APiF: Please introduce yourself.
Patricia Miswa: My name is Patricia Miswa and I’m the founder and editor in chief of Afroelle Magazine, a digital magazine that celebrates women of African heritage in Africa and the Diaspora. I’m passionate about storytelling and its power to bring change. I’m also a freelance creative designer, writer and consultant for digital magazines.
APiF: What inspired you to start Afroelle Magazine?
Patricia: I was at a low point in my life, just graduated from college, getting out of a relationship, trying to find a job and basically trying to find my way. I wasn’t much of a talker then, but when I opened up to a friend about my situation, she was like ‘me too’. It was such a relief knowing that I wasn’t alone. And if I hadn’t shared my story, I would have felt alone. That’s how it all started, I knew right then that there is power in women sharing their stories and experiences. We encourage, empower and elevate each other through them.
So I started Afroelle in May 2010. Initially it was a blog called The Ladies Room. I didn’t have a well thought out plan for it, I just knew I wanted to create a place for women to openly share their life experiences. Because I didn’t want to get discouraged about the idea or back out, I wrote the first post, shared it on Facebook and Twitter and didn’t do anything about the blog for a month. In the beginning the blog was mainly about relationships, but it slowly evolved when we started receiving stories about other issues as well and in 2011 I transitioned it to a digital magazine.
APiF: What is the goal of Afroelle?
Patricia: The goal of Afroelle is to provide a platform for women to share their stories, give them a voice, celebrate their achievements and highlights, the work they do in their lives and in their communities. So many women are doing a lot of work especially in the grassroots but not many get to be mentioned in the mainstream media – and that’s where we come in.
APiF: What challenges did you experience and had to be overcome since you started the magazine?
Patricia: I had never worked in a magazine before and didn’t know much about digital magazines and I really didn’t have anyone to show me the way or guide me, so one of the challenges was figuring all that out, I was such a rookie, I literally had to Google things like, how to design a magazine with Publisher. Looking back, I made a whole lot of mistakes but they helped me grow. The other challenge was having to wear so many hats and just finding a balance. For a long time the magazine was my life, my release, what I would be doing when on leave from work, my graveyard shift, basically I didn’t have a life, so other areas were suffering. I’ve since learned how to listen to my body and to stop and rest when I need to, and I’ve learned that its okay to say no. I don’t have to do everything, at least not all at once. One other important lesson from that challenge is knowing when to delegate work so that I can focus on other aspects of the magazine.
APiF: What motivates you – what keeps you going?
Patricia: The stories motivate me, the work women are doing around the globe, the impact they are making in other people’s lives their communities, their countries. It keeps me going and keeps me producing issues every month. I’ve wanted to quit many times, just recently as I was taking stock of the past 5 years, I questioned everything and it just boils down to how inspired I am when I hear about the strength, courage, wisdom, perseverance of other women, and that’s the same inspiration I want other women to feel.
APiF: What can we expect to see from Afroelle in the next 1-3 years?
Patricia: We hope to grow our community and not just online but offline too through holding events in different countries and even introducing an award ceremony where we can honor the women we feature in the magazine.
APiF: Afroelle is an online magazine – are there any aspirations to go print?
Patricia: Compared to print, having an online magazine doesn’t cost much. All you need is content and a publishing platform and you are good to go. Online is also good in terms of readership, we are not restricted to just Kenya or Africa, we get to share content with readers globally. In the beginning I never really thought of going print, all though I’m such a fan of having something tangible, but lately I’ve had a lot of readers writing in asking whether we have print versions of the magazine, which is awesome. As we celebrate 5 years with our July Issue, we are planning a crowd funding campaign on Indiegogo to raise money so that we can make a special print edition. This issue is called ‘The Sheroes Issue’ where we will profile 50 women sharing their personal stories, advice and life’s journeys. We hope through this issue we can inspire the next generation of female leaders to dream big and achieve great things with their lives. So if this special print issue is something you’d like to see come to fruition, then you can connect with us on our social media pages as we prepare for that campaign.
APiF: Any advice for other entrepreneurs out there?
Patricia: If you are passionate about something, give it your absolute all. You’ve got to want it so bad. You’ve got to visualize it and then get to work. And I’ll quote something by Yvonne Pierre I read recently and that encouraged me, “Don’t be discouraged if people don’t see your vision, your harvest. All they see from their perspective is that you’re watering a whole lot of dirt. They don’t SEE what seeds you’ve been planting with blood, sweat, tears and lack of sleep. Make sure you don’t abandon or neglect it because “they” don’t see it. You have to KNOW and believe for yourself. They don’t see the roots and what’s budding under the dirt. But it’s okay, because it’s NOT meant for them to see it. While you wait, MASTER it. You continue to do YOUR work and have unwavering faith! Remember why you started planting in the first place. Your harvest WILL come!”
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IMAGE CREDITS: Afroelle, apuletown & Sami Khan