- Players: Donovan Goliath, Nicholas Goliath, Kate Goliath and Jason Goliath
- Company: Goliath and Goliath
- Launched: 2011
- Visit: goliathandgoliath.com
When Donovan Goliath and Jason Goliath first met, Donovan was in advertising and Jason was unemployed. It was a Sunday night at the Underground, a weekly comedy club launched by John Vlismas and run from the basement of Cool Runnings in Melville.
Donovan was there because he’d started doing open mic nights. He thought comedy would be a fun way to express himself, since all comedians really did was tell their life stories. “I can do that,” he said, and so far, he had, although strictly as a hobby.
Jason was there because his insurance brokerage business had imploded, and his cousin, Nicholas Goliath, had convinced him that it would be fun to try stand-up comedy. In Nick’s case, this was a brave move. Five years earlier he’d tried his hand at three open mic nights. The first was incredible. The second was the worst night of his life, and although the third wasn’t too bad, he wasn’t convinced that he could survive comedy. Instead he went back to his job at a call centre. Fast forward a few years and he was willing to do anything for some relief from his ‘real life’ as a call centre agent. Even comedy.
To make ends meet as a failed entrepreneur, Jason was MCing at Makro on weekends, and he’d secured a few acting jobs on TV commercials, most notably an SAB Castle Lager ad campaign. It was through these circles that he was first made aware of ‘that other Goliath’, who many people in the ad industry assumed was his brother or cousin. It irritated Jason, who was a born and bred Eldorado Parkian.
Donovan was an adman; he wore fedoras and converse sneakers. Jason felt he was giving Goliath a bad name. But when they met face to face, it quickly became apparent that they had a lot in common, mostly their love for comedy, and values and ethics that would become the bedrock of their comedy partnership.
Within a year Goliath and Goliath had been formed. Today it is one of the most recognisable names in comedy. What started out as a comedy duo is now a four-man team that runs a comedy club, an eventing business, and is a content production hub amongst other things. The success of the Goliath and Goliath brand and team did not happen by accident. Hard work, discipline and a vision bigger than three comedians and their manager/boss lady, laid the foundations for a robust and ever-growing business. Here’s how they did it.
1Create Your Own Reality
Jason and Nicholas realised after their first few shows that to become respected comedians, they needed to look like comedians and network with comedians. “We spent any spare cash we had at the end of the week buying drinks for comedians after shows,” says Jason. “After a while, the ‘real’ comedians just assumed we were comedians too. We’d done about three open mic slots, but we were treated like we belonged, like we’d always been there.”
Lesson: Sometimes legitimacy comes when you behave as if you deserve to be there. In entrepreneurial circles it’s called the ‘fake it till you make it’ strategy.
2Create A Market
An important consequence of the ‘fake it till you make it’ strategy was that comedians started to know who Jason and Nick were, even though they hadn’t spent much time on stage. This would be vitally important when they launched their own comedy evening.
“Nick noticed that there were very few coloured people in comedy audiences,” says Donovan. “The coloured community loves to laugh. We thought that the problem might not be the comedy itself, but rather a lack of awareness, and not knowing how to access stand-up comedy shows.”
Donovan, Jason and Nick decided that this presented the ideal opportunity to start their own comedy night, and create a market for themselves. “We called every coloured comedian we knew, and asked them if they’d like to join us on stage for a show pitched to the coloured community,” says Jason.
They found a venue in Hillfox, Roodepoort. Cappello was willing to give them Wednesday night. The three Goliaths could take the revenue from ticket sales and Cappello would make their money from food and drinks. “Wednesday isn’t a traditional comedy night,” says Nick. “But I was determined that the evening would be called Awednesday, so that was the night we needed.”
With a venue and line-up secured, they marketed through social media channels. The response was incredible. The restaurant was filled to capacity and beyond with a solid coloured audience, including comedians who wanted to come and watch the newbies fall flat on their faces.
“Comedians love judging other comedians,” says Donovan. “After the success of that first night they admitted it had worked, but then they said, ‘okay, but now you’ve used all the coloured comedians, what next?’”
What followed was a new comedy night that was diverse in its line-up and audience, and soon became the monthly comedy event in Joburg. “Awednesday was so successful that within months we had on average six shows at different venues around Johannesburg,” says Jason.
Lesson: You can’t wait for something to happen to you. The most successful entrepreneurs go out and create their own success. Donovan, Jason and Nick not only created a well-known comedy evening, but they educated a new market in stand-up comedy. They created customers for themselves.
3Create A Brand
Jason and Donovan soon recognised something that no-one else had tapped into. There were a lot of well-known comedians in the space, but no brands. Coming from an entrepreneurial and advertising background respectively, both Goliaths understood the power of a brand. Not only that, they knew that if they were to grow their own careers and make comedy a full-time job and money-earner, a brand was essential. That’s what people remember, respond to, and it’s what a business can be built around.
“As soon as we agreed on Goliath and Goliath, I designed the logo. Now we weren’t just individual comedians, we were operating under a recognisable logo,” says Donovan.
How did that logo become recognisable? The Goliaths flooded the market with it. “We couldn’t afford pamphlets, so we went for the next big thing: t-shirts,” says Jason.
By this time Awednesday had moved to Oh My Gosh, a restaurant/night club in Honeydew. OMG became the home of Awednesday (and South African comedy) for a time, and every waiter, barman and comedian who attended got a t-shirt. “We wore them everywhere,” says Nick, “and we made sure that everyone else did too. We wanted people to recognise the brand even if they didn’t yet know what it was.”
It was a lean, low-cost strategy, but it worked. While comedians laughed at first, today industry insiders and fans alike clamber for Goliath and Goliath t-shirts.
Lesson: A recognisable brand is an effective way to enter a market. Create something catchy, keep your logo bold and simple, and find innovative ways to get it seen. Plant the seeds of your brand before people experience it for the first time. This can make your company seem a lot bigger than it is while you are growing into your vision.
4Do Something Different
“We were now doing enough corporate gigs to focus on comedy full time,” says Donovan. “But we needed a bigger reason for corporates to book us.”
Unlike other comedians who don’t relish sharing a stage, Donovan and Jason realised they could become an on-stage duo that provided both the MCing and comedic function at an event. “We charged slightly more than one MC or comedian would, which meant our clients were getting two for the price of one,” explains Jason. “Corporates saw our offering as a huge value add, and it grew our brand.”
Meanwhile, Nick was finally able to quit his day job. Enough comedy work was coming in to sustain his salary, and he’d started MCing at Makro on the weekends to replace Jason and learn the ropes. The three Goliaths were positioning themselves into a business unit, with specific and unique offerings.
Lesson: To stand out from your competitors, you need a unique selling proposition (USP) and demonstrable value.
5Systems And Processes
As the three comics became busier, the need for systems, processes and an administrative function raised its head. Enter Kate, Jason’s sister.
A former PR officer at Primedia, Kate had quit her job to travel and teach in Japan. But a pregnancy put an end to those plans, and she found her way into freelancing. The decision to bring Kate on as their manager, booking agent and all-round organiser was two-fold. It would give Kate something better to do with her time, and it would create a much more organised existence for Donovan and Jason.
Lesson: When dealing with corporates, it is not okay to be disorganised. As a start-up you can punch above your weight and work hard to look bigger than you are, but you cannot let your clients down. The sooner you put systems and processes in place, the better. You don’t have to be big to think big.
From their Goliath and Goliath t-shirts to the Goliath Comedy Club, which opened in Melrose Arch in April 2016, Donovan, Jason and Nick have never taken their eye off their marketing ball. “Our comedy nights and comedy club serve as marketing tools for our corporate offerings,” says Donovan.
Jason agrees. “We host corporate events at the Club from Mondays to Wednesdays, but there has to be a comedy element. We turn clients away if they are only looking for a venue. We’d rather say no to cash than lose sight of our ultimate growth goals.”
Lesson: Sometimes you have short-term pain for long-term gain. If you lose sight of your purpose you could find your business going down a different path, and miss your growth goals.
