Shorn Khumalo is trying to “change the narrative” in Khayelitsha. He has based his public relations company, The Client Media, in the area, and recently handled campaigns for upmarket The Spade Boutique Hotel & Spa and The Milk Restaurant & Champagne bar. He believes these moves tell a different, inspiring and progressive story of a Khayelitsha and its residents growing and developing “from the trenches”.
1. Why did you decide to branch out with your own business/venture, rather than work for other companies or corporates?
I believe the universe had sent out strong messages that it was time to spread my wings and fly. I was at a private education institution, bored and wondering what’s next? When I received a call asking me to jump in at last minute for Free State Fashion Week. I had never been to Free State and my curious nature didn’t hesitate, considering the fact that the event was in three days and I had never worked with media or anyone in the city of roses – crazy, right?
I stayed overnight , worked on the press releases and researched everything I needed to know about pitching for fashion, the event, the woman behind it and what the previous PR agency had done and how best we could do more for this wonderful platform. Immediately after that, I landed Taste the Culture Festival in Khayelitsha, had live crossovers from the SABC and eNCA, the works. It was there that my next client would identify me. A new restaurant and bar was set to open in Khayelitsha and the owner, Siphelo Jalivane, saw me at a nearby festival. I seemed to enjoy what I was doing outside my 9-to-5 than my 9-to-5. I knew then that when the universe aligns you take the leap of faith and I have never looked back since.
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?
There was no plan, projects and campaigns chose me and I had a solid foundation for this. I’m a proud product of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, I hold a National Diploma and B-Tech in Public Relations Management. I had a two-year gap to decide what I wanted to do with my life post Matric. I started building my career the day I enrolled at varsity.
The institution laid a wonderful foundation for me, they would advise us to write every day. When we would get to lectures we would be encouraged to write anything and everything starting from and with our morning activities and travel to lectures. They also encouraged us to volunteer to build resume and rapport, and so I did. I was a media liaison student for three years at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, I volunteered for the university’s conferences and events.
I have learned so much in the past four years, about myself, capabilities, the industry etc. I’m mostly proud of my resilience and allowing the process to be. I’m making progress with small calculated steps. I think my work speaks for itself and everything I’ve touched has turned into gold.
3. What impact did Covid-19 have on your business? And how are you managing now?
Covid-19 turned our lives upside down, especially for us as small businesses. It happened a year and four months in operations. We were growing our client list and most of our clients were small-medium enterprises. We lost quite a lot. We had figured the nature of the business, that agencies are appointed based on experience and offering – just when we were building momentum so we could pitch for big corporate clients, the pandemic happened.
Luckily, through resilience we’re slowly picking up and we are making noise from our little corner. It’s one day at a time and taking it as it comes.
4. What challenges did you face as a media entrepreneur and how did you overcome them?
I struggled with invoicing and receiving payments on time, as stated on contracts. It was a nightmare because research has proven that small businesses collapse because of this. Unfortunately this seems to be the nature of a consulting. You learn to work around these challenges and hope that you’re representing responsible and accountable clients.
I also struggled with big ambitions and little budget. Over time I’ve learned that these things all form part of business administration.
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?
To be frank with you, there’s absolutely nothing better than getting positive feedback from clients. We are in the business of amplifying brand stories and so If the client is happy it means there must be something I’m doing right. There are so many wins we’ve achieved as a small agency.
We’ve positioned Free State Fashion Week in the South African Fashion landscape and events calendar as one of the top events to attend in Free State.
We designed a digital campaign called ‘Decoding Covid-19’ for our client, Clinimed. The campaign was Clinimed’s contribution in the fight against Covid, it translated Covid-19 communication in vernacular languages through video content and distributed using social media and media platforms. We were able to administrate the nomination process for the 2021 Fabulous Woman Award and the client won in the health category.
Recently, we signed up The Spade Boutique Hotel & Spa – the first luxury boutique hotel in a township in South Africa. We administrated the grading process through the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa, affiliation process with Cape Town Tourism, FEDHASA Federation of Hospitality Association of Southern Africa. The hotel launch was quite a success, we pitched it to international and local media and we have garnered impressive media coverage.
6. What characteristics do you think make a successful media entrepreneur?
I don’t know actually but I’ve been doing so much of what I do with resilience, strategic thinking, working off my strengths, keeping my ears on the ground, networking, researching and a lot of reading. I think its important to try and be on the loop on what is happening around you and the field you’re in.
7. Your advice to young media entrepreneurs or those looking to start new media businesses?
It’s not all fluff and puff, a lot of hard work goes into and it requires a lot of stamina. It feels weird giving out advice when I’m just as young and learning. What has gotten me this far is a clear vision and determination – when you have those two you can weather the storm. Let the work speak for you.
8. What, in your view, needs to happen to encourage more media entrepreneurs, and not just that, help them stay the course?
Opportunities! Should I add that Viola Davis speech on her Emmy Award Win? Lol! I think we’re proving that we’re capable even through adversity.
9. How do you ‘pay it forward’?
I avail myself for any career advice. I chat to a lot of young people who are aspiring PR practitioners about how to build themselves, CVs, or getting a foot into the industry.
10. What quote or passage do you think encapsulates you and your approach to business and success?
Everything is achieved gradually, small progress is still progress and every win, big or small, is worth celebrating. I approach everything with an open and willing to learn mindset. I think it’s important to open yourself up to learning and unlearning.