LEARNING CURVE | Branded by Tee is opening doors for businesses

HELPING ENTREPRENEURS: King William's Town-born Branded by Tee owner, Thembinkosi Dike
HELPING ENTREPRENEURS: King William's Town-born Branded by Tee owner, Thembinkosi Dike
Image: ANNELISA SWANA

It has been a journey of trial and error, working to establish his company Branded By Tee, but consistency has proven to yield good results for Thembinkosi Dike.

Dike, 35, from Phakamisa near King William’s Town, believes in helping clients move from being unknown to well-known.  

Please share some background on yourself and how your business was started?

I’ve always been a creative person and fascinated by the ability of bringing an idea to life through visuals.

When I was a child, I used to spend a lot of time alone drawing and writing, even though I was never good at drawing, I was good at writing.

In High School, I’d be at my desk drawing my company logo, trying out different signatures or just writing my name all over the page.

Putting what’s on my mind on paper always brought a sense of satisfaction in me.

When I was starting my business, I had to ask myself what I have done successfully and continue to do that is outstanding to everything else, and my answer was I have successfully branded myself, projects and other people.

In most of those cases, I was only helping out, expecting nothing in return, that was the foundation of the business that I got to name, Branded By Tee.

What is your core service?

My core service is personal and corporate branding.

What makes your business unique?

Apart from being a one-stop personal and corporate branding shop, to run an agency like Branded By Tee, I draw from years of experience in the entertainment and media industry.

Those experiences include developing my own personal brand and having managed to establish a sustainable one.

My business is created out of those traits, and we are able to offer the same and more for our clients.

If someone wanted to copy your business model, how would they start?

They would have to enrol for my mentorship programme, and they would have to be willing to break a lot of business rules because building a brand and building a business are two different things.

What are some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced before getting off the ground?

It was getting clients and being understood.

Establishing my business has been a trial and error journey.

When I started doing branding consultations, I had no idea how to package my service offering in a way that my target market would understand, and that became a challenge because I couldn’t get the clients I was hoping to attract.

As a result, I compromised my consultation fee just so I could have just one opportunity to make someone see the need to develop their brand.

Whenever I’d post about my services on social media or anything about personal branding, it always felt like I was speaking a foreign language to many.

Sometimes when attending small business training, some facilitators would even advise me to start a business that renders a service that most people need.

Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs or new business owners?

They should prioritise branding their business more than selling their products.

The biggest obstacle for entrepreneurs today is not lack of capital, lack of support or even lack of customers — their biggest obstacle is obscurity and not being visible in spaces where people are.

Entrepreneurs need to stop hiding behind their big office desks and big titles, they need to put themselves out there and be visible online, offline, at events and be on the lookout for networking opportunities.

Mostly, entrepreneurs need to start building their personal brands by making themselves known for what they want to be known for.

If they don’t do that for themselves, someone else is already doing it for them.

What are some of your biggest challenges in day-to-day business operations and your particular industry?

I’ll mention three:

  1. Temptation to quit: It comes by means of seeing a job post that I qualify for and being tempted to apply so I can have a guaranteed salary at the end of the month, and convince myself I can run my business on a part-time basis.
  2. Another challenge is getting people to understand why they need to pay a consultation fee. I give a client so much during a 1 hr 30 min session that they can just take it and attempt doing it themselves instead of paying for my services. That consultation fee becomes a security for me for the time and information I share with the client.
  3. Being heard and seen — breaking through the social media noise where there is a sudden influx of experts and influencers who promise great results. Establishing yourself in that space requires more than just having a potential business idea, but consistency and patience.

What is the best advice anyone gave you on success?

That I shouldn’t measure success on a numerical basis, however, success is the purpose of a thing fulfilled.

How do you measure or define success in your business?

Working on a client’s branding is a step-by-step process. For me, accomplishing each of those steps is success.

What are some of the best practices that have made your business successful?

Being consistent has proven to yield good results.

Some of my clients are people who have been contemplating contacting me for more than a year, meaning had I at some point decided to stop what I’m doing, I would have lost them and deprived them of an opportunity to be great.

What kind of advertising do you do?

From the events we do we are able to compile a mailing list from our attendees and I get to e-mail them every now and again to tell them about new products or upcoming events.

Creating social media content is another way I advertise my business.

What is your company’s vision?

To be a one-stop personal and corporate branding shop for emerging and established entrepreneurs and companies worldwide.

What is your target market?

Established and emerging entrepreneurs — these could be actors who want to step out and do more than just television work, musicians who want to position their brands in a certain way, and business owners who want to have an audience they can share their message with.

What have some of your highlights been in running your business?

The amazing wonders of technology which enabled me to create my company website in my bedroom, with my smartphone, within a few minutes.

Having my business online as easy as that is second-to-none.

How important is social media and an online presence for your business?

Only 1% of people on social platforms such as LinkedIn write content.

The rest of the population claims they don’t have the time, don’t know what to say or don’t think their ideas are good enough, or they can’t be bothered.

This leaves plenty of opportunities for those of us who are prepared to share our ideas, innovate and make a positive impact in the world.

Creating content for social media yields good results for my business because I get to teach my clients how to do the same.

 How many people do you employ?

At the moment I work with a team of freelancers and we are a team of four.

Do you have any plans for expanding the business, and how would you go about this?

Yes I do, the first step towards this is my tour that starts in March, where I’ll be hosting Master Classes around the country and teaching more people about personal branding.

This will also help my business to have a national footprint and clients countrywide.

How did you acquire funding for the business?

My business is self-funded.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from your business journey so far?

A business is like a human being, it starts as a baby and totally depends on you for its growth, strength and development and this requires a 24/7 commitment.

What are the greatest challenges and advantages of running your business in a city like PE?

The concept of personal branding is still new to a lot of people in PE, as a result, a lot of people are not sure if it is something they need or if it would add value in their lives.

What do you feel are the three key traits of a successful entrepreneur?

  1. Identity: When you know yourself you will know what and what you cannot do.
  2. Purpose: It is about knowing what you are for because you are not for everything. There is something specific that you must fulfil and you need to discover it.
  3. Target: Narrow your service offering to a specific niche. You are not for everyone and not everyone is for you.

What do you feel are the key traits of a successful employer?

A successful employer must have a clear vision which they can communicate to their employees.

What do you wish people knew about your industry?

Whether you take steps in building your brand or you don’t, someone, somewhere is doing it for you and they are not doing justice to your brand.

When you work on developing your brand, you take the power back from whoever thinks they know you.

Nobody can know you better than you know yourself, and therefore you should never leave your brand carelessly in other people’s hands as they can destroy your brand.

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