Please call me inventive

2014-11-09 15:00

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As a graphic design and advertising company owner, Khaya Cokoto (32) saw many of her new clients failing within a few months of starting their own businesses.

Cokoto realised the new entrepreneurs she was helping design logos and websites for in Port Elizabeth could not afford expensive advertising rates on radio stations and newspapers.

Cokoto and her business partner, Sapho Maqhwazima (34), at the X Spark design and advertising agency, came up with an award-winning innovation, UmoyAir, three years ago.

It won the small business development department’s 2014 Technology for Women in Business Award – a R1?million cheque and an all-expenses paid trip to next year’s Global Summit of Women in Brazil.

“We were inspired by the ‘please call me’ on cellphones and decided on voice-activated adverts to reach as many people as possible, including those who could not read,” said Cokoto.

UmoyAir is a free-call advertising system that links advertisers with targeted customers.

Advertisers give free airtime to targeted customers.

Before customers connect to the number they are calling, they will hear a commercial of between 10 and 15 seconds long, and will be given options to hear more about the product or service.

“We knew all about the struggles of starting a business and had to come in and help with affordable advertising. We tested this system last December and made 300 calls. It works perfectly,” she said.

The department’s spokesperson, Noko Manyelo, said the UmoyAir innovation had the potential to grow outside South Africa.

“They came up with something that’s not in the market. The department will walk with her all the way to give its support,” said Manyelo.

Cokoto quit her job as a project manager in the facilities management department of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality in 2007 to start X Spark with Maqhwazima.

Maqhwazima is a trained graphic designer.

Cokoto focused on marketing while Maqhwazima dealt with graphic design. She said UmoyAir had cost them about R3?million to set up over the past three years.

Cokoto said they were excited about the agency’s prospects as they were in the process of signing a contract with a “big client”.

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