New year, new goals. But in order to achieve them, you've got to be specific about what you want. Here's how to make sh*t happen...
Sibu Mabena is the founder of Duma Collective, a creative communications agency in Johannesburg, and she has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to setting up your own business. From the important first steps to upskilling yourself and making sure you stand out from your competitors, Sibu’s got you covered with advice for entering the business world.
1/ Describe your journey to entering the business world. Why did you start your business?
While I was studying towards my politics degree at the University of Pretoria, I worked as a dancer and choreographer for some of SA’s most famous urban artists and brands in my spare time. I was also a bartender at The Sands in Sandton where I further expanded my network in the FMCG marketing space.
I realised the value I was creating by establishing links between the stakeholders in my ecosystem and decided to professionalise my high-level freelancing operation so as to be able to create opportunities for other young creatives to be able to do fun work and get paid for it. My passion for creative communications is the basis of my business and I’ve been able to monetise that.
2/ What were the three most important steps you took when starting your business?
– Registering the business at the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) and getting an accountant on retainer as well as an assistant to help with workload.
– Focusing on the branding of the business (CI, website and positioning).
– Identifying agencies and freelancers to collaborate on projects with. To tell the truth, the growth of my agency has been as a result of really great collaborative efforts between myself and like-minded individuals in the marketing space.
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3/ What’s the most important thing you’ve ever done for your business?
4/ How did you upskill yourself when entering the business world?
I have a huge community of advisors. I’ve sought council from various business owners in different fields. I also lean heavily on my business services suppliers, Tailormade Law and Bovem Accountants.
5/ What is the one thing you will not compromise on?
“People first” is my core principle and I will never choose profit over people.
6/ How do you make sure your business stands out from your competitors?
We are client centric and obsessed with doing work we would be proud to scream and shout about. We really focus on the output and do as much as is reasonably possible to deliver on our promise. We are also incredibly passionate about the network of individuals and suppliers we’ve established and maintaining good relationships with those people because they are central to the delivery of our work.
7/ What’s the best advice you’ve received and how has it helped you?
– We all have the same 24 hours as Beyoncé. GET THINGS DONE! Be deliberate in how you spend your time. Use a to-do list and get through it. Challenge yourself to use time wisely. This has helped me juggle the numerous activities we conduct as a business and maintain a good work-life balance.
– Business profits shouldn’t be spent on shopping sprees. The company money belongs to the company and should be used to advance business plans.
– Health is wealth. This is so important. I wouldn’t be able to be as productive as I am if it were not for my body and mind being sound.
8/ What’s one thing you wish you had known at the beginning that would have saved you so much grief?
How to negotiate pricing. Wooooo weee. I wish I was as confident as some of my competitor agencies when it came to pricing. We are better at it now and are doing a lot better.
9/ What drives you to keep going when things get really tough?
I remember why I started: to create opportunities for other creatives to get paid to do fun work. The responsibility I have towards my employees and our suppliers is to ensure those opportunities continue to exist.
10/ Any tips for women entering the business world? Why should they persevere when things get tough?
First things first… The world isn’t automatically going to make space for you. Women are in charge of their own destinies and we should work for our seat at the table. Where one is not given to you, create your own table. I would encourage women to “take up space” because we have to be our own heroes, our own great examples and role models to other girls coming up behind us.
11/ Why is it important for there to be more women-owned businesses in South Africa?
It’s only women who will understand the material difficulties that other women face and, as such, they would be able to approach the top-down dynamics of female stakeholders in the employment ecosystem with that in mind. Women entrepreneurs are needed to create opportunities for other women.