My name is Leisa Grace Wilson, and I am a woman of God, wife, mother, educator, entrepreneur and all-around hot mess sometimes. I say I am a hot mess because I am always doing several things at the same time, spinning several plates and sometimes I might lose control. Some may fall, but I am a multi-passionate person, so I like to have my hands full. I am just a regular girl who decided to take Philippians 4:13 and apply it to my life. Yes, I am certainly a regular Jamaican girl living an extraordinary life.
MOFTAH EDUCATION, HOW DID IT COME ABOUT?
Moftah Education was born out of a love for education and educators. I am a teacher by profession. I started my career in education more than 20 years ago, teaching English, Spanish and English Literature. After working in Jamaica and the United Kingdom as a teacher and school leader, I moved with my husband to the United Arab Emirates. When I came here in 2010, I realised that there was no magazine, platform or events which united the entire education space in the UAE and indeed the region. We then decided to start something, at first it was only supposed to have been a website and possibly a couple of meetups every now and again but very soon the idea expanded and Teach Middle East Magazine was born. Today Teach Middle East Magazine is the largest and most widely read education publication in the Middle East for educators.
WHAT BRANDS AND EVENTS FALL UNDER THE MOFTAH EDUCATION NAME?
The Moftah brand has now grown to include, The flagship Teach Middle East Magazine, Edtech Middle East, The Middle East Maths Teachers Conference, The Middle East School Leadership Conference, schoolfinder.ae and the soon to be launched Dubai Education Week.
WHAT’S YOUR IDEA OF SUCCESS?
I believe success is doing the things that bring you the most joy every day. I cannot put a monetary value on success because I genuinely believe that having a lot of money is not a true mark of success. Success is ongoing; it is a process, not a destination. If I am better than I was yesterday, then I am successful. If I wake up every morning in my right mind then I am successful, If I have my family around me and they love me, then I am successful. You get the picture. I strongly believe that if we live our lives always striving for the next thing to make us feel successful, then we might never experience success.
WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT?
I am passionate about life. Let me explain, over the years and especially in 2018, I lost a lot. I lost my mother, she was my whole life, and I also lost one of my best friends, Ricky. I watched others lose people, and I have also heard of young people who I know just going to sleep and not waking up. These experiences have given me a great hunger and a drive to live my life to the fullest. I am passionate about not allowing fear or the opinions of others to stop me from doing the things that I am passionate about. I am also a strong believer in the power of educators to change the future of this world. Think of it this way; there is no other group of people in the world who have more collective influence and authority over the minds and hearts of the young people; than educators. Educators are powerful; it is a shame that they often seem not to get the respect and remuneration that they deserve.
WHAT’S THE SECRET TO BEING A FEARLESS LEADER?
To be a fearless leader, you need to have two things:
1. An unshakable belief in yourself
Believing in yourself may sound like a cliche, but it is of the utmost importance. The fact is when you step out to follow your dreams, there will be many people who will tell you that it won’t work. They are not all bad people, sometimes it is the people closest to you, but you have to remember that these people are only speaking out of their own fears and insecurities. Your belief in yourself is what will give you the resolve to keep going, especially when times get tough.
Empathy is needed, especially when dealing with others. You should not only be able to listen with your ears, but also with your heart. To be a fearless leader, you have to look beneath the surface and try to assess people’s motives. Sometimes what appears bad might not be and vice versa.
WHO AND/OR WHAT MOTIVATES YOU?
They say you should always have a why. My “why” are my kids. I am the mother of six-year-old twin boys, and they are the reason I work so hard. My husband (and business partner) also keeps me motivated. He is always there to support and encourage me. Sometimes I think he believes in me more than I believe in myself. The educators I serve also motivate me. I have met some amazing teachers and if they can keep going in the face of difficulties then so can I.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES OF OWNING YOUR OWN BRAND?
The lack of sleep. Owning your own brand is like having another member added to your immediate family, and like a baby, you have to take care of it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There is no clocking out and going home.
Another challenge is access to funding and also finding quality people to work with. The region is not as business-friendly as we would like it to be, this is changing, but it will take time. As a result, running a business in this part of the world can be very expensive.
When you own your own brand, you also have to remember that you are your brand’s ambassador. Your actions may affect how people perceive your brand. Don’t forget people do business with people.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH FAILURE?
When I fail or have a big set back, I allow myself a day or two to mull over it, to wallow, to cry and to feel down, but then when that time is up. I get up, and I look at what happened objectively, I search for the lessons and then I do my best to move on and grow from the experience. It is not easy, and I often find myself mulling long after. Still, I always remind myself that everything happens for a reason, and as I move on the meaning will become clear.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUR 20-YEAR-OLD SELF?
Where do I begin? I have so much I would tell my 20- year-old self. The first thing I would tell her is to relax; it will all work out. I would tell her to buy real estate and lots of it. Don’t waste money on silly things, just travel and purchase real estate because your 40-year-old self will thank you for the experiences and capital appreciation. I would also tell her that she is not the saviour and that she should allow some people to fail. Do not try to bail everyone out when they make bad life choices, allow them to learn from their own mistakes as you will have to learn from yours.
I will also tell her that she will meet a tall, dark African guy from Zambia, who is going to marry her and make her the mother of two gorgeous twin boys. On a serious note, I would really want her to know that the opinions of others do not define her and that she is worthy of any space she stands in.
HOW DO YOU LOOK AFTER YOUR MENTAL HEALTH WHILE BEING A BUSY BOSS?
As a busy mum and entrepreneur, it is very hard to find time to take care of yourself, especially your mental health. I try to keep a regular exercise routine which helps me to feel great. I also listen to music, and most of all, I pray. I take time to pray and meditate on God’s Word daily.
IN TERMS OF THE STRATEGIC GROWTH OF YOUR BUSINESS, WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN THE NEXT TEN YEARS?
It is my hope that in the next ten years, the Moftah brand would have extended to Africa, and further into Asia. We have our eyes on some projects in Africa in the near future. The aim is to have a global education brand in the next ten years.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO GIVE UP THEIR 9-5 TO START A BUSINESS?
I would advise them to be patient and strategic. The aim is not to have an idea and then give up your 9-5 job and struggle. Hustle on the side for as long as it takes and build your business up to the point where it can replace your 9-5 income and then some. When that happens, you will be able to walk away from your 9-5 with no regret.
NAME ONE THING YOU DO OR WILL DO DIFFERENTLY FOR YOUR CHILDREN TO WHAT YOUR PARENTS DID FOR YOU.
When I was growing up, my mother was really insistent on me going to university and getting the best education that I could get. I am very grateful to her for helping me to get the education I have. Still, I do not think I will insist that my boys go to university. Instead, I will work with them on creating their own path to success, and if that involves going to university, then I will be there for them as much as I can be. I am also going to teach my boys about money and investing from a very early age, in fact, I have already started, and they are only six.