Munene Khoza is 29 years of age and is the founder and principal consultant of MINT Language Consultancy – a full-service language enhancement and corporate communications firm that aims to help clients to effectively harness the power of language through a range of language-based services. Her Educational Background is : MA in English Language and Linguistics, BA (Hons) in English Studies and Film & Media Studies and she is currently based in Johannesburg.
Some of the services offered by Mint Language Consultancy include communication strategy, reputation management, copywriting, communications training, proofreading and transcription – all vital and important services in an era where aesthetics, communications and media are paramount! What was the inspiration behind starting a business centrered around these skills and services?
Harvard academic Marvin H. Swift once wrote, “Clear writing is clear thinking”. I wanted to build a company that empowered individuals and organisations to achieve clarity in both areas.
With a business as academically-focused as yours, education has undoubtedly had to play a major role. What would you say are the factors that contribute towards Mint Consultancy’s success – your expertise or your business acumen?
I would definitely say it’s a combination of two major factors; my own academic background and my management and communications consulting experience.. My studies gave me sound linguistic and literary grounding while having the opportunity to work at Accenture and Hill+Knowlton Strategies exposed me to the wonderful mechanisms and madness of working in high-performance business environments.
Could you take us through what major resources you had to acquire or purchase in the establishment of your business? Were funds a critical aspect of starting Mint?
A professional services start-up like mine isn’t very capital intensive. My biggest initial spend was on developing a corporate identity, my website and marketing approach for the business. My overheads were manageable so I was able to get going quite quickly after all that was established. Also a phone line and a decent internet connection are life!
How have you gone about securing clients and what major challenges have you faced in this regard?
This is an area where I think my career before Mint made a massive difference. One of the best things about working in management consulting is the wide network you’re able to develop through various projects and engagements. Many of my business leads have been from old colleagues and clients, and the endorsement of senior stakeholders from global organisations has swung excellent business in my direction, despite Mint being in its infancy. Social media has also played a crucial role – advertising on most platforms is cost effective and even more importantly, measurable.
For a service-driven business such as yours, what attributes would you say are most critical to ensuring it is a success – talent or hard work?
Perseverance. Early on in my journey with Mint, someone told me that for every 20 queries you’ll get, only 1 is likely to convert to a real business opportunity. Initially I felt pretty defeated by those odds but I later realised that I got better and better with every proposal, every pitch and the sense of accomplishment when you secure that client is even more phenomenal when the odds are stacked against you.
As a business woman, what major obstacles have you faced in the pursuit of success and how have you overcome them?
There were probably four major obstacles.
The first was simply getting started. It’s one thing to have an idea or a dream, but another to face a blank page and have to turn it into a business plan. I read a lot of books, played with a lot of templates and asked friends and family to share their own business plans. Getting this document right crysalises the purpose and process for getting your business going like nothing else.
The second was actually my ego! Starting a business is an infinitely humbling process. And you just don’t know what you don’t know – be it around tax issues, the legalities of client contracts or who do call when your Wi-Fi is on the frtiz. You need to be able to ask for help, guidance and direction from others without your pride getting in the way.
Thirdly, at times I have been restricted by capacity in terms of the kinds of business opportunities I can pursue. Mint started off as a one-man operation, but I have since adopted an associate model where I call on a network of freelancers as and when the work comes in. I’ve also recently hired an amazing intern. So, I look forward to growing even more so I can take on even more significant engagements.
Finally, I think getting people to understand what Mint is about and what we do has proved challenging at times. We’re not a PR company, we’re not an advertising agency and we don’t just proofread stuff. I have worked hard to ensure our marketing material emphasises what makes us different; we are business-minded linguists who help clients to effectively harness the power of language.
Advice for aspiring wordsmiths and entrepreneurs?
Here I’ll steal a mantra from American psychologist and self-help author Susan Jeffers;
“Feel the fear and do it anyway”!
I would love to be mentored by…. Khanyi Dhlomo – she’s worked consistently and creatively to build one of the leading media brands in South Africa
The biggest sacrifice I’ve ever made is… taking a year out from work in my mid-twenties to complete my MA. I worried about falling behind my peers career-wise, but in the end it was one of the best decision I have ever made.
Africans have the opportunity to… be trailblazers in business and technology. The time for sitting on our hands and waiting for our global counterparts to export thought leadership and innovation is over. We are capable.
Worst money mistake… I probably could have saved more money when I still lived with my parents. I look at my monthly expenses now and think back to the absolute pleasure of not having barely any financial responsibilities!
Best investment… in my business, of course!