For Sibulele Siko-Shosha, founder of The Dumile Group, storytelling is the pulse that connects people. And she should know.
Her media career started in journalism when, after freelancing for Move Magazine she moved on to become content manager for African Leader and Acumen Magazine. In 2007, she become the youngest and first black female editor of business publication, Black Business Quarterly.
Three years later, she launched her own company, Dumile Brand Boutique, and after that, Siko-Shosha branched out into the the production side of broadcasting and advertising, founding The Narrators Africa. She already has Cape Town’s first prime time drama on Mzansi Magic, Nkululeko, under her belt, which aired on Mzansi Magic in 2018. Two youth dramas for SABC 2 followed, Signal High and Snake Park. All had high viewership numbers.
The Cape Town born and bred entrepreneur, who has a Diploma in Radio Broadcasting from Cape Peninsula University of Technology, amalgamated her business interests into one company, The Dumile Group, in 2019. It was recently appointed to produce marketing content for MTN powered music streaming platform, Music Time.
“For me, storytelling is the pulse of connecting people,” she says. “Whether it is through an advertising campaign, an experiential marketing exercise or a television programme, how one tells a story powerful as it influences how communities see and conduct themselves. I believe that it is very important that we own how we tell our stories on all media platforms and my one hope is that I successfully achieve that in my lifetime through Dumile Group and the work that we do.”
1. Why did you decide to branch out with your own business/venture, rather than work for other companies or corporates?
The freedom of being responsible for my own time. Also, having been in corporate, I found that one’s creativity has the potential of being boxed. On that realisation, I knew that formal employment could not be a long term commitment for me. Lastly, my late father and I had a grand plan of starting a media company once I graduated. Unfortunately he passed on before we could work towards that. In honour of my father I decided to name the business after him ‘Dumile’.
2. Give us a brief history of your media venture? What gave you the idea? How did it begin, and how has your business journey unfolded?
Since I started in publishing, I started off providing the services in the sector which I had the most experience in. The Dumile Group started off as Dumile Media Consultants, a communications consultancy that specialised in the drafting, designing and editing of internal and external content (annual reports, newsletters and bulletins). As we grew, so did our services. We then ventured into the other spheres of brand communication. We are now a group of companies that comprises of an advertising agency and a film and television production company. The initial idea was to create a creative solutions for businesses/brands to clearly articulate their message. Now our main focus is to create authentic brand experiences through the creation of content through multiple platforms.
3. What impact did Covid-19 have on your business? And how are you managing now?
Covid-19 was horrid. Our income projections were within the experiential marketing and we had two festivals that we were going to launch. The pandemic shut all of that down. We ‘pivoted’ to digital and social media management. We also hosted our first digital brand launch, which was awesome. I personally feel that the industry is in a bit of a ‘fuzzy’ phase as the pandemic is not over and we can not really go back to everything being ‘business as usual’. We are trying to recover the lost potential and revenue from 2020. Our forecast is that we will only start breathing easily above water in 2022.
4. What challenges did you face as a media entrepreneur and how did you overcome them?
There are too many to mention. But if I could summarise them I would say, my biggest challenge has been finding spaces where my agency and its output potential is heard and also given the opportunity to create work that we know will resonate. Overcoming that is a daily thing. Making sure that we put our best foot forward; delivering to clients; continue being further focused in our thinking and solutions. I found that resilience and consistency are the first steps to overcoming any challenge.
5. Has there been a moment of success that has really stood out for you and that is your favourite on your journey? To what do you attribute your success?
Our first TV production for Mzansi Magic, Nkululeko, was a great moment for the television arm of the business and us producing content for our international client, Ayoba, was a great achievement for the agency. It’s moments and projects like those that reaffirm that despite the challenges, we are still on the right track. The success can be attributed to my awesome team who always go above and beyond to ensure that we continue working towards that next big achievement.
6. What characteristics do you think make a successful media entrepreneur?
I don’t think that there is a cookie cutter answer for that as there are many attributes that make a successful media entrepreneur. But the common characteristic I would say is approachability. People buy into people before they experience their services. Successful media entrepreneurs that I know have that ability to connect with people in a way that evokes trust and confidence.
7. Your advice to young media entrepreneurs or those looking to start new media businesses?
START! No matter how that looks like for you. Whether it is through volunteering or starting a blog, starting is the first step to achieving what you want.
8. What, in your view, needs to happen to encourage more media entrepreneurs, and not just that, help them stay the course?
The industry is gate kept in a way where its difficult for small agencies to enter in rooms to pitch their ideas to big clients. I think that corporate South Africa should open up its doors a bit to provide those opportunities. Most importantly those opportunities must have the same financial rewards as those given to the bigger agencies, within reason of course. It is important and motivating to be heard by brands and businesses you aspire to work with. It does not need to be a 13 year struggle as it has been in my case.
9. How do you ‘pay it forward’?
We were starting to have an internship program which had to halt due to covid, I hope that we will be able to re-ignite it soon. I am also doing a few media interviews to share my experiences so that the next generation has a clear idea that it’s not as easy as copy and paste. It’s blood, sweat and tears.
10. What quote or passage do you think encapsulates you and your approach to business and success?
“Entreprenuership is soul-testing cocktail filled with high-highs and low lows. When in doubt, remember why you started.” ~ Sibulele Siko-Shosha.
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