Prosper Taruvinga is a Melbourne-based entrepreneur and digital marketing strategist. He is the founder and CEO of Livelong Digital, a digital marketing agency that largely works with small businesses to increase their chances of reaching more profitable markets. Alongside this, he’s the author of Online Prosperity Blueprint and was a 2018 nominee for the Social Media Marketer of the Year at the Social Media Marketing Awards, Australia. He lives in Melbourne with his wife and two daughters.
Simba C Harawa
Prosper, it’s great to get some time with you. Tell us a little about what you do.
At Livelong Digital, we help small businesses to market, scale and brand their business to become profitable. We create tools and systems that help them to reach profitable markets the same way big businesses do. We’ve worked with start-ups until they have reached a revenue of up to two million dollars per year. If we look back to 20 years ago, it was just the big companies that could market themselves on television. The internet and digital age has leveled the playing field for all such that anyone who has an idea can turn that idea into a business. With that, one needs to be audacious and consistent with their message to take full advantage of these digital platforms.
From Zimbabwe to Australia…walk us through some of that journey.
I came to Australia in 2011 with nothing but a back pack full of hopes and dreams. Before that, I was leading the operations and marketing team for a company called Zain in Malawi. I’d been hired from Zimbabwe to rebrand Zain in Malawi. We did all the billboards and painted the shops pink.
Zain was part of Singapore Telecommunication (Singtel) which is in the same line that owns Optus here in Australia. As the company introduced new technology called WiMax, they sent me to Singapore for training – I was there for three months. Whilst there, I met colleagues from Australia who told me a lot about the country. I only had a one year visa
for Singapore, so I thought why not apply for one to Australia after that year was up; and that was it. I applied and got a business visa for Australia.
How did you handle the cultural shift from a business perspective?
I quickly learned that trust and authenticity were very important, as well as keeping time and honouring promises. If a meeting is scheduled at a certain time, you need to be there at the agreed time. If you make a promise to make a payment by a certain date, you need to honour that promise.
I learnt to be genuine and authentic. We are the most documented generation. So, we need to live a life that is as clean as possible. There are lots of searches that can be done and if you’re not authentic you’ll be found out.
What’s an important message for us to share with our children?
We have a culture that’s on the brink of dying here in the diaspora. So, we need to keep our culture alive. It’s important to mould our children into becoming strong members of the community they live in and we need to thrive and continue with the legacy that we live for them.
Kids will only learn what they are exposed to. If you teach them the language of money, they will learn that. If you teach them the language of poverty and complaining that is what they will learn and what they will become.
One of the reasons we’re not so prosperous as Africans is that a lot of us have not passed on the baton of generational wealth. A lot of people our age from other cultures start off with some sort of inheritance, life insurance or property. As immigrants it’s understandable that we must sweat to start something. However, after all that sweat, it would be a waste not to teach our children about generational wealth and prosperity. The onus is on us parents to teach them how to survive in this economy. Remember when Cecil John Rhodes came to Zimbabwe? He took land for three generations after him. What are we leaving our own?
What inspired you to do what you are doing?
When I was growing up, all the toilets at our school had a sign that said, ‘Leave this place better than you found it.’ My role is to do exactly that.
How did you get started in marketing?
When I came to Australia, like I said earlier, I had nothing but a bag full of hopes and dreams and no contacts. All I wanted was to create a better future. My first job was to work in a restaurant washing dishes. I did this as I was setting myself up. It was a
During those early days, I started looking for old friends and acquaintances on Facebook. As I did this, I realised that the restaurant I worked for didn’t have a Facebook page. So, I created one and told people to follow it. Word got to the owner and he was not pleased. When I went back to work after a day off, he approached me in a rage. “Go and delete the
Facebook page! I’ve never done Facebook and I never will!” Apparently, he didn’t want bad reviews.
