The Marketing Kraal is an out of home advertising company founded in 2007 by Lebona Moleli. The company’s major media platforms include wall murals, containers, billboards, building wraps, towers and office branding.
A qualified biochemist turned entrepreneur Moleli holds a BSc from National University of Lesotho, MSc from Atlanta University in the US and an MBA from Wits Business School.
Q1: Why did you decide to branch out with your own business, rather than work for corporates
A: I started in the corporate and spend 15 years in manufacturing, operations and marketing at SA Breweries, Coca-Cola, SAA and Uthingo Management before venturing into entrepreneurship. My passion and love for advertising was inspired by a beautiful Lux billboard featuring the late businesswoman, Marina Maponya, which I saw growing up as a young boy.
When my last employer Uthingo, the first operator of the SA National Lottery, closed in 2007 my entrepreneurship calling was ignited.
Q2: Give us a brief history of your media venture? what gave you the idea and how the journey has unfolded?
A: I started the business with only a laptop and a database of a few friends I made in my other life in the corporate world. I noticed that many blue-chip companies were moving their advertising to the township market and looking for cost effective media to promote their brands. Using shipping containers and boundary walls that exist in townships as a medium of advertising was a cost-effective choice.
My first client in my first year of operation was Cell C and in the second year e.tv came on board and as they say the rest is history. It has been an exciting and challenging business journey with twists and turns, but I have no regrets I chose the journey.
Q3: What impact did Covid-19 have on your business? how are you managing now?
A: Like all other businesses, Covid-19 and several lockdowns had a negative impact on our business. We unfortunately lost many clients as marketing budgets were cut. We had to downsize our business and outsource some of our non-core operations. However, we never stopped promoting the business in our digital platforms. We also run a digital campaign on our Facebook page encouraging South Africans to practice Covid-19 protocols and vaccinate. We also donated a wall mural in Tembisa for a vaccination drive campaign.
At the beginning of 2021 things started to improve and we believe our agility has sustained us and we are wiser going forward.
Q4: What challenges did you face as a media entrepreneur and how did you overcome them?
A: Getting that first client and convincing them that our media works was a challenge. I equate it to attending your first job interview without experience. Other challenges included dealing with clients that don’t pay on time and vandalism of our sites. I believe hard work, networking and collaboration helped us.
Q5: Has there been a moment of success that has really stood out and that is your favorite and to what do you contribute your success?
A: All our campaigns have been a success but the year 2016 was the best year of our existence as we exceeded our budgeted turnover by 200%. This was the year where we sold all our site inventory. This was also the year we diversified and added other bouquet of services to our portfolio including brand development and marketing strategy formulation.
Assisting e.tv launch their new OpenView HD channel in 2013 and seeing the channel grow was also a moment of achievement as they used all our container billboards for the campaign.
Q6: What characteristics do you think make a succesful media entrepreneur?
A: Agility, ability to optimise your networks, understanding the industry, continuously innovating and respecting the client.
Q7: Your advice to young media entrepreneurs looking to start new media business?
A: There are no shot cuts in this industry as we compete with well-established companies, and we are grateful that this year we celebrate our 15th year anniversary. There is a lot of tenderpreneurs masquerading as entrepreneurs and their businesses are not sustainable and this does not help the industry. Young people must learn to be patient in order to build long term sustainable ventures. Diversify your offering, invest your profits in other ventures and above all get yourself a good mentor.
Q8: What needs to happen to encourage more media entrepreneurs?
A: Mentoring and coaching. Those that have acquired experience must assist the youth with mentorship programmes.
In 2018 I started an NGO called Jala Foundation which runs bootcamps for high school pupils to expose them to entrepreneurship. The earlier we start them the better.
Q9: How do you pay it forward?
A: At least 10% of our advertising media income goes to site owners. Many have used the funds to refurbish their homes and send their children to school. We have also supported many initiatives like painting schools in Soweto.
Q10: What quote or passage encapsulates you and your approach to business and success?
A: Agility in responding to the various challenges inherent in the business arena. This agile mind-set has been instrumental in the resilience of my businesses, enabling them to survive challenges. My pillar has been the 5Ps: Purpose,Passion,Performance, Patience and Perseverance.
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