Meet a vibrant marketing guru who took a big jump leaving the corporate world in order to start her own business. Karen Welgemoed wanted to have the flexibility of raising children while still working, and is full of inspirational advice
story katrine anker–nilssen
Karen is married to Shaun, a retail and commercial property developer, and they live in Kloof with their young daughters Peyton and Taylor. Also part of the family are Shaun’s older children, Christina and Eythan, who are both currently studying at Tuks.
After attending Durban Girls’ College, Karen did a BComm (PPE) at UCT. “I soon realised I didn’t want to become an economist, so I enrolled in the UCT Post-Grad Marketing Degree programme,” she says. “And that’s where my passion for marketing began – I just love its ever-changing and evolving nature.”
That passion, along with pressure, is what makes Karen tick. “I truly love what I do – coming up with new marketing ideas and seeing something transform from a concept to the executed product. I enjoy finding new ways to connect with people to get a message across,” says Karen, who often has multiple campaigns on the go.
Through years of marketing in Durban for big companies such as Gateway Theatre of Shopping and uShaka Marine World, Karen eventually tired of corporate and wanted to help medium and smaller businesses with their marketing efforts. “I needed to challenge myself to come up with marketing campaigns on a tight budget,” she explains. “Through passion to continue in the marketing realm combined with wanting to be my own boss and having the flexibility to raise my kids, Goldfish Communications was born.”
“My first client was the Durban Ice Arena, who was at the time undergoing a massive refurb to expand the ice rink,” says Karen. “I was thrilled, and having insight into the world of ice-skating through my mother and older sister, plus strong experience in tourism, I knew this would be an exciting first project to sink my teeth into.”
Fortunately, Karen had made many contacts in corporate, which is exactly where she started her client search. “Through my vast connections, I was contacted by other suppliers whose clients were looking for marketing specialists to assist in their businesses.”
Seven years later, Goldfish’s clients include Granny Mouse Country House & Spa, Rugs Original, Liberty Midlands Mall and many more. Initially, it was just Karen and one contracted designer, but there’s now a team of five. “For a small team, we produce an insane amount of work,” says Karen proudly.
“To be honest, I don’t think I truly realised my full potential until going out on my own,” says Karen. “I think you get complacent in a corporate job because you don’t have to worry about day-to-day things like cash flow, managing staff and client expectations.”
“When it’s your own business, you have to think on your feet and keep working on it – making sure you have enough business should a client suddenly terminate your contract. It’s about keeping the balance between current delivery and forward planning.”
Inspiration also came from a previous boss, who one day very casually told Karen she was one of the best and most knowledgeable marketers he had known and would make a success of whatever she did.
“He was an amazing boss, never questioning my decisions, and was key to my development in the marketing space. I thank my lucky stars I got to work under him,” said Karen.
While coming up with campaign ideas is the most exciting part of Karen’s business, juggling being a wife, mom, boss and worker is tricky. “Thankfully I have an exceptionally supportive and hands-on husband, who is often left with morning or weekend duty as I rush off to an event,” she smiles. “When I’m not working weekends, we love spending time together as a family. You have to make quality time, as the time quantity is often limited.”
Karen wants to see Goldfish grow, but not too large. “I want to keep our client service and delivery levels high, I never want our clients to just be a meal ticket. We are truly invested in their businesses.” Karen also wants her kids to see that they can do anything they set their minds to, and that with hard work they can build themselves a spectacular life. “As a woman, you don’t have to have a career or kids – you can have both!”
*083 777 2985, www.goldfishcommunications.co.za
Karen’s advice to marketing entrepreneurs:
- Don’t give up! Being an entrepreneur can be lonely, and you will have days where you wonder why on earth you quit your constant salary-paying job.
- Be realistic. If you have a clear vision for your business and are prepared to work hard, it will come. Get used to hearing the word “No”, as you will hear it more often than “Yes”. But stick to it and keep the faith.
- Keep learning. The marketing landscape is always changing, and you need to make sure you change with it. Surround yourself and create relationships with other people in the industry, and you will be amazed at what you can learn.