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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Founder Coco Cachalia Of Grounded Media Shares Her Smart Insights For Building A Niche Business

Coco Cachalia’s Grounded Media celebrates its 20th year in 2017 and boasts a turnover of more than R60 million. Here’s her advice for creating a niche business that can last for decades.

GG van Rooyen

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Coco Cachalia

Vital Stats

  • Player: Coco Cachalia
  • Company: Grounded Media
  • Established: 1997
  • Visit: www.groundedmedia.co.za
  • About: Grounded Media is a communications agency that helps companies and organisations communicate their messages successfully. The agency focuses on lower LSM, and often assists in companies’ CSI projects.

Coco Cachalia’s Grounded Media started out producing educational shows for television, but over the years it has evolved into a one-stop media agency with a very specific focus. Here’s how Coco has built a niche business capable of surviving tough economic times and adapting to a changing environment.

Having a partner is a great idea

When I first started out, I had a partner in the business. We’re not in business together any longer, but I still value our early partnership tremendously.

Together, we managed to create a great business model, and I doubt that either of us would have been able to do it on our own. So, find a business partner who complements you and brings expertise to the table that you don’t have. Growing a company on your own is very difficult.

Related: Meet The 40 Richest Self-Made Entrepreneurs On Earth

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

We started out creating educational television shows for the SABC, but we quickly realised that it’s a bad idea to depend entirely on one client and one revenue stream. We started to diversify, and today we are a one-stop-shop that provides a range of services, including radio, TV, digital, event management, activations, community outreach and strategy development.

The market can be unpredictable, but by having multiple revenue streams, you guard against the worst of it. While one area might take a dip, another hopefully shows growth.

Find your niche

grounded-media

We have diversified significantly, but we’ve also stuck to a particular niche. All the services we offer are related and fall within the communication umbrella. We’re also selective in the kind of work we do. People tend to think that we are a non-profit organisation because of what we do, but this is simply because of the fact that a lot of the work that we create is associated with our clients’ CSI projects.

We focus on the lower LSM markets and don’t really operate in the B2B space. This is a good area for us to operate in. You can be a socially responsible enterprise and still turn a profit. In fact, given South Africa’s history and economic situation, there are some great opportunities in this space.

Appreciate other voices

One of the dangers of running your own business for two decades is that you can become too set in your ways. To prevent this, you need to create an environment where employees feel they have the freedom to speak up and offer contrasting opinions.

For example, we had young people in the organisation who were far more savvy about the opportunities that digital offered than I was. Thankfully, they spoke up and convinced me that it was something we needed to investigate. Had I only trusted my own instincts, we probably would have gotten into digital much later.

Know when to grow and when to consolidate

Growth can be risky, since it usually requires you to spend a lot of money. Sometimes, it’s better to consolidate when things are going well, rather than to try to expand aggressively. You need to know that you have a decent runway that will allow you to sustain your long-term growth.

Long-term contracts are becoming rare in most industries, but if you’re lucky enough to land one, that’s usually a good time to grow. A multi-year contract means that there’s a certain amount of money you can rely on, which makes growth less risky.

Related: Fake It ‘Til You Make It: How These 10 Entrepreneurs Did Just That

Control your product

As we’ve grown, we’ve increasingly brought more functions in-house. When you’re a start-up, you often make use of contractors and suppliers, but that means that you have less control over the product that you eventually deliver and the customer service you offer. Bringing functions in-house is a good way to control your brand and product. That said, it’s seldom a good idea to bring everything in-house.

You don’t want employees to sit around with nothing to do, so it makes sense to use contractors for specific projects.

Also, it doesn’t make sense for us to purchase film equipment, since the industry evolves so quickly. It’s far easier to simply rent what we need.


Key Insights

Listen to your employees

Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of thinking you’re the only person who understands your market or knows what’s right for your business. Let your employees have a voice — some of the best ideas could come from your staff if you give them a platform to share their thoughts.

Consolidation lays the foundations for growth

When things are going well, business owners are often tempted to pursue aggressive growth, instead of consolidating and creating a decent runway that will sustain long-term growth. Growth takes money. Are your foundations in place?

