#10Q: Nino Naidoo on giving women a strong voice

The Duke Group has launched Duchess, headed up by industry stalwart, Nino Naidoo. Duchess is committed to connecting industry needs and ideas with a network of production specialists, giving first option to female experts. It manages all production – digital, electronic and print, as well as art buying and packaging. Current clients include, amongst others, Pepsi, Jive, Citadel, Webafrica and RisCura. The business will also be guided by a non-executive, independent Brains Trust of other powerhouse women, who are passionate about empowering other women and will provide a mentorship and advisory role to the Duchess members. In addition to its BEE and female-empowerment credentials, a percentage of all Duchess profits will be invested in a unique Trust for the development of women, or individuals who identify as women, within the advertising and communications industry.

1. What is your strategy with the launch of Duchess?

I come from a production background and have been in the industry for over 25 years, having started out as a receptionist at Hunt Lascaris and worked my way up. In all that time there has always been a lack of female talent in our industry and Duchess has been created with the intention of changing the status quo.

2. How will you create change through this new brand?

Duchess is about opening a door and creating a space where skilled women in our industry can shine and do what they do best, thus making it possible for transformative and lasting change. Having women throughout the business and choosing to work with women, not only throws a spotlight on highly skilled and talented women in our industry, but it will automatically give us a female-oriented perspective with which to view the work and hopefully help to change perceptions.

3. Explain why we still need to be deliberate in the inclusion of women in the advertising/brand ecosystem?

There might be laws in place that regulate the employment of women of colour in our industry, but the reality is that women don’t have the recognised voice that is afforded our male counterparts. We cannot expect women to perform to the same standards as men if we aren’t taking into account their roles as mothers, family carers and the overall pressures of being a woman in this country. Creating a comfortable space that empowers women in ALL areas not only acts as a springboard for them to excel in what they do, but it also takes away from the intimidation faced from wanting to tend to their daily responsibilities. As females employing other females, we will have a thorough understanding of all the demands placed on them and we will be able to provide the best possible work solutions to suit their needs both in the work ecosystem and outside of it.

4. Your biggest trend for this year or the next decade in your industry?

Following the Covid lockdown where we were all thrown into the deep end working from home,  whilst at the same time managing kids and keeping the home running, more workplace flexibility and empathy for the needs of women in the workplace has definitely become more apparent.

5. What is the legacy you wish to create overall?

I hope that through Duchess I’ll be able to give women real opportunities and representation in our industry.

6. Your proudest career moments to date?

Being a co-founder and partner in DUKE was an extremely proud moment for me and now launching Duchess and branching out with my own unique business within the group, definitely ranks as one of the proudest.

7. Do you have a life philosophy that drives you?

Get up. Dress up. Show up. Always be present. Learn and unlearn. Have fun – dance like no one is watching. Love unconditionally.

8. How do you inspire others professionally?

I’d like to believe that the loudest voices don’t get heard. I try to recognise fresh ideas and hard work and then give my team the platform, confidence and freedom to take that piece of work further.

9. What has motivated you during these unusual times?

My family has always been my greatest motivator – I have twin daughters for whom I always aim to be a positive role model. Knowing that they are looking to me as an example, always keeps me going.

10. What is your superpower?

I’d like to think that it is resilience and kindness.