In the highly competitive and fast moving world of corporate branding, marketing and graphic design, finding a specialist niche is key. South African creative design studio, SummerTime, is one such company leading the field by providing a powerful combination of passion for the work they do, combined with an innovative approach to solving branding and marketing challenges on behalf of their clients.
LoA met up with founders Raksha Mahabeer and Sandhya Singh to find out more about this dynamic company and its plans for the future.
What does your company do?
SummerTime is a vibrant creative design studio. We specialise in fresh graphic design, comprehensive brand development and innovative marketing support services for both SMEs and corporate clients.
"SummerTime is a vibrant creative design studio. We specialise in fresh graphic design, comprehensive brand development and innovative marketing support services for both SMEs and corporate clients."
What inspired you to start your company?
SummerTime’s two partners, Sandhya and Raksha, met in the corporate world. We had been working in this space for a while and thought it was time to do something more. We wanted to make our professional services accessible for SMEs in South Africa and the rest of the African continent. We wanted to contribute towards an SME’s success by equipping them with smart, sexy brand identities and well-crafted, professional sales and marketing toolkits and support. We decided to do this with the big picture in mind; if we were able to equip these businesses with what they needed to succeed, then in turn, they would grow and contribute positively towards job creation, poverty alleviation and the economy. We love our country and our continent and want to make an impact wherever we can.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
The service we provide comes from a vibrant and professional team with over 25 years of combined industry-related experience. We take our time to understand our clients’ vision so that when we create, craft and design, we do it with their end goal in mind. We do this from a service-orientated company culture of fun, professionalism, creativity, exploration and attention to detail. Apart from having the practical skills, knowledge and network to do what we do, after having done it for so many years, we have developed an intuition around accurately depicting clients’ brand identitiesto the market through our graphic design, brand development and marketing services.
"We take our time to understand our clients’ vision so that when we create, craft and design, we do it with their end goal in mind. We do this from a service-orientated company culture of fun, professionalism, creativity, exploration and attention to detail."
Tell us a little about your team.
SummerTime currently has a team of five people. I play classical Indian drums called the thabla and the traditional African drum called the Djembe. Music and rhythm is a part of who I am and I use this in my role in the business, keeping everything and everyone in harmony, hence I am The Beat. My partner, Sandhya infused every area of the business with creativity and creative thinking, she is The Art. We have a graphic designer, web developer and copywriter who make up the rest of the team. Our people are young, smart, creative people who enjoy learning, exploring and play! They share our passion for creative excellence and exceptional service standards.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
Sandhya: I was practically raised at our family owned and managed business, a fruit and vegetable business founded by my grandparents in a small town in the South of Johannesburg called Lenasia. Most of my weekends as a child were spent working in the business for extra pocket money. My parents later went into business in the furniture trade and where I spent weekends as a young adult helping out in the business and learning the business basics. It was through these experiences that I learnt the values of hard work, commitment to your vision, compassion, service to others and perseverance and to dare to dream, which I hold so dearly today and which has carried me through the really tough times on this entrepreneurial journey.
After completing my studies in Graphic Design I headed off to London on a 2 year working holiday to broaden my view of the world. I learnt a great deal about myself, the biggest lesson being that I was a true survivor when times got tough, an important trait to have as an entrepreneur. Upon my return to South Africa, I was employed as a junior graphic designer at a corporate where I worked my way up to Head of Design a few years later. A yearning to create something amazing with what I learnt lead me to founding SummerTime. My business partner Raksha and I took a giant leap of faith and started the business 9 years ago. It’s been an incredible journey of extreme highs and extreme lows and a whole lot of fun and tears in between! But what I can say that after all this time we still show up everyday with even greater enthusiasm and the drive to succeed than the day before. We believe strongly in our vision which is, ‘to live, inspire and deliver extraordinary creativity at exceptional service standards with a strong minded focus on our social and global responsibility.’ There is still a long way to go and we are up for it. As they say, just keep swimming!