Your brand is your responsibility

Start-ups often have to use contractors and suppliers, but as you grow, bring the key elements that affect your business and brand’s position in the market place in-house. Stay focused on what you’re good at, but control as much as you can.

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Women Entrepreneur Successes

How This Copywriter Made Money Fast Online With Fiverr

Lauren Gouws’, Copywriter and founder of LKM Creative, experience in the gig economy has taught her some hard but golden lessons. She offers her advice for local looking to get going in the gig environment.

Nadine Todd

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lauren-gouws

Vital Stats

  • Entrepreneur: Lauren Gouws
  • Designation: Copywriter and founder of LKM Creative
  • Visit: www.lkmcreative.net

Despite her best efforts, Lauren Gouws (neé Meikle) was a terrible employee. The commute from Pretoria to Joburg every day was depressing, she didn’t like the fact that whether her workload was high or low she earned the same salary, and she was realising that the inflexibility of an eight to five job didn’t suit her.

So, she did what many budding entrepreneurs have done. One evening, she got home and Googled ‘How to make money online’ — and discovered the world of the gig economy. “I couldn’t quit my job because I had bills to pay and needed an income, but I also knew I wanted to be my own boss,” says Lauren.

“You need to be careful, there are a lot of traps, scams and get-rich-quick schemes online. I just wanted to have control over my earning potential. I came across an article that listed ten gig economy websites. Basically, if you have a skill that you can offer digitally, you can sign up to these websites and offer that service — it’s MacDonald’s for services, you place your order and get it within a day or two.”

Lauren is a copywriter, but gig economy sites cater for web developers, consultants, coders, designers, writers and more. “Fiverr is the website I’ve found success on. Within a few hours work started coming in.”

Lauren began her Fiverr journey in September 2015 while she was still working full time. “I couldn’t quit immediately, it was too big a risk, so I spent my evenings on my Fiverr orders and worked during the day. For three months I was sleeping two to three hours a night. I needed to match my salary before I could quit — that was the deal I made with myself.”

Within three months Lauren had doubled her salary. Three months after that, she had quit her job, and was focused full-time on her Fiverr clients. She was 25 years old. Today, her income is ten times what it was three years ago, she works from home, to her own schedule and has a level of flexibility that was impossible while she was a full-time employee.

“I work hard, from 7am to 7pm, but that’s my choice. I love that the more I put in, the more I get out. All I need is a laptop, so I can go anywhere and carry on doing what I do. Fiverr also has an out-of-office function, so I could choose to only work two or three weeks a month, if that’s what I wanted. The flexibility and freedom of the gig economy has changed my life.”

Related: 20 South African Side-Hustles You Can Start This Weekend

According to Lauren’s ‘world domination percentage’ on Fiverr, she has written copy and scripts for 57% of the countries in the world — mostly the US and India, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Scotland. “I’ve been exposed to so many projects, countries and industries. It’s been an incredible experience.”

The rand dollar exchange doesn’t hurt either. For a writer based in South Africa but earning US dollars, Lauren’s income is far beyond anything she could have achieved as an employee. It has also changed other aspects of Lauren’s life. The time she spent in traffic is now dedicated to income-producing hours, building her business and brand. The increased income meant Lauren could buy a house and travel the world with her husband, visiting new destinations every year, while still saving for her future.

Maximising opportunities in the gig economy

“When you sign up to a gig website, you create your profile and gigs. For example, my profile says, ‘Hi, I’m Lauren, I’m a copywriter — if you need a script you can place your order’. My gig is $5 per 25 words, and clients can order as many of the gig as they need.”

Of course, Lauren has raised the price of her gig since she started. “I looked at what other people charged to determine my price point at the beginning, and I also started at less than I would have liked to get noticed. As my gig got more popular and I literally couldn’t manage the workload, I increased my prices. I did this slowly and steadily. First it was $5 for 150 words, then as my jobs got unmanageable, I made it $5 for 100 words, then $5 for 50 words, and now it’s $5 for 25 words.