When I went home, I sent Facebook a request to delete the page which would take 48 hours. On the Saturday, I told the owner that the page would be deleted. On that same Saturday evening, some guests at the restaurant posted good reviews…on the Facebook page. Word got to the restaurant owner and on the following Tuesday he asked me not to delete the page, stop washing dishes and start running the Facebook page for the restaurant. I literally created my own job!
I had to get it right, so I read about restaurants and Facebook. I read a lot and up to now I read a minimum of four hours a day. I connected with the right kind of people. One of my connections asked me to do social media work for $400 per week; at that point I realised that I could offer my services to other restaurants who were willing to pay. That’s how I
And you did more right?
Yes – I did public speaking courses and other online courses just to integrate what I was doing. I then created a company – Iconic Images which was a start-up company that linked jobless models with shops and people who were selling clothes. It was what they now call ‘influencer marketing.’ I then went on to consolidate my digital marketing skills. I created
the Online Prosperity Blueprint which is a four-step process that helps people to be consistent with their work. People started approaching me. I created a niche. I became a brand.
What drove you?
Sometimes when faced with adversity that might be the push that you need to start new things. You will never realise how powerful and resourceful you are until faced with adversity.
The best thing about working for yourself is…
I work from home. For that reason, I have to be disciplined and organised allowing me time to learn and develop. I put myself through four hours of learning each day which can be in short blocks of 30 minutes each. I have lots of books and recently created a website where I sell these books which are mostly about marketing and personal development. That helps create leads as well. I can then exchange some marketing material with these leads. I also help and contribute to the development of others in the process.
What makes you good at what you do?
When I was featured on Channel 9 Television with Karl Stefanovic to locate the exchange teacher who taught me in Form 2 in Zimbabwe, I made a pledge. In that documentary I made a pledge to be a role model for other young kids.
This is the life that I live now. I live to that pledge which makes me work to be the best example of anything that I am a father, a businessman. I want to be the best but retain the humility to be approachable. I also want to keep learning from others – the more
you learn the more you earn.
Some golden nuggets of advice for budding entrepreneurs are…
…Set ridiculously high goals that would make small minds think twice. If you aim for the stars and you miss, you land among the clouds. That’s still high. Failure is not absolute.
Things may not be working out for one of your goals but working great for the others, so you need to set goals for different areas of your life.
There’s never a best time to start something. We started 2020 with bush fires, now there is COVID19 and there will be something else after this. Just get started. Rich people buy shares when there are storms and crises. If those same billionaires gave away all their fortune, we would each get a million dollars and that money would still find its way back
to the billionaires. So, learn how to invest; buy shares in companies and control companies. Find your own space in the grand scheme of things.
What was the best piece of advice you were ever given?
The more you give the more you gain. Giving is also about making time for others in need. There’s a quote from Axel Munthe that says ‘What you keep to yourself you lose, what you give away, you keep forever.’
The best way to deal with criticism is…
… People will always have an opinion but never take criticism from someone you would never take advice from. Some people will always be negative. If you ask a rhino what it sees, it will always see its horn before everything. No matter how beautiful the vegetation
is out there, the rhino will always see its horn first.
Secondly, know who you are and know your destination. Many people get derailed by criticism because they’re not clear about where they’re going. When you set off on a trip, you put the destination into your GPS, right? If there are roadworks or detours along the way, the GPS corrects itself and finds another route. So, know where you’re going and don’t be swayed by criticisms.
Share some advice for raising children in the diaspora.
We are our children’s role models, so we need to model the behaviour we want for them. As a parent you lay out their launchpad.
We must plan and leave a legacy for them. If we don’t, they’ll just inherit poverty. We need to set our minds on progress for us and for them.
What’s next for you?
I once helped a woman create a business from scratch. She was a chef, but an illness meant she couldn’t work in the kitchens anymore. Over a period of a year she created a range of chutneys with the brand name Measante. She went on to write a book called Fusion Safari which she dedicated to me. That motivated me to continue with the development of self and others. With that, I can leave a legacy for the next generation.
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