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.
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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