“The customers who really love you will stay with you and pay more and sometimes I give discounts if it’s a massive order. The trick is to have confidence in your quality. Clients who tell me I’m too expensive leave, but most come back, choosing quality over price.”

According to Lauren, there’s an overall understanding that gigs that are more expensive are higher quality. “The people who do a lot of gigs for a very cheap rate either aren’t experienced enough or they don’t know how the gig economy works and they want as much work as possible — but they’re rushing jobs and not giving them enough time and attention.

“By comparison, if you’re charging more you will put more effort into it — you have less orders, but they are more expensive. You can focus more energy on each task throughout the day and people trust that — they don’t really trust cheap gigs.”

Lauren’s turnaround time is five days, although an additional fee ensures express delivery. Lauren has built up the confidence to have tough conversations with clients, particularly around price, but she does caution that in the gig economy, the customer is king. “You cannot mess with your public reviews,” she says. “They can’t be removed. If you’re rude or too stern with a client and you receive a one-star review, it’s there forever, so no matter how difficult a buyer is, you have to treat them like gold.”

Sites like Fiverr work on reputation — good reviews, delivering quality content on time and being active on the site improve your search results, which in turn boost your business.

“When you start out, it’s essential to get your reviews going. It’s more important to do as much work as possible to build your reputation than what you charge. You can start increasing your prices once you’ve built your reputation.”

Another key to success is that the secret lies in product differentiation. “I joined Fiverr at a good time when it was still being discovered by many people and companies. While it’s a little more challenging to master now, it’s certainly not impossible. You just have to think out-the-box. Think of something you can offer that is in high-demand, and set yourself apart. Why should people choose you instead of the person in the gig next to yours in search results? Flaunt your credentials: Passion. Skills. Tenacity. You can also add a gig ‘video,’ not just a picture, which can shoot you further up search results for more visibility and trust. Share your gigs everywhere online. Ultimately, success is in your hands.”

Related: How To Start A Side Hustle Without Quitting Your Day Job

Gig Economy websites to get you started

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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Woman Of Stature Share 5 Lessons In Finding Your Purpose, Pursuing Passions And Leading A Full And Successful Life

Woman of Stature is an organisation that plans to give South Africa its next generation of high-impact entrepreneurs, ministers and even a president. Here’s how the ideals of success mindset and living your purpose are shaping a new breed of empowered women.

Nadine Todd

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charlotte-woman-of-stature

Vital Stats

  • Players: Charlotte du Plessis (founder of Woman of Stature and MD), Lynn Hill (WOS director and Inspirational Speaker, Trainer and Life Coach) and Sue Moodley (WOS director and founder of Pluminco Trade).
  • Business: Woman of Stature
  • Launched: 2013
  • Visit: www.womanofstature.co.za

When Charlotte du Plessis founded Woman of Stature (originally named Woman of Substance), it was because she wanted to create a network of women who could support each other and share skills as well as life and business lessons.

What started as a side-project soon consumed more and more time, until eventually she made the decision to sell her eventing business and focus on Woman of Stature full-time. Passion, purpose and business combined to not only give Charlotte a clear goal, but one that she could share with others, and that would hopefully live on as a brand well beyond her own name as the founder and current MD.

In 2018, she asked Lynn Hill and Sue Moodley to join her as directors. As an entrepreneur herself, Sue’s focus is the growth of the brand and platform, while Lynn’s background in training and her experience as a speaker will shape the training programmes that Woman of Stature offers its members and the public.

Charlotte, Sue and Lynn share their lessons in finding your purpose, pursuing passions and ultimately leading full and successful lives.

1. You are in control of your own destiny

Sue Moodley started her business 21 years ago with just R4 000. Her father had been retrenched, and they decided to launch a business of their own. He was a salesman, she a born entrepreneur, even at the age of 19. Today Pluminco Trade has supplied plumbing and building products to some of the biggest construction projects in the country, including OR Tambo International Airport and Emperor’s Palace Hotel.

“The key is to just do it,” says Sue. “I believe that there’s no excuse for remaining poverty-stricken, struggling as a single mom or relying on a man. There are so many ways to make money, so many things to sell. You just need to be willing to step out of your comfort zone and make the change.

