Lotjhani Branding comes from the isiNdebele word Lotjhani, which is pronounced Lo- cha-ni, meaning ‘greetings to you all’. The name encompasses the ethos of the company, which is a creative collaborative hub specialising in brand strategy, copywriting and design. What makes it unique is that the team at Lotjhani, founder Tiisetso Skosana and her associate, Matilda Sekoakoa, who is a freelance brand consultant working with the company, welcome genuine collaboration and creativity for the greater good of all.
LoA spent an inspirational morning meeting Tiisetso and Matilda on a recent visit to the OPEN co-working space in Maboneng, Johannesburg in South Africa, their work-base, to learn more about this great venture that is making a real difference in society.
"We recognise that it is important to build brands and to deliver to key targets for clients, but we are also interested in how we are building the country as a whole, and building those ideas that go beyond simply designing a new logo or a new website."
Where did the inspiration for Lotjhani Branding come from and how long has it been in existence?
The company has been in existence since 2012, but really took off in 2013. We are both originally from the advertising industry - I used to be a copywriter and strategist, and Matilda used to be a brand consultant within the agency environment. The company was born out of the need to speak to people authentically and wanting to spread creativity for the greater good. So we asked ourselves, how do we use branding for the greater good, as opposed to just coming up with another radio ad for a certain brand and reaching commercial targets? We found that in South Africa, we are at a point where we are trying to build the country and its self-esteem and pride collectively. We recognise that it is important to build brands and to deliver to key targets for clients, but we are also interested in how we are building the country as a whole, and building those ideas that go beyond simply designing a new logo or a new website. So we are focusing our efforts now on schools and hospitals and those projects which use branding tools that are well known, including copywriting, art-direction, design, brand development, etc, as well as brand strategy, but gearing our efforts towards stimulating creative ideas and supporting creative individuals who are wanting to do greater good in the country. So that is really exciting to us as individuals and to our company. We are interested in working with both public and private sector clients who want to develop their CSI projects by using their branding for the greater good, and using our skills and expertise to help them achieve their goals. So we are filling a definite niche in the marketplace, and this is what really drives us to work and make a difference to society at a bigger level.
We are hoping to move into Africa eventually and use our creativity where it is most needed for the greater good, and use our expertise in the field of branding to help nation building and brand pride stimulation in those countries that need to engage their people. We see our ability to help those clients to better use branding as a tool to make real societal change happen, and engage citizens more effectively. This provides very sustainable solutions for those countries that are trying to find effective solutions to many of these challenges facing them.
We find that a lot of agencies in Africa are trying to find really positive stories from the countries they are working in across the continent, and the challenge is to present those stories in a positive way that is told in the voices of the people from those countries. We use our expertise and experience to help those countries to tell their stories, to use them as part of their nation building and citizen engagement strategies, and find ways of using their nation brands to get the messages and positioning across to key audiences. Using the tradition of African storytelling, but in a way to help build nation brands, is proving to be a powerful mechanism to make positive change happen.
"At Lotjhani Branding we believe in Creativity For The Greater Good- using branding as a vehicle, we conceptualise strategies and execute creative campaigns that are in line with those of social branding/ entrepreneurship."
What are the biggest challenges you have faced as women entrepreneurs so far?
I think the biggest challenge in the early days of establishing the company was actually conceptualising the business idea of creating and leveraging branding for the greater good. Then, sitting down with people and actually having them say “this idea will never work, creativity, branding and doing something for the greater good simply will not work”. Their notion was that doing something to benefit the world and society belongs solely in the world of NGOs and not in the boardroom. So, getting over the doubting people around us was certainly a challenge in the early days. They just didn't see how you can mix the two ideas of creativity, brand and doing something for the greater good, utilising all the most powerful and current media to achieve those goals. This is still a challenge today, and it is all about convincing people that our ideas work. Actually, being a women-owned and run business, makes it easier in some ways to explain what is actually quite a nurturing concept, whilst still having a practical commercial element. So, those are the biggest barriers and challenges to be overcome.
Another key challenge has been gaining access to the key decision-makers in companies and organisations that we would like to work with. This is still a challenge we are working to overcome - persistence is one way of addressing it, but for us it is still a work in progress and we are learning as we go. But one thing we have learned so far is that is necessary to be highly strategic in our approach, doing our homework on the people, companies and organisations we wish to contact, attending the right events, and then using every platform and avenue available to us to make the right connections.
