Tanisha Colon-Bibb always planned to spend her life in New York City – until love took her halfway across the world.
The 33-year-old entrepreneur grew up in Harlem as the youngest of four children. After graduating from Spelman College in 2010, she launched her first business, Rebelle Agency, helping clients in entertainment, non-profit organizations and others coordinate their marketing and advertising strategies.
âI have really tried to work with talented people who want to use their voices for good,â Colon-Bibb told CNBC Make It. âIt has brought me to work with many minority voices, whether they are women, black and brown people or members of the LGBTQ communityâ¦ it really brings me joy to help give voice to the public. voice to marginalized people. “
In 2018, she launched her second company, a talent management company called Rebelle Management. Running two businesses, however, became exhausting for Colon-Bibb, and at the end of 2018, she says she felt “stuck” in New York City. âI felt like all of my time and energy was spent building my business,â she notes. “I realized that I wanted to discover new things and travel more.”
“Love made me move to South Africa”
A trip to Cape Town would change his life. In November 2019, Colon-Bibb traveled to the legislative capital of South Africa for her friend’s wedding and met her boyfriend Malusi Siboto, a professional cricketer from Cape Town. “There was an instant fireworks display, it was love at first sight,” she recalls. They spent the next few months traveling together in Africa and Europe before the coronavirus pandemic struck.
The couple experienced a long-distance relationship and a seven-hour jet lag for several months until international border restrictions were lifted in October 2020. Colon-Bibb moved to Johannesburg, where Siboto lives, that month. . âIt wasn’t even a second thought for me to come here, live with him and build our relationship,â she says. “I would definitely say love made me move to South Africa.”
While some of Colon-Bibb’s friends were initially skeptical about moving in with a new boyfriend, they (along with his parents) supported his decision. âMost people are excited, but they also have a lot of questions, like ‘What are you doing there?’ and âHow could you live in a completely different country?â she said.
As of fall 2020, travelers from the United States were still considered at high risk for coronavirus transmission by the South African government, so Colon-Bibb could not fly directly from New York to Johannesburg. She quarantined herself for two weeks in Ghana with a friend and then flew to Johannesburg.
Colon-Bibb was granted a 90-day visa which has been extended until September 2021 due to the increase in coronavirus cases across the continent and security concerns. She traveled to the United States to visit family and friends at the end of the month and was granted a new 90-day visa so that she can continue to stay in Johannesburg after her return.
While the 90-day tourist visa has been a useful short-term solution for the initial move, Colon-Bibb says she is considering business or partnership visa applications with Siboto so she can build a ” permanent life “in South Africa.
Before her move, Colon-Bibb says she often felt like she was living “on paycheck” in New York City, but living in Johannesburg has helped her save more money and boost her credit rating. âAnyone who lives in New York City knows that every time you go out you end up spending at least $ 100,â Colon-Bibb said. âMoving to South Africa gave me a lot more financial freedom. “
In April, she and Siboto moved into a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom apartment where they shared the cost of rent and utilities. Colon-Bibb pays around $ 979 in rent a month, which is his biggest expense. But she saved money by switching off cell phone to his US phone number and switch to Wi-Fi calls, which costs him around $ 150 per month.
She also spends part of her budget (about $ 565 per month) on personal care activities like nail care and hair salons. To fight homesickness, Colon-Bibb spends $ 26 each month for a VPN service and a Netflix subscription so that she can watch American TV shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Law & Order.”
While Colon-Bibb mainly prepares her meals at home, she also enjoys exploring different restaurants in and around Johannesburg each week with friends. âThere is such a vibrant energy in South Africa,â she said. “I really like jumping between different bars and restaurants while I go out and eat new foods.”
Other items in Colon-Bibb’s budget include a recurring donation to her church in New York City and payments for her student loans, a personal loan, and old utility bills that she continues to pay from her old apartment in New York.
Here’s a monthly breakdown of Colon-Bibb’s spending (as of August 2021):
To rent: $ 979
Self-care: $ 565
Entertainment: $ 300
Utilities: $ 256
Telephone bill: $ 150
Debt repayment: $ 93
Food: $ 85
Transport (Ubers, other carpooling services): $ 80
Donations: $ 60
Subscriptions: $ 65
Total: $ 2,633
When Colon-Bibb first moved to Johannesburg, many of her clients thought she was just taking a vacation. âThey didn’t know it was a permanent move! It was definitely a fit for all of us,â she says.
Each morning, she wakes up at 5 a.m., completes a morning prayer meditation, and walks three kilometers through her neighborhood. Then comes breakfast and coffee – a ‘non-negotiable’ part of her routine, she adds – before tapping into work. from his home office or a local coffee shop. She typically takes a 5:00 p.m. break to have dinner and watch a TV show, then works until 8:00 p.m. if she needs to have video meetings with clients in the United States.
Moving her business from the United States to South Africa has been a relatively smooth process during the pandemic, she notes, as many more people have become open to remote work and video meetings.
South African officials sounded the alarm last week over a new variant of the virus, the omicron, but the discovery hasn’t changed any part of Colon-Bibb’s routine. She avoids crowded places and tries to spend time with friends outdoors as much as she can. Johannesburg continues to operate on a level one lockdown, which enforces face masks in public places and has a curfew in place from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. very scared, “she adds.
Colon-Bibb met most of his friends through Siboto and one of his college friends, who moved to Johannesburg just before the pandemic. When not exploring new restaurants or concert halls, she is learning to cook traditional dishes like Vetkoek, a fried bread filled with minced meat in curry, or watch old South African movies with Siboto. âI’m completely fascinated by his culture, and he does a really good job explaining different ceremonies and traditions so that I can get a better feel for the country,â she says.
Her favorite part of life in Johannesburg is the city’s natural surroundings and wildlife. âI’m from the concrete jungle, but it’s so refreshing to be able to hike the beach or the mountains and be among the animals,â Colon-Bibb said. “The first time I saw a zebra, I panicked because I had never been so close to an animal outside of the zoo in my life.”
The entrepreneur calls herself a âcitizen of the worldâ and imagines a future where South Africa and New York would be her home bases. 14 months ago, Colon-Bibb moved to South Africa out of love, not expecting to fall in love with the continent as well. âAs a black woman, being in South Africa has allowed me to grow emotionally and spiritually, because I feel connected to my ancestors in a way that I did not feel in New York,â she says. âBeing here with Malusi has also made me more patient, interested in learning more stories from people and seeing the world, so I’m really, really grateful for that.â
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