Raksha: I was born in Durban, KZN and grew up in a beautiful small community on the KZN South Coast, called Isipingo Beach. I spent my childhood barefoot and carefree, living on the shores of the Indian Ocean. I went to government schools and spent most of my time outdoors, playing with friends. My father was an entrepreneur and ran a family furniture manufacturing business with his brothers. Like me, he played the role of business developer. His business supplied furniture to some of the biggest retail furniture outlets at the time--the likes of Joshua Door and Bears. From an early age, I watched him interact with clients and build relationships and realised I would be great in a role like that too. My mother is a nurse and works 6, 10 or 12-hour shifts every day. She values her independence and has an impeccable work ethic. She’s punctual, committed and she keeps learning as the workplace evolves. Through observation, my parents taught me basic lessons in both the working world and the world of entrepreneurship. After completing school, I took a year off and picked apples on a kibbutz in Israel. It was a wonderful experience in learning more about myself as I became a young adult. I studied a Media and Communications and Drama and Performance bachelor’s degree at the then, University of Natal.
I started my career working in marketing for a prominent, luxury South African retail jewellery brand. Thereafter, I did a stint in the corporate world where I met Sandhya, now my business partner . From there, SummerTime was born, and the rest is history! The entrepreneurial journey has been one with many highs and lows. SummerTime was fortunate in that we had a great start that was part of an enterprise development deal with our previous employers. We had access to equipment, office premises and a client list. After a year, this arrangement expired and we had to quickly grow up, strap our boots on and go out on our own. We went through the usual start-up lessons around trying to be everything to everyone and learnt quickly to stick to our core and deliver what we’re confident and good at.
The business is now in a growth phase; we moved into official office premises and hired additional team members, all just under two years ago. The business’s growth phase has come with its own set of challenges and opportunities, and we continue to edify, evolve and inspire ourselves, our people and our clients every minute we operate.
"I feel like we are able to express what we believe through our organization and share those values, ideas, insights, inspiration with so many others and make a positive contribution to their lives. It is also really exciting to be able to create what you can dream up!"
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
We plan to clean up shop! Tighten up systems and processes, keep improving and get the business to run like a well-oiled machine. We’d also like to bring some smarter, young talent into SummerTime. In the long term, we’d like to offer internships at SummerTime for young people to gain real-life experience of the working world and give them an opportunity to put their creative talents to use for live client projects. We are exploring divisionalising SummerTime so that we introduce complimentary services in the business, such as introducing a ‘locally-produced’ gifting portal for corporate clients.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
Sandhya: I feel like we are able to express what we believe through our organization and share those values, ideas, insights, inspiration with so many others and make a positive contribution to their lives. It is also really exciting to be able to create what you can dream up!
Raksha: I enjoy knowing that what I am doing is impacting someone’s business, and as a result, someone’s life. I also love creating my own destiny, feeling free and open to explore new things in the business and doing things on my own time.
"Believe in your abilities and never allow yourself to feel any less than anyone else."
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Sandhya: We all have the same capability to succeed so don’t be afraid of hard work. If another human (woman ☺) has proven that it can be done then so can you. Believe in your abilities and never allow yourself to feel any less than anyone else. Let us create a better planet for every living creature to enjoy!
Raksha: Embrace a stance of collaboration instead of competition. As women, we’ve got so much of work to do on this continent. Let’s work together, to learn new things, to welcome new entries into the market, to compliment and complement each other’s product and service offerings, and to hold each other up. Together, we can achieve so much more!
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Why LoA loves it….
There is a real dynamism about SummerTime which genuinely makes it stand out from the crowd. Its two founders are passionate about what they do and how they can help their clients to have their brands and their voices heard in an increasingly noisy marketplace. Raksha and Sandhya are brilliant at what they do and win friends and clients alike through their professional and collaborative approach to getting the job done. We think SummerTime is headed for great things in 2015 - keep watching this space! --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa