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'The entrepreneurial journey can be lonely at times' - Senamile Mhlongo

The entrepreneur of the week is working on becoming the ‘go-to’ digital agency for SMEs


This article forms part of the Youth Month 2015 series in which SME South Africa, throughout the month of June, will highlight the work of young entrepreneurs and innovators who are shaping SA's future.

Company Profile
Name of company: Luminate
Years in existence: 2 years
Position: Owner
Location: Johannesburg

Can you tell us a little bit about your company and what you do? 
Luminate helps companies get sales leads and brand awareness through creating innovative and focused digital campaigns. The digital advertising platforms I use are Google, Facebook, YouTube and Linkedin.

Luminate also offers training courses on social media and paid digital media.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background – personal, educational and professional?
I grew up in Durban in a family of four girls. After matriculating from Northlands Girls High I did a Diploma in Financial Information Systems at the Durban University of Technology.

My first job was in an online casino. That was when I began my journey in the digital marketing space. I decided to take a leap of faith and become an entrepreneur after my last job at a digital agency. 

What were some of the obstacles you faced starting out, and how did you overcome them?
Starting out I realised that I was really great at creating campaigns but I wasn’t as good at sales, marketing and finances for business. I had to learn the different aspects of business that are essential for growth.

"The minute you think you know everything you stop growing"

How many people does your company employ? 
At the moment I don’t have any employees.

What is your overall vision for your business?
My overall vision is to grow and become  the ‘go-to’ digital agency for SMEs especially. Providing SME’s and companies digital advertising solutions to grow their businesses. 

What do you think it takes to establish and run a successful business in South Africa? 
Running a successful business needs resilience and a hunger to learn. The minute you think you know everything you stop growing. Resilience will ensure that every time you are knocked down by an obstacle or challenge, you get back up, dust yourself off, learn from the experience and move forward.

How did you finance your business, how difficult or easy was the process?  
The advantage of the industry I am in is that I can do everything online. So internet and a laptop was all I needed to start out. This was a great help as I didn’t need to approach a bank to finance my business which means I don’t have any start up loans and debt.

When did you know that you were an entrepreneur? 
My earliest entrepreneurship memory was in primary school. I was involved in market day. I sold jewellery and hair accessories. In high school I was part of the Junior achievers entrepreneurship program. We created a product and went out to market to sell it. At that time I knew that I had a love for making my own money. It was only when I was much older that I realised that I had always had an entrepreneurial spirit within me.  

What three pieces of advice would you offer young entrepreneurs starting out today?
- Have at least 3 months cash reserves before you take the leap. There will be months when income is low but the bills still need to be paid.
- Get a business mentor who will guide you along your journey.
- Keep your personal and business expenses separate.

What do you wish you had known starting out? 
I wish I’d known how lonely the entrepreneurial journey can be at times. When you are used to a vibrant office environment it takes a while to adjust to starting out alone.

And finally, do you believe in luck, hard work or both? 
Well I believe in not just working hard but working smart. Work smart consistently and you will meet success in uncommon hours.

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