finding meaning in the ordinary

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matriarch mantras | erica mbanda

i get an extra boost of affirmation whenever i meet women who don’t limit themselves because of roles, time or expectations. an important omen on the journey of self actualization is the reminder that no matter our life situation, we always have the choice to write a chapter that is completely different from the ones we’ve lived before.

erica’s journey is one of those reminders. from moving to a culture that is in many ways in direct conflict to the one she grew up in, to taking leaps of faith whenever she feels called to, her story inspires us to be more disciplined in listening to that little voice that nudges us to make a change when the season calls for it.

today, she leads harambee, a program that works to bridge the gap between youth unemployment and skill sets as a solution to creating jobs that can sustain and transform the lives of africa’s youth. that’s not all she does though— she recently opened a home bakery, mukati na butta, where joy is the main ingredient.

did you expect m&b to have the take off that it did?

no. the response has been crazy. i do 35-40 orders every week. i knew that i wasn’t going to get zero interest because i knew that there are people out there who like what i make, so it wasn’t that i wasn’t confident in the business or my baking, i was, but i felt like it would be a few people (family and friends), one reason being my pricing. i chose to use quality, good ingredients which is not cheap so my costing has to be up and i made sure that i did my costing so that when i have my own place, i don’t have to change my prices.

i was always talking about how i wanted to start a blog, bake more, because those are things that i’m passionate about but i kept saying how i don’t have time to do all these things and when lock down happened, i realized that i actually have a lot of time, it’s just how i use my time. i needed to choose what it is that i want to spend my time on and make sure that it’s spent on the things that i enjoy doing and that fuel me.

m&b is a passion, i love sharing about motherhood, marriage— i love being able to share my experiences. i feel like there’s a lot of power in sharing and being real with the good,bad, hard— everything. it reminds us that we are not alone and that there are other people that struggle with the same things we struggle with, and it feels hopeful.

on partnership|

i used to feel like if you marry the right person, things are going to be easy but what i know now is that you can never know (if it’s the right person) 100%, without a shadow of doubt. you acknowledge that there’s a bunch that you don’t know but with what you do know, you are comfortable to make this commitment. love is a commitment, it’s a choice.

learning to respect each other and the ideas that we bring to the table. communication and understanding are critical. in order to have a healthy partnership, you have to have honesty at the foundation of it. that applies to all the areas of partnership. marriage, work partnerships.

how do you decide who you collaborate with?

what’s important for me is alignment in values. it’s not just about selling and making money because with the b2b model, i could sell to so many people and get it out there to the masses, but for me, mukati na butta (m&b) is all about joy— i talk about joy in every crumb because baking is something that brings me a lot of joy and i love when people partake in something that i’ve been able to create. i pray and hope that they get the same sense of joy by having something delicious. if i can vibe with a partner in that sense, that’s the biggest thing that determines who i partner with.

i believe that we all come here with a unique gift and when we hone in on it, it comes effortlessly. your baking seems like a gift— is m&b the easiest venture you’ve taken?

absolutely, i would say so. i love it so much and that part comes naturally and easy.i can’t say that the business itself is easy because it’s really hard but i think it’s hard because i want to put everything i’ve got into it. the hard part is the prioritization. also, this is the first time that i’ve ran my own business so there’s so much that i’m learning. ultimately i’ll have other people come in to help me but i really believe that if i don’t understand it myself, how will i teach others?

how are you balancing the different aspects of your reality?

i knew that i wanted to do m&b because it’s something that i really enjoy, i felt like this is the season and god was really challenging me with prioritizing what actually brings me joy. my whole theme for this year is joy. i was filling my cup with a lot of things that didn’t fill me. i was always saying yes and part of that is my people-pleasing tendencies but i realize that when i spend my time doing that (serving) for the purpose of other people and not because i actually enjoy it, it’s not feeding me, it’s actually draining me and then it feels like i’m constantly operating on empty.

it’s hard. i think i’m still trying to find the balance. what does it (balance) mean, what does that look like? in finding balance you have to be intentional, it doesn’t just happen. so if i’m not intentional i find that i could be using my time to do a lot of things that don’t matter, that i shouldn’t be doing or that i could have someone else do.

what’s the hardest thing about boundaries?

i don’t like saying no. sometimes i feel that me saying no is me failing so i tend to just say yes even when i know that it’s going to be a struggle. it’s a day-to-day thing for me. i remind myself to remember my boundaries every day. it’s an intention that i have to go with every day and i don’t think that i’ll reach that place. i think my personality probably makes it harder to set boundaries because i’m more of a people-pleaser and i want people to like me and i want to have peace and so a lot of times i do that at my expense. but if i’m not full, what do i really have to give to people?

if someone’s stressed because they can’t get a cake, and it’s their mom’s birthday and they forgot, i absorb all of that and take it on to where i say, |it’s okay, i’ll do it.| and that’s what i always do, so when i was getting ready to open m&b, i said i’m not going to do that.

something that is underrated?

not taking life so seriously and remembering to stay light.

what’s your mantra?

do what brings you joy! i distinguish joy from happiness because i think that happiness is circumstantial, so i could feel happy that things are going well and when things go to shits, i’m sad. what i’m finding now is that joy is going to be my constant. i’m always going to choose joy. even when things are hard and i’m sad or working through a tough time, i’m going to choose to focus on the great things that are coming out of the situation.

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