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Blackvoice: Bongi Gwala

Communications specialist offers clients a total solution

Monique Verduyn



Bongi Gwala of BlackVoice

Bongi Gwala places great store on having up-to-the-minute information at hand. In-depth knowledge – about politics, economics, society and the media – is what distinguishes his public relations and communications consultancy from its competitors.

The former radio programme manager, television producer and government PR officer decided to launch his own company, Blackvoice, in 1999.

Two years after opening the doors of the business, however, Gwala realised that he did not know enough about the workings of the communications industry. He put the company on ice for 24 months and returned to the SABC, using his spare time to learn as much as he could about his areas of interest and writing down concepts for the organisations he envisaged as future clients.

“I absorbed every bit of information I could lay my hands on,” he recalls, “I studied, I read books, I did research on the Internet and I listened to different people’s perspectives and analyses of events and situations.”

At the beginning of 2005, having developed an exhaustive understanding of communications, Gwala was ready to re-launch the company. Through his contacts at the SABC he had heard about the launch of Gwala compiled a proposal, presenting his ideas on how the launch should be conducted. It was accepted and because the project was so huge, Blackvoice was given a substantial down payment.

“It’s vital for a new business to use upfront deposits wisely,” he says. “We used ours to start developing the company.”Since then, Blackvoice has built a substantial client base in local and national government. Asked how he has attracted and retained clients, Gwala says you have to know and understand your client and create meaningful relationships.

“Inexperienced business people are sometimes not frank with their clients; they promise one thing, yet deliver something else.

That is bound to affect the relationship negatively.” With government contracts being notoriously open to corruption, Gwala maintains that he avoids situations where he has to grease people’s palms. Working within this sector in particular, Gwala says Blackvoice found it helpful to create its own monitoring and reporting systems.

“We submit reports pre, during and post each project. We are not asked for these documents but we submit them anyway. We also use news tracking services on every project so that we can measure the value of the PR generated.It’s truly gratifying to be able to tell a client that they paid us R100 000 for a project and in turn received R1 million worth of exposure.”

Blackvoice has built a reputation for its ability to arrange well attended press conferences by sending out stories that sell. “When government launches a bridge, that is not a story. The story lies in how the bridge will help the community, develop the local economy and engage local businesses.

I always insist on at least three or four angles to any press release.”Among the hardest lessons he has learnt is the fact that any business, regardless of size, requires processes and systems.

“One of the best decisions was to hire a financial person who monitors cashflow, chases invoices and ensures that service providers are paid on time everytime. We also have auditors who check every transaction made.”Blackvoice has established a second office in Durban from which it is overseeing a project to position KwaZulu-Natal as South Africa’s soccer province and Durban as an ideal base camp for 2010.

It will be repositioning itself as a complete marketing, PR and audiovisual company following its purchase of two edit suites. “Our growth has been gradual at about 20% per year, but also steady and sustainable,” says Gwala. “We are now ready to move to a whole new level.” Contact: +27 11 787 0131;

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+.


25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton



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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.






Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect




Vital Stats

It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.


“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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