#AgencyFocus: 100% women-owned agency uses trust as currency

04 June 2018

#AgencyFocus: 100% women-owned agency uses trust as currency

by Carey Finn (@carey_finn) With new blue-chip accounts, birthdays, a designathon and a merger on the cards, 2018 is shaping up to be an exciting year for Colourworks. Founder and CEO, Lesley Waterkeyn, hopes that it’s further onward and upward from here.

Despite a sluggish economy, the agency (which turns 20 this year) has managed to sustain strong growth above the 20% mark. “We’ve had a couple of very good years,” says Waterkeyn. “We’ve had incredible top-line growth for the last five years, and I’m anticipating that it will continue — though maybe not at quite the same rate.”

Lesley Waterkeyn ringing bell

Lesley Waterkeyn, founder and CEO of Colourworks


She attributes the growth to both the company’s veteran status and agility in the industry. “We believe that we have some sort of mastery and, because we’re still a relatively small agency, we’re also very agile,” she explains. “We can go with the demands of the market, and we’re fast — we pride ourselves on quick turnaround times and on getting results, and we really position ourselves like that.”

It’s this combination that has won Colourworks a number of high-profile projects, including FNB’s 2017 Tap into Summer activation, which the agency designed in just six weeks and successfully rolled out at Engen stations along the N1, N2 and N3 in time for the holiday rush.

“Nothing’s too big or too small; we make a plan,” says Waterkeyn — and the agency prides itself in not seeing anything as too early or late, either. This attitude helped it to secure Sanlam’s 1000 days to 100 years campaign, which is counting down to the financial provider’s centenary on 8 June 2018.

“Three years ago, we were proactive in identifying that it was going to be 1000 days to Sanlam’s 100th birthday, and we pitched to them,” she explains. “We then waited and waited to hear if they liked it and, two months before the 1000-days mark, they said yes, yes, yes, let’s go!”

Vote of confidence

Sanlam then led Santam to Colourworks, adding another strategic account to the agency portfolio. In another vote of confidence, it beat 18 bidding agencies to scoop the General Electric account in Africa in March this year.

Waterkeyn puts its Fortune 500 win down to being an action agency — and to being 100% women-owned in a future that is undeniably female.

Colourworks currently has 27% black female ownership but that, she says, is going to change. “Our goal is to be 51% black-women-owned by the end of the year.” As part of achieving that, Colourworks is busy finalising a merger. While nothing may be announced officially yet, the move is expected to strengthen its footprint in Johannesburg and countrywide.

This, together with further growth in revenue, is a major objective for the coming 12 months. The agency counts making a success of its 67 Logos Designathon as another. A charitable initiative in honour of what would have been Madiba’s 100th birthday, the project will see Colourworks partnering with top designers to create 67 logos for 67 startups in need of a boost.

Waterkeyn says that this project is an important part of its commitment to doing work that matters. Meaningful interactions, passion and trust are the cornerstones of the agency’s multiple successes — as well as that of its leader.


In November last year, Waterkeyn was one of five South African entrepreneurs to take home an award from the International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge Foundation, which she collected in the US on her way back from the finish line of the New York Marathon. In the same month, the agency was awarded Bronze at the New Generation Awards for its work on Sanlam’s graduate recruitment programmes.

2017 might have brought with it milestones both personal and professional, but 2018 has even bigger things in store.

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