7Grow Your Own Skill Sets And Offerings
“We started feeling comfortable, and that meant it was time to stretch our legs,” says Jason. “We evaluated our strengths. We were MCs and comedians, with business and marketing backgrounds, and call centre and temping experience.
“We had a unique market offering for corporates. Our pitch is simple: we can take your business message and deliver it in a comedic fashion. You can entertain your staff while landing a message and training them. We started getting booked to facilitate staff engagement programmes and customer service training. This led to being involved in strategy, format and delivery style.
“We ring-fenced the whole process. We have amazing long-term clients in this space, including Vodacom, MTN, FNB, Standard Bank and Old Mutual.
“We tell event co-ordinators to stop stressing. We take care of everything, and this will be the best event they’ve ever hosted. It puts pressure on us because we have to live up to that, but when we do deliver, we have a client for life, because we’ve made their life so much easier.”
Taking this a step further, Goliath and Goliath has partnered with the ex-head of events from FNB to launch Goliath Events, which will curate an event’s entire experience. “We believe in great partnerships,” says Jason. “Our values and ideals are aligned, and we all bring something different to the table.”
Lesson: A good way to grow is to focus on increasing your share of each client’s work. Once you’ve proven yourself in one area, you can pitch for another. This requires building your skill set and offering, but also building relationships across organisations.
8Immerse Yourself In Your Market
Goliath and Goliath is first and foremost a comedic brand. This is the vein that runs through everything they do, from corporate events to the comedy club to The Box, their Sunday night comedy club in Maboneng.
The Box is integral to the local comedy scene. Open mic slots give new comedians a chance to test their talents, while veteran comics can test their new material. It draws international talent, like Mos Def, who wanted to try stand-up while visiting South Africa and staying in Maboneng.
“The Box is the pulse of SA comedy, and it allows us to keep in touch with the industry,” says Donovan. It is also how Goliath and Goliath supports local comedy. Kate has become the mother of comedy because she supports so many comedians, will find them gigs, assist in booking them — even though she isn’t and never will be an agent. “We love our industry, and want to support its growth. If comedy’s winning, we’re winning,” she says.
Lesson: Growth can take you away from your initial customers and in this case, fans. Once you lose touch with your market, your business starts to die. Always find a way to stay true to your original vision and purpose.
9Make Sure Everything You Do Is ‘NCA’
Nick’s saying permeats everything Goliath and Goliath do. When they were approached by Melrose Arch to partner with Tony Raciti, an industry veteran and owner of The Venue, they were excited by the prospect of running a comedy club with a top-class menu and venue.
“Everything we do has to be perfect,” says Nick. “Every touch point, every brand experience; if you can’t make it ‘nca’ you shouldn’t be doing it.” It’s the reason the Goliath and Goliath brand is so strong. When Raciti was told by Melrose Arch to partner with the Goliaths, he initially resisted. “He reached out to his own contacts to find out who were the best players on the comedy scene, and everyone said us,” laughs Jason. That’s how strong the team’s brand is.
Lesson: Think of every interaction, large or small, as brand building. Something that may seem insignificant today could be significant down the line. Use this as your mantra: if it’s not worth doing right, it’s not worth doing at all.
10Outwork Everyone Else
“Our goal is to be the most recognisable comedy brand in Africa, and this has been easier to achieve than it should have been. The reality is that no one has been pushing a brand,” says Donovan.
“But we’ve also been able to outwork everyone,” adds Jason. “We work 9 to 5, write, do our stage shows, still have personal lives… It’s a 24/7 life. And we don’t have titles. We do everything; we’re not hindered by expectations of how something is meant to be, or always has been.”
“And we’re not done,” adds Kate. “Not by a long shot. We’re never satisfied, we’re always looking for our next challenge.”
If you have a vision and a purpose, and are willing to outwork everyone else, your dream job could become your dream business, and dream life.
Watch List: 11 Teen Entrepreneurs Who Have Launched Successful Businesses
These teens are proving that you don’t need a driver’s licence – or the ability to vote – to create and execute a successful start-up.
