In July this year, The Principality turns 10. It’s been a journey that’s been packed with experiences, from the exciting and satisfying to the challenging and downright existential. To mark this milestone, we got together to ruminate over the last decade: the highs, the lows, the learning moments and everything in between.
1. What’s your most memorable highlight?
Carien: Still seeing so many faces that were there with us in the beginning. In 10 years I feel that we could comfortably pick up the phone and go and have a glass of wine with almost everyone we’ve worked with.
Margaux: Linden, where our offices are today. Being able to walk down and get coffee every morning at The Whippet from people who know you is just the best.
Wendy: Our offices. We’ve created such a beautiful, happy space that is welcoming and calm and peaceful – it’s our little safe haven that we love coming to every day.
Bo: The journey we’ve walked with some of our oldest clients, and seeing them grow. And I also love our office. It fits our personality; it’s got little quirky bits to it that speak to who we are as a team.
2. What have been your biggest learning moments?
Carien: That we probably shouldn’t be in the business of marketing popstars.
Margaux: …but the learning there was that the approach we used is universal and can be applied to anything. But I agree: when it comes to popstars we probably just weren’t the right fit.
Wendy: All of us take relationships seriously, so if something doesn’t work we’ve had to learn to let go. It’s learning to realise that sometimes if things don’t work out it’s not about the quality of work – it’s just not the right fit, and that’s ok.
Margaux: Early on, we were very involved with a particular client and were extremely passionate about the work we were doing for them. Around the same time, we had the opportunity to contact a potential client and pitch to them, but we were so preoccupied with the work we were doing that we didn’t get back to them in time. A few months later we saw that they’d launched a massive ad campaign…we realised we’d missed the opportunity to take on a substantial client (with a big budget) and grow with them.
3. What’s been your biggest challenge?
Margaux: Taking the risk and the leap to grow a team. It’s been a big responsibility, but it’s been our biggest win too.
Carien: Separating life from work. It’s a real struggle – in many ways it’s not always bad, but it’s not always good either. For example, when you open your eyes in the morning and the first thing you do is open your laptop, but then at the same time feeling guilty for taking time away from it.
Margaux: We still haven’t defined our elevator pitch. But maybe this is good: by not pigeonholing ourselves, we keep thinking bigger. So we’ve gained immensely valuable experience and knowledge, and met amazing people along the way.
4. And your biggest wins?
Wendy: The clients that have stayed with us throughout the journey. It’s allowed us to build real relationships with people, and gain their trust. And then another huge win has been finding an incredible network of people we work with, from developers to writers to photographers who we trust.
Carien: Plus the fact that they all have the same work ethic is a huge win.
Margaux: We’re based in Joburg but we’ve had clients in America, Australia, UK, Hong Kong, Uganda, Nigeria…that’s something I hope we build on in the next 10 years. We’ve also worked on so many different kinds of things, from medical products to art events to launching a movie.
5. Funniest moment?
Margaux: Arriving at meetings dressed the same as Carien, which made us look like we were in uniform.
Carien: I introduced myself as Margaux once in a meeting…
Carien: One of our client’s children thought her phone’s name was “Margaux”.
Margaux: We weren’t drawing a salary yet and decided to go for lunch at Mastrantonio in Illovo as our year-end function for two. We shared two starters and then got a bit carried away with Aperol Spritzes…the bill probably cost the same as what we each could have drawn as a salary.
6. Biggest epiphany?
Carien: When you surround yourself with capable people, things get infinitely better. It’s something that you know intellectually, but when you actually see it happen you think, oh, this is what they’re talking about.
Margaux: We had some people in the office for a meeting, and as they left, one of the women turned to us and said, ‘Never forget, we’re not saving lives here.’ I thought that was an amazing way to put things in perspective: no matter how stressful things get, we can still take the time to take a deep breath and a chill pill. We’re not performing emergency surgery, after all.
7. What’s surprised you the most?
Sue: How corporate our clients are and how embedded we are in that space, even though we’re in marketing. We have one foot firmly embedded in the creative space but we play by the corporate rules when we have to.
Carien: The rabbits we manage to pull out of a hat. That, and the fact that it’s possible to run a business for 10 years and never have made a business plan.
Margaux: How 10 years down the road, each day can be different. There’s obviously some things that are the same – but more often than not I’m still surprised.
Bo: That clients see marketers as magicians and that they believe we can make anything happen. We get asked ‘I know this isn’t your area but can you make a plan?’ And we say, ‘We’ll find a way.
Sue: Yes, I like that clients trust us to ‘sprinkle fairy dust’ on things…
Wendy: I’m surprised by how we’re still learning, 10 years later. I think it’s important to always be willing to learn and to change your opinion on things.
Carien: That things work better if you run the business as a curious person. We’ve tried to create a mindset where we’re curious about everything, rather than taking things at face value.