Gugu Sithole-Tyali Shows Us How to Take Over the World of PR

As you know, we’re always so incredibly proud when we see amazing women who are not only succeeding in their respective careers but uplift other young women for success too!

With over 10 years’ experience, Gugu Sithole-Tyali took her once small side hustle and turned it into one of the most respected PR companies in the creative industry.

Sprout Creative PR is not only completely black-owned, but they also have an all-woman team, and together, they eliminate the misconceptions society has of women working together for a bigger and greater purpose.

Below, Gugu shares a bit about her challenges, successes and how she is using her talents to empower other women on the come up.


 Tell us more about Sprout PR?

We’re a budding, black-owned, creative boutique, specializing in brand communications. Our talents lie in strategic public relations, digital marketing, brand development, creative content creation, and event curation.

Turning a side hustle into a business has been interesting, to say the least - @ZuluGirl1 Click To Tweet

What do you think is the most challenging part of being in the industry?                                             

From the perspective of being a startup in the industry, the challenges are endless. I’ll stick to three that have been particularly pertinent to Sprout over the last couple of years.

Carving a niche for ourselves:

In the beginning, there was a temptation to do a lot of things, often more than what our business could handle. As soon as we stopped trying to be everything to everyone, and played to our strengths as a team, we were able to carve a space for ourselves.

Currently, that’s working with brands in Fintech, Agritech, AI, etc. We also have a love for and wide-ranging experience in the lifestyle sector, so we’re excited to see that portfolio grow.

Staying competitive:

As a young and small agency, competing with the well-established agencies can be pretty tough. They’ve got long track records and name recognition going for them.

We’ve found however that being small has its positives, so we’re working hard to take advantage of those. We’re adaptable, have a niche specialization, and I think we’re way more invested in our clients and their brands.

We’ve also been lucky to get extensive exposure to design thinking and Lean Startup methodologies. Adopting and implementing those practices has allowed us to collaborate with clients in a way that harnesses our shared strengths, and has resulted in them viewing us as partners, rather than vendors.

Assembling the right team:

This one’s a biggie. Striking a balance between hiring experienced professionals and being a training ground for up-and-comers – something close to my heart – is tricky.

We’re fortunate to work with clients who are passionate about entrepreneurship/startups, and so as long we’re working our butts off, staying accountable, and are passionate about their brands, they’re giving us the room to figure this part out.

We’re working hard at it though.

As soon as we stopped trying to be everything to everyone, and played to our strengths as a team, we were able to carve a space for ourselves - @ZuluGirl1 Click To Tweet

We have heard about your difficult journey, tell us a little more?

Turning a side hustle into a business has been interesting, to say the least.

Nothing could have prepared me for the hardships of this journey. But, it’s also been an incredibly fulfilling, and the best part is that it’s helped me find my tribe – smart, creative, hardworking, tenacious women (and men), who are overcoming similar challenges every day.

They’ve helped me find the good in these hardships. I’m most grateful for them.

We are so inspired by your All Woman staff, how has the dynamic been, and have you had any criticism?

I’m proud of the fact that with each day we’re dispelling this myth around women not being able to work together. We live by one, simple rule: Collaboration over competition.

It’s formed the foundation for how we deliver for clients, deal with conflict, and show support to not only the members of our own team but women in our broader network. It’s also a value that’s been extremely helpful in the hiring process.

Have you had any challenges in the industry as a black-owned company?

I think a lack of belief in our value is probably one of the biggest challenges faced by black-owned businesses in general, it’s not industry-specific.

As a black business owner, I think I’ve often let this self-doubt negatively influence my decision-making. I’ve charged less for services, bent over backward for clients who didn’t necessarily deserve it, etc.

I realize though that this made me part of the problem because it does us a disservice by diminishing our worth. I feel like I’m currently in a season of truly backing not only myself but my team and our ability to deliver.

How is the future looking for Sprout PR?

If the caliber of the brands in our portfolio (the likes of Standard Bank, DHL Supply Chain Africa, Switch Innovation, and the African Fintech Unconference) is anything to go by, the future is looking bright. We have a long way to go and lots of learning to do, but we’re up to the challenge.

What advice do you have for anyone trying to break into the industry?

I have a few pointers…

  • Work on those writing skills, they’re key to your arsenal.
  • Stay at it. Persistence is essential to getting over the rejection of your ideas and stories.
  • Learn to network. You never know when a contact will help you land a dream job or client.
  • Take good care of your online reputation. How else is a brand going to trust you to take care of theirs?
  • Break into the industry with an agency that’s breaking into the market. Startups are a great training ground.

