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Lessons Learnt

Deepend Post Differentiates Itself In A Crowded Niche

Paulene Abrey and Luaan Hong from Deepend Post prove that there is always room for new ideas, even in very crowded markets.

Monique Verduyn

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Vital Stats

  • Players: Paulene Abrey and Luaan Hong
  • Company: Deepend Post
  • Established: 2007
  • Contact: +27 (0)11 100 1806
  • Website: deependpost.com

Great business partners almost always have a prior history of working with each other. In 2007, when Paulene Abrey and Luaan Hong left their jobs at a big post-production company to launch Deepend Post, they were two experienced producers in search of an editor and a fresh way of doing business in a long-established industry.

They agreed on the vision for their new venture, including their understanding of the company’s value proposition, and how they wanted it to be seen by their clients — primarily production companies and advertising agencies.

The two share similar skills, but have brought their different personalities and experiences to bear on the business, which now employs ten people and a range of freelancers.

Related: Sonia Booth Wants You To Reinvent Yourself

A union of craftsmanship

You might think that a crowded post-production market would not have room for new ideas, but they have proved that marrying good old-fashioned craft with technology can give rise to profitable creativity.

“The talent of our editors is the foundation of the business,” says Abrey. “We carefully and strategically handpick people who are unselfish and passionate about what they do. Each editor has to fit in with the brand, but also bring their own unique approach and skill set to their work. The best way to give people freedom to explore their creativity and fulfil their potential is to create an environment that is nurturing, with solid foundations, and that also gives them space to fly. We have a mix of skilled editors who understand the value of their craft, and technology-savvy newcomers who are young and creative. Together, they are able to offer our customers a unique blend of creativity that comes from combining different skills.”

It’s that distinctive blend that continues to drive sales for the business and keeps customers coming back. With the right people and the right talent, Abrey adds, success follows. In the creative field this requires a mix of instinct and emotion. “When you find unique talent, you have to allow it to develop. Dealing with creative people is all about giving and understanding.”

Looking beyond the surface of things

Deepend-Post-south-africa

The key, Abrey and Hong stress, is believing in what you are doing and being responsive to customers’ needs — after all, they are the ones that keep pushing the Deepend team. They say it’s an old-fashioned approach as they have a personal relationship with the people they work with — they care, and their clients can feel it.

“We provide a nurturing environment for our clients too,” says Hong. “They have everything they need to provide great advertising for their clients because we take care of every detail, no matter how big or small.”

It’s about identifying needs, fulfilling promises, and finishing what you start, according to Hong. “Our unique brands require that you understand them and the DNA — including picture, story and concept.”

What differentiates the way Deepend Post does things is interesting in a flat economy. With people and businesses so wrapped up in time and money, many neglect to deliver in line with client needs. The true understanding of a brand is often breezed over and little time is given to the true worth of the client.

“We look at the uniqueness each brand has to offer and then help our clients to elevate that,” says Hong. “Working for success generates success. In our case a lot of what we do is storytelling; we help to grow our clients by helping them to constantly evolve their stories.”

Related: Quick Shift Deva Kate Emmerson On Crowdfunding

The ability to drive creative talent

In many industries, creativity makes the difference between a good company, and a great one. A culture of creativity allows greater innovation, more effective problem solving, and a matchless competitive edge.

“In our business, technology has made certain skills a commodity, but the talents of individual creative people have distinguished the business. Luaan and I share a deep-rooted conviction that people really matter — that leaders are responsible for developing the capabilities of employees, and nurturing their careers.

“We have a young editor who is studying in Hollywood, and she tells us she cannot wait to return. We have helped her grow; in exchange, she will bring her newly acquired, carefully honed skills back into Deepend. Giving and taking is essential.”

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

Lessons Learnt

Brian Tan Of FutureLab.my – Bridging The Knowledge Gap Through Social Learning

Brian Tan a young Malaysian Entrepreneur whom has built the largest social learning platform in South-East Asia.

Dirk Coetsee

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“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away” – Pablo Picasso

As a keen observer of the behaviour of successful entrepreneurs I have learnt that:

“You do not attract what you want but you attract what you are”

Brian Tan truly believes in what FutureLab stands for and therefore has attracted the belief of key partners such as Cradle whom has invested in his ground-breaking project.

Brians’ gift is to solve big problems. In unison with his two other co-founders he is giving this gift away in the Form of FutureLab, a company obsessed with learning and more specifically bridging the gap between education and careers.

