Mpume Shange

Board of directors 

Mpume was born in a small town in Pietermaritzburg. She grew up as an introverted average kid in class, very blessed with parents who were prayerful and educated. "They pushed us to go for our dreams, and planted the entrepreneurial spirit from an early age. We used to go door to door selling mealies, and sometimes cabbages, even though mom and dad were a nurse and teacher respectively.  I think they were just training us for hardships, but they also loved selling.  So, I know what it’s like to be left with a few cabbages and negotiating with someone to buy because its getting dark, and to get that praise for selling everything when I get home. 

I worked hard to get great marks, but maths was my downfall. I just couldn’t figure it out, and in hindsight I ask myself if it was necessary to solve for “x” in school, or we could have learned applied mathematics of how to count your money and grow it. I originally wanted to be a Chartered Accountant, but due to the failure of maths I was not accepted for the Bachelor of Commerce Degree, and I ended up studying the Bachelor of Administration. Thank God for this in retrospect, I would have been bored as an accountant, Marketing is my passion, I can work on ideas any night and any weekend and love every minute of it. So my message to young people is don’t define yourself by your limitations, see them as stepping stones, when one door closes try another one. There is always a door which only you can open with your God given key – your natural gift!

I got blessed with a job at Unilever as a Production Planner which trained me in logistics management, I also got exposed to project teams for product launches where I engaged with the marketing department and that played a key role in preparing me for what I do. God brings angels to help you along the way and I give a lot of credit to my mentor Jill Bredenkamp who pushed me to start the company and market brands at the Township and Rural events. Whilst the idea was brewing in my spirit, I recall visiting a store, engaging with people and selling so much stock in those few minutes and one of my colleagues said “You must start a Promotions Agency”. 20 years later and by God’s grace, we do a whole lot of things including in-store activations, Roadshows, Stokvel activations, trainings and mentorship for the mass market in Financial Literacy and Business Basics.  A lot of credit goes to my family especially my mom Jabu Shange who supported me as I set up, she would go with me to the various places recruiting promoters using her contacts, it was amazing! To this date, I know I can count on her and my siblings for prayer and support. A lot of credit also goes to the numerous amazing mentors we had over the years and still have at Unilever mainly who are Brand and Marketing Managers, who believed in us and pushed us to great standards of performance I would not do justice if I name them as they are so many. That vote of confidence of awarding a contract to a small agency when there were big ones gave us deeper roots in what we do and we are thankful for that.

Along the way I got joined by my Partner Luthando Dlamini, a serial entrepreneur from the age of 9, who brought that young perspective to business, and together we have knocked on many doors and grown our client base. He also brought a commercial angle to business which saw us cutting on renting buildings to buying them through bonds. His primary strength is strategy, and when I am lost, his clear thinking always guides me, and I am so grateful for him.  What would we be without a “Team on Fire” that we have in all our offices who are the fuel to this engine championed by Nelly and Laiela, the Business Unit Managers, they are the pillars on which the organisation is standing. Our teams choose to be at Expressive and have been with us a really long time, I think because of the culture of putting God first, the family spirit, and most of them started from humble beginnings as promoters and today they are managers in line with our motto of Growing Brands Growing People.

Are there challenges on the road? Too many! From cash flow issues due to 60- 90-day payment terms which I believe is extremely harsh to growing businesses.  Another challenge is you have to wear many hats, from Marketing, to Finance, to Human Resources Management and some of these don’t come naturally, we recommend outsourcing non-core functions like Finance to experts. Lastly, seasonal work when you still have to pay the overheads is no child’s play, and marketing is an unpredictable industry because when client changes Brand Managers you can lose work despite the good performance. So, what do we do under such circumstances? Pray, knock on doors, do your best and trust God to do the rest! Have we had times where we thought of quitting? YES, but the vision of Growing Brand and Growing People keeps us going. When we think about the families who are nurtured spiritually, and who put food on their table, we keep marching on….  There are always unsung heroes along the way some are your confidants who speak the vision when days are dark like Thokozani, Clients like Sarah Collins,  Unilever, Standard Bank who have so much faith in us that we refuse to fail because of their belief in us.   

Future prospects. There are disturbing but true quotes that Luthando exposed me to such as “If your business needs you on a regular basis, you don’t have a business but a job.” While we need the job to carry out our passion and callings, we ALL need to get into business where we make passive income (money while we sleep) and property does that perfectly. Our long term vision is to mentor property co-operatives and that is the legacy we would like to leave."