Milena, with her co-RJ and partner, Alan Sequeira
We’re with advertising professional, Milena Marques-Zacariah, helming Radio Mango – the first and only Konkani radio station in North America. With over 25 years in mainstream advertising, Milena is adept at creating and building brands.
1) Describe briefly your journey to entrepreneurship.
Radio Mango is my second entrepreneurial venture, started in 2012.
My first foray into entrepreneurship was in 2006, when I started my Creative Consultancy company: OUT OF MY MIND. Here, I am a creative consultant to advertising agencies which cater to ethnic communities. I was one of the pioneering ad professionals who moved from mainstream advertising in Mumbai and Dubai to focus on multi-cultural markets. I continue to be creative consultant to agencies.
Very early on, I decided that I wanted to be a hands-on mother with my two girls. Which simply meant that I did not opt for a full time job; rather I wanted to do something that would allow me more time with my kids who were 5 and 7 when we came to Canada in 1999. Staring my own shop seemed the best way I could balance work and home. I also figured that In Canada, running one’s own business had other benefits.
2) What was the motivation for your radio program?
In 2012, while I was at a beauty salon, I heard an unfamiliar language on the radio playing there. On inquiring, I was told that the language was Nepali. My first thought: Wow, the Goan diaspora is much bigger than the Nepali one. Plus we are well known for our music. Goans have been here since Trudeau senior opened the doors to us in 1972. So why don’t we have a radio! That was the first seed.
Sometimes, inexplicable things happen to give you the final nudge. I received a call from my brother in Australia a few days later to say that he was invited to RJ on a Konkani radio program there. On listening, I realized that though the program played Konkani songs, the RJs spoke in English. That was the next push. I decided I could do better and started Radio Mango, after approaching CMR 101.3 FM. Of course, what helped immensely, was my Communications Diploma at St Xaviers Institute of Mass Communications in Mumbai, India, and my experience in advertising and Marketing. My next mandate was to include all Konkani speakers. After 5 years, we have now moved from broadcast to podcast. We’re getting stronger, with world-wide listenership.
3) Give us an idea of a usual day in your life.
I continue my quest of perfecting the life-work balance. It’s literally apron over my business suit! Which means, I clean and do the everyday cooking – yes, I cook fresh meals everyday – hit the gym 6 days a week, contact clients, attend meetings, write presentations, market the radio show, prepare for the weekly podcast, hunt for potential people to interview on the radio, ensure we have a strong presence on social media, write copy for ads, TV and radio scripts as creative consultant, also do voice overs for some products and services. As well, make time to record the weekly podcast. And in between I also manage to find time to entertain. Life is busy, full and each day is different and exciting.
4) What advice would you give to women who are looking to change their situation in life?
First, find a unique niche which is familiar ground – where you can use your own skills, or depend on someone who can supply the skills and expertise you need to keep the business running. Second, if you don’t try, you will never know. If you believe you have a good idea, give it a shot. Of course, within reasonable parameters of finances and capabilities. And lastly, persist and persevere despite the hurdles that are bound to present themselves, unwanted criticism, and life’s curve balls.
5) Why is establishing a vernacular radio program important?
We come from a land of great epics and great stories,that are handed down to us orally, from generation to generation. We are used to listening – that’s why Radio will always be an important aspect of our lives, despite technology giving us so many other options.
Nostalgia is so important, especially for new immigrants. Nostalgia is best represented by songs and music. Nothing connects you more instantaneously to your roots than hearing a voice, or music from your past. In the case of Radio Mango, it is important to me that our culture is shared with the younger generation. That we introduce them to the vast repertoire of music and songs, and that we maintain and help grow our language, Konkani in our new home: Canada. If we don’t use it, we will lose it. Our country is a mosaic, not a melting pot. Radio is one of the best ways to promote language and culture while contributing to the mosaic in a significant way.