Brian wants to play a role in making humanity better by applying his knack for solving unique problems and firmly believes that quality and ongoing education is a powerful catalyst for positive change. FutureLab is a social learning platform featuring diverse applications that not only connects mentees to mentors but also empowers several companies to track their employees utilising Futurelabs’ technology as they navigate through development and talent development programs.

Slowly but surely FutureLab is becoming much needed feedback loop between university and industry and brings exposure to people who have not had it before. Brian believes that a lot of people have not fullfiled their potential due to low standards of education in general.

Related: Channeling The Fire Of Authenticity: Asia’s’ Top ‘YouTuber’, Joanna Soh

I fully realised that I was engaging a modern entrepreneur as he described his company culture as:

‘Geeky, awesome & badass.’

He elaborated on that by explaining that his team do not follow trends, that they authentically like what they like, and do what they love in their unique way. When you act according to the Leadership principle of Authenticity you avoid having regrets as you did not apply unnecessary energy to attempt to become someone that you are simply not.

This unique company is founded upon three core values which flows through all the activities that they engage in:

  • Giving back to society
  • Continuous Learning
  • Creating your own reality.

The FutureLab team does not only pay lip service to these values but instead actualise them as a matter of regular practice. Brian gives his team ‘homework’ in terms of things that they need to learn and the CEO of FutureLab himself is engaged in a lifetime commitment to learning. Regular ‘Stand up meetings’ are held were team members give feedback and hold each other accountable.

Brian is a Biochemist by trade whom constantly seeks opportunity to learn more about business and has completed several business programs to learn how to build a company which included spending 3 weeks at Stanford University studying entrepreneurship and meeting teams from Google, Apple, Facebook and Pinterest as part of a government initiative for the top 25 Malaysian start-ups. This young entrepreneur believes that his passion for teamwork has helped him a great deal to transform from being a biochemist to being an entrepreneur. He finds joy in ‘pushing a team forward’, as he puts it and loves seeing his team members grow in self-confidence and belief in the vision of the company that he co-founded. He has a keen knack for finding potential and then helping his team members to unleash their inherent talents.

What follows is Brians’ clear description of how Futerelab obtained cradle funding and how they managed to secure the top universities in Malaysia as clients, in his own words:

“We wanted to prove that FutureLab was solving an actual problem before applying for Cradle funding so what we did was to invite mentors from specific industries (at this early ideation stage of FutureLab it was our own personal networks).

“We started with mentors from Management consulting and posted a google form up on Low Yat and Facebook to see whether anyone wanted to speak to them. Within a couple of days, we had 20 people signup to meet our mentors. At this point, we decided to close the google form since we didnt know what kind of people would show up. We set the meet up at a local coffee shop and only spent RM 50 on buying coffee for the 5 mentors from Accenture, BCG, PWC, Ethos Consulting and Deliotte. We split the mentees into mini groups and they cycled from one mentor to the next, the last stop for each mentee group was with me telling them what we are trying to build, how much we are thinking of charging and how would the system work. We got really good feedback from the participants and the mentors.

Related: Meet Jan Grobler: Serial entrepreneur, Advocate, And Job Creator

Me being a scientist by training, I like to see whether results are repeatable so we organised 6 of these meet-ups over the whole year inviting mentors from different industries, lawyers, accountants, entrepreneurs, doctors and we even tested on online mentoring session using google hangouts. At this point, we were convinced that FutureLab should exist. This is when we applied to Cradle for Funding along with all the evidence we collected on why FutureLab should exist.

When FutureLab was first launched, we already had 40 mentors and 60 mentees that were waiting to use the platform that we were building. Mentees really enjoyed speaking to our mentors and vice versa for mentors, our growth has been mostly from word of mouth from mentors and mentees eventually universities started being aware of our mentoring community and started asking us to get more involved with their students. Our mentors are big advocates for our platform and they are based in large companies around the world. So they play a big role in opening doors for us.

Yet another key business learning he has acquired is to always guard against complacency and this knowledge is encapsulated by the following quote that he shared:

“What got you here cannot get you there”

Meaning that the same behaviours and habits that got you to this point will not be enough to move you forward, you have to keep on evolving to remain relevant and successful.

Brian is passionate about FutureLab and business in general and reminds us that:“When you are passionate work is the fun part of the day”. His advice to other entrepreneurs is to truly find a project that you are passionate about and truly believe in. He is most certainly passionate about the future of his projects and wants to build an eco-system that generates high volumes of cash that will empower his company to invest in start-up projects.

In general he wants to invest in entrepreneurs that are solving ‘big problems’ and wants FutureLab to become an innovation company. He poses this challenging question to those thinking on starting their entrepreneurial journey:

‘Are you merely attempting to do what others are already doing or are you really solving a problem?”

He finds that many entrepreneurs overthink and then do little. The more you do and if done at a rapid pace the more you learn to become adaptable and will find that there are many ways to solve a problem.

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Lessons Learnt

6 Of The Most Profitable Small Businesses In South Africa

Zero to 100 million in only a few years, we take a look at South Africa’s start-ups that have grown from fledglings to million rand businesses.

Entrepreneur

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The Business of Iced Tea

bos-tea

Vital Stats

  • Player: Grant Rushmere
  • Brand: Bos Brands
  • Established: 2009
  • Visit: www.bosicetea.com

When Grant Rushmere first envisioned Bos Ice Tea, he did it through the lens of creating a global brand. This wasn’t going to be a small local brand that would grow organically, and maybe enter international markets in the distant future. No. This was a brand engineered for stratospheric growth, which required a ballsy optimism and willingness to go big or go home.

“From the beginning we jumped in with both feet. We approached retailers and secured contracts that we knew we wouldn’t be able to sustain down the line if we didn’t get funders on board, but it was a calculated risk that we were willing to take.”

“I had developed the idea, brand and product, but I didn’t want to be a lone ranger,” says Rushmere. “I was looking for a partner who would co-invest in the business and bring skills to the company. Richard was ideal. He loved rooibos and actually produced it, and he is excellent with contracts and HR matters. Where I think a handshake will suffice, he puts a contract in place that protects everyone’s interests. Together we had the skills this business needed.”

The Top Lesson

Gutsy moves and calculated risks aside, the success of Bos Brands is a lesson in the power of marketing. In their first year, Rushmere and Bowsher spent as much on marketing as their turnover. As their revenue has increased, they haven’t pulled back on marketing spend — they’ve grown it. Rushmere is a firm believer that you get what you pay for, and what he’s been aiming for since the inception of the brand is no-holds-barred growth.

Today Iced Tea has grown from zero to R100 million in under ten years

To read the full Bos Tea story click here.

Next Up > 720% growth in 5 years

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Lessons Learnt

How Kevin Hart Went From Being A Comedian To The Guy Who Owns Comedy

He’s one of America’s most famous funnymen, but here’s what most people don’t see: Kevin Hart is often in his office, running a far more ambitious comedy machine.

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Considering how proud Kevin Hart is of the headquarters of his company, you’d think the place would be downright palatial. But it’s not. It’s simple, almost austere. It’s a series of small offices, a reception area and a conference room, and it takes up a floor of a non­descript building in downtown Encino, Calif., on Ventura Boulevard, across from a Korean BBQ joint.

The rooms are sparsely furnished. There are a lot of photos and posters of Hart, of course, but otherwise there is no expensive art, no designer tchotchkes on the credenzas, no tasteful floor coverings that could fund a motion picture production.

No, the thing about this office that fills Kevin Hart with such pride isn’t its appearance. It’s the fact that it’s still his.

Back in 2009, when he took out a two-year lease on just a small portion of the space to house his startup, HartBeat Productions, Hart was worried he wasn’t going to be able to afford it. This was before his comedy specials became some of the highest-grossing of all time. Before his social media profile grew to near record-­setting proportions. Before Kevin Hart Day was declared in Philadelphia. Before he became one of the biggest stars on Earth.

“When I first got here,” he says, “and this is before the money was where it is now, this was the dream. Every day I get to see this and I get to go, ‘Oh my God, how am I going to do it, man? Shit. I done took out the two-year goddamn lease on this place!’ ’

But he loved the “aspirational” view from what is still his personal office, and he had a plan, drawn from a hard-earned epiphany. Historically, comedians and actors, even very successful ones, are simply cogs in a very large machine.

For all the fame, and the money and the glamour, they are essentially powerless against the whims of that machine. They are the product. They do their best, work their hardest, earn what they can and at the end of the day, they’re left with fading fame and whatever money they were able to bank along the way.

Hart saw this state of affairs early in his stand-up comedy career and decided to try something different. Something risky. The idea was this: Create something lasting. Something that will go on when you’re done. Don’t just show up, do your best and then go away.

Related: 10 Quotes On Following Your Dreams, Having Passion And Showing Hard Work From Tech Guru Michael Dell

Don’t make money mostly for other people. Own what you do. Perfect your craft, of course, but in so doing, create a sustainable, revenue-­generating enterprise that can run profitably long after the world has had enough of seeing your face and hearing your jokes.

In short, the idea Kevin Hart had, as he stood nervously in that office in 2009, was this: Don’t be the cog. Be the machine.

And so he is.

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