Are you nurturing your passion and your grit? Meet Nicole Biondi, Head of Marketing & Communications for Innovation Edge

Are you nurturing your passion and your grit? Meet Nicole Biondi, Head of Marketing & Communications for Innovation Edge

Written by Staff Writer

Sep 7, 2021

By Charndré Emma Kippie


Nicole Biondi is the Head of Marketing and Communications activities for Innovation Edge – a social impact investor focused on early childhood in South Africa. She focuses on the needs and opportunities of the investment platform, as well as offering a range of support for individual investments within the portfolio.

In addition, Nicole Biondi serves on the Board of Directors for Capita, a US-based Think Tank that aims to foster new ideas to ensure a future in which children and their families flourish. She also serves as a Strategic Advisor to Thandeka Travel – a travel company that provides high-end African adventures for travellers seeking a deeper experience.

Added to her abilities as a skilled strategist and communicator, Nicole Biondi is a dynamic leader with event management expertise; public speaking prowess and coaching and facilitation skills. She has more than 18 years’ experience in the fields of marketing, communications and public relations within a number of sectors.

Nicole Biondi has led a high-performing team of creative individuals as the Strategic Communications and Content Manager for Cape Town Tourism – the City of Cape Town’s (CoCT) official destination marketing agency. Her role there had a strong focus on content marketing and crisis communications. As the Regional Marketing Manager for conservation agency South African National Parks, she concentrated her efforts on cause-related marketing. 


How did your journey with Innovation Edge begin, and how do your personal values align with the company?

I’d suffered from really bad burnout in my previous role. While I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do next, I knew that the focus of the work had to be purpose-driven. I walked into a meeting with the Innovation Edge team determined to walk out with a freelance marketing and comms contract. Instead I received an offer for full-time employment and here we are 5 years later. My personal values of balance, curiosity, kindness and integrity align well with the organisational values.


What excites you the most about your role at Innovation Edge?

The fact that my role is so multifaceted is what excites me most. I get to apply my love of strategy to solve big sticky problems on a society level. My gift of clarity comes in handy when it comes to helping our investees communicate their products and services effectively. And I get to use my marketing savvy in driving sourcing campaigns and tactics to find investable opportunities for our portfolio. Being part of the Senior Management Team means that I have the opportunity to lean into my leadership and organisational ops capabilities. I’ve also been fortunate enough to be able to travel to lots of exciting destinations, including New Zealand and Macau, to deliver keynotes at various conferences. 


Why is solving early childhood challenges in South Africa so important to you? 

So much of who we are today was determined by the experiences we have in our first 6 years of life. The kind of bond we have with our parents or those who raise us; whether we feel safe in our home and community; the quality of the food we eat; our opportunities for early learning, all contribute to laying the foundations that determine our life trajectory. I was fortunate to have had the kind of early life experiences that led to my success and wellbeing as an adult. I, however, am in the minority. Even after 25 years of freedom from Apartheid, most children born in SA each year are born into poverty. Too many children are deprived of the benefits I had in my early years. As a result, half of all children in our poorest households start school at a major disadvantage. It’s grossly unfair and completely within our power to change. 


In your opinion, what does it mean to be an “impact-first investor”?

It means placing a heavier weighting on an investment delivering social returns in comparison to financial returns.


Briefly tell us about your recent project for positive parenting by South African fathers.

Innovation Edge invests in solutions to early childhood challenges in South Africa. Our recent call has been focused on finding solutions that increase positive involvement by fathers and father figures in the early years of their children’s lives. Better educational outcomes, the likelihood of stable employment and better mental health are all influenced by a child’s sense of closeness to a father or father figure. Importantly, this is true whether the father lives in the same house as the child. Because it is the involvement, not them living together that plays a vital role in the child’s wellbeing.


What are your top 3 tips for de-risking early stage product and service development?
  • Be clear on your assumptions about what the product/service can do and for which target markets
  • Test all those assumptions with rigour and make sure to check your biases
  • Approach failure with curiosity and see it as an opportunity to learn


What have been some major obstacles in your career and how did you overcome them?

I think the fact that I don’t have a formal qualification – degree or even diploma – has been a major obstacle both in my own mind and those of the people who’ve reviewed my CV. I’ve overcome it by my passion for learning through doing, reading and diving into a variety of free online learning opportunities. I believe that my track record demonstrates my ability to perform without needing a formal qualification at this stage of my career.


What are your goals for the future?

My goal for today and the future is for every interaction I have and all the work I do to leave people a bit more joyful, a bit clearer on their innate greatness and a bit closer to living a life of meaning. 


What important/life-changing books have you read?
  • Factfulness – Hans Rosling
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman
  • Livewired – David Eagleman


What advice do you have for young women entrepreneurs who aspire to work in your field?

Your passion and grit are your most important attributes and they need to be nurtured and celebrated. Everything else stems from them.



*For more, check out our bumper 16th edition of the Standard Bank Top Women Leaders publication on Issuu – Digital Publishing Platform – here

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