Sophie ‘Sophla’ Molapo, a Lydenburg native, is the avid travel enthusiast behind Travelling with Sophla, a proudly South African agency that first started with innocent social media blogging. Sophie is a regular at The Flamboyance Clique meet ups and she was (quite obviously) one of the blooming beauties in attendance at this year’s installment titled Delightful Budtime Matinee held earlier this month.
She and the social group’s co-founder Nompumelelo Mondlane share a name. “Mpumie is my friend and namesake – she is also Sophie and we call each other ‘bitso’. I remember when it was still the Breakfast Club and I was like bitso what is this breakfast club? And she explained the concept – we support each other and make the ladies in our group our first choice for products and services we may need. This event was my third one and it is honestly so rewarding. I enjoy the company of the women I knew before and the new ones I met. These events really boost your confidence. When you hear the stories of other women who own businesses and realise someone’s been there, it gives you courage. I always invite a friend or two – no one has ever left a TFC event unimpressed with the calibre of women showcasing or in attendance.”
LIFE OF SOPHIE: All I ever saw myself become was an artist
For many people, childhood career aspirations and our actual adult career choices are often vividly contrasting. While Sophie now works as a midwife, there was a time when all she pictured herself doing as a grown up was art, drawing. “I was very good in arts, I loved drawing. All I ever saw myself become was an artist. But you know what happens as we grew older. My mom started talking to me about pursuing other careers, she wanted me to do art as a hobby. It’s funny because while I loved arts, I’m no where close to being an artist in any sense,” she says.
As she progressed through high school, Sophie gravitated towards Life Sciences and Health Sciences. “I was and still am a brave child. I liked my biology teacher. She would bring an organ to class and I’d be so interested in studying and dissecting it. Even when it was time to slaughter chickens at home or if someone got hurt they’d ask ‘where is Sophie’. So I knew I wanted to be in Health Sciences then. Today here I am working as a nurse.”
Sophie, a seasoned nurse with well over 10 years experience jokes that when she was sold nursing, she thought it would be a relaxed working environment, but she soon found the opposite to be true. “It is a high pressure environment with crazy hours. No one told me all that. It was only after I finished studying and started working that I realised ‘eish’. But it’s not all that bad. When you help a patient and you get positive feedback you feel fulfilled, it makes it worth all the trouble.”
DOING WHAT I DO IN SPITE OF THE BAD PRESS PLAGUING NURSING
Admit it, you’ve read or watched a video of a South African nurse doing or being accused of doing something not so cool. While there are obviously bad apples in the health system, Sophie shares that people’s past experiences or knowledge of nurses can make them become defensive and cold when approaching nurses out of preconceived hate or the fear of ill-treatment.
“I do get patients that come in with a negative attitude before even meeting me. I treated a high profile patient about a week ago. When I met her I politely introduced myself and you know, I’m in the midwives unit so I then ask her how far along she is. She said ‘I don’t know, ask my doctor’ in a very negative tone. She clearly had a bad perception of nurses. But I was nice and knew I had to find a way to ease her, I think I complimented her on her shoes and only after that did she let her guard down. So I circled back to my initial question and she said the same answer as before but it was polite this time. Later when her doctor came in, I heard her [say] she she didn’t have any good past experiences with nurses and therefore doesn’t like nurses. But she added that she didn’t have a problem with me. I’ve learnt that as a nurse I just have to be humble and patient because I work with people and they’re all different. Sometimes I need to be apologetic even when I’m not wrong. It’s hard work but you get used to doing it because it helps the outcome.”
Sophie appreciates that people will have different experiences and encounters with nurses, but that sometimes they’re also exposed to and treated in a less than humane way. “Unfortunately, the stories in the media are one-sided and always told from the perspective of patients. But at the same time, it’s their experience, and I can never take that away from them. I work with vulnerable women who rely on me and trust me with their babies’ lives. Everything else becomes noise to me. My focus is being a calming element for them and constantly reassuring them.”
MY FOUNDING JOURNEY: It started as picture blogging and ended in Travelling with Sophla
Way back when Sophie completed her studies at the University of Pretoria, in an effort to stay close to home, she opted to be placed at a hospital in Mpumalanga. But as fate would have it, she was placed in a place in Mpumalanga that ended up being further from home than she’d hoped. “I didn’t know Mpumalanga is big. I was placed me in Malelane [now Malalane] and it’s far from home.”
Although she only stayed in Malalane for a year, it was an invaluable one in the bigger scheme of things – it began her founding journey. She shares, “I love travelling, yho! If I went somewhere, I’d take pictures and share them on my social media. Malelane is close to the border, Swaziland and Mozambique are right there. Because I love travelling, I’d just cross the border with my friends and post our exploits. And then people started expressing interest in my travels and asking about joining me in the future. Others would share that they were not confident enough to go alone and would ask if they could come with me or me with them. One time someone suggested I start an actual blog but I don’t like writing so that was a no, but I knew at some point I needed to make something bigger of my travelling. At some point, a friend wanted to go to Mozambique and I thought it would be cheaper if we did it as a group and so I started a traveling agency. In early October 2019, I started getting my things together and I ultimately put Travelling with Sophla out there on the 20th. When I started the agency I told myself ‘if I fail, at least I would’ve have tried.’ My logo resembles palm trees on an island because I initially wanted to do Mozambique as a sole agency destination but now we do Mpumalanga too and I want to do Zanzibar in the future. I’m building slowly but surely.”
Finally, what’s in a name?
“When I was in varsity there was a security guy who used to call me Sophla, soon my friends started calling me Sophla and it stuck!”