was something that came from me. But all I can say is that flesh and blood did not reveal this to me, but the spirit of the living God.

With this, then we had to give the mobilization our all. Zathu, National Youth Council of Malawi, Joab Frank Chakhaza, Maphunziro265, Maestros Team among others help with sharing the posters about the event. This helped us to increase the number of people who attended the event. We also run a couple’s promotions, which saw the participants come with their spouse. This also helped to increase the number of participants. Kwera fund also gave us 8 people (Kwera fund student climbers). A lot more people came on board, and by the grace of God, we got a high turnup.

The Lilongwe team knocked off from work and business, drove from Lilongwe to Blantyre, had dinner at KFC, and then spent the remainder of the day discussing and revising slides. We agreed, disagreed, touched each other nerves, and eventually concluded the day at 12 midnight.

We delivered the sessions to the best of our ability.

‘Great presentation, I have learnt a lot. When coming I thought it was not important but after the presentations I am hooked. Personal Branding presentation was great, I have learnt that we need to identify target market, give and take – don’t give everything for free. I loved the social media presentation, haven’t been active on it for some time. Will use it more to sell myself.’-Said Precious Chaponda, Renewable Energy and Environmental Management Consultant

Blantyre was done, Mzuzu was next. Mzuzu E-hub offered us a free venue, and a speaker, Wangiwe Joana Kambuzi, the founder of Mzuzu e-hub. The cost on the team was similar, 1,000 kilometers(roundtrip), sleeping at 12 midnight, and more hours of practice, and feedback.

Days before the event, Charles Lipenga, excused himself due to another engagement. Thanks to Technology, he was able to record a shot clip that summarized his ideas.

2 days before upgrade Mzuzu I had a bad flu. The thought of not going to Mzuzu crossed my mind several times. Thank God! I was feeling better Friday afternoon. Thanks to Ginger, honey, lemons and Janus. I managed to travel to Mzuzu and facilitated a session on social media management.

Again, Mzuzu happened and we got positive feedback too.

As I sit now and reflect on the work we have done, I can’t help but thank God for this opportunity to reach to over 100 young professionals, from Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu. Most importantly, the opportunity to bring together young leaders in Africa to work together to achieve a common goal. To share the success and failures. This is something that is rare to find these days.

Click on this link to experience the upgrade sessions in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.