Nothing fascinates us quite like a successful career chameleon, and Cassandra Twala certainly personifies the notion. A recognised creative with a thriving media platform, coupled with her career as the Producer of one of Joburg’s best-loved fairs, the Sanlam HmC, Cassandra has utilised her degree in Architecture to create a strong media business and presence for herself at a young age. Below, she advises us of the importance of living a life of intention, the skill of resourcefulness and what she believes the African creative landscape needs…
Interviewer: Zimasa Qolohle Mabuse
Cassandra, as someone who personally follows your social media platforms, it’s such a pleasure to have you on TCC. For those who don’t already know, you are a media entrepreneur and lifestyle blogger while balancing a career as the producer of the much-loved Sanlam Handmade Contemporary Fair. Additionally, you’ve graduated with an Architecture undergraduate degree – a qualification known to be technical and rather difficult. I think what makes you so interesting is how you’ve managed to create a career for yourself that encapsulates all your passions – something many young professionals battle with. Could you give the readers a detailed account of the journey to where you are today?
Throughout my high school years, I was always frustrated by the fact that I was a jack of all trades and master of none. As I navigate through the early stages of my career, I am coming to realize that my versatility is my single biggest strength. I’ve also got a very hardworking /get shit done attitude which has also helped me significantly. I believe in doing things with intention and applying myself to every single opportunity that comes my way – I don’t believe in titles because they are so limiting. I like to think of myself as a ‘problem’ solver, which is relevant in all industries. I’m only in the beginning of my career and I don’t have it all figured out but I’m enjoying the journey thus far.
Being a media entrepreneur requires one to have a significant online following. By possessing this, one is better positioned to enter into significant collaborations and partnerships. Could you tell us what has been behind building the strong reputational capital you have today?
I think it’s a combination of things. Firstly, an ‘eye’ for beauty and documenting in a specific way which is unique. I learnt a lot in architecture about proportions/ design and that definitely plays a role in how I present my work. My feed acts as a narrative of a distinct ‘voice’ as a young black woman, and it’s what resonates with the majority of my audience (young black girls). Consistency builds trust and affinity.
In creating the distinguishable career that you have today, what characteristics and personal attributes would you say were most imperative to your career success?
My one boss once said there are three things we need to be – creative, proactive and resourceful.
Creative – seeking solutions, being curious and always problem solving.
Proactive – Never sit still. I try to go beyond the required and I apply myself fully in every work environment.
Resourceful – Using what I have, is always the best way to start anything.
As described above, you are presently the producer of the annual Sanlam Handmade Contemporary Fair – an annual weekend event created to showcase artisans and their businesses alike. Could you take us through what a typical work day looks like in this role?
My role is both creative and very execution based. First thing would be answering emails – I communicate with a lot of people daily. Then I would get on with my list of tasks for the day or week. I will attend scheduled meetings during the week which include going out to meet exhibitors – sample their product, see their collections. My research is quite fun. I will create and manage our content (newsletters, social media, website) on a weekly basis. I’m also frequently reading publications to be at the helm of what’s happening in food, wine and design industries.
Working for the Fair, you know very well how important it is to the success and recognition of artists, creatives and entrepreneurs. What other avenues or forums are there for South Africans to support the business behind the arts?
I think there is a gap between how many SA and Africa brands exist and how much people know about them. I think in order for South Africans to support artisinal businesses they simply need to know about them. Sanlam HmC does its part in bringing all these incredible brands into one collective space for visitors to learn, sample, experience. Other platforms celebrating African creativity and entrepreneurship include (not limited to) Brownsense, Newtown Workshop, 44 Stanley in Joburg and The Watershed in Cape Town.
Your aesthetic is what drew me to following your social platforms and blog. Could you describe your aesthetic? How does it speak to you persona?
Considered – I do things with intention and try to be as considered as possible so I think that is what comes across on my feed. I change the aesthetic quality depending on how I’m feeling, but there is always a clear consideration in how I put it all together, because it’s like telling a story.
Lastly, what advice would you give to young professionals who are still struggling to find their elusive ‘calling’?
You don’t have to have it all figured out, but work VERY hard at every single opportunity that comes your way because it will propel you or prepare you for the next.
The biggest sacrifice I’ve ever made – is being at boarding school my whole life, which was an involuntary sacrifice, and resulted in me not spending a lot of time with my mother in my formative years.
The best personal branding tool is – Your actions.
Advice I’d give to my 16 year old self – Everything you do, do it with intention.
Best investment – Teaching myself how to be disciplined in my work.
Worst money mistake – Don’t have a major one ‘YET’. I’m quite cautious with money aka – A miser. LOL.
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