Shazia Mentoor went from developing websites to starting her own marketing agency after learning about digital marketing during an internship. The Founder and Managing Director of Mentor Marketing is driven to make her business a vehicle of change, looking to impact the lives of others in whatever she can. We found out more about how marketing became her passion, the challenges she’s faced and how she’s overcome them.
Please tell us a bit about your background – how did you get to this point?
While studying web development and software programming, I applied for a web development internship at a marketing agency. Despite knowing nothing about social media or digital marketing, I helped out with social media marketing and I had to learn quickly. While there I helped out with social media marketing. After some time, I began to realize that I enjoyed doing social media marketing more than I did the websites. This was when I switched to studying digital marketing.
I moved onto an internship as a digital marketer and absolutely loved the work. After I gave birth I decided to stay home and work as a freelancer for a few people I knew that trusted me to market their brand.
Family and friends noticed things were going well and encouraged me to start a small business, which is when I got the idea for Mentor Marketing. I felt demotivated working by myself but, thankfully, a small team was formed and I began to feel the weight being slowly lifted off my shoulders.
Passion and determination brought me to this point. I was told “no” many times, but I wanted to make it work. I love what I do and I am confident in selling our services because I know what we can offer.
I try my best to make Mentor Marketing more than just a business. Last year, we helped a pensioner with building her small business’ brand and marketing the products free of charge. We also volunteered our services to Hope School, a school for differently-abled and impoverished children in Johannesburg. Mentor Marketing assisted them with acquiring sponsorships for their awards day and stationery for 2022, as well as the setup and photography.
Seeing those kids so happy made me proud. It motivated me to do more and make a positive difference in our country. That’s what I want our brand to be about. I want us to not only focus on the growth of our business but the empowerment of other people as well.
What drives you? And how do you stay motivated?
Seeking growth is what motivates me. My plans for the future drive me to focus on the present. I put work in now, knowing that I can reap the rewards later. I want my brand to be successful. I want to help others achieve success on the way as well. You rise by lifting others and by being selfless. I envision my brand as one that also focuses on the upliftment of others, creates job opportunities, focuses on skills development, and values the mental health and well-being of whoever works with us.
What challenges have you faced as an entrepreneur and how have you overcome them?
I had to learn how to be okay with being rejected and once I adapted to dealing with it, I always remembered to keep things moving.
Growing up, confidence was something I always struggled with. I learned that when you vouch for yourself and you can confidently speak on the work you do, other people take you more seriously.
A quote from the book ‘The 4-Hour Work Week’ keeps me inspired to remain confident: “If you are insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is, too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think” – Timothy Ferris
Another challenge for me was also being a young mother, wife, and entrepreneur all at once. Managing your time can be difficult especially when it comes to finding a balance between your work and family life. What helped me there was creating a routine and sticking to it.
What excites you most about working in your field?
The opportunities it presents. Marketing involves a lot of research and learning on a daily basis. I enjoy learning about other industries; gaining a good understanding and then marketing, and speaking about that industry to an audience.
I also enjoy collaborating, networking and connecting. I am a people person so I love that this field requires one to engage with others regularly. Campaigns and projects can be exciting, it’s always lovely to see how your team’s ideas come to life.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your work and how have you adapted?
Working from home can be challenging. It takes away from the company culture and relationships that I have been trying to build with my team.
Being a work-from-home mom has been the most challenging. Before I had help, I thought I was going crazy. I barely had time to eat. I struggled to find a balance between work and taking care of my little baby.
The pandemic has resulted in many of our clients and target market not being able to afford our services. We as a team had to be understanding and accommodate what our clients could afford. This way, our clients are still getting the help they need with growing their business and we are still maintaining those relationships.
What do you think can be done to accelerate transformation in South Africa?
We need to remember that our future as a country lies with the youth. They play an important part yet they are not being given a chance. We fail to accept that the ideas that can be birthed from young individuals may be the positive change that the business needs.
Employment requirements are almost impossible to meet for young people. Experience is a must but how should they obtain that if we don’t give them a chance to get that experience? What we should be doing is creating skills development workshops, employing young people (even if it’s an internship), and offering mentorship programmes. It wouldn’t cost us anything to share some encouragement.
How are you empowering women within your organisation?
Women empowerment is something I am passionate about and it’s something I will always pursue. I want to rise with all of those around me. I encourage “side hustles” and I assist with growing them. I am a strong believer that the chance to earn an additional income and make a name for yourself, outside of your job, shouldn’t be denied by those you work with.
The women in our team are also currently working on a project that is aimed at women empowerment in Africa. We plan on launching this project later this year. We are enjoying working on this and look forward to impacting other women’s lives in the near future.
What advice would you give to young women entrepreneurs looking to start their own marketing firms?
Do things differently and no matter what, stay consistent. Competition is real and that’s why when starting a marketing firm or agency, it’s important to find something that will set you apart and communicate that to your audience. Build a new, fresh, creative and innovative marketing firm. Research your competitors. Make sure that you know them. Once you have made an analysis, try your best to build something outstanding.
Many people will doubt you. Many people will reject you or your business. Keep doing what you do. Build your brand and establish your business. Make sure it is a balance between professional and creative. Work on an online presence for your business. Focus on building your business, its credibility and increasing its awareness, and then reach out to clients. Take rejection with a pinch of salt and keep it moving. Staying consistent will have its rewards, even if it’s after months. Success doesn’t happen overnight and no matter how driven we are, it’s important to remember that.
Also, work with other people. There is power in collaboration. Reach out to people in the industry and work on ideas together. Get advice if you need it. Do short courses and acquire more knowledge. Put in all your effort, it will pay off in the end.
What books would you recommend to our readers?
Good To Great by Jim Collins
The 5AM Club by Robin Sharma
Building A Story Brand by Donald Miller
Shoot The HiPPO: How to be a killer Digital Marketing Manager by Tom Bowden & Tom Jepson
What are your plans for the future?
I will be working on perfecting Mentor Marketing SA and then pursuing my plans to grow the business across the continent and the globe at large. This year I intend on launching smaller brands under Mentor Marketing, dealing with women empowerment, skills development, and non-profit community projects. I don’t want to be limited to marketing only and will look to tap into other industries as well.
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