Blacksmith Collective is an innovative production collective specialising in content creation and creative problem-solving. The company was founded by creative entrepreneurs Diogo Mendonça and Marcus von Geyso.
They have worked with top international brands, including Castle Lite, Castle Lager, Opel, Budweiser, Shell, Corona and Visa, and have collaborated with some of the biggest agencies in the industry, such as Ogilvy & Mather South Africa, King James II, Joe Public, Isobar and TBWA.
“We partner with the very best creative minds and experts, from film and photography specialists to brand strategists and even engineers, allowing us to adapt to specific project requirements,” says von Geyso. “It’s a unique business model focused on making the client’s vision a reality through true collaboration that focuses on upholding the integrity of the work.”
According to Mendonça, this also offers creatives a platform to work with some of the biggest brands across industries, with teams ranging from between 5 to 50 creatives at times.
“Having access to a vast network of creative professionals when trying to solve a creative problem definitely adds a lot of dimension to our work, ensuring our ideas are always current,” says Mendonça. “We spend a lot of time researching our creative teams to find the best fit for the job at hand and grow our vast creative network with a variety of fresh talent.”
As the Managing Director at Blacksmith Collective, Mendonça oversees the day-to-day operations of the business, maintaining client relationships and sourcing new business opportunities. He is also creatively involved, taking on the role of Executive Producer in the production process.
Executive Creative Director at Blacksmith Collective, Marcus von Geyso, is responsible for managing the creative conceptualisation and execution of a project from start to finish, ensuring the final product exceeds the client’s creative requirements. As a professional film-maker and photographer, von Geyso plays a central role in creative production, but – true to Blacksmith Collective’s collaborative spirit – is also involved in the management of the business.
Mendonça and von Geyso met while working at Ogilvy & Mather SA, and realised their shared entrepreneurial spirit and vision for a creative platform that knows no bounds. With their combined experience in the advertising and production industries, the pair decided to start their own collaborative platform, that is capable of dynamically scaling up or down depending on the nature and demand of a client’s brief.
“We established Blacksmith Collective to find solutions to the creative problems clients face. Having a pool of creative talent to collaborate with allows us to work smarter, ensure a high standard of service and deliver expert executions.” – Marcus von Geyso
Career Planet had some questions for the guys:
- Why did you decide to become entrepreneurs?
Freedom. We wanted to create a business that would allow us to do what we enjoyed and to help shape our own destiny. We have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and when this opportunity came along to start a business that could potentially disrupt an industry, we both grabbed it. We enjoy innovating and pushing the limits of what’s possible. Starting a business was our way of being able to create the careers we wanted. We felt that the advertising industry was going through a change and we wanted to be one of the companies driving the change. This change can be seen in how people work, how clients brief and what they require, now more than ever, a company that can service all their expansive, creative needs. We address this by running a decentralised creative collective, so our resources and creative inspiration is virtually endless.
- Describe your business
We are a production collective specialising in content creation and creative problem solving. We have a vast network of creative and strategic specialists across the South Africa and the world. We build specialised teams to deliver on our client’s unique briefs. We know that we can’t do everything, but we might know someone that can, and that’s where the magic is.
- Did you need a qualification to start this business?
We did not need any qualifications, but Diogo and myself do have degrees. This helped us get our first jobs in the advertising industry at Ogilvy and Mather Johannesburg. This is where we met and decided to create our own business. It opened a lot of doors early on in our careers and now we rely on what we’ve learned to shape our thinking and our understanding of the various industries we work in. Our degrees taught us how to think more than anything else.
- What, and where, did you study (if anything) to get into this career?
Marcus studied BA Information Design at Tuks where he got his Honours degree. Diogo studied a Bcom Finance and Marketing degree and then went on to get his Bcom Honours in Marketing, both from UJ. Diogo also has a Digital Marketing certification through Vega.
- What was your biggest ‘break?’
Our first big project for Castle Lite. We’ve cultivated some great relationships since our first project. Word has spread that we deliver great quality work consistently. We are very proud to be working on six of the high-profile brands in the ABinBev stable.
- What do you LOVE most about your job/career?
The challenges and the level of creativity we need to cultivate. We love being challenged with new briefs that have interesting requirements. We enjoy solving these briefs, sometimes in very unconventional ways. We also enjoy meeting creatives from all walks of life and working with these creatives. Everyone thinks differently and that helps drive our creative culture. Everyone learns from everyone.
- What are the main challenges you face in this job?
Managing all the moving parts and maintaining a high level of quality across all the brands we work on. Making sure the quality that Blacksmith is known for is carried all the way through each of our projects.
- What has been your proudest moment as an entrepreneur?
Our media launch was definitely a highlight. It felt like we started to do something right and we had a moment to present our company to the South African public. We had been working on the company for about a year before we felt that we were ready to present ourselves to the greater public. It was a massive success and helped drive the company to where it is today.
- What is the main ingredient for your success?
Drive and always focusing on the work, no matter what. We make sure that there are no ego’s in our business and we all do what we must to deliver great work. When the work comes first, it is amazing how people pull together towards a common goal. There is immense power in cultivating an environment that places the work as the focal point.
- Do you have any tips for young entrepreneurs?
Be realistic with yourself and ask yourself what you really enjoy doing. You need to pursue something in business that drives you. Don’t do it for the money, the money will be a by-product. Having passion for something is most important, you cannot fake passion. Passion is what will drive you through the hard days. If you don’t enjoy it, it will be a battle every day. You might still reach success, but it will be a lot harder”.
“Nurture your network. Speak to as many people as you can and introduce yourself. Don’t always sell yourself to people, if your work is good they will come knocking, but they need to know you first.”