For many entrepreneurs, starting their own business is a dream come true. Lize Sadie and Gillian Loos are no exception. Contentum Content Marketing is the culmination of years of building up a network, contacts, skills and business acumen.
When the two formed Contentum in April 2012, Sadie was already running her own PR and strategic marketing business, Ideas Inc, and Loos had been retrenched when her employer closed her division. She knew content publishing and the digital market, Sadie knew PR. Together they had a package that clients wanted, at a price point the market could afford. Years of experience had taught them that.
And then the reality of starting a business set in. Expectations and the best laid plans do not always match reality. “The biggest challenge has been cash flow,” says Loos. “We have a lot of different things in the pipeline, but big deals take a while to come to fruition; longer than we initially projected.”
Which is something that unhinges many start-ups, who fail to plan ahead for the fact that deals do not get signed — and paid for — overnight. For example, Contentum has signed a deal for a student magazine and website. Perfect. Except that despite landing the client in 2012, the magazine was only scheduled to launch in March 2013, and this too was pushed to June because media sales were slow.
“You have to be prepared for every eventuality,” says Loos. “Cash flow is everything, and unless you can stay afloat while you wait for deals to come through, your start-up won’t make it through the first two years.” It’s a lesson the partners knew and planned for, and the reality has still taken longer than expected.
“I lecture at Vega in brand and digital strategy and have used my retrenchment package to fund the business, Lize has her Ideas Inc clients and we work from home to keep our overheads low, but it takes careful planning and a strict budget to get through the start-up phase.
“We’re a registered supplier for the City of Cape Town and the government of the Western Cape, and have a number of tenders in the pipeline, but it’s not a quick process. Big brands in particular have a long procurement process, involving meetings, quotes, additional meetings, pitches — no deal happens overnight.
“If we can give any advice to other start-ups, it’s that you need enough unencumbered funds to keep you going for at least a year. Once the deals start coming in and you break even, it will all have been worth it — but you need to get there. And that takes careful planning, and accepting that these things take time.”
- Players: Lize Sadie and Gillian Loos
- Company: Contentum Content Marketing
- Est: 2012
- X-Factor: Planning for any eventuality during start-up phase.
- Contact: www.contentum.co.za; +27 (0)83 461 4621 • +27 (0)83 463 7094