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Marot & Sanders: Marc Marot & Sven Sanders

From humble beginnings, two designers have defined a new niche in the world of branding

Juliet Pitman

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Marc Marot & Sven Sanders

“We didn’t ever just want to be a ‘me too’ company.” These are the words of Marc Marot, MD of Marot & Sanders. Together with partner, Sven Sanders, he came to carve out a niche market in the highly competitive world of advertising and branding. Seeing a gap in the industry, the two young designers left their jobs and embarked on what has been an often rocky journey of entrepreneurship.

Marot & Sanders describes itself as “a retail image specialist”. With clients largely in the retail sector, it specialises in ensuring that a consistent company image and brand message is communicated to customers at every touch point. Marot explains how they identified a gap in the market: “We realised that many companies used different suppliers to do their advertising, branding, PR, corporate clothing, signage and events. What happens is that customers get an inconsistent experience of the company.

Our focus is to handle all these activities for the client, making sure their brand is communicated correctly and consistently.” They call it “applying their M&S-ense” to a brand and it seems to work. Their client list has included Toyota, Engen, Ford, Rennies Distribution Services, Playtex, JAM Clothing, Firstpharm Generics and Akals Sports Retailers. But while the business is now a highly successful enterprise, it had humble beginnings.

Marot and Sanders started with little more than their creative expertise and the sheer determination to make a success of things. “We moved into a granny flat, put together our savings and a loan from my parents, and opened our doors,” remembers Marot. Total start-up costs amounted to R19 000, spent on computer equipment, and R800 for office supplies. For the first six months, the pair ran the business after hours while still in full-time employment, drawing on the contacts they had slowly built up through freelance assignments.

Small jobs gradually expanded to become larger jobs and the company started building long-term relationships with clients. These relationships have stood them in good stead. “One of our key differentiators is our tendency to work very closely with clients, most of whom are used to dealing with only an account executive. And we have always treated even the smallest client as if they were our only client. We’ve also been paranoid about losing clients,” says Marot.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing, however. One of their biggest stumbling blocks was non-payment and resulting cash flow problems. Marot remembers a month when they couldn’t pay themselves salaries and were forced to sell a brand concept they had been working on. The client who bought it went on to make a small fortune out of it, attaching it to a clothing label. “We realised things had to change,” Marot says. “We divided our clients into two groups, choosing to keep only those who had a good payment history and who were as passionate about their brands as we were.”

This left them with a far shorter client list, but in the first year after making the change, the company’s turnover nearly doubled. “We had fewer clients but they were getting better quality work,” he points out. In their first year, the two high school friends made a mere 1,6% of the annual income the company is doing today, as it heads into its tenth year. But you won’t find them complacent – they still exude the edgy creativity and energy that got them there in the first place.

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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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.

CEOwise

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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

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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.

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“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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