Africa’s Female Entrepreneurs, Part VI: Marta Madeira, Helping People and Organizations Find their Potential & Purpose

Co-authored by Pamina Mullins

Marta Madeira has always striven to challenge herself while helping others to reach their full potential. Founder and CEO of the start-up ATOS, Ltd, a Human Resources Management and Development and Coaching consultancy, Marta has been instrumental in introducing and popularizing personal development in her home country, Mozambique. Holder of an MSc in Human Resources Management, she has served as a Board Member of the Malonda Foundation, an organization promoting investment in Mozambique.

Pamina & OB: How did your upbringing influence your entrepreneur’s journey?

Marta: I was one of five siblings, born into a Portuguese-speaking family. We had to walk long distances to school, and my family had to rely on donations of clothes and food. My mother worked at the airport cleaning airplanes. One day she came home with a magazine written in English, and it had a picture of a refrigerator in it, filled with mouthwatering food I’d never seen before. I told myself, “When I grow up I am going to have a house that has a fridge with food like that!” I also realized that in order to do this, I needed to learn to speak English. So I did. This gave birth to a lifelong love affair with learning – and later helped me get well paid jobs.

Pamina & OB: Other than the mouth-watering food, did any mentors play a role in you becoming an entrepreneur?

Marta: At university I studied psychology because I wanted to understand why I was so driven to break out of the cycle of poverty. Upon achieving my Master’s degree, I yearned to do more with my life. So I attended an excellent coaching program and the trainer, Bob Proctor, became my coach and mentor. Here I learned the importance of setting and achieving goals. I decided to open a Human Resources consultancy, to help people in Mozambique and throughout Africa open their minds to the potential within them.

Pamina & OB: Why the coaching industry, especially when it was a new concept in Mozambique?

Marta: Well by that time, I had 22 years’ professional experience in the design and implementation of HR strategies and policies, recruitment and selection, organizational design, performance management, and talent and career management. I felt it was a logical step.

Pamina & OB: What challenges have you encountered along the way and how have you dealt with them?

Marta: When I started I had no business experience and no clients. So I started knocking on doors and reaching out to my networks. Slowly, the assignments started trickling in. Finally, I landed a big recruitment contract. This provided the funds to set up an office.

But I wasn’t home yet. I went without a salary for a year and sold Tupperware to make ends meet at home. I registered the company, bought a laptop and a desk, rolled up my sleeves and started working. Six months later I hired my first employee, who didn’t have much experience—so I trained her. My biggest challenge has been finding the right caliber of people for my team; people who are self-driven, and can contribute creative ideas.

Pamina & OB: What is your mission?

Marta: From the time I was a child I always believed deep inside that I was going to change my reality. The question that is constantly on my mind is “how can I reach out to more people to help them change their lives, the way I have?” My mission is to help people believe they can do this, and give them the tools and strategies to achieve it.

Pamina & OB: What has your entrepreneur’s journey taught you?

Marta: Like almost everyone involved in start-ups I’ve learned how to fall and stand up again. I’ve learned the importance of leadership skills and found that if you leave a powerful impression on people, they’ll do the marketing for you. Excellent communication and networking skills are so important.

Pamina & OB: What are you most proud of?

Marta: I am proud of having raised two wonderful children who have now left home and are on their own paths. I am proud of ATOS and its service offering: recruitment and selection, payroll process, labor brokering, psychometric assessment, and development of HR outsourcing. In addition, I have a diverse career and personal coaching program.

Pamina & OB: Where is your business now and where would you like it to be in the future?

Marta: As part of my vision to assist individuals and corporations to achieve their best results, I have partnered with Proctor Gallagher Institute and am certified to facilitate Thinking into Results, a program that helps people unlock their potential. I am passionate about coaching. Five years from now, I want to have made a big impact on people’s lives.

Pamina & OB: What advice would you give to someone with a dream similar to yours?

Marta: Find what you really love to do, and start. It doesn’t matter how much competition there is — just let your uniqueness shine. If I had known how relatively easy it would
be I would have started earlier. Provided you have clear, compelling goals, are prepared to work hard, lead by example and provide value for money, you will be successful. The Personal Development industry is new in Mozambique, but I’m changing that!

Pamina & OB: Very inspirational! Thank you for sharing your insights and experiences.

Marta: Thank you! I hope my story will help others to attain their goals; it is easier than you think – but takes hard work!