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9 April 2019

THoMer Laurent: passionate about purpose-driven business

I’m Laurent, a marketer with a passion for sustainable and conscious entrepreneurship. My story? I discovered how marketing works about 6000 kilometers away from home.

A job with a cause

In 2016 I felt the urge to broaden my horizon. While traveling the globe as a student, I got bitten by the Africa bug. I started my professional life in Belgium, but the thought of further discovering this fascinating continent kept lingering. Eventually, my wife and I decided to take the plunge and started looking for jobs in Southern Africa. As our search took longer than expected, we decided to make a bold move: “Why don’t we pack our bags, hop on a plane and continue our story there?”

Interestingly enough, we flew off to Namibia to start our search for work, but ended up in a completely different spot. Three weeks after our arrival in Windhoek, I got a job opportunity in Burkina Faso to join a Belgian impact investment company. This particular company deeply believes in sustainable entrepreneurship with the triple-bottom line as a guiding light: people, profit and planet. As I hold the synergy of these values very dear, I was thrilled to contribute to their inspiring story.

Peeks inside THoMer Laurent's previous life in Burkina Faso
Local kids and I drinking a BaraJii at a sponsored event for children in Bobo-Dioulasso (l) and a typical image of traffic in Burkina Faso (r).

A real eye-opener

When I moved to Africa I had quite a few goals: develop my marketing skills, broaden my view on the world and contribute to the country and its society. Yet, my thinking might have been a tad naive. While the Burkinabé were incredibly warm and welcoming, it was hard to get to know them on a deeper level. Why? Because we don’t share the same reference frame. Our views on life are unalike, due to a wildly different environment and contrastive experiences and needs.

However, I was taught an important lesson: that my point of view isn't a universal truth. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ opinion, as we all have very different realities that influence our beliefs and convictions. Knowing this, I started training to become an active listener, in order to understand people better. Listening and understanding the customer, competitors and my colleagues is also a vital aspect of my job as a consultant at The House of Marketing.

Business in Burkina Faso was pretty different too. In Belgian marketing departments it’s all about long-term thinking. We like to envision a situation in 6 months, a year, … But not in Burkina Faso. It’s difficult to plan ahead and follow a fixed strategy as the environmental factors (economical, political, social, ecological) are rather unstable and tend to change in the blink of an eye. This contrast demanded me to be flexible. On the positive side, having to adapt to fluctuating factors made me look for ways to find balance in the chaos. I now rely on data and analytical knowledge to take decisions, rather than intuition.

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Sunset over the outskirts of Ouagadougou.

A view on the future

Although my wife and I returned to Belgium in April 2018 for the birth of our son, I remain passionate about Africa due to its unexplored potential. People are creative and the possibilities for growth are omnipresent. That’s why I was happy to play a role in an enterprise that respects the environment and the local culture. Personally, I believe that’s where the future is headed.

Companies play a big role in the sustainability of ecosystems: how they interact with society, local economy and the environment makes all the difference. Those are the brands I want to keep supporting in the future; because I can only applaud people that use business as a gateway to boost the planet and its inhabitants. And in the meantime, I try to make a difference by using the valuable life lessons from my international experience to keep an open mind on marketing.