Access to funding is also a challenge but from the entrepreneurs we have spoken to, the real challenge is finding mentors. That is what most young startups like ourselves actually want beyond the practical challenges like getting funding for the business. It is so important to speak to people who have started up their businesses, built their brands, and have become success stories. The challenge is finding these mentors, those people that are willing to be a mentor and accompany you on your business journey. I think the problem is that the concept of mentorship is not really understood here in South Africa, both by the mentors and the mentees.
"We see our ability to help those clients to better use branding as a tool to make real societal change happen, and engage citizens more effectively."
What is your ultimate vision for your company?
We see our main focus for the next few years being on building our company and our brand here in South Africa, before we then expand our services to the rest of Africa. We genuinely see ourselves as a collaborative, creative hub, and therefore our desire is to find and collaborate with like-minded people across the African continent. Ultimately, in perhaps the next ten years, we would like to take our expertise even further afield, and look at building the brand and the company internationally. But, the main focus for the next five years is on conquering the African marketplace, collaborating and conceptualising great brand and creative ideas.
We are currently trying to focus on collaboration and building a genuinely collaborative environment in which we can work. But one of our key challenges is finding key experts in certain specialist areas that can help us with certain aspects of brand building and positioning projects, and we would like to work with the best in their fields. After all, we are building our own brand reputation for our company, and that means that we need to deliver consistently and to the highest possible standards to our clients. We really do understand the value of our people and what they can bring to every project we undertake.
Please give us an example of the types of projects you work on at Lotjhani Branding
Lotjhani Branding was tasked with the responsibility of rebranding the Far East Rand Hospital. We created a new website and social media channels, a refreshed logo and new staff merchandise ( t-shirts, jackets, caps, memory sticks, pens, business cards). But the largest impact was created by internal branding: conducting research on current staff attitudes, and then creating a new vision and mission that would boost staff morale and create a new perspective for patients and society at large. Our internal communications campaign including developing the slogan ‘your health matters’, promoting a holistic health approach for the patient, staff members and community members. One of the internal branding tools created as part of this campaign and aimed at boosting staff morale was the excellence breakfast; weekly staff breakfasts that track those who excelled in their roles during a particular week.
"Using the tradition of African storytelling, but in a way to help build nation brands, is proving to be a powerful mechanism to make positive change happen."
You are currently operating your business in a co-working space. How do you think this current trend of women coming together in co-working spaces helps you in the startup phase?
When I first came to a co-working space, it was just to attend meetings and I really loved the space and the working environment, but I presumed that it was expensive to have a base somewhere like that. So I didn't consider it for my own business for quite some time, but the realisation that if you want to get out there and network, and present your business in the right way to the right people, then you have to be based in the right place. So, eventually the time was right to take a leap of faith, make the call, and talk to a co-working space in Johannesburg, OPEN, about becoming part of their space. It has been such an amazing experience since taking that decision. Co-working spaces are great environments for people to meet, get talking, share ideas and skills, exchange information, it is such an exciting and dynamic network. It is a mixture of creative and corporate, its modern and exciting and we get to meet new people and make great new contacts each day. It is like travelling, but staying in one place. The area of Maboneng where OPEN is located is also really entrepreneurial, and you get to experience so many people, cultures, ways of doing business, it is so exciting. We need more co-working spaces like these in South Africa.
For me as a woman entrepreneur, I find being in a co-working space quite liberating, because I can make so many contacts and meet so many people who are possibly interesting in collaborating in some way. It is also a great space in which to get referrals to people who can supply key services, or assist with some specialist area of expertise that you need, or just offer advice and support.
What entrepreneurial advice would you give to other social entrepreneurs who want to make a difference in the world?
One thing we have learned so far is that is necessary to be highly strategic in our approach, doing our homework on the people, companies and organisations we wish to contact, attending the right events, and then using every platform and avenue available to us to make the right connections.
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Why LoA loves it….
In South Africa, there are many challenges that need to be addressed at a societal and community level, and fresh ideas and approaches are needed to find long-lasting and effective solutions that can make a difference. At LoA, we love social entrepreneurial innovators like Tiisetso Skosana and her colleague Matilda Sekoakoa at Lotjhani Branding who use their significant expertise and experience in the field of branding and communication to create powerful messages and campaigns that can make a difference to the lives of so many in the country through their work. Their unique approach of using creativity for the greater good through innovative brand message and positioning is changing perceptions and engaging audiences - they are real change makers! --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa