LEBO Motshegoa

Cashing in on culture

LEBO Motshegoa started his first business in a room in his yard in Orlando East, Soweto. It is fitting then that the advertising entrepreneur finds himself selling kasi (township) culture 15 years later as MD of his own multimillion-rand research firm, Foshizi.

Motshegoa studied marketing at AAA. As a student he set up a website, SowetoRocks.com, with the idea of publishing photos, videos and music as experienced by those who work and play in informal settlements.

“It was more about passion than generating income,” Motshegoa says. But it wasn’t long before SABMiller asked to use his website to promote its products. Soweto Rocks soon began to generate an income.

Motshegoa’s experience in the advertising industry includes time at Saatchi & Saatchi and Lowe Bull. He also worked at YFM, where he won sought-after Loeries awards twice.

But the charm of Soweto Rocks lingered, and it was the spark that led Motshegoa to compile SA’s first township-taal dictionary, Scamto Dictionary. He saw it as a way for people to understand the differences within black communities. Scamto fuses Sotho, Tswana, English, Afrikaans, Xhosa and Zulu to produce cross-cultural language, which builds relations, Motshegoa says.

Drawing on its success, he published a revised version, Township Talk, in 2005.

The dictionary has brought other opportunities. Motshegoa had a column called Tsa Kasi in the Daily Sun, which was written using the same lingo.

Township Talk seminars were the next step for Motshegoa, who offered them to companies eager to understand the emerging black consumer market. This includes trends within the LSM 3-8 market, as well the black middle class.

Foshizi, a mass market research & strategy agency established in 2004, is named after an American slang term meaning “for real”. It provides insights on black consumers — and every now and then it gets unusual requests. It was asked to conduct research for the Oscar-winning local film Tsotsi. Motshegoa spoke to thieves to understand how they identified targets, and the insights were used to market the movie.

Initially, he managed Foshizi during the week and continued to run Soweto Rocks over weekends. Eventually, when Foshizi placed more demands on his time, he handed Soweto Rocks to PR and journalism students from Soweto to make their own.

He also moved the business from Soweto to Fourways.

But Motshegoa didn’t stop there. A few years on, he set up a different business called Matchboxology, with four partners. His role in the business was short-lived, but it had a number of highlights.

The company raised eyebrows when it replaced Hector Pieterson, in the famous June 1976 photo, with an image of a child with HIV/Aids. The image sought to depict the new reality for youth: avoiding HIV/Aids, instead of dodging bullets.

A later campaign tackled teenage sex. But Motshegoa left Matchboxology to focus on Foshizi. His clients have included Coca-Cola, Standard Bank, MTN, DStv, Toyota, KFC and Nando’s.

He also has his sights on growth in other African countries, where the appetite for SA culture is high, he says.

Foshizi generates income of R10m/year and employs 31 people.

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