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LEARNING CURVE | Start-up success story from garage to offices

Innova managing director Kyle-Ross Rehse and technical director Rick North at the new offices at 190 on Circular
NEW HOME: Innova managing director Kyle-Ross Rehse and technical director Rick North at the new offices at 190 on Circular
Image: supplied

There is a popular meme going around on social media about founders of famous brands such as Apple, Amazon and Microsoft who all started their businesses from their garage.

Gqeberha resident Kyle Rehse is working towards a similar success story with his company, Innova.

The digital marketing company has just expanded from his small garage to new premises in Circular Drive.

“In 2017, after working in the IT corporate space for more than 10 years, I decided to open my own business which I started out of my garage,” Rehse said.

“This was around the time that digital marketing was becoming sought after and many traditional marketing companies were battling to grasp the technical side of how it worked.

“With my IT background,  I saw a gap in the market for a company that could offer this service to the Eastern Cape and beyond.

“I quickly realised that I couldn’t be a specialist of all the areas involved in this industry and would need to build a team of specialists if I  really wanted Innova to be the best, as digital marketing is an ecosystem of many systems and platforms working together to achieve your desired objectives and results.”

What is the name of your business?

Innova | The Creative Techs

How old is your business?

We are just under five years old.

What is your core service?

Our core service is digital marketing, which consists of social media, websites, Google and training.

How did you manage your business during the pandemic?

It was a strange and unsettling time, not only for us but also our clients. We did everything we could to help our clients keep their doors open. Unfortunately, we lost some clients, but we were fortunate to grow as it was during this time that companies needed to get their businesses online.

What makes your business unique?

We specialise in the digital marketing space, whereas most traditional marketing agencies in the Eastern Cape would have this offering as part of many other services. We decided that to be the best, we would need to focus on where our strengths lay — in the technical side of marketing. We also offer training to teach businesses to do it themselves, which is unique in our region.

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

They would start off as a freelancer that specialised in one area, but would need to work with other freelancers and manage the projects until they could build up their own internal team as that is what the clients are looking for. Clients don’t want to play middleman to a group of different specialists in the digital marketing space. 

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

Experience. You don’t know what you don’t know. We were very fortunate to have worked with a business coach, Pascal Pau, from Action Coach, during our early years. This helped us get through all the teething stages of starting a new business while getting our systems ready and in place to scale. 

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

Find the best team, who are skilled, passionate and have values that align with yours. I believe this is the toughest but most important part of our business. For two years I went without a salary because every time there was enough, I would rather invest that into a new team member. To this day I believe that was a big contributor to our success. 

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

Digital marketing changes almost daily, which means that you are forever trying to keep on top of the algorithms and technologies. 

What is the best advice anyone gave you on success?

You will never know everything so don’t be scared of building the parachute on your way down. 

How do you measure or define success in your business?

When our clients say we are awesome to work with, and when our team says we are awesome to work for, we know we have created something special.

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

We take service delivery very seriously. In fact, our guarantee to our clients is that they will always get what they pay for, on time, with the most awesome service. This is how our slogan came about ... We get SH!T done.

What kind of advertising do you do? 

We use SEO (search engine optimisation) and Google Ads to generate new leads and use social media, specifically Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, to keep connected with our clients and potential clients. 

What is your company’s vision?

To be the most awesome digital marketing agency, to both our team and our clients.

What is your target market?

We have two target markets. The first is for small companies or individuals who would like to upskill themselves to run their own digital marketing, through our training offerings. The second is for small- to medium-sized businesses which are looking to partner with a team of specialists to run their digital marketing. 

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

Seeing our team and our clients grow together has been great. We push our team to be the best they can be and many have achieved so many goals in both their personal and their professional lives. 

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

Critical, as a digital marketing company. If ours is not on point how can we expect other companies to trust us with theirs?

How many people do you employ?

We are a team of 10 employees and are recruiting for three more. 

How did you acquire funding for the business?

I didn’t receive any outside funding. I sold my motorbikes and started on my own in the garage, as a typical start-up would. 

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

You have to be in it for the long run. It’s not something that will happen overnight and there certainly will always be challenges along the way. You will doubt yourself often, so don’t forget to look back at how far you have come. And celebrate the wins! 

What have been the greatest challenges and advantages of running your business in a city like Gqeberha?

Our city is small enough that people do business with people. It is more about the relationships, which can be a good thing if you do business properly or a bad thing if you don’t. 

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

Being determinant, passionate and honest. 

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

In any organisation it is important to have a good leadership team that will ensure the vision, mission and values of the company are understood and ingrained in the daily operations of the business. 

What do you wish people knew about your industry?

That digital marketing is actually more of an analytical industry than it is creative. 

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