‘I’m inspired by ordinary people’ – Karabo Songo

Updated on 15 April 2017

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'I'm inspired by ordinary people' - Karabo Songo


Company Profile

Name of company: Olive Communications Group

Years in existence: 5 years

Position: Group Founder and MD

Tell us a little bit about your background – personal, educational and professional?

I am a marketing entrepreneur from Mokopane, Limpopo with a passion for change and innovation. As a marketer, I studied at the Wits University, AAA School of Advertising and Raizcorp Advanced Business Acumen Programme. My professional background stems from working for and with industry leaders within the marketing and advertising industry – Mortimer Harvey Group, Matoni Visuals and McCann World Group.

Can you tell us a little bit about your company?

We are a 100% black-owned full-service marketing and communications agency specialising in the black consumer market below-the-line service offering. We also offer a wide variety of unique business products that enhance performance and assist brands to leverage their assets from concept to execution which includes creative, design, activations, strategy, online reputation management, shopper marketing & analytics. We largely cater to the blue chip sector with many clients such as Nestle SA, SAB, Tigerbrands, PepsiCo, Transnet, KFC etc.

“I get inspired by everyday individuals who take their job seriously and are excellent at it no matter how small”

How did your journey begin and how did you manage to bring success this far to your business?

My journey begun with identifying an opportunity to focus on a niche market that was overlooked by the key industry players during the period of 2009. I realised that targeting the fastest growing consumer segment and its development especially through technology could create major opportunities within SA and across the boarders as they possess the same demographics.

Has it been difficult? What were some of the obstacles you face and how did you overcome them?

It has been very difficult to infiltrate the private sector business as it is dominated by multinationals. The challenges that we faced were as follows:

• Generating adequate revenue for growth year on year within a niche offering. We really focused on highlighting the revenue potential to clients and also consistently innovating on how to reach the whole value chain to consumers.

• Access to market with South Africa. We have consistently improved all areas of business and strategic planning within each financial year to adequately prepare for the challenges.

• Retention of key talent within the business. We started to really focus on making market-related offers to the team and also targeting senior personnel for recruitment. We considered a number of structures to really create a viable situation for both parties.

What is your overall vision for your business?

To be one of the top 10 below-the-line marketing and advertising groups in Africa in 10 years with a significant market share of the industry.

What do you think it takes to establish and run a successful business in South Africa?

It takes a key insight into the industry that you operate in and also a consistent approach of innovation as it is quite a competitive market landscape. Due to the limited structures of clients, strategic relationships with key players is essential for success.

How did you finance your business, how difficult or easy was the process?

Our business was financed by myself and two friends with a total loan contribution of R26 000. Since inception, we have had an extensive profit retention policy to grow the business and working/investment capital for the all purposes. The process was very difficult as it requires discipline and focus on areas of spend meticulously.

What are the three things you attribute your business success to?

Adaptability, focus and hard work.

When did you know that you were an entrepreneur?

At a very early age when I started with my neighbourhood lawn mowing service after asking for a lawn mower for my birthday.

How would you describe your leadership style?

My style is laissez-faire where all the rights and power to make decisions is fully given to the employee. This is possible because our colleagues possess the following qualities:

• Are highly skilled, experienced, and educated

• Have pride in their work and the drive to do it successfully on their own

• We also engage with a lot of external experts on many subject matters

What are some of your favourite motivational books and motivational gurus that have inspired you in growing your business?

I get inspired by everyday individuals who take their job seriously and are excellent at it no matter how small. I was once travelling from Bloemfontein and met a garage teller whom took time to show me all the specials in the shop – how brilliant is that. Other than that I am an avid reader.

What three pieces of advice would you offer young entrepreneurs starting out today?

a) Avoid indecision on all matters. Make decisions consistently and take action all the time.

b) Focus on the value addition of all people around you and never underestimate the power of talking to people about your dreams

c) Answer the question of what you will be doing differently in the utmost detail consistently

What’s the worst and best business advice you’ve ever received?

Worst: “It’s a done deal – don’t worry.”

Best: “Consult with an expert.”

And finally, do you believe in luck, hard work or both?

Someone said the harder you work, the luckier you get. It means hard work must precede luck and not the other way around.

About the authorKarabo Songo is the Group founder and MD of Olive Communications, a full-service strategic communications agency. He is passionate about building innovative marketing businesses and brands within Africa with a difference and grow entities into profitable assets for shareholders.  Follow him at  on Twitter @ mr_k_s.

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