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South African based entrepreneurs, Shakirah Sky Dramat and Wayne Hipe Robertson, recently relaunched THAT Network, a startup, which aims to create a sustainable creative industry by bridging the gap between creatives looking for clients, and companies looking for creatives.
THAT Network offers a resource and platform for aspiring and experienced creatives, such as graphic designers, artists, musicians, dancers and photographers, looking for sustainable work. Network members receive mentorship and potential clients while companies use the site as a resource for finding and hiring creatives for specific projects. We got in touch with co-founder Shakirah Sky Dramat to find out more…
Shakirah Sky Dramat and Wayne Hipe Robertson
Can you let us know how the idea came about for THAT Network?
Wayne and I had been working together on various non-profit projects since 2015, always with the intention of pushing local art and music until one day we realised that we needed a brand or umbrella for our collaborative work to fall under, and so THAT Network was born. We’ve since adapted and changed the concept a few times until we finally found a format that works, and one that really helps us achieve our goal, to help creative people make a sustainable living off their art.
How do you plan to monetise the business? Do artists and business need to pay to sign-up to the site or do you take a service fee on successful partnerships?
THAT Network takes a percentage of all the work we generate for our network members, but every deal is individually assessed and then a percentage is agreed upon between us and the artists. We don’t work with a blanket fee. It’s important for us to know that all of our members are well looked after and happy with our service at all times.
In the future, there will be an admin and /or registration fee for people who want to join our network, but they’ll get a professionally written bio or press kit as soon as they join, so it’s not for nothing. We know that not everyone can afford to take cash out of their pocket, so we’ll have the option to take hold of it from their first commissioned job with THAT Network.
How exactly will you be mentoring artists?
As mentioned before, we take the time to work with the artists on an individual basis, so it really depends on which areas the member needs help. Most of them are great at what they do but lack the business knowledge or aren’t savvy about branding or social media. Others are great at social media but want help with their craft. It all comes down to the specific needs of a member.
Pretty soon though, we are going to be releasing more video content on simple things such as; how to register your work, branding 101, how to pitch your work to clients, etc. Which will be available to everyone and not just our members.
We feel like there just isn’t enough accessible information to young creatives, and if there is, it’s probably really hard to understand and digest. We will be hosting workshops and community events where we talk to aspiring creative service providers and teach them how to go about turning their talents into income.
Al Luke - Graphic Design and 3D Art
Another area of concern for us is that there’s this culture of approaching and treating creatively minded people the same way as everyone else, but the reality is that you can’t treat someone who’s mathematically inclined the same way you do someone who’s musically gifted. I could talk about this point for hours, but it’s one of the areas that I think will set THAT Network apart from other creative agencies - we understand that artists are unique and can’t all just be treated the same. Some work best at night, some work best in silence, whereas others need background noise to concentrate. Some of them need two weeks to read and understand formal documents, but some only need five minutes.
This right here, is one of the biggest communication gaps between corporate and creative - a lot of the time there’s a lack of understanding and empathy for one another which makes working together frustrating for both parties. It’s not their fault, because each party is working from their own frame of reference. At THAT Network, we understand this phenomenon and facilitate these kinds of relationships, making sure that nothing gets lost in translation and that project goals are always clearly understood and met.
SKAM - DJ/Producer
Can anyone join if they fit the categories you specialise in?
Yes and no. What we do is so labour intensive, and we’re a very small team, so unfortunately we can’t take on everyone who applies. We take the time to get to know each members goals and work with them individually to achieve that, which requires a lot of specific attention and can be time consuming. Right now, we’re also trying to achieve a nice rounded balance. For example, we’re flooded with requests from musicians but we already represent so many. For this reason, we’re not taking on anymore musicians until we’ve achieved our goal of having a wider spread network. We are, however, looking for more visual artists to join, such as designers and graffiti artists.
Maybe when the company grows and we have a bigger team, we can look at taking everyone on, but we’re trying to keep our quality of service quite high and don’t want to water that down by biting off more than we can chew.
Mikayla - Dancer
How do you plan to attract potential clients to use the site as a resource to find artists for their particular needs?
It’s all about networking.
It hasn’t been long since you relaunched your site, however, have you had any feedback on the new direction as of yet?
Yes, and people LOVE IT! Most importantly, our team loves it. The beauty of it, is that we’re always going to be evolving, learning and upgrading. When Wayne and I started working on this idea in mid-2016 we had no idea where we were going to end up but it’s evolved so much, and we’re not afraid of taking risks and trying new things. We’re excited to see where this new journey will take us.
Shakirah Sky Dramat
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs wanting to create a start up?
Just do it, and NEVER give up! Don’t compare your journey to that of anyone else because no two circumstances will ever be the same. If you believe in what you’re doing and you’re passionate about it, just keep pushing and it’ll eventually come together. Failure is not a bad thing, it just means you learned how not to do it, which is one step closer to finding the right method!
Where would you ideally like to see the business in five years’ time?
A small office somewhere in the city, with a studio where our members can come hangout and just work and collaborate. A space where our artists are understood and nobody is forcing them into boxes. In five years, THAT Network is going to be a household name for creative and artistic services.
What are you currently focused on?
Getting our company out there. Making people aware of what we do and what we’re trying to achieve. Introducing and re-introducing ourselves. Building trust and proving what we’re capable of.
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