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Creative academy Sum of 21 reaps rich rewards, gets nod of approval all-round

Three years ago, the creative incubator for learner and intern candidates, Sum of 21 Academy, came into being to empower talented and ambitious creative youngsters to make their mark in the broader industry. Judging from the nod of approval from both clients and former learners, who have since completed their training and joined the industry, the new kid on the block has succeeded in its mission with flying colours.
Karen Steenkamp
Karen Steenkamp
“Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Our client base has grown in leaps and bounds over the past year. We have gained three retainer clients, with one recently extending its contract period. We have grown new clients as a direct result of referrals by an existing client,” creative director Karen Steenkamp points out.

“None of this would have been possible if the quality of work was not up to scratch. We often hear that our output surpasses expectation, for example retainer clients thanking us for ‘beautiful work’ with which they are ‘mightily impressed’. We have had numerous such emails and direct comments made in boardrooms after presentations.

“Of course, what we do is not without its challenges – the inexperienced nature of our work force makes it inevitable that some hiccups will occur; but we pick both our intern and mentor staff in such a way that so far, we have been able to keep such instances to a minimum. Quality, collaboration, consistency and respect are the principles of the creed we live by – I am proud and honoured to be part of this amazing team,” Steenkamp enthuses.

Zenobi Fredericks
Zenobi Fredericks
Echoing Steenkamp’s sentiments, former student Zenobi Fredericks says that Sum of 21 has equipped her very well to tackle her new job as digital content creator for brands with self-confidence and zest.

Perseverance, communication

“Among many other things, Sum of 21 taught me what perseverance actually means. Whilst completing my internship, I learnt how important clear and thorough communication is, in every respect. After all, communicating thoroughly is not only what media and marketing are all about; it is also what we use on a daily basis to sustain ourselves, to get what we want and where we need to be.

“I’ve also learnt the art of persuasion, which pertains to both working and personal relationships. Narrative is, after all, a true art form and this is one thing I gained at Sum of 21 that I carry with me daily,” stresses Fredericks.

Main goal

She says her main goal as a digital content creator is to curate content for brands and personal individuals who exceed the expectations of society. “It shouldn’t be just about a brand, a product or a person; it should rather be about the impact it can have and the change it can bring.

“Being a digital content creator in my personal capacity helps me showcase specific things in a way that the average, day-to-day consumer can understand. As a consumer and someone who spends about 90% of her free time on social media platforms, it is crucial to create that human interest element, that soft place that people go to when they need to know more. In essence, the main goal for me is to be relatable, to educate, inform, entertain and engage readers and viewers.”

Getting it right

She reckons Nando's gets it right on all digital platforms. “While many local brands lack transparency and humour, as a brand Nando's shows they get it right consistently. Their campaigns are straight to the point, humorous, controversial and engaging to all. From their menus (which have something for everyone) to their topical tweets and humorous ads, they start a conversation, say things that we’re all thinking but don’t have enough courage to address. In this way, they engage all consumers and not just one set of demographics, but a community as a whole. One of my absolute favourites was the #rightmyname. On and off digital platforms, they stay true to their brand’s CI and are consistent throughout their messaging.”


Fredericks’s personal blog titled Being Zen AF is another favourite pastime. “I call it that solely because (a) life is currently what everyone is doing and (b) to show that life is what you make it.”

The blog has no limits to the type of content that gets posted, she adds. “My readers range from high-end fashionistas sitting in the front row at SA Fashion Week, foodies who love trying new places within the cities I’ve travelled, to your nine-to-fivers who simply want a good read and laugh about the creative and corporate cultures (which differ tremendously) before they go to bed. My readers and followers vary between different age groups, cities and genders, which allow me to have a wider reach.”

Changing mind-sets

“My hope as a social media influencer is to ‘influence’ people to live a more positive life, to appreciate their surroundings and who they are. To impact the way people see themselves, to boost self-love, body positivity and just help people to be and do better.

“A lot of people wrestle with the word ‘influencer’. I have to add that it’s not just about posting or writing a piece about a product or about boosting ticket sales to an event. It’s about reaching lives and changing mind-sets. Helping people see art, clothing, local spaces and cuisines as a more than just a ‘materialistic thing’ but rather growth for our generation.

“Being an influencer helps me document these thriving moments for the people who are creating them, and the reach pushes boundaries and helps it get out there so that people can see and experience the country changing and the talent growing beyond measure. Being an influencer stops being about the blogger or persona behind something, but the impact you are creating through what you putting out there for everyone to engulf themselves in,” says Fredericks.

The future beckons

Her Next Big Thing is to start a communications agency within the next five years. “My passion lies in helping brands find their true voice, a voice that truly speaks to all those interacting with the brand. I also hope to open up my own NPO (non-profit organisation), using marketing/advertising and brands to shape the future of those less fortunate, transferring skills to small and medium enterprises to help them generate more impact within their communities. The domino effect is sure to change lives; one day at a time, one skill after another,” Fredericks concludes.

4 Apr 2019 11:47