Zambian-born Aaron Mashano moved to Australia in 2001 to study English, law and commerce. He was drawn towards helping young migrants in prison, which led him to build his business in educating people to turn their passion into profits. In 2012, he moved his headquarters to Bali and wrote his books, The Economic Migrant and Seeds of the Wawa Tree – 11 African Short Stories. We talk to Aaron to find out more about his business consultancy, workshops, passion and how Bali chose him.
Where are you based at the moment?
I live in Canggu but will probably be making Sanur my base soon. My business model works around partnering up with co-working spaces because I get the ideal clients with the seed to start up and monetise their passion. It’s also a really good community space, so you find people are a bit more relaxed. Sanur has a place called Kumpul, which is in a creative house called Rumah Sanur. It is the first co-working space I’ve found that has a 50-50 split between expat and Indonesians, which is great for me.
What led you to pursue the work that you do now?
I’m a humanitarian at heart and working in the corporate arena, I wasn’t really seeing the impact with individuals and communities. So, I started branching out in social enterprises on the side and found that I was more passionate about that.
How was Leaders of Tomorrow born?
When my son was born, I started questioning my behaviours, actions and my role in life. ‘Am I here to look good or am I here to make a difference to future generations?’ I figured out that I wanted my life to mean something. I always knew that I wanted to become a coach or a writer or a speaker but I never thought I could do it. In 2012, I set up a business with a silly name that keeps me accountable and I really do my best so that my son can follow suit.
Tell us about the work you did in juvenile prisons.
I started working with juveniles in prison, teaching them about life skills, communication and confidence building. A lot of the African migrant community were ending up in prison because of identity issues, which refugees and immigrants face. We started getting really good results and I got a real addiction to helping young people find opportunities.
Was it difficult for you as a migrant in Australia?
I’m an eternal optimist, but it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve done, especially with the language barrier. As an African, black man trying to find his feet in Australia, I think I lost myself trying to become someone who I thought I needed to be. I found myself being one of the best performers in interview and job settings but I just wasn’t getting picked. I had to work 10 times harder to get the job, which I did, and I found myself in middle management within a year because of my work ethic. Australia opened it all up for me and after six years I got my permanent residency and the sky was the limit.
What attracted you to set up Leaders of Tomorrow in Bali?
I was going through my own spiritual journey and I came to Bali to speak and ended up running a workshop. I have to admit I had my own ‘Eat Pray Love’ experience, so I thought maybe it was a good time to expand internationally. I came back to Bali a few months later to write and by the time I finished my book, I realised I felt more at home in Bali. By February 2014 I was living here, but I still run my operations in Perth and I’m looking to expand to the US.
Did Bali welcome you with open arms?
I’ll put it this way, I’ve been in Australia for 15 years and I was calling Bali home pretty much a month after I moved. It just resonates with me.
I started my first ‘Passion 2 Profit’ workshop in Bali in August 2014, which I run every quarter in Sanur. I’m looking for people who have a talent or a passion and want to create an enterprise around it. Our workshops run for six hours and we help to identify people’s passion, refine their skills, and ways of monetising to create an enterprise.
How many people do you have in your workshops?
A maximum of 50; I used to take 400, which would be better for a keynote speech, which I’m interested to pursue in Jakarta.
What happens after each workshop? Explain your business consulting services.
Because I have more of a personal approach, I try to find out about the individuals who join my workshops, discovering what their core needs are. 80 percent of the people that do attend are probably not suited for my post-workshop business consulting services. If you continue on with me, you can either buy a book, study online, or I take a few people on a personalised consultancy where we talk once a month. For the latter option, you have to be really ready. By the third month you should have your business up-and-running and by the sixth month you should be making a profit.
How many people ‘make it’ with you?
A majority of them do eventually make it, which is why I can only take 20 percent of the room at any given time.
What traits of a successful person do you notice in your workshops?
Jim Rohn, my favourite mentor of all time said, “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you find an excuse.”
When people don’t show up at my workshop, chances are they’re not in that 20 percent group. In the workshop we play games oriented around action-taking and I find by the end of the six hours, 20 percent have played most of the games and played them competitively. If you think about it in the business world, if you’re not out there hustling, you won’t build a business. If you won’t hustle in a safe environment with a small amount of risk, you’re not likely to hustle at a bigger level with a lot of risk, and sharks in the market place. Within half of the workshop, I have cherry-picked and know who is most likely going to be someone I’d like to work with as their personal business consultant.
Tell us about the different workshops you have on offer and how much they cost to join.
‘Passion 2 Profit’ is more expat-oriented and ‘Business Blitz’ is more for local businesses, where people ask for specific advice on specific problems. ‘Passion 2 Profit’ costs Rp.350,000 but if it’s at a co-working space where you’re a member, then it’s Rp.250,000. ‘Business Blitz’ is Rp.150,000. Both workshops run for six hours.
Do you notice differences in business approach between expat and Indonesian people in your workshops?
I find the Indonesian and Balinese to be very straight-forward. They know exactly what their business is and what it is not. Usually they are very focused on sales. With the expat community, the business should be simple but I spend more time trying to simplify what’s going on in their minds. They’re worrying about how they’re going to make a million dollars to worrying about what the government thinks, so we don’t get the business started. The expats are also very much about perfection, whereas the Indonesian market want to get the product out there and refine as they go. In the most practical way, the Indonesian entrepreneur is probably more suited for business because that’s what business is.
What’s next for you?
5 December will be my last 2015 workshop in Bali and I plan to do something in Jakarta before then. Next year I will launch in San Francisco, Amsterdam and Africa. I’m also creating an e-business suite, which will allow my clients online marketing campaigns and administrative service, so they can focus more on building their businesses.
Thank you, Aaron. To get in touch, email firstname.lastname@example.org