Get in touch
Workshop17 Tabakhuis
Cnr of Tabak and Louws
Paarl, South Africa
Ph: +27.68.589.2692
Work with us
[email protected]
Billing enquiries
[email protected]

Building a creative agency from scratch.

Empathy, connection and humility.

As the CEO of a burgeoning creative agency, I’m often asked about the secret behind our growth. To me, it’s not just about strategy or creativity; it’s about fostering a culture that embodies empathy, connection, and humility. These values aren’t mere buzzwords but the cornerstone of our approach to creating an agency that thrives on innovative thinking, design, and storytelling.

I’ve been privileged with the opportunities I’ve had – working for global organisations, learning from industry giants and peers, and understanding the basics of building a successful agency using someone else’s money. Two years ago, at the end of the worst of COVID, I was faced with making a life-changing decision – look for a new job or create my own.

It was a tough but invigorating time…

Empathy – seeing yourself in someone else’s shoes

Growing up and living in vibrant South Africa, I’ve been fortunate to witness diverse perspectives, cultures, and challenges. Life can be polarising for many on the tip of Africa.

Black or white. Capitalism or socialism. Rich or poor. With the world’s highest Gini coefficient, South Africa is a place of extreme inequality.

This exposure has been invaluable in shaping our approach to working with global clients. Our team’s ability to understand and empathise with people from varying cultural backgrounds and business landscapes has been instrumental in creating meaningful connections with our clients.

One of the important lessons I’ve learned along the way is the significance of empathy in our work. Empathy isn’t just about understanding our clients’ needs; it’s about immersing ourselves in their world. It’s about walking a mile in their shoes to truly comprehend their challenges and aspirations. This understanding forms the bedrock of our design thinking approach, enabling us to craft solutions that resonate deeply with our clients’ audiences.

Connection – the human truth

At the core of every remarkable brand, product, or creative concept lies a universal human truth that resonates profoundly with consumers. What is a human truth? Human truth lies in the implied meanings and beliefs that we can’t often articulate but use when making decisions. The world’s most valuable brands tap into human truth to engage with audiences and often serve as the foundation of an organisation’s value proposition and purpose.

At Here Near Next, we know that our success will depend on delivering much more than creative services – it’s about connection; it’s about forging lasting human relationships and shaping the trajectory of all our creative endeavours.

We believe in collaboration, not just as a buzzword but as a driving force behind every project. Our team embraces the diversity of ideas and perspectives, knowing that true innovation comes from the fusion of different thoughts and experiences.

Humility – realistic self-awareness of one’s strengths and limitations

Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

In our pursuit of excellence, we acknowledge that mistakes are inevitable. This is where humility comes into play. Embracing humility allows us to accept our imperfections, learn from missteps, and evolve continuously. It’s this humility that has propelled us to embrace feedback, adapt swiftly, and constantly refine our strategies.

At our agency, we employ design thinking and storytelling as catalysts for transforming our clients’ marketing activities. Design thinking isn’t just a methodology; it’s a mindset that empowers us to approach challenges with a human-centered focus, fostering creativity and problem-solving.

Storytelling, on the other hand, is the thread that weaves together the fabric of our strategies. Through compelling narratives, we connect brands with their audiences on a deeper level, evoking emotions and driving action.

As we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of marketing, I’m reminded of the significance of these values—empathy, connection, and humility. They aren’t just guiding principles; they are the essence of our agency’s DNA.

Ultimately, building a creative agency from scratch isn’t about arriving at a specific future state – the work of building a business will never be done. Fostering a culture that embraces empathy, fosters connection, and humbly learns from every experience will unlock future leaders to take on tomorrow and help our clients find their next.

Thank you for joining us on this journey of innovation, creativity, and the relentless pursuit of excellence.

Tim Gildenhuys
Tim Gildenhuys
Tim is our award-winning creative, co-founder and CEO. Trained chef turned designer-marketeer, Tim spends his time exploring the intersection between creativity, technology, and business. He’s passionate about human-centered innovation and the practice of design thinking in creating a more equal and sustainable world.

Our website stores cookies on your computer. Privacy and Cookie Policy