LEARNING CURVE: NMB brand developer helps local and national businesses soar
Entrepreneur Xoli Masoka’s passion is to help give businesses wings to fly in the online space, through brand development and digital marketing.
The 30-year-old Ntinga Brand Consultancy owner is committed to assisting entrepreneurs with refining their messaging so that they speak directly to their target audience, using relevant tools and effective communication platforms.
Please share some background on yourself and how the business was started?
I am originally from a small town called Ngcobo in the rural Eastern Cape, but I grew up in Zwide township, Port Elizabeth.
My late mother was a street vendor, selling fruits and vegetables for a living, while my dad worked as a bricklayer at a construction company.
Between the two of them, they had about five “side hustles” which included renting out back rooms at home and selling livestock to generate more income, and that is how I was introduced to entrepreneurship.
I studied at Nelson Mandela University towards a BA degree in media, communication and culture.
Unfortunately, after my second year I had to drop out due to financial constraints.
During this period, I joined the SANDF, where I served as a public relations officer in the South African navy.
This was a turning point in my life and taught me so much about resilience, teamwork and discipline.
I am now a three-time graduate, as well as a masters candidate in strategic communication at the University of Johannesburg.
Ntinga Brand Consultancy started with me helping a few friends who were starting their own businesses with brand development and digital marketing strategies.
At the time, I had very little intention to pursue the business on a full-time basis, but the economic downturn inspired me to take that leap of faith.
What is your core service?
- Brand Development
- Strategic Communication
- Digital Marketing
What makes your business unique?
We develop fit-for-purpose strategies that are geared for affect.
Another differentiator is that while English remains the lingua franca [a language that is adopted as a common language between speakers whose native languages are different] of our agency, we encourage and pride ourselves in championing the use of native languages.
This is not only done in an effort to bridge barriers of communication but is also an attempt to preserve indigenous languages, promote social cohesion and contribute to the pan-African narrative.
If someone wanted to copy your business model, how would they start?
I would advise that they find what they are passionate about and capitalise on that.
Learn all the necessary skills, build relationships and do not be afraid to start small.
Passion cannot be duplicated, so no-one will ever be able to fully implement another person’s ideas the way that they would, and that is our superpower.
What are some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced before getting off the ground?
For me, the biggest inhibitors were internal more than anything else.
It was the fear of the unknown, doubting my capabilities, dealing with impostor syndrome and over-analysing everything, resulting in nothing happening at all.
A lot of internal work had to be done and having a great support system came in very handy.
Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs or new business owners?
Just start! Start where you are, start with what you have.
What are some of your biggest challenges in day-to-day business operations and your particular industry?
Time is one of my biggest challenges as I have to do all the administration myself, research and prepare for consultations, craft strategies according to briefs and sometimes I have to implement those strategies on behalf of clients as well.
Also, short lead times requested by clients also poses some challenges in my line of work.
What is the best advice anyone gave you on success?
“Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” — Winston Churchill
How do you measure or define success in your business?
When a small business owner consults with me and leaves fully empowered with knowledge that enables them to position their brand for success and solidify their online presence to generate sales — for me that is success.
That affect and the ripple effect thereof is extremely rewarding.
What are some of the best practices that have made your business successful?
Always operate at a level above you, think big and think outside the box.
As a business owner, your professionalism and efficiency should always be that of a “bigger company” and that way, you are always a step ahead from your peers.
What kind of advertising do you do?
I rely on digital marketing and word-of-mouth through referrals.
What is your company’s vision?
Our vision is to empower companies and entrepreneurs to build strong online brands that will thrive in today’s digital landscape, particularly with the emergence of the 4IR.
What is your target market?
We are a business-to-business agency and cater for SMMEs, the private sector, government departments and SOEs.
What have some of your highlights been in running your business?
I think the amount of growth and the positive response that the business has been enjoying has highlighted once again the importance of a solid foundation when building a brand.
The media coverage we have received showcases the power of social media when used well and strategically.
How important is social media and an online presence for your business?
Social media is extremely important and what is even more important is being on relevant platforms where your target audience resides.
It is also important to note that for social media to work optimally for you, one should have a plan that is aligned to strategy.
How many people do you employ?
I am a one-woman army and rely on collaborating with freelancers to satisfy my clients.
Do you have any plans for expanding the business, and how would you go about this?
By virtue of being a digital agency, we operate nationally and have already broken down limitations of borders by facilitating global expansion.
We would certainly love to grow our team and bring in more subject experts who specialise in different areas of strategic communication.
How did you acquire funding for the business?
We are 100% self-funded.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from your business journey so far?
You need to understand that your business will not be able to cater for everyone and that is OK.
Focus on your niche and curate content that talks directly to your target audience, using relevant platforms.
What have been the greatest challenges and advantages of running your business in a city like PE?
The advantage has been leveraging on my personal brand and the networks that I have built over the years working for corporate companies around the Bay.
The challenge has been around the unwillingness to pay for my services as they believe that they are just a “nice to have”.
What do you believe are the three key traits of a successful entrepreneur?
Be resilient, decisive and strategic.
What do you feel are the key traits of a successful employer?
Be accessible, lead by example and afford employees an environment that allows them to thrive.
What do you wish people knew about your industry?
There is a lot of transformation that still needs to happen in the industry, especially at a higher level.
Corporates are also quite hesitant to allow “newcomers” to showcase their capabilities and prefer working with the “tried and tested” creative houses.
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