In South Africa youth entrepreneurship is encouraged as the best way to build the economy. Teens are no longer relying on tertiary education to jumpstart their careers, as many high school students become budding entrepreneurs. From make-up to confectionary and tech-centred ventures, youth entrepreneurship is taking the business world by storm.
“It’s easier than ever to become an entrepreneur, and technology has a lot to do with it. You’re a tech-savvy millennial, and Internet and mobile technologies make it easier to connect and identify with people, based on shared values and ideals,” says Michael Freestone, founder of the MJF Group. “All entrepreneurs wonder if their companies will succeed, but you don’t really know until you try. So, do it while you’re young and have little or nothing to lose.”
And that’s exactly what teenagers across the country are doing. While being a teenager is stressful enough, without worrying about marketing and your bottom line – these young entrepreneurs thrive on success, which must be their secret sauce to their winning business ideas.
10 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 Share Their Start-Up Secrets
The future of entrepreneurship has never looked so bright…these young entrepreneurs share their wisdom around building a successful business.
Natural Talent Can Become Your Success
Thabo Khumalo – ToVch
“I learnt to design and sew while assisting my mother who was a seamstress, and that is when I realised that I had a talent to create,” Thabo Khumalo explains. “But I never knew I was an entrepreneur.” Thabo Khumalo started his company ToVch in 2010 and has since appeared in South African Fashion Week, Soweto Fashion Week and Mpumalanga Fashion Week.
Khumalo has a small but engaged audience, who he communicates directly with. “The brand has a dedicated audience, and the social media presence also allows me to continuously scan the fashion environment to keep up with external forces.”
One of the most challenging aspects of launching his businesses was marketing the brand with limited funds. He used social media and word-of-mouth to market. “On social media, people share your brand with others simply because they want to,” says Khumalo. “It’s a powerful platform, and it does not cost anything.” Khumalo built up his company using support from a strong online network, which became his marketing strategy.
For Founder Of National Tekkie Tax Day Having A Higher (Business) Purpose Keeps Her Driving Forward
The NGO space isn’t easy. It’s a constant uphill battle to connect scarce resources with the vulnerable. Annelise de Jager has persevered in this space because she’s tapped into her personal purpose and values.
- Player: Annelise de Jager
- Initiative: National Tekkie Tax Day
- Launched: 2013
- Visit: www.tekkietax.co.za
Use your purpose to drive you forward
Connect your purpose with what you do, and you’ll find untapped reserves of perseverance and the discipline needed to achieve your goals.
Purpose before profit is not a new concept in business. In fact, it underlines the motivations behind some of the most successful entrepreneurs. It’s also not reserved for social enterprises alone.
However, it is in the social entrepreneurship and charitable spaces that living one’s purpose first found a foothold, mostly because without a strong purpose, the work would just be too hard, and many would give up.
Annelise de Jager, founder of National Tekkie Tax Day, unpacks how she’s used living her purpose to drive her forward, even when she’s faced almost insurmountable challenges and disappointments.
Make ‘living a life that matters’ intrinsic to everything you do.
“I was lucky in that I didn’t ever need to sit down and say, ‘I want my life to matter, so I need to do x, y, z’,” says Annelise. “It was intrinsic for me. However, in the past five years I’ve become acutely aware of it, and I’ve seen how important the ability to look beyond oneself is when you’re facing disappointment and challenges.
“It helps you look beyond the now, find a solution and keep pushing on, because there is a bigger goal at stake. The biggest revelation for me has been that anyone can figure this out and use it as a tool to achieve their dreams and purpose — you just need to trigger your intrinsic motivators.
“Figure out what’s really important to you, and then align this with what you’re doing, in both your business and personal journeys. Robin Bank’s Mind Power and Shaping your Destiny courses are a great place to start.”
Don’t be afraid to ask what’s next
Critical to Annelise’s journey has been the realisation that when goals are met, we need to ask ourselves: What’s next? “Too many people achieve their goals and then feel adrift. You should meet your goals. Your ultimate vision should change. That’s growth, and it’s critical if you want to keep moving forward.
“Our experiences inform our knowledge base and world views, and so as you live and run your business, that view should be changing, bringing with it new challenges and perceptions. Don’t be scared of it; embrace it.”
Annelise went to Potchefstroom University to study social work where she joined the university’s musical revue group, the Alabama Student Company. “Alabama was given the opportunity to tour Taiwan, but I was about to graduate. Travel is high on my personal values list, so I started a second degree in communications to stay in university — and — in Alabama.”
New experiences can be the source of great ideas and strength
Studying communications opened Annelise to a new discipline that she loved. “Marketing and communications are so filled with energy — an energy social work didn’t possess. I loved both, and I wanted to find a way to meld them together. This would ultimately shape my business, The Marketing Team, after I’d been a social worker for a few years. Don’t be afraid to adjust your plans based on new experiences; they can be the source of our greatest ideas and strengths.”
No experience is ever wasted
“We spend too much time trying to plan exactly what we should be doing, where and when, instead of following our hearts and instincts,” says Annelise. “No experience is ever wasted. Once I discovered my love for communications, I questioned whether I’d wasted four years studying social work. I hadn’t.
“Both disciplines became the bedrock of how I would assist the charitable space in South Africa. Experiences open our eyes, our hearts, and our understanding. They give us empathy and patience. They allow us to view things from other perspectives. If you want to really make a difference in other peoples’ lives, these traits are invaluable.”
Be open to finding answers in unexpected places
“By 2004 I felt rudderless,” says Annelise. “I’d been running my own business, handling communications and marketing for NGOs, developing campaigns and even assisting NGOs to run more as businesses than under-funded organisations, but it didn’t feel like I was doing enough.
“Part of the problem was that you can only give people the tools to work with, you can’t make them use them. Another problem was under-funding. Corporates spend billions each year on CSI projects but they don’t like to fund salaries and basic operational expenses.
“It’s frustrating because volunteers can’t do what needs to be done — most households need two breadwinners, which limits the availability of volunteers to assist.
“I was looking for a way to add more value. Should I start my own NGO? Where could I make the biggest impact? I’d been offered an excellent coaching position, which would allow me to walk away from the problems this sector deals with daily. It was tempting, but it wasn’t what I wanted.
“At that time I attended the Global Day of Prayer in Argentina on behalf of a client. It was at that conference that I had an almost supernatural experience. I left knowing exactly what my purpose was.
“How these realisations come to you is less important than the fact that you’re open to them. Deep down I knew what I wanted and needed — I just needed the courage and fortitude to follow my path. My experience in Argentina gave that to me because I allowed it to.”
Always find the strength to persevere.
Nothing worth doing is ever easy. In the NGO space, this is particularly true. “I developed the idea for National Tekkie Tax Day because NGOs constantly asked me to help them develop funding campaigns. I developed this fundraising model when I launched Casual Day and ran the project successfully for 18 years.
“But I also believe the NGO space can benefit from a more unified mindset to overcome donor confusion and fatigue. This is my new focus, but it’s difficult to get organisations to shift their mindsets. National Tekkie Tax Day is a step in this direction.
“It encompasses 12 national NGOs and 1 000 regional organisations across five categories — but there’s one product and one national marketing drive. Donors can choose a category to support.
“I’ve needed to persevere to help NGOs see the benefits in working collaboratively, and corporates to see the benefits of supporting the operational costs of NGOs.
“I don’t have a high profile job at a top company. People don’t call you back in my world. And yet you need to keep pushing forward against incredible headwinds.
“I wake up each morning and repeat the mantra that my success helps everybody; my failure helps nobody. There won’t always be easy wins, but with the right purpose you can persevere. You can make a difference.”
Support National Tekkie Tax Day on 26 May 2017
12 national charities | 1 000 local charities | 5 sectors to support
Animals, Bring Hope, Children, Disability, Education
Available at Toys R Us, Clicks and Babies R Us or online at www.tekkietax.co.za
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