“It won’t always be easy. Our business still hasn’t completely recovered from the 2008 recession. I’ve lost millions, but I’ve kept going. I’ve dropped my GPs on certain things so that my product turnover is better, I’ve slowed some projects down, committing to four years instead of two years, but through it all I haven’t given up. We are in control of our own destiny. It’s important to remember that.”

Related: Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs

2. Start by showing up

It was Sue’s desire to share the lessons she’d learnt, build up her personal brand and learn from others in different situations that led her to Woman of Stature. “We’re a multi-racial organisation that accepts members from 17 years up,” she says. “It’s incredible what you can learn from people when you’re in an environment where you’ll find someone who shares your background and culture as well as people who come from completely different walks of life. You just need to be open to taking it all in.”

This was exactly what Charlotte had in mind when she first founded Woman of Stature. She wanted to be able to network with like-minded women who shared her values, but also to create an environment where women could learn from each other and share their stories and experiences.

“We believe in self-actualisation,” says Charlotte. “I attended an event a few years ago and the theme was ‘Africans come uninvited’, and it really struck a chord with me. That’s what we stand for. Anyone can join us. Come and take a seat at the table — but what you do with that seat is up to you. Over the years we’ve seen that the truly successful people in life seize opportunities and run with them. They don’t wait for things to happen — they make them happen.”

3. Everyone has a purpose — you just need to live it

sue-moodley

Much of what Woman of Stature stands for is upliftment. Sue talks about who you see when you look in the mirror each day, because if you don’t believe in yourself, you can’t expect anyone else to, but there is also a strong sense that no-one is locked into their current fate.

“We always tell our members to look beyond themselves,” says Charlotte. “Step one is networking. Once you start hearing stories that are similar to your own, you realise you’re not alone. From there, you can begin to share, learn and build yourself up, whether it’s a self-confidence issue, building a personal brand or finding your purpose. We all have a purpose, and once you start living that purpose you find success.”

Finding and living your purpose is one of Lynn Hill’s passions, not only for herself, but others, and has played a key role in the coaching, consulting and training she does for corporates and entrepreneurs.

“We often talk about finding our purpose, but that’s not correct,” she says. “You are your purpose; you can’t separate yourself from your talents and gifts. What we need to do is recognise our purpose, and to do that, you need to know who you are. What makes you tick? What are your gifts, talents and passions? What gives you joy?

“Usually, these are the questions that lead us to our inherent gifts and talents. When we learn to express these, we find our purpose. The real secret to purpose is that it’s innately unselfish. When we use our talents to uplift humanity — in whatever form that takes, from solving big problems to acts of kindness and compassion — purpose is achieved.”

For Lynn, people who fail to find their purpose haven’t come to terms with who they really are. “We get caught up in being competitive and comparative,” she says. “We compare ourselves to others’. We want what someone else has, and end up trying to copy a gift or talent, instead of being authentic to ourselves. Never underestimate your uniqueness. You are your most perfect at just being yourself. We don’t focus on that enough.”

At its core, this is what Woman of Stature offers its members. Charlotte believes that you can’t separate business from life, and if you want to run a successful company, you need to first lead a successful life. “It’s about you as an individual,” she says. “You need to develop everything inside you in the best possible way so that you can live a purpose-driven life.”

Interestingly, it’s clear from Charlotte, Sue and Lynn’s journeys that your purpose and passions evolve, and that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams.

Charlotte left the corporate world to launch her first business at the age of 50. Her experiences as an entrepreneur as well as losing her mother to breast cancer led her to forming a charity and then Woman of Stature. The realisation that this was where her true purpose lay meant she then sold her business to focus full-time on empowering women. Lynn’s current focus is to share her message with as many people as possible, which she’s doing through her writing and speaking and Sue wants to share her experiences with other women to give them hope and inspiration.

Related: 13 Female Entrepreneurs Rising To The Top In SA

4. Embrace a success mindset

Ultimately, organisations like Woman of Stature are designed to promote a success mindset, through networking, training and motivating or inspiring others.

“I believe a success mindset is a mindset of excellence,” says Lynn. “It’s a mindset where you don’t simply aspire towards excellent standards, but where you begin to normalise standards of excellence to a point where you embody them. It’s the belief that mediocrity is a sin.

“Once you embrace a success mindset, you move beyond a goal and acquisition focus and recognise that the means is as significant as the end. As a result, quality relationship-building happens as part of pursuing those goals.

“When we are able to move beyond the traditional idea of success, we also focus on significance: The fact that our success does not just impact our own lives, but the lives of others. That’s when we begin to make meaningful contributions to those around us and even whole communities.”

5. Success is a team effort

lynn-hill

The reason why Charlotte took the step to invite Lynn and Sue into her business is because they were already exceptional women in her life. “We became friends through networking first,” she says. “There’s a lot to be said for first forming a friendship. You need to do business with people you trust, like and have shared values with. It’s one of the reasons why networking and joining associations is so important. It allows you to build relationships and trust.”

Like Charlotte, Sue had lost her mother to breast cancer, and the two felt an instant kinship, particularly as Woman of Stature supports the same charity that Sue supports, Breast Health Foundation. Once the relationship was built, it was natural for Sue to take an interest in the organisation, and even become an angel investor based on her experience with the brand and its impact.

“It’s difficult to build something from the ground up,” says Charlotte. “No one can do it alone. You need to be able to rely on family, friends and associates to build something that lasts. You also need to be able to exchange knowledge. We all have dreams, but if you’re really going to build a sustainable brand and business, you need the business acumen to back it up. We tend to focus on the great idea, and what we love and are passionate about, but need the business side too. The associations and networks that I’ve built up aren’t only about emotional support — it’s about that knowledge exchange. It’s about mentoring each other and sharing advice and lessons.”

“You need to give to receive,” agrees Sue. “We all learn from each other. It’s a two-way street though. Networking isn’t about what you can take — it’s about mutual growth.”

Much of what Woman of Stature does is built on this concept, including its Impact Circle training programme. “Impact Circle is a self-development and entrepreneurial development training programme, and all the trainers are members,” says Lynn. “We’ve drawn from our own network, both to support our members who are in this field and to give everyone more access to each other.”

Through this vision, Charlotte, Sue and Lynn are planning to make a real difference in South Africa’s business, social and political landscape. “We’re fostering future ministers and presidents,” says Sue. “Shakira Chumara, whose goal is to be Minister of Health, says that her shift happened at Woman of Stature. We opened her eyes to a vision larger than herself. That’s the ethos of everything we stand for.”

“Our goal is to empower women to do the incredible things they were born to do,” says Charlotte. “And that takes a vision bigger than my own, and a brand that’s much more than just me. It takes like-minded people banding together to achieve great things.”

Related: Watch List: 50 Black African Women Entrepreneurs To Watch

Be the change

Woman of Stature (WOS) is an organisation that was founded by Charlotte du Plessis in 2013. In 2017 she stepped away from her business to focus full-time on growing WOS’s membership and community impact. Lynn Hill and Sue Moodley joined WOS as directors in 2018.

Originally created as a platform for women from all walks of life that was committed to empowering women to live their purpose and reach their full potential, WOS has grown from a networking association and a member’s directory into an organisation that includes training and a speaker’s bureau.

Current training programmes include 5 Pillars of Empowerment, a corporate-sponsored, accredited Enterprise Development training programme, and Impact Circle, a self-development and entrepreneurial development training programme. There is also a Speakers Academy, designed to train women who want to become professional speakers and entrepreneurs and executives who want to build their confidence in front of an audience, and the Woman of Impact Speakers Bureau, a professional bureau representing woman speakers.

WOS also hosts an annual awards programme, celebrating women across various industries and sectors.

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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Third Prize Winner Of The Workspace/MiWay Competition Shares Top Lessons Learnt

Mpho Mpatane recently won third prize in The Workspace/MiWay Business Insurance Entrepreneur Competition. Her company supplies general and women-specific protective personal equipment and clothing in the mining and construction industries. This is her story.

Entrepreneur

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mpho-mapatane

Two months ago, I won third prize in an entrepreneur competition. It was one of the most intense experiences I have ever undergone, as it ran over a seven-month period. Minatlou was the only start-up in the top 10 finalists and mentally, I had to motivate myself daily to keep going, and to keep growing.

I’ll be honest: It wasn’t easy. I relied on family and friends to keep me motivated. There were times I doubted myself but then I would get a phone call from my dad asking me how business was going… and then I would snap out of my doubting space, get refreshed energy and get back into my competitive mentality space.

Lessons Learned On The Start-up Journey

In retrospect, the lessons I learned on this journey are invaluable. I learned that in business there are certain steps you cannot skip or try to cut corners in order to try and move ahead. As an entrepreneur, you constantly have to work on the business itself and also for the business. You must have your house in order before you invite other people to come and visit. I know now that one must be willing to learn and once you have learned, put those lessons into action.

Before The Workspace/MiWay Business Insurance, I was focused on setting up the business; I was not big about marketing or social media. So now I know that in order to have the right people know about my business, I must reach out to them and not rely on word of mouth only to create a sustainable client base.

Right now I am busy changing my company name, from Minatlou 251 to Phepha Solutions Group, and after that first step, I will create a social media presence, a brochure and an online presence such as a website. I’m also creating a small clothing line for corporates to see the calibre of our out of the box designs of corporate uniform and our standard of manufacturing.

Assistance From Winning The Competition

What’s amazing is that The Workspace has come forward to assist me where possible and as much as they can. The CEO, Mari Schourie, actually reached out to me while away on maternity leave to ask me personally what they can do to assist me in addition to what I won in the competition.

Related: 10 Successful SA Women Entrepreneurs’ Top Advice On Balancing Work And Family

This made me feel motivated and it also demonstrated that what I am offering is of good value and that I am going to succeed, this business is going to grow and thrive.

I won a beautiful office for a period of three months, which comes with administration support from The Workspace in Selby, with undercover parking, boardrooms to use for meetings and so much more. I have also gained a family in the process.

I won sessions with a business strategist who is helping me develop a formal strategy to move my business forward and help it grow. I have also won consultation sessions with a marketing company to help me grow my business and help me have a proper marketing plan in place plus help me improve on my sales. I won services of a cash flow specialist to help me in that area. My prizes are priceless and what I love the most is the fact that they are helping me build and strengthen my business from within.

My Next Steps

In the short-term, I’m working hard to add at least six retainer clients to our books, gain entry into the highly competitive mining industry and manufacture for them as well. I want to boost sales and get more clients. Proper brand awareness and getting industry related accreditation is on the cards, as is renovating our factory.

In the longer term, I now have a five-year plan, with goals and steps along the way. The next five years will be about growth and scale if possible. I want to be able to do cross border transactions and also export our merchandise to Africa, starting in the Southern parts and expanding slowly.

So yes, I have had to work incredibly hard, but the most comforting fact is that I am not on my own. I have support at my back and mentors challenging me to grow and develop. This period of time has been the most brilliant period of learning and growing in my entrepreneurial journey so far.

Top Tips For Entrepreneurs

To all those entrepreneurs in South Africa working their tails off to succeed, these are the lessons I have taken to heart:

  • Be bold. Take chances.
  • Do research and always try to stay ahead of your competitors.
  • Try to have fun, enjoy what you do.
  • Have passion and be willing to work hard for what you do, people will believe in your vision.
  • Be honest in your business dealings, if you can’t deliver on your promise for any reason inform the client and do your utmost to correct the challenge, don’t lie.
  • Be willing to learn, invest in your own knowledge base. Expand your thinking, explore, and ask questions.
  • Be willing to help other upcoming entrepreneurs. Share information with them, as they don’t have to struggle long and hard like you did. This will help with the development of sustainable businesses and a better quality of future entrepreneurs.

Note: To celebrate their first-of its-kind collaboration at Village Road, The Workspace and MiWay ran a competition for South Africa’s entrepreneurs that saw the winner/s given a major advantage to further grow their business. The Workspace and MiWay joined forces at The Workspace premises in Village Road, Selby where they have launched an entrepreneurial hub and business development programme.

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