For Youth by Youth – Meet the Entrepreneur behind the Advertising Company with a Difference

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This article forms part of SME South Africa’s Youth Month 2018 series ‘A Seat at the Table’ – an exploration of SA Youth’s efforts to step up and effect positive change. Follow all our #YouthMonth2018 coverage here.

Khethi Ngwenya is helping to connect brands to communities “one school at a time” through his school media placement and advertising company, SchoolMedia.

Ngwenya, 28, who is also the managing director of the Johannesburg-based company says they spotted a gap in the market that no one else was focusing on – school learners.

“We can put your product or brand in more than 9 000 schools,” it states on their company website. These are schools which they have secured advertising rights to.

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Too often brands target the youth market but have no concern for the impact that they have

SchoolMedia, which launched in 2010, executes campaigns with a social message for their clients which include local municipalities and NGOs, power utility Eskom and the sports brand Adidas.

“We rent space from the school to use their walls or bathrooms for brands to post information about their campaigns such as health and hygiene, bursaries, sports or as per the client’s brief. The advertising revenue goes back to uplifting the school,” Ngwenya says.

What SchoolMedia offers is a win-win-win proposition – brands get the opportunity to share their message with the right audience and to run impactful corporate social investment (CSI)s and environmental initiatives,  schools get much-needed resources and students are given access to information on important issues.

“Schools benefit from projects, not in cash, but rather through the brands and retailers we work with. We are able to leverage equipment, new tools, soccer goal posts, wall clocks, signage and anything that the school might need,” Ngwenya said in an Entrepreneur Magazine interview.

The mission

For Ngwenya the good of the learners is key to the success of their business model.

“Too often brands target the youth market but have no concern for the impact that they have. It is common practice that brands will arrange activations and marketing with a school principal with no long term benefit to the school or learners involved. This is why at SchoolMedia we ensure that all campaigns are beneficial to the learners. A percentage of the income will also go back into developing the school concerned, he said in the same interview.

Youthful advantage 

Ngwenya launched his company when he was just 19, but his entrepreneurial journey began when he was just 12-years-old. His first venture was a fireworks business that he started with a R2 000 loan from his mother. This sparked the entrepreneurial drive which saw him become CEO of the Young Entrepreneurs of Soweto organisation when he was just 17-years-old.

As a young entrepreneur, he has had to contend with some questions about his age, he says.

No one wanted to do big business with us because we did not have a track record or so-called working experience

“My age has always been a challenge. No one wanted to do big business with us because we did not have a track record or so-called working experience.”

His youth, however hasn’t stopped him.

His business turned over R5 million in 2016, according to an IOL report. He has also been recognised for his work, Ngwenya was selected as the curator of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Johannesburg Global Shapers Hub. Global Shapers is a network of hubs across the world led and developed by young people driving dialogue, action and change. He was also  included in 2017’s list of Forbes 30 under 30 and named one of the Most Influential Young South Africans in 2017.

Next up for the company is to go digital with plans to launch a youth digital platform and to expand into the rest of the continent, says Ngwenya.

According to IOL, they have already successfully completed campaigns in schools neighbouring Swaziland and Botswana. “Plans of expanding into Africa are in the pipeline. In fact before end of next year we would have expanded into some schools in Africa,” he said.

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