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Creative Eleven Team: Ingrid Blohm & Robyn van der Toorn

A small design agency responds to the economic downturn with simple, but effective, solutions.

Juliet Pitman



Ingrid Blohm & Robyn van der Toorn of Creative Eleven

Entrepreneurs who survived previous economic recessions will tell you that you need to adapt in order to thrive.Whether it’s changing the product mix, adding a new service or coming up with innovative ways to reduce costs, the companies that do well in a recession are the ones that can respond to changing conditions quickly.

This is something the team from Creative Eleven Team design agency understands better than most. Recognising that clients were feeling the financial pinch, the agency quickly added cost-effective service offerings to their line-up. Director Robyn van der Toorn explains: “We’ve traditionally been an above-the-line and print-focused agency,but we realised that the credit crunch means that our clients, many of whom are small to medium-sized businesses, need less costly ways of getting brand exposure.

So we geared ourselves up to offer digital as well, something we hadn’t really focused on in the past.”Her partner Ingrid Blohm adds: “Digital solutions are great for SMEs because they get you good exposure with a variety of audiences for a fraction of the cost. As a simple example, our clients used to want brochures but I can’t remember the last time we printed one. That’s partly a cost thing and partly a trend thing; today a well designed website is all the brochure you need.”

Changes need to be drastic

The act of adding digital solutions to their suite of services is not a groundbreaking one but changes should not always have to be drastic. Indeed, experts advise that companies don’t undertake a complete overhaul during times of uncertainty. Both Blohm and Van der Toon are at pains to point out that they haven’t changed their business into a digital solutions company.

“We have always and still do offer a full suite of services, including name generation, logos, corporate identity,packaging and above-the-line solutions. Digital is just another service we decided to add to these in order to respond to clients’ needs for more cost-effective solutions,” says Van der Toorn.

Understanding market shifts

In other words, stick with what you know, but be flexible enough to make the necessary tweaks where they are relevant. Knowing exactly what tweaks are needed requires being in touch with evolving market needs.

“We own another company called Flowermill and we knew how difficult it was to get the brand out there without a big marketing budget, so I suppose it made us think like our clients. We understood the cost-effective benefits of digital so when the recession hit, it made sense to include it in our offering,” says Blohm.

Using what you have

But responding successfully to changing market conditions is not only about doing something new. Sometimes it’s about repositioning what you already have, as Van der Toorn illustrates. “One of the things we’ve always done well is packaging.

When people are cash-strapped and don’t have enough money for a large marketing campaign, they need to pay extra attention to their packaging and make it work harder for them at point-of-sale.” Blohm adds: “Research shows, for example, that packaging has four seconds to make an impact and sell your product.

When we share this information with clients, they quickly understand how important their packaging is.” It provides the company with another selling point and illustrates the ease with which some entrepreneurs can turn challenges into opportunities.

Being well informed about the current climate is not enough; what Blohm and Van der Toorn have done well is to interpret what the economic downturn means for their business and to formulate a response that’s relevant to their clients.

Reaping the rewards

Experts report that what companies do during tough times will influence not only how well they are able to ride out the storm, but also how quickly they are able to take advantage of opportunities when the good times eventually roll around again.

Creative Eleven has done well in this regard. It hasn’t cost them a lot to implement digital solutions or reinterpret their packaging offering for new market conditions,but these initiatives will continue to benefit the business long after the recession is over.

Creative Eleven Team

Players: Ingrid Blohm & Robyn van der Toorn

Est 2004


Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.


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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Company Posts

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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