Focus on Women

Busi Ntuli Communications: Success as a Change Agent in South Africa

The South African government is leading the way in creating equal opportunities for black-owned businesses. Busi Ntuli Communications is ready to leverage its success to bring social change and business growth by developing more opportunities in the private sector.
By Valerie Gomez

Busi Ntuli Communications thrives today because its CEO and Founder Busi Ntuli has an entrepreneurial drive and the ability to recognize new competitive opportunities. As a black entrepreneurial woman in South Africa, she has overcome many challenges in the past and continually faces new ones, including private sector businesses that are leery of working with women-owned suppliers, especially when they are small and growing.

Despite the challenges, she has built a successful media services company that works with customers in the government and private sectors in need of creative marketing campaigns for various communication channels. Ntuli has plans to grow the company in Africa and globally, and she shares her insights into strategy development and overcoming the barriers to business sustainability.

Heading Down a New Path of Opportunities
DiversityPlus Magazine spoke with Ntuli at the MSDUK 2018 Conference & Awards about the joys and challenges of being a black South African woman who founded and leads a business. Ntuli's initial business experience was running her own talent recruitment agency in South Africa.

By 1999, there were so many recruitment agencies in South Africa that she recognized it was time to diversify. Initially, her agency matched potential employees to available jobs, so she decided to add recruitment advertising as a service to differentiate the business from competitors. In doing so, Ntuli came to the realization she was underutilizing her design staff's talents. The employees were capable of doing multimedia design, but instead they were only creating recruitment advertisements for print.

"I made a decision that I could provide media services, but being a recruitment agency, offering creative services wouldn't necessarily be a good fit. I realized at that point I didn't want to stay in the recruitment industry because the recruitment industry was saturated and clients were focused on getting the lowest agency fees possible," explains Ntuli. At that point, she decided to form a separate company, and Busi Ntuli Communications was born in 2003.

The new creative agency used the same resources as the recruitment agency but offered different services. Her multimedia design staff could do design work for all marketing channels, including print, online media and outdoor advertising. The business grew to the point where Ntuli decided to close the recruitment agency and only operate Busi Ntuli Communications, offering everything from 360 strategy development to implementation.

I am empowered when I network with other entrepreneurs and realize I am on par with everyone else. — Busi Ntuli
"We do a lot of creative branding design work, marketing materials, and digital advertising and can provide services across all types of media platforms,” she said. The four current services areas are communication advisory services, branding and design, media planning and buying, and radio and television.

Focusing on the Private Sector
To date, the client base of Busi Ntuli Communications consists mostly of government entities.

One of its larger clients is the National Treasury. The agency developed a 360-advertising campaign for retail savings bonds to encourage black South Africans to save. It was a two-prong campaign. One part consisted of a call to action. The second part was a radio drama in which a woman owned a bakery and would talk to customers about the importance of saving and the various ways to save money. The campaign has run for three years and was recently renewed for another three years. The agency does everything in-house except for printing, including radio productions.

Networking continues to be one of the most effective strategies for business growth. Ntuli met Cummins representatives through her membership in the South African Supplier Diversity Council (SASDC). She is not hesitant to say that her agency does some business with Cummins but would like more. That led to a discussion about the challenges of being a black woman who owns a business in Africa. Her responses are honest.

“The government is working to give business to black women-owned firms, but we are the majority in South Africa. Corporate Africa is still not stepping up and has the attitude that black businesses probably do not have the right amount of resources,” Ntuli said.

She notes that in places like the United Kingdom, minority suppliers are given opportunities because the majority are doing well, but the minority businesses need help.

“In South Africa, it’s the opposite. The minority are okay, and the majority needs help,” she explained.

Her perspective is that her company can successfully do business with a large agency like the National Treasury and other government agencies. So, what should stop her from doing business with corporate South Africa and corporations around the world?

“It’s the challenge of lack of trust. I have gained clarity about my company’s status and abilities by attending programs like the MSDUK annual conference and getting involved in programs like Dartmouth’s Tuck program. I am empowered when I network with other entrepreneurs and realize I am on par with everyone else,” Ntuli said.

Embracing Change
Attending the Tuck program was an important step for business growth.

“It didn’t make me entrepreneurial because I have always been so. It did show me the things I am doing right and the things I need to review. I learned to embrace agility, change, and opportunities, and to think global,” Ntuli says.

Tuck helped her think bigger, be more confident she was on the right business track, and not be afraid of making changes in terms of strategy and operations. She no longer believes she must hang on to business strategies or activities just because they were started a long while ago. Her philosophy now is to make decisions that benefit the agency and its staff, and to also do social good at the same time.

The MSDUK 2018 Conference inspired Ntuli to broaden her network and to dig deeper into the direction of her company by using key learnings. She has ambitions which include becoming a global and respected company. Her role model is Oprah Winfrey but not because of the celebrity’s success. Ntuli likes Oprah’s humility, personality and down-to-earth approach.

She also believes the best traits of a good leader are a willingness to surround oneself with people who sometimes know more and a willingness to constantly learn. A good leader is also flexible.

Ntuli is an entrepreneur who has overcome numerous challenges and has proven her ability to grow a successful company. What she needs now is for the global corporate world to give her equal opportunities to do business.