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Incredible Women in Art: Maneo Mohale — I’m hella queer, and proudly so

Maneo Mohale is one of the most brilliant minds we’ve ever met. She is an arts journalist, writer, editor and a major LGBTQI advocate, who has written for prominent publications and has also created her own platform, The Talon.

Maneo uses her extraordinary talent to create a safe space for the LGBTQI community and black women; lending them a voice in order to share their own stories and experiences.

We had the amazing opportunity to pick Maneo’s brain and chat about all the things that move her.


How did you get into the art industry?

The Art industry is extremely broad and feels a little incongruous with what I do with most of my time, (which is write and edit), but I’ve been writing for as long as I remember.

I only entered seriously into the realm of arts journalism at university, when I co-founded an online student journalism platform called The Talon alongside an incredible team and editorial collective.

I was a writer and an editor for the publication, but I really enjoyed editing there.

Soon after, I dipped my toes in all kinds of creative and journalistic writing and then landed my Global Feminism Writing Fellowship with an American feminist organization called Bitch Media, which really skyrocketed by interest in smart and sexy arts journalism.

Since then, I’m really getting a feel for the media landscape, and I’m loving the art that I am exposed to by both editing talented arts writers and trying my pen at responding to the waves made in the South African and broader global arts industries as well.

The media landscape is made richer and more meaningful with our voices in it - @ManeoMohale Click To Tweet

As an advocate for the LGBTQI community, tell us about what you do, including your work with Platform Magazine

I think there’s more than a little danger in forming an identity around advocacy and activism, so I tend to bristle a bit at the solidity of thinking of myself as an ‘advocate’.

I’m hella queer, and proudly so, and because of the spaces and access that I’m fortunate to have at my fingertips through the work I do, I try my best to make space while taking space in the world.

It’s a seemingly simple praxis, but it’s rooted in the radical and innate belief that we hold each other’s lives, liberation, safety, progress, in our hands. As an editor, for Platform and others, that looked like deliberately and consciously looking for and developing the writing of black women, trans writers, queer writers, etc., especially in spaces where there are more barriers to our publications than most.

It’s quiet, gradual work, but that’s the kind of work I love best. The media landscape is made richer and more meaningful with our voices in it, and whatever part I get to play in that is a real source of joy and pride.

Photo by – Kgomotso Neto

Who are your two favourite women artists and why?

I have a real soft spot for jazz and jazz writing, as I was raised listening to, and soaking up aspects of jazz culture since I was tiny.

Lately, I’ve really appreciated how South African jazz has widened to really centralise women and my two favourite artists right now are Thandi Ntuli and Zoë Modiga.

They’re electrifyingly talented, and I adore their approach to their craft so much. They make me want to become a better writer.

I love the art that I am exposed to - @ManeoMohale Click To Tweet

Who do you look to for inspiration?

It may sound really silly, but I’m inspired all of the time, everywhere I look. I’m surrounded by passionate and creative people. They’re my ever-expanding chosen family and just basking in their light is enough to inspire me.

 

Do you have any upcoming projects that you can share with us?

I do! Some of them are still in the oven and developing, especially personal creative projects and publications that are forming on the horizon. But the one I’m most excited about it a queer reading series that I’m launching with some of my favourite people in the world.

It’ll be a space where trans and queer writers can read their work to an audience and share their process while building a supportive and responsive community at the same time.

We have such powerful, thoughtful, and innovative writing produced by trans and queer people here in SA, and I’m excited to lend my hand in creating a space for us to just bask in each other’s brilliance.

Photo by – Kgomotso Neto

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to become a creative artist?

Find your family, and start where you are. Finding, building and nurturing a community of people who are both supportive and critical is how I started on this convoluted journey – they were the first people I trusted to read my work, and created a bedrock for me to test my ideas for projects and pieces.

Also, what inevitably happens is a moment when you all look around the room at each other and say: “We don’t need anyone else to start something gorgeous. We’ve got each other.”

As a Black Queer Feminist, how do you navigate through challenges in the creative industry?

I think one of my main challenges, (asides from the given ones around navigating the triple whammy of racism, sexism and homophobia), is learning how to take up space while standing my ground, especially around some of the principles and values on which I refuse to compromise.

I’m not a particularly confrontational person, and I’m quite a sensitive bean at the best times, so learning how to be firm for myself is definitely an ever-unfolding lesson. When it comes to being fierce for other people, my writers, for example, I can do that in a heartbeat.

It’s instinctual for me to be protective. But when it comes to me, well shucks. But we live and we learn, and I think I’m getting better at it, slowly.


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