- Company:Blaqpage Creative Communications, PS Parenting Solo
- Player:Bongiwe Mhlongo
There are countless books that will tell you about the importance of harnessing the giant within you to get your small business off the ground. It certainly helps to dream big, but a determined and hardworking entrepreneur from Durban has taken a more practical approach to building her start-up.
Bongiwe Mhlongo, founder of Blaqpage Creative Communications, and online magazine PS Parenting Solo, started her business a year ago and has focused on getting her fledgling companies to earn more money at the lowest possible cost, through a savvy combination of technology and networking.
She’s worked these together to boost the credibility of her ventures and turn her vision into a steadily growing reality. Of course, it doesn’t harm that she’s a multi-award winning copywriter.
Money isn’t everything
“I registered the company in 2009, while I was still employed at Ogilvy,” says Mhlongo.
“Next, I approached a big media agency that loved my idea for PS Parenting Solo, but then the recession hit and I was told to come back later. I continued to work, but by 2013, I knew it was time to make a move. I focused on Blaqpage because that would be the money spinner that could fund the development of the magazine. The first challenge I had to overcome was thinking that I needed a lot of money to start, when I didn’t.”
Mhlongo realised that her home, cellphone and laptop were all she needed to start a services business. ”Don’t go out of your way to acquire resources. I had everything I needed at my fingertips. In addition to having ADSL at home, lots of places around town offer Wi-Fi, and meetings can be held in coffee shops and hotels, so I didn’t need a boardroom either.”
With years of advertising agency experience under her belt, Mhlongo was surprised at her initial panic when she landed her first client for Blaqpage Creative Communications.
“By then, I had set up my home office and bought a small printer. I was anxious about the first client meeting until I realised that all I had to do was prepare for the briefing exactly as I would have done had I still been at a big agency.”
Her first few clients were secured through networking. She printed a stack of business cards and attended every possible event. She also created profiles for herself and her business on LinkedIn, Facebook, Who’s Who Southern Africa, and any other social media platform she could find.
“There are so many websites that will help you save money on promoting and marketing your business, and raising its profile. The online world offers massive opportunities for the small business owner. In addition, I have teamed up with a great designer who is based in Johannesburg. Again, that demonstrates the power of the online world – it’s possible today to work in professional virtual teams that do not drain your resources.”
She also joined the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “As a new business owner, joining this kind of organisation has given me the chance to interact with other businesses, both small and large. I also get current information that is relevant to my business, and access to mentorship, and business skills training.”
Alongside the steady growth of Blaqpage, which has secured several retainer-based clients in the space of just one year, Mhlongo is working on upping advertising support for PS Parenting Solo.
“The synergies between my two ventures are solid, and I’m getting the opportunity to grow my agency as well as interact with readers about what it’s like to be a single mother.”
Her last word? “Don’t cold call or email potential clients. Meet them in person. People buy into you, and when you have a new business, you can only get them to do that face-to-face.”
How to keep your micro-business lean and mean
- Don’t spend a fortune on marketing, promotion, and advertising. Instead, use social media campaigns, write a blog, and get your profile out there. Join online professional networks.
- Don’t spend money on premises. If you have a home, you have an office.
- Don’t get tied up into paying salaries. The online world makes it possible to find and work with skilled freelancers from around the country and the world.