We launch 67 SQUARED: Eight brands, eight websites, eight hours!

OUR MANDELA DAY INITIATIVE PUSHED THROUGH THE BOUNDARIES OF PRODUCTIVITY TO CREATE DIGITAL LAUNCH PADS FOR EMERGING ENTREPRENEURS

This year, in honour of Madiba’s 100th Birthday, we decided to do something different to celebrate Mandela Day at Machete Creative. For the last 10 years we’ve collected tinned food and blankets for Cape Town’s homeless, but this time, challenged by the Nelson Mandela Foundation to take sustainable action against poverty, we hosted the inaugural 67 SQUARED event: a day of action on which, together with volunteers from the creative community, we used our professional skills to create branding and websites for as many emerging local businesses as we could.

The whole idea was to move from an annual act of charity towards a day of action that would empower these young entrepreneurs to compete in today’s digital economy, help them grow their enterprises, and start to employ more people as they did so.

So we designed a programme called 67 SQUARED: MULTIPLYING THE POWER OF MANDELA DAY. This involved setting up a recruitment website, and launching two simultaneous recruitment campaigns, one aimed at finding the small businesses who had great vision but no resources for professional branding or websites; the other aimed at finding volunteers from Cape Town’s creative and web development community who could donate an entire day of their time to supplement our in-house team at Machete Creative.

After a four-week recruitment drive, spearheaded by intense personal networking by irrepressible social media maven Ms Linde Ndaba, and a Facebook ad campaign, we had 18 business applications and 16 volunteer applications, and we sat down to one of the most difficult tasks of the campaign: deciding which businesses we could help at a professional level, given our constraints in human resources and our physical premises.

It was a difficult calculation to make, but in the end our decision to select eight start-ups was justified by the results we achieved on the day.

We applied in three criteria in the difficult task of selecting the eight businesses we would work with on the day:

  • Given the business plan and current activity, did the business show clear growth potential?
  • Did the business owners have a clear idea of how a website could help them grow their business?
  • How much potential did the business have to create employment?

Our final list included three different food-related businesses, a beauty bar, a fencing company, a township recycling enterprise, a free-range poultry farmer and an animal rescue initiative that funded itself through the sale of pet food and medical marijuana!

The next challenge was to schedule a day of activity during which the process of briefing, conceptualising, designing, writing and building eight brands and eight websites could literally happen in roughly eight hours.

The secret was to do as much preparation as possible in advance. Business names and URLs were nailed down, and the backbone of a multi-site WordPress development was set up for all businesses that were not able to secure their own domains. Where possible, designers and copywriters were allocated specific businesses and briefed ahead of time, so the creative germination process could start before the actual day. And our corporate identity and website briefing processes were stripped down and streamlined to the bone and initiated with business owners before the day.

Our list of volunteers included heavyweight art directors Richard Bates and Jeremy Pender, seasoned copywriters Pippa Hannom and Strato Copteros, freelance designers Bianca Ennion and Mali Tyafa, and creative director Alex Levetan of ABNF.  We also were most fortunate to have master photographer Dwayne Senior not only record the events day, but also shoot individual portraits of all of the business owners for their sites. And Anna Moss of Blacknoize persuaded to video content generators Bounceboard to lend us cameraman Joshua for the day to cover the main presentations and shoot a series of interviews.

Then we looked at recruiting two guest speakers, so that our emerging entrepreneurs could be given valuable and practical insight into the basics of brand management and essential accounting practices while the creatives and the coders worked their magic.

We were most fortunate in this respect to secure the expertise of Solly Moeng of Don Valley, an eminent brand strategist and reputation management guru; and Frank Bold, a seasoned and wily chartered accountant from FTB Administrators.

The third major challenge was practical: how to feed over thirty people during the course of a day? So we climbed into another arm-twist campaign, and were met with a wonderful response from local businesses: gourmet muffins for breakfast from Dolce Bakery, chicken and vegetarian wraps for lunch from Marc Wassung of Banqueteurs Catering, and delicious artisanal pizzas from Ferdinando’s were promised and delivered, while the energy was kept caffeine-fuelled and pumping courtesy of Carl Schonland’s ethically-sourced One Cup Coffee

And so the day began – and what a day it was! Yes, there were challenges, including a couple of last-minute volunteer pull-outs, our server falling over, and a hard drive of photographs packing up. But our network sponsors IT Outlook overcame the worst of the hardware problems and the real magic kicked in: infectious energy, animated discussions, productive networking, and an incredible intensity of strategic and creative focus… all of which resulted in the successful generation of eight new brands, each with a live, fully functional, mobile-friendly WordPress website.

And the cherry on the top for many of the business owners was when we were able to round off the day – after pizzas and beers – with the presentation of 500 full-colour, double-sided business cards to each business owner, printed at no charge with incredible generosity by one of our big print suppliers, Digital Express.

Now the day is over and the initial job done, but in many ways this is just the beginning of what we plan to make a bigger, better organised and even more productive event next year.

Every one of the professionals who gave up their time has already offered to participate next year. Business connections between the candidates have already led to new contracts – for example, all of the food-related businesses are going to be ordering their eggs from Einstein’s Eggs, our poultry-farmer. A day after the event, two new jobs came through for EverythingFood021 as a result of his new website. And freelancer Mali has been offered a paying gig.

Our next challenge will be to upgrade the 67squared.com website to serve as a hub for volunteers and business applications for next year, and a vehicle to drive bigger corporate sponsorships for a much more substantial event.

All in all, it was an amazing day of South Africans getting together in the spirit of Madiba to help each other achieve a task that many would have thought impossible… but has now been done!

Nic Shepherd About the author
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