Molepane Nkopodi, popularly known as Mo in both professional and social circles, was born in Glen Cowie, a village in Sekhukhune land and raised in various parts of Mpumalanga and Gauteng thus becoming “bundu girl wa le pantsula in surburgatory.”
She is a Communications graduate from the University of Johannesburg and after five years of corporate and agency employment, she decided to face her fears and become a social entrepreneur. Mo is the founder and managing director of Darkie Communications, a start-up marketing communications agency that aims to provide tailor-made comprehensive and strategic integrated marketing solutions. She is also an ambassador for rural education and women development through the Kaelo Foundation.
She says this about herself- “I have a thing for good food and wine and I’m working on my bank balance to match my wanderlust desires.” In an interview with SLA contributor Jeanette Nkwana, Molepane tells us all about herself, entrepreneurship and Darkie Communications.
What does Darkie Communications mean, what desired effect did you mean for the name to have?
Darkie Communications is a full house marketing communications boutique offering integrated, strategic comprehensive and tailor-made services to our clientele. The name Darkie came about after a cold call with a current client.
I was operating informally with the name “Prodigal Child Concepts”. Upon our first meeting, he frankly said to me that he was “surprised” that I was black. When I asked why he said he “did not know many young darkie (black) women who could give a winning pitch over the phone”.
Darkie is a 100% black owned company and we want to inspire the black child that they can dream it, they can work at it and achieve it. Especially considering that I am from a rural area where the majority of the people are poor and marginalized in terms of development.
What were some of your biggest fears launching Darkie Communications and how did you overcome them?
I resigned from a comfortable middle-management position because my bosses told me it was impossible for me to work for them and myself at the same time. They made me choose between working for them and running my own business, so I chose my business.
I had a lot of fears, among these fears were how on earth am I going to launch a business without start-up capital. All I had were a tablet, cellphone, wifi router and lots of pen and paper. And also how was I going to pay my bills, I knew all too well that it would take a while until I sign my first client and my savings would only carry me a short distance…
I survived through determination and resilience. I had a lot to lose but I was not ready to lose it all so I worked hard and chased clients for meetings. Also, I had a great support system made up of other entrepreneurs who guided me and connected me to people who would help me launch and operate Darkie Communications.
Who do you look up to or follow in the communications industry and what are some of the lessons you’ve learnt from them that you can share?
From the top of my head Khanyi Dhlomo of Ndalo Media; for me, she leveled the playground for young, black female entrepreneurs. She took a huge risk and regardless of the odds, she prospered. A young woman whom I see as big league player is Kealeboga Moremba of the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation; she is young and her go-getter yet humble spirit reminds me of how much we are capable of regardless of where we come from.
Like most industries, communications isn’t easy to break into. What are some of the challenges you faced and what strategies did you use to overcome them?
This is definitely a “who do you know?” industry. I made it a point to attend every seminar/network session possible. Rejection was one of my biggest challenges but I learnt to not have rejection deter me from the main objective.
Especially since I was starting out in Polokwane where the concept of marketing is not a huge priority. Of course, I am human and it’s cute to wallow in my misery but I never wallow for too long. I take my failure as guidance to what I may have done wrong and what I need to amend in order to break through.'Make sure your prospective clients understand clearly what you want to pitch to them' -@sassy_mo Click To Tweet
Funny thing is, after a few rejections, I came to realize that I was being rejected because the prospective client did not understand what I wanted to talk to them about. So I learnt that in my pitch, I would have to break down a lot of concepts (make them user-friendly because not everyone understands the new age integrated marketing concepts.)
What are 3 tips you’d give to entrepreneurs trying to break into the communications industry?
- Network like your life depends on it- your network does contribute to your net worth
- Collaborate with other entrepreneurs- the comms industry is huge and you will not be the master of all aspects thereof (PR, Digital Marketing, Copywriting, Publishing, Advertising, BTL, TTL, ATL etc.)
- Challenge your fears, especially when it comes to putting a price on your services. Often people underestimate the amount of work that goes into marketing communications, they think we only come up for the nice PR photo shoots when it’s actually tough behind the scenes.
If you had to describe your entrepreneurial journey using a movie title, which would it be and why?
It’s more of a series called Pitch.
Share 3 communication/marketing strategic pointers startups can implement in their businesses.
- Identify your strengths, or better yet that old boring grade 8 SWOT analysis thing, do that.
- Spread the word that you’re open for business and have a killer pitch.
- Be able to sell your business in one precise sentence.
What methods or ideologies do you follow to calm yourself when faced with a crisis or intense pressure?
I believe in taking time out, to breathe and think and re-strategize. I also believe in delegating, if tasks are shared and a proper strategy is in place, crises can be avoided or managed accordingly.
But I usually have post trauma so, after a long week/project, I switch off all electronic devices and disappear from the face of the earth to re-center.
What influences how you manage your business and/or make business decisions?
I follow my gut. Most of the time and as a start up, it is easy to go against my values for the sake of generating income.
If we to take on a job I always ask myself if my team and I “will be able deliver quality results”, if the answer is “no” then we refer the client to a more suitable service provider. We believe in comprehensive, quality and tailor made services.
Would you rather travel 5 years back in time or 5 years into the future? Why?
Neither, I do not want to jinx things or create any anxieties. I love the thrill of not knowing what is next and how I will possibly handle it. It’s more fun…I’ll have a exhilarating story to tell in my old age.
What is your mantra?
Prove yourself to yourself and not to others.
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