How to wear the multiple hats of a business owner with ease

How to wear the multiple hats of a business owner with ease

By Emma Donovan

Posted on 7th May 2019

As a business owner, you have to wear multiple hats and learn to focus on the ones that are most important right now – acknowledging that they will change along the way. As we approach Yellow Door’s fifth birthday, my top two are securing new clients and leading strategy workshops. In this blog post I’ll unpack this a bit further, share some tips that keep me on track.

My new business director hat


About 14 months ago we decided to focus on attracting not just bigger clients, but the right clients. Clients that share our values and want a strategic marketing partner to add value to their business over time.


I spend more than half of my time on this – and no two days are the same. It ranges from coming up with ways to improve our offering and how we position Yellow Door to networking, meeting potential clients and pouring over spreadsheets!


It’s taught me to have patience, to have courage and to really play to my strengths of woo, ideation and communication.

My strategy hat


This is how I feel when I wake up to run a strategy workshop! In fact, I love everything about them:


  • Collaborating with brilliant minds – our clients, our team and often a consultant or two to bring a fresh perspective
  • Quality time – phones are off, and the rest of the world can wait
  • Thinking on my feet – we often go off script, and that’s when the magic happens
  • Creativity – whether it’s a brand story, a marketing plan or a campaign; it’s starting with a clean slate and crafting something new
  • Discovery – we get to learn about an array of industries, suggest ways to incorporate new trends, and improve our offering along the way

Four more hats

In a typical day at the office I also wear hats of an editor, mentor, partner and planner. And the secret is to get the balance right between them. It takes practice, and is a work in progress, but here are seven tips that have helped me to stay sane:


  • Start the day with a priority list not a to do list
  • Stay agile
  • Surround yourself with people that you can learn from
  • Ask for help, don’t try to do it all yourself
  • Celebrate the small wins as well as the big ones
  • Set goals
  • Find the balance between the big picture and what needs to happen today


If you’d like to work with Yellow Door or find out more about our strategy workshops, pop me an email: and we can connect over coffee or Skype.

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Whoever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot

Whoever gave you confidence,
you owe them a lot

By Emma Donovan

Posted on 20th March 2019

I’ll never forget my first week of work – despite having a degree from UCT and a year travelling the world under my belt, I had no idea what the real world had in store for me, and it was daunting.

I was lucky enough to be surrounded by people I admired and learnt from every day – with special mention going to Catherine Lückhoff, Janine Langheim, Vanessa Clark and Chris Botha. Each one of them gave me confidence in my ability and encouraged me to pursue my ambition.


Next up, Dom and I established Yellow Door in 2014 and developed a sound business partnership based on mutual respect and appreciation. The strength of this relationship continues to give me the confidence I need to perform my role to the best of my ability.


As part of our approach to develop both Yellow Door and our leadership skills, we get regular input from a number of mentors. Murray Kilgour has been our leadership coach and right-hand man for three years and counting; both our dads (and mums) back us 100% and more recently we’ve started tapping in to the brilliant minds and experience of Flick co-owner Garth Jemmet, eSET CEO Carey van Vlaanderen and Derrick Cape Town creative director and founder Livio Tronchin. 


Dom and I now have the opportunity to pay this gift of confidence forward and develop skills within our team, and also give advice to a couple of bright young entrepreneurs just starting out. I find it incredibly rewarding to share my knowledge and life experience, especially as I continue to learn along the way too.  


Two lovely examples are from Lindsay LLewellyn, who recently did a short internship with us: ‘Emma, thank you for spoiling me with lunch on my last day, for giving me both professional advice and life advice. Thank you for making me feel appreciated.’


And Harry Danckwerts from Moto Health, ‘Thank you so much for meeting up with me and all of the advice. I am really grateful for your time and experience! I have been looking at what we discussed and trying implement as much of it as possible into my business plan!’


So this is a really just a roundabout way to say get out there, approach someone you admire and ask them to mentor you – whether it’s formally or just a chat over lunch once a quarter; and then when you’re ready, start to pay it forward. You don’t need to be an expert to share what you know so far, and it’s amazing how much confidence you can give someone just by believing in them and helping them to realise their dream, one step at a time.

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2018 highlights reel

2018 highlights reel

By Emma Donovan

Posted on 19th December 2018

This year has been an absolute whirlwind! There have been lots of challenges, but each one has come with some form of silver lining, and I’m proud to say that we’re ending the year strong - as an agency, as a team and in terms of our vision for the year ahead.

Here are a few of our highlights from 2018:


What I love is that each one is different, yet they all speak to the fact that we have been inspired, challenged and developed new skills. We have supported each other and become a real family – one that Dom and I are proud to lead and continue to learn from.


So, what does 2019 have in store for Yellow Door? We don’t quite know yet to be honest… but what I can tell you is that we:

– are about to launch our new and improved website

– plan to facilitate more strategic workshops (for current clients as well as new ones – pop me an email to find out more:

– will continue to collaborate with like-minded agencies and creatives that complement our marketing products and services.

– intend to tackle each day with purpose and strive for a sense of fulfilment in everything we do.


We’d also love to hear what you want to see more of, or have us add to the mix, so post a comment and let us know.

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You service your car, right? What about your brand…

You service your car, right? What about your brand…

By Emma Donovan

Posted on 7th November 2018

If your brand was a car, what would it be? How often would you service it or buy new tyres? And when would you trade it in, possibly for the next model of the exact same car, just with better fuel consumption or a little more space in the boot? There is no right or wrong answer here, but those of you who own a car will probably agree that it’s better to service it regularly, rather than wait for things to fall apart.

So, what does this have to do with marketing? Our approach at Yellow Door is to be agile, adapt to trends and offer solutions to clients’ challenges before they even know that they exist. Just like the car mechanic who calls to say they need to replace your brake pads in a routine service.


One of the trends we’ve noticed recently is brands taking their marketing in-house. And we get it – budgets are tight and young, dynamic team members can take on a lot of the work.


But when last did you really take stock of how things are going, and anticipate what will happen next? What are your KPIs? And have you mapped out a high-level strategy for 2019?


When you’re focused on running your business it’s often tricky to find the head space to look at the big picture; but it’s crucial to stay on top of your game.


So, what’s the solution? We’d love to say we can clone you, or magically create a few extra hours in your day… but we’re currently based in Cape Town not at Hogwarts, so I’m afraid it’s going to have to be something a little more practical…


The good news is that we’ve come up with a marketing product that may be part of the answer – based on our belief that a fresh perspective and expert insight are key to continued relevance and matching industry benchmarks.


If we go back to our car analogy, think of it like going in for a service: your car (and your marketing) may just need a few tweaks; sometimes there is a bigger issue to resolve; and you eventually get to a point where it makes sense to invest in a new model altogether!


But I’m getting side-tracked and dreaming of my next car… so back to the marketing audit. Our objectives are to: 

·         Analyse what’s working and how to improve on your current marketing efforts

·         Suggest what else to incorporate or focus on

·         Give practical tips to implement these changes

·         Advise what to do in-house, and what to consider outsourcing


To keep the process as streamlined and effective as possible, we have come up with a simple five step process, which includes:

1.    An online questionnaire for you to complete

2.    Lots of research done by the Yellow Door team

3.    Feedback and practical ideas in a Word document

4.    A discussion via Skype

5.    A final strategy document which incorporates your feedback.


We’ve had great responses from clients so far, including Steph Herscovitz from The Wellness Web, a kinesiologist based in Perth, Australia: “It gave me new inspiration, ideas and direction. Having a holistic marketing strategy is something that often gets pushed to the side, yet it should be a priority in every business and doing this process reminded me of that. It was really refreshing having someone from outside the business look in and give me constructive feedback.”


We also did an audit for Conservation Travel Africa based in Zimbabwe, and Jane Palmer had the following to say about it: “Yellow Door’s marketing audit gave us an invaluable insight into our current branding, social media and online activities. Their identification of our business challenges and suggestions for solutions and strategic improvements far exceeded our expectations. They have enabled us to focus on our core areas and develop an ongoing action plan.

As an agency, we have found them to offer a great mix of creativity, professionalism and personal touches.”


And that’s what it’s really all about for us – personal relationships, a professional approach and out-the-box thinking. We love collaborating with our clients and working with them to get the right mix of in-house and agency work done. Email us at if you want to find out more, or if you’re ready for us to take a look under the hood of your brand

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7 Steps to master the 80/20 revenue model

We are often so focused on new leads that we forget to master the art of upselling and cross-selling. To generate more income from existing customers you need to focus on quality over quantity, and be strategic in your approach. Here are seven steps to help you on your way.Understand what you want to achieve

When you upsell, you encourage customers to buy a higher-end product or service than the one in question – such as an airplane seat with more leg room. Whereas cross-selling tempts customers to buy related products that satisfy additional, complementary needs. A simple example is when you check out of an online store and the shop tempts you to buy similar or complementary products that you suddenly just can’t live without!

Tip: Identify which one makes sense in your business, and what the additional or complementary offering will be.

Nurture relationships

Long-standing relationships and loyal clients are worth their weight in gold. Make sure they know they will remain a priority, even when you are busy with bigger or more profitable projects.

Constantly over-deliver and exceed expectations. Make yourself ‘irreplaceable’. 

Provide solutions

Don’t presume you know what your customers want or need – do your homework and ask them. You need to understand their hopes, dreams, fears and challenges. Three simple ways to do this are to:

  • set up regular one-on-one calls
  • catch up over coffee
  • or email them a quick survey to complete.

Add real value

Ask yourself, ‘how can I help this client achieve their goals or overcome this challenge?’ You need to find ways to add real value to make the additional expense worthwhile. Also make sure your pricing is fair and competitive, without selling yourself short.

For example, one of the products we cross-sell at Yellow Door is video content. It’s a key part of a holistic marketing strategy and is a great way to bolster content for launches, social media and newsletters.

Paint a picture

To excel at upselling and cross-selling, you need to help customers visualise the value they will get from the higher-priced item. Whether it’s a 30-second video, an infographic, or a well worded email – take the time to explain not only what the product is, but how it will benefit them or their business.


Offering a reward or incentive can increase your upsell or cross-sell conversion rate. For example, offer free shipping or a discount if the client purchases two or more products or services.

Create capacity

Ensure your team has the expertise and capacity to deliver the relevant service or product at the right standard. Alternatively, find a non-competing service provider to complement your offering and agree on a referral or commission structure. This way you can expand your offering without increasing your overheads.

The key to success is to understand what your customers value and then respond with products, services or features that meet those needs.

Find your passion and learn how to market it

Our co-founder Emma and our happiness coach Tammy Godsall are hosting a workshop together in Harare, Zimbabwe on 12 October 2018. We chatted to them both to find out more:

Who is the workshop for?

Tammy: The workshop is for anyone who wants to live a life of freedom and happiness, being their own boss, doing what they love and making money from it.

What will people attending the workshop walk away with?

Tammy: They will come away with clarity on their strengths, passions, key business stories and values, and how they can begin to turn that into a business and a brand that they love.

Emma: they will also gain the confidence to invest time and energy in to their marketing, with a plan in place and clear idea of what to prioritise.

What will the ‘find your passion’ bit of the workshop entail and focus on?

Tammy: I will be covering my Passion Clarity framework that covers 5 essential steps to take to begin to discover your passion and do the work you love.

What aspects of marketing will you cover?

Emma: the focus will be understanding the big picture when it comes to marketing – where to start and what to focus on. There will also be plenty of time for questions.

What will the take home pack include?

Tammy: An inspiring workbook packed with useful and practical exercises to help them find their passion, plus helpful resources and a 1-1 coaching discount.

Emma: a practical how-to guide for social media, links to relevant articles and a discount voucher for anyone who would like Yellow Door to conceptualise a holistic marketing strategy or build a website for them.

Do I need to book in advance?

Emma: yes, we have limited seats so email to book and pay via RTGS to confirm your spot.

Where will it take place?

Tammy: Bowood Lodge, 8 Bowood Road, Mt Pleasant, Harare

More about Tammy & Emma

What is the first thing you do in the morning?

Tammy: Walk my dog with my husband where we discuss our objectives for the day. J I love being in the outdoors, and being with my favourite people / fur-baby.

Emma: I either swim or run, or write in my journal. I love starting the day with something that makes me happy and clears my mind.

What is your passion?

Tammy: Personal development and learning – I could do it all day every day. I love to then pass on this inspiring information to my clients by creating programmes, talks and through coaching.

Emma: to inspire my team and my clients, and to make the most of every day.

What do you love most about what you do?

Tammy: That I have so much purpose and meaning in my work. That my time here on earth is being used well, that I am using my gifts and talents to help others, that I am being useful and making a difference.

Emma: every day is different. I meet interesting people all the time, and have the opportunity to add real value to their businesses.

Make time for the people that matter most

‘5 ways to keep your business partnership healthy’ was the title of my latest article for Your Business Magazine and is a topic that I’m incredibly passionate about.

I’m going to share the key points with you in this blog post, and give a few examples of how Dom and I implement them here at Yellow Door. Please feel free to comment with questions, or add your own suggestions.

Work on it, all the time

Don’t let life, or work, get too busy to work on your relationship. Make time to catch up outside the office. Lunch at Nando’s, mountain walks and massages are our top three!

Have frank conversations, often. Don’t put off something that needs to be addressed, as the issue will just become exacerbated over time. Also look out for each other, support each other and give constructive feedback. It’s key to stay unified through tough decisions, don’t allow employees or clients to come between you.

Invest in leadership training

Dom and I see a leadership coach once a month and couldn’t think of a better way to spend that time or budget. We get valuable advice and practical suggestions in every single session. This is also a safe space to bring up issues that are difficult to discuss and may need a moderator to solve.

Make sure you implement what has been discussed and agreed after the coaching, and try to tackle challenges together to strengthen your relationship.

Play to your strengths

Identify each of your strengths, what the common ones are, and how to use them strategically in your role and company. Make sure that your roles play to your individual strengths and that each partner is happy with their allocation of work.

Also, be cognisant of your weaknesses and support each other in areas that require it. This Saboteur Test is a great way to identify them, and work on them.

Clearly define your roles and responsibilities

It’s normal and healthy for your roles to morph over time as your business develops – sometimes they will dovetail, and sometimes they will develop in different directions. The important thing is to discuss these changes, how they benefit the business, and how they align with your passions and personal goals.

You should understand enough about your partner’s role to be able to give input, and step in if they are away – but also give them enough space to take ownership of their side of the business. I’m having to put this one to the test while Dom takes a well-deserved break in Europe, and it’s really made me appreciate and understand her role a whole lot better.

Reassess every three-months

Pencil in quarterly meetings to chat about what’s working and what’s not. Set goals and assess which ones have been met, and how to reach the ones that are still just out of reach.

Every day as a business owner comes with a new set of challenges and triumphs, and the most important thing is to learn as you go, celebrate the small things and really appreciate the value of having a business partner that you can trust and depend on.

As LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman aptly says, “No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.”


Live by your values, don’t just list them

We have five core values at Yellow Door: to be authentic, consistent, have a can-do attitude, care why, and last, but not least, to do everything with integrity. In this blog post I look at how and why we make a concerted effort to live by them every day, and not just list them on our website!

3 ways we keep our values top of mind:

  • Ant has designed an icon for each one, and we’ve printed posters to go on the board room wall. Not only is it a stylish addition to the space, but it’s a reminder of what we stand for and believe in every time we walk through the yellow door.
  • We link behaviours, attitudes and the way to tackle tasks back to each one. For example, we put ‘care why’ in to practice when we create a holistic strategy for a new client, by focusing on why the brand does what it does, and how to get this across to their target market
  • We share stories every Friday, for example about how we stayed consistent or embraced a can-do attitude.

To understand the why, we need to delve a little deeper in to each one, and unpack what they stand for, in order to explain why they are central to what we do.


Authenticity means being genuine and transparent. We are a team of real, honest people. We are trustworthy – and we don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk.

From the very early days, Dom and I have been very clear about this one. We want to stand out from the crowd and avoid typical marketing agency traits. We want to attract staff and clients that take the road less travelled, with intention and purpose, rather than just because it’s the scenic route!


Consistency inspires confidence – whether it’s in people, an approach or work done. We instil this in each of our team and come back to it over and over again.

We aim for a consistently high standard of work; and are constantly coming up with ways to raise the bar, expand on our offering, and keep the new improved version consistent!


We believe that a combination of passion, drive and proactivity is a winning combination. We are dynamic in our approach and relentless in our pursuit of success – and find a way to always have fun along the way.

Why? This testimonial from food and wine commentator Michael Olivier sums it up better than I can: ‘YDC is a super team; professional, clever, innovative, and there is a passion – and a sense of humour – about what they do. I have referred clients and friends to them, and will continue to do so.’

Care why

We go beyond the what and the when, to make sure we understand the why.

This keep us curious, ensures we are strategic, and that we really understand each brand we work on, and what they have set out to achieve.


At Yellow Door, integrity means doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances, whether or not anyone is watching. It encompasses sound principles, honesty and trust.

It is a golden thread that runs through everything we do – whether it’s in an interview, or deciding whether a potential client is a good fit for our team.

At the end of the day, long-standing relationships are based on shared values, mutual respect, and a willingness to listen. We are incredibly lucky to have many clients that fit this bill, and look forward to expanding our retainer client list further this year.

What really goes on behind the Yellow Door?

Do you feel confident to give an impromptu elevator pitch for your brand? And what about for someone else’s company?

Most of us are guilty of having a vague idea about what friends and family do, but no real idea of what their job entails or how they add value.

When I consider this with a business development hat on, I can’t help but think of all the missed opportunities and new leads that could come from a casual braai! Word of mouth is such a powerful form of marketing, and one that we often forget about.

So, my challenge to you is to understand what three people do on a day-to-day basis, and why. Then think about how their brand, service or product could be relevant to someone else in your network.

Here is a snapshot of our core offering, to give you an idea of what I mean:

What we do:
Yellow Door Collective is a digital marketing agency. Our services include strategy, project management, design and content creation (for social media and blogs for example). We tell a brand’s story in a way that is authentic and easy to relate to. We refine and develop your brand online, increase engagement with your target audience, and have a positive impact on your bottom line.

Why we do it:
This one is easy: we love what we do. In an ever-changing digital landscape, we strive to learn and develop new ways to stay ahead of the curve, develop our team and go the extra mile for our clients.

What to say around the braai (a third person version of our elevator pitch)
Looking for an owner-managed marketing agency? Yellow Door Collective has a personal, results driven approach, with long standing clients across a number of sectors.

The founders have established a culture that supports their team, built on core values of integrity, authenticity and consistency. They care why and have a can-do attitude.

Right, mini-sales pitch done 😉 But on a serious note – take the time to work on your own elevator pitch and promote the people in your life that you’re proud of. We’re incredibly lucky to live in a city that is bursting at the seams with creativity, start-ups and successful entrepreneurs. Why not support each other so that we can grow our economy together?