#WIB – Q&A With Cheryl Ingram Founder Of The Digital Media Collective
1. Can you please tell us more about your business?
TDMC.co.za is 1 of only 4 accredited Shopify Expert Development Teams in South Africa and the only one that is Female Founded. Along with our Shopify Expert Partner status, we are also Google Premier Partners & Meta Business Partners. This means we are uniquely positioned to deliver holistic ecommerce and digital marketing solutions for clients that set brands up for success in a highly competitive online space. Combining our vast knowledge, we partner with our clients to develop tailored strategies that are designed to reach and move more consumers in order to achieve real, performance-based outcomes.
2. When, how and why did you start your business?
I founded the business in 2013 after being made redundant by the International company I was working for at the time.
3. What is your role in the business?
My role is essentially that of Managing Director but I have a very hands on approach and I am still actively involved in the day to day running of many of our key accounts.
4. Where did you study and what did you study?
Oddly enough, my role today is in no way linked to what I studied. I actually studied a Bachelor of Arts Degree at UKZN; majoring in Geography and History. This was followed by my Higher Diploma in Education which meant I qualified as a High School Teacher. I did teach for 18 months in a school but that’s where my formal teaching career came to an end.
5. How did you finance your business?
I have found it incredibly challenging to finance a startup business in South Africa and even more so when you don’t align with the necessary BEE requirements. As a result, my business is entirely self funded.
6. Describe your average workday, if such a thing exists.
Unfortunately, in Digital there is no average day, week or month. This is not an industry that sleeps – it is 24/7, 365 days of the year, and the selling point to clients – is that your online store remains open when your physical stores close, meaning that wherever we might be, our phones are usually within arms length. The industry is very fast paced and forever changing so the onus is on you to keep abreast of what’s happening, continuously upskilling and ensuring that you constantly have your finger on the pulse of what’s happening with the clients that you manage. It’s definitely not for the faint hearted.
7. How do you balance your home life and your work life?
If I am totally honest – I don’t really but I think this is a challenge that any business owner faces. I am lucky, my husband fills the gaps for me and we operate as a team so when I can’t manage the school run or the hockey games, I know it’s ok because Dad is there to pick up the slack. I am lucky – both my daughter and husband know that mom works (a lot) and they are very supportive and understanding.
8. What drives you and inspires you?
Firstly, I love what I do and secondly I love the people I get to do it with every single day – and that goes for both our clients and my team. I have a phenomenal team of people around me and it is them that inspire me, that keeps me curious, that keeps me young, that keeps the passion for the industry alive. I love nothing more than bringing young, raw talent into the business and watching them grow. I think its the teacher in me that is driven by the opportunity to educate others on the role that digital can play, the contribution it can make and the innovation it can deliver that excites me daily.
9. Where and when do you have your best ideas?
Ideas usually come to me at really random moments – I call them epiphany moments – I might be at the gym, I might be lying awake at night, I might be driving in my car. Thankfully in those aha moments I will usually jump straight onto WhatsApp and share my thoughts with our shareholders….. who either get equally excited or simply say NOPE – bad idea.
10. Where and how do you market/advertise your business for sales leads?
We don’t really do much marketing – mostly our leads come from referrals or word of mouth however, we are active on Social Media and we do have a small Paid Search campaign that is specific to Shopify and Ecommerce Web Development.
11. What is next for your business?
That’s a really good question – Amazon are launching in SA next year and we would quite like to look at becoming a verified Amazon Marketing Partner. In addition, we have established a presence in the UK and would like to grow our footprint internationally.
12. What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs hoping to start their own business?
I spent a lot of time second guessing my ability to compete in a very male dominated industry. In time I realised that there was no need to compete with anyone but myself. Worrying about the competition wastes energy and distracts you from your core purpose, so just focus on what it is you want to achieve and don’t get side tracked by what others are doing.
Also – Surround yourself with people who share your belief in what you are doing and who will talk you down in those moments of doubt – because those moments will come and you will need that support. Lastly – nothing is an overnight success so be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in. It’s taken me 9.5 years and when people look at me and say, wow your business is so successful, I have to remind them that the road to success has been long and winding. Don’t give up – perseverance does pay off in the end.
Cheryl Ingram is the founder and managing director of one of South Africa’s leading e-commerce development agencies, The Digital Media Collective (TDMC), with a client base of some of the country’s leading online retailers. As one of only four accredited Shopify Expert Partners in Southern Africa, the innovative Durban-based outfit is also a Google Expert Partner and Meta Business Partner – no mean feat for a company started at Cheryl’s dining room table nine years ago.
A recent finalist of the Santam Women of the Future 2022 Awards, Cheryl is passionate about the power of mentorship, recognising and promoting raw talent and the influence that women can and do bring to the boardroom table.