CANDICE DE CARVALHO
Owner & Director
A digital marketing communications strategist focused on creating competence in clients and passionate about assisting SMEs to formulate a differentiated positioning.
When not listening to audio books on business, podcasts on health and philosophy and watching videos on YouTube on personal development, Candice can be found propagating succulents on her stoep.
- MSc (Med) Human Genetics, WITS
- MSc (Med) Bioethics & Health Law, Steve Biko Centre For Bioethics, WITS
My story: the early years
After completing my Masters degree in Human Genetics, I found myself taking a temporary post with Pleiades Media (what was then Kerry Botha PR); assisting with some of the RSVP management of the media launch of Nintendo’s Wii Fit in South Africa. The job was a drastic change from the long, very quiet hours of researching in a clinical, white laboratory at the National Health Laboratory Services in Johannesburg – waiting for my PCR runs!
I had been applying for jobs in genetics for a few months (even prior to graduating from the Masters programme), always being told that with a Masters degree, I was placed in no-man’s land where on the one hand, I was too qualified for diagnostic roles (laborious, repetitive work which requires a disciplined level of attention to detail and loads of passion – but not really my dream). On the other hand, I was told that I really didn’t have the qualifications (a PHD) or the experience to enter the jobs that were available at the time.
Prior to my ‘temporary’ stint in Public Relations, I had in fact, interviewed and gained a position as research assistant for the Genographics Project for National Geographic – a post that was later taken down due to funding issues.
Meanwhile, my 10-day temp job at Pleiades Media – well, that turned into two and a half years! It was under the expert eye of Kerry Botha and her talented assistant, Sarann Buckby, that I learned the art of media relations.
Interestingly, it took me a while to really understand the meaning of PR and how differently it could be approached by different practitioners. There are the party girls with the black book of contacts and the glass of bubbly perpetually held in one hand; the sturdy (if not un-innovative) firms with multi-national partners; and then there are the media-specialists with a true love for journalism and a deep respect for the goals of business leaders. That was Pleiades Media. I still feel so privileged to have had my thinking shaped in a ‘home’ where there was a genuine love for South Africa – and all her people.
My zeal for current affairs and my passion for social justice issues was ignited! I really thrived with my ‘cell mate’ (her words) Kristi Hansen who’s lazer-sharp eye for the big picture combined with her talent for capturing the details of a story truly made every piece she wrote meaningful – to both media and clients alike.
I entered a dramatic learning curve, and was constantly in the deep end, learning to swim with what felt to me like only one arm band! I caught the ‘digital’ bug during my last year in the agency and started developing digital PR strategies, including one of the first Facebook competitions created in SA for big brands, Ster-Kinekor and Standard Bank MiMoney. Innovative brands would trust us as a team to take them into digital and it was a thrill to implement new techniques such as SEO writing and light-weight Html in 2009. All thanks to our boss Kerry who allowed us to use company bandwidth, time and sometimes even investment to attend multiple online webinars and invest in digital systems such as Vocus.
One of the highlights of my time in that business was launching 46664 Bangle in multiple countries, as part of a team. It was sometimes surreal, speaking to journalists in New York, London and Madrid. However, the most exciting moment happened when the 46664 Bangle ambassador and star of Invictus, Morgan Freeman walked onto the Jay Leno Show and was asked about his special Invictus 46664 Bangle – I nearly jumped out of my skin with excitement! I took a chance by emailing the producers only a few days before, and had been liaising with them to raise this very topic to Leno’s attention.
Overall, my passion for digital PR ran deeper than just 9-5. I would read endless blogs, on Google’s old Blogspot platform might I add, and watch YouTube tutorials before tutorials we a ‘thing’ and YouTubbing was a verb. I remember Bryan Casson, who is at the forefront of SEO and a Google expert, remarking that I was the one person he saw on every ‘new’ platform and the first to adopt any new tech. It was true- going deep into digital was always going to be my path.
At the same time, I received a marketing email from WITS University promoting their Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics. The moment I saw the programme I knew I had to enrol. I had a tough time convincing the admissions that I could leap frog into a second Masters degree when I had no experience in the human sciences, but I am grateful they took a chance on me. I also had to convince the bank to give me student loan – which they partially denied – and I had to put in 6 weeks of unpaid leave from my very busy PR job! Jumping over those hurdles was nothing compared to the challenge of working full time and writing my thesis, but that is definitely a story for another post!
In 2010, Pleaides Media, like so many small to medium businesses at the time, fell on hard times and lost a few key accounts. With the Soccer World Cup excitement exploding all around us, the business was, by contrast, in dire straights and was soon to downsize substantially. I received notice that my contract was going to be terminated – and as a semi-temporary worker I didn’t have many legal rights, but my boss, Kerry, generously offered me the best thing she could – my little white 13-inch MacBook and my 3G dongle.
With R2 500 in my bank account, two weeks notice and those assets, I started Phatic Communications with Sarann Buckby at my side. I didn’t really have time to process what it all meant, but a few months into the business I realised something important. I had always wanted to be in business. I remember talking to my family at a young age about starting a medical practice centre with various practitioners, a wellness centre and a gym… I could hardly have been 10 years old! I mistakenly thought I wanted to be a Paediatrician, but I didn’t want to practice medicine! I just wanted to help people and be in business! I still believe that being retrenched was one of the best things that could ever happen to me!
Despite those childhood dreams of being in business, if it wasn’t for my partner’s gutsiness and intentions to help, I never would have even considered the path of opening a boutique digital marketing agency.
I always believed that I would have to wait until I was a ‘real adult’ to enter business for myself – you know, 40 years old. Turns out that, having just turned 27, I would be kicked from the nest and discover I had wings of my own!
Candice was selected from among applicants globally as one of the inaugral cohort members of Future Females Business School where she incubated her plans to build Easy Ethics CPD.