Resolving disputes between communities, individuals and businesses can be a difficult process, and one that requires specialist advice and skills. In Botswana, Mediation Mechanics, founded by entrepreneur Charlene Van Riet-Lowe, is one company bringing its wealth of experience and expertise to help its clients to find solutions to their disputes.
LoA learned more about this enterprising business from founder Charlene Van Riet-Lowe this month
What does your company do?
Mediation Mechanics is a ‘first of its kind’ in Botswana, disrupting the market some say.
It is an ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) Practice, providing mediation, conciliation, and arbitration to the community, businesses and individuals. We are educating and creating awareness around the dispute resolution options, other than traditional methods. Litigation is widely used to resolve disputes and is the traditional method and what people know. At Mediation Mechanics, we inform our clients that there are other methods to resolve disputes in a way that build relationships and create opportunities to better understand the other party’s situation. This approach allows for a unique solution to be found, and the opportunity to build relationships based on understanding and empathy. Our success rate and results speak for themselves. We have created a ‘win-win’ for both parties to a dispute. From family and divorce mediation, to workplace, construction and community mediation, we have over 100 years of experience amongst our founding members.
“We are educating and creating awareness around the dispute resolution options, other than traditional methods.”
What inspired you to start your company?
My story! I studied law a long time ago and decided that I didn't want to practice as I realized very early after graduation that the law I wanted to practice was a myth. There were no winners in court, only emotionally, financially and physically affected people. And, there were a lot of Pyric victories. i.e. no winners at all! Years later I stumbled across mediation in my personal life and I had my ‘Ah-ha’ moment. I asked myself why more people were not using this amazing process to resolve their disputes? So I decided to find out more and got myself accredited and skilled and started Mediation Mechanics. It’s been the most amazing 12 months thus far. I love how I am able to make a difference to people each and every day in their personal life as well as at work, school, and in their communities. I am imparting skills that they are able to use in each and every facet of their lives. It’s been a WOW!.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
Conflict in our lives is inevitable. We should know and learn how to deal with it so that it creates the opportunity to understand the other side, find common ground, and work towards a win-win solution. It’s quicker, faster and cheaper than litigation. But the other important consideration is that it is confidential, it creates a unique opportunity to come up with solutions that are beneficial to both parties. And the parties themselves are responsible for the solution as opposed to litigation, where that responsibility is delegated to a judge or a magistrate, who has no interest or real understanding of the parties or the people whom the decision will effect.
“I hope to grow the business and train as many amazing youth to be mediators in the communities that they live in.”
Tell us a little about your team
It’s Me, Emily, Bathlwasi, Reginald and Don - mediators, arbitrators, and adjudicators. We are also supported by Thato our amazing Office Manager, and she makes it all work. We have a digital marketing team, and Tina and Tristan from Be.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
If using my Student Loan Money to start a little clothing boutique in Sea Point, Cape Town when I was 18 is entrepreneurial, then I guess the answer is yes. Throughout my working career, I have often had a side hustle in addition to my main business. Today, I still own a side business, the only Ballet Attire Supplier in Gaborone, Botswana. I got into that as my 5 year old daughter was a ballet dancer and I couldn't find ballet uniforms in Botswana, so I decided to bring them in and supply them to others. As the number of ballet schools has increased, so has my little side supply business. I also sell a couple of other things, but I am now very focused on Mediation Mechanics and nothing will make me lose focus on this amazing opportunity.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
I hope to grow the business and train as many amazing youth to be mediators in the communities they live in. I believe if we can implement these programmes in schools, and if we are able to teach the young and youth how to solve conflicts and be better communicators, we will be able to change the trajectory of how conflict will and can be dealt with. It’s a huge game-changer. Imagine if the students and universities no longer had to strike or launch campaigns such as #FeesMustFall, etc… If we had taught them that there are ways to negotiate and resolve conflict without violence, we would be looking at a very different situation. These are skills that each and every human being needs.
“Our success rate and results speak for themselves.”
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
Empowering individuals to improve relationships, and deal with conflict in a positive way.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Never lose hope, if you believe it you can do it. Surround yourself with positive people and never sell your soul. And if you need any encouragement, look me up. I’ll be your greatest champion and supporter. It’s a lonely road many times with no fixed work hours, and you are always on duty in the early days. But if you aren’t, who will be!
It’s your dream and your vision, see it through.
Contact or follow Mediation Mechanics
Why LoA loves it….
Finding your niche in business is always key to success, and that’s certainly what entrepreneur Charlene Van Riet-Lowe has done with her company, Mediation Mechanics. She has identified a gap in the market which allows her to bring her skills and specialist knowledge, together with those of her experienced team, to provide a much needed service to her clients. She continues to build her company’s reputation based on its dispute resolution success and the positive feedback from her clients. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and ceo of Lionesses of Africa