Carol Nonhlanhla Gajana accepted the position of Events and Logistics Coordinator at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation because of her passion for managing events and her love for working with young people. These two skills have also come in handy in the business she started a little more than a year ago.
Team Asijiki, meaning the team for whom there is no turning back, came about as a result of Carol’s personal weight loss journey. “My wakeup call came after a Wellness Assessment day at work,” says Carol. She was shocked to realise that her weight was the same as when she was pregnant two years earlier in 2011. “I realised right there and then that time for excuses had come to an end.”
Soon after her wakeup call Carol started following the healthy lifestyle community on Facebook called SleekGeek. Between January and October of 2014 she managed to lose 6.8kg by cutting out bread, pap, rice and cereals. This was a good start, but she realised that to lose weight faster she would have to commit to the programme 100%. She decided to start SleekGeek Reboot on 3 November 2014. Besides changing her eating habits, she also took to daily exercising before work and in the evenings. Since then she has lost 40kg and now weighs a light 80kg.
Carol’s coordinating skills came to the fore when she started recruiting ladies at work to form part of an accountability group. Twelve ladies joined and met during lunch times for walks or Zumba and Taebo sessions in a meeting room. Her endeavours were recognised by the HR department and she was awarded the title of Ambassador of Healthy Living in the Workplace. Because she had to lead by example, she couldn’t afford to fall off the wagon.
Before long Carol started a second accountability group – this time for her friends. “I created a WhatsApp group and called it Team Asijiki. We posted what we ate and drank for all meals as well as what we did as exercise. The team quickly grew from 10 to 31 ladies from all across South Africa. These ladies had a particularly hard time cutting out starch; they were mostly Xhosa or Zulu ladies whose traditional food consisted of starch, starch and more starch. However, being part of Team Asijiki, they managed to soldier on.
The WhatsApp group eventually morphed into a Facebook group that is now 70 000 members strong. The next natural step was turning Team Asijiki into a business brand. So far she has appointed group administrators who champion team spirit through numerous WhatsApp accountability groups, she’s facilitated workshops across South Africa, she’s been interviewed on numerous radio stations and TV programmes, she’s opened the Team Asijiki Health Shop in Khayelitsha and she’s gotten the buy-in from Dis-Chem Pharmacies. After noticing an increase in sales Dis-Chem agreed to put ‘Asijiki Friendly’ labels on all the products they use. Asijiki packs are also couriered to members in towns that have no Dis-Chem, like Umthatha, Queenstown and Limpopo.
Team Asijiki’s 8 week Weight-Loss Challenge has been launched to get everyone ready for Summer 2016. Joining costs R549 and it includes a Reboot Success guide delivered to your doorstep, free exercise plans and a chance to win cash prizes ranging from R4 000 to R10 000 for losing the most weight. Those revellers who prefer enjoying the silly season and starting afresh in January have the option of paying a R100 fee for a 30-day programme that includes coaching on eating clean and exercising as well as regular weigh-ins and lots of group motivation.
Given the success of Team Asijiki, Carol’s expertise is no longer limited to just weight loss. Her advice to budding entrepreneurs who don’t know where to start, is:
- Know yourself; identify the problems and issues that you want to improve upon.
- Do different things so you can find what you enjoy – then it will be sustainable.
- See who else is in the same boat as you and form a forum.
- See what the demand is and act on it quickly.