For any business, large or small, one of the biggest challenges can be developing and communicating a unique brand essence, one that engages and connects with customers and employees alike. Maruapula Brand, founded by entrepreneur Kelebogile Makhafola, is helping those businesses through this brand maze.
LoA chatted to Kelebogile this month to find out more about her company’s specialist expertise and her own future ambitions for the business
What does your company do?
Maruapula Brand is a brand strategy agency, fueled by reflecting perception to serve your business. We communicate brand positioning, brand engagement and brand architecture through a process of key market insights, stakeholder engagement and developing unique value propositions for your organization.
"I am the Rain Queen, empowering and directing our Rainmakers to signify the diverse landscape that our clients operate in."
What inspired you to start your company?
My mentors once presented a pitch to a leading premier hospitality and entertainment group. The pitch was to get more main market families to travel to the coast. In meeting with senior executives of this entity, my mentors brought along a 2 litre bottle, filled with water and a bit of sand which cupped the bottom of the bottle. This bottled water held such significant meaning to this group of executives that the pitch drew personal experience that the conversations propelled to serve to purpose of their business. Through this token of "ocean water" - we established value propositions that incentivized the main market to visit the coastal regions. The "ocean water" symbolized cleansing; good luck; prosperity; and other significant meanings to possible visitors. That is how a brand draws value from it’s stakeholders, by reflecting their perception to serve the business interest. Their passionate response is what inspired me to found Maruapula Brand - I looked past a senior executive of such an establishment and I saw a son, who nostalgically remembers the meaning of bringing bottled ocean water to communicate prosperity to his family. Starting Maruapula Brand meant that I could evoke such emotions for my clients. That is what we will continuously strive to do.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
We are critical thinkers. We derive meaning from social innovation. When you do business with Maruapula Brand, you're exercising DNA muscles that establish value and meaning for your entity. 40% of your entity's market capitalization is owed to Brand (behaviour, perception and reputation). That is a significant percentage that needs the correct acumen in order to sustain the value of your business equity. We know that, we develop that. This is where we lead.
"Maruapula Brand is aspiring to work with clients who seek to make their mark invaluable to their stakeholders across Africa."
Tell us a little about your team
Maruapula means ‘Clouds of Rain’. In my team, we've got Rainmakers. Movers and shakers who have established their signature and always assure to sign their work with a pen called passion. I am the Rain Queen, empowering and directing our Rainmakers to signify the diverse landscape that our clients operate in. My team is made up of phenomenal women, who bring flair to our craft.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
Having started my career when I was 17, I began my entrepreneurial journey by the end of my second honours degree qualification. This was a choice made as part of realizing that, at the time, there was no occupational certainty in the advertising industry for me (even after having had job experience from a few agencies). Going into establishing Maruapula Brand, all I knew was that I would like to Realize Growth Beyond Self - which became our agency's tagline. Lessons learnt from this experience have been ongoing but what has been prevalent is the recurring notion of "trusting self" - coming from being an employee, one always requested reassurance from seniors but in this case, you are the senior. The buck stops with you. My journey has been in understanding the importance of being self-aware. Throughout the 3 years, I had to teach people how to treat me, not just as a Young, Black, Woman - but as a competent brand strategist and analytical entrepreneur. Assembling psychographics that define me as an entrepreneur has been challenging. The nuances of building relationships with clients; my Rainmakers; suppliers and other business associates require a conscious level of self awareness and therefore relating in a beneficial way with the stakeholder.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
Maruapula Brand is establishing cross-sectoral relationships with stakeholders who seek to redefine socio-economic macro issues through brand engagements. In looking at the impact of successful social innovative branding, Maruapula Brand is aspiring to work with clients who seek to make their mark invaluable to their stakeholders across Africa. We aim to employ rainmakers from various pockets of African societies - to reconfigure perception and thus reflection of our local and international clients.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
I draw pride and serenity from leading the craft of reflecting Art through Business. Brand(ing) is a living entity, giving purpose and character to entities that seek to tell their stories. As an entrepreneur, I get to derive meaning from all facades of the economy to relay the value of your business equity. I serve at the pleasure of designing a brand that is quintessentially You.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Focus. Establish a thread that defines your values, one that crosses every contact point of your value chain. Have this notion in your mind, constantly. Learn to draw significance in all you do from this "thread". What this thread does is define your DNA; it teaches people how to treat you and sets you apart from all others. With the Focus, you're able to define the journey you want to go into.
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Why LoA loves it….
A successful business is one that taps into a need and offers a specialist solution, and in the complex and ever changing world of brand development and stakeholder engagement, Maruapula Brand is one such company. Founder, Kelebogile Makhafola, understands the power of developing a strong brand proposition, one that is capable of connecting with audiences and customers and engaging them for business success. Her expertise is helping other businesses to navigate their brand building journeys. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa