My Friend Ned is a Cape Town based model and character agency which specifically focuses on finding beautifully unusual and enigmatic characters who aren’t afraid to be themselves. Basically it’s a collection of societies beautiful misfits. We chatted to (our new friend) Candice Hatting about their work, Ned‘s new space and the process of starting a creative business.
Please introduce the team behind My Friend Ned.
There’s myself, Candice Hatting. Our newly appointed and amazing Operations Director, Keri Knight. Nosi Nqezo heads up our accounts department. Inspiringly, Nosi actually started as an intern and ended up creating her own position in the company. The newest member of the team is the wonderful Chanel Hurlin, our new junior booker who is also an aspiring actress and TV presenter.
What inspired you to start your own business, and why a model and character agency specifically?
As a Casting Director, it frustrated me that I couldn’t find the type of talent our clients kept asking us to find in any of the other agencies. We constantly needed to street cast to crack it, so we decided to make a book of our own. It was carefully curated with some of our most interesting friends. To grow, we had a big party for our first sign up shoot with a huge keg of beer and hotdogs. Our friends all came along, and their friends, and then more friends of friends. Things got a little wild towards the end, but our photographers Kope | Figgins still managed to do an amazing job.
The idea was to cut away all the smoke and mirrors. We wanted to showcase just the human being in an honest and truthful way. So we shot everyone in white t-shirts, and allowed for very little make up and no Photoshop. I was never much of a fan of test shoots, with loads of make up and unrealistic representations.
So our goal was to strip it all down, and make an agency that was brave enough to let their differences really shine through. The website has since progressed to adding black and white portraits by Caroline Mackintosh as cover photos; it was just something new we wanted to try and we’re really happy with the result. It’s still basic, but just a bit deeper I think?
What’s the story behind the name of your business?
We’d come up with all sorts of goofy names that made us laugh, but nothing really stuck. Everything we thought of felt like people would take too literally, or not understand the inside joke… like ‘Part-Time Model’ from Flight of the Concords.
We eventually let fate decide, by opening up a newspaper, closing our eyes, and aimed for the first sentence we landed on, it happened to be “My Friend Susan…” We each knew a Susan, which felt weird. So we thought of a guy neither of us knew and so Ned was born.
How do you choose the people that My Friend Ned represents? What’s the criteria?
They need to feel unrepeatable.
My Friend Ned recently moved into a beautiful new space. Tell us about the new space and how the relocation has changed the dynamics of your business.
We recently bought an old barn in Sea Point and it was the best thing we’ve ever done. It really changed the game financially as we’ve managed to start our own casting studio called Scout’s Honour, which operates completely separately but on the same premises. The environment is perfect for our type of business and the space is super rustic, historical, and raw. We really love building and shaping it.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in starting and running your own business in South Africa?
You can’t rely on your start-up to make you enough money to pay your rent in the beginning, so my challenge was juggling two jobs before I was confident enough to take a leap into the unknown. It was a struggle and I worked ’till late at night for a long time.
As for doing it in South Africa? I couldn’t have asked for better place to build my company. The people on the streets are so inspiring.
What are the benefits of being a creative entrepreneur?
You get to shape your own company culture and rewrite the rules a bit. I learnt that doing something you love can make you money. The coolest thing about Ned is that it cost R5 to start. We got our first really big commission off a friend of ours who did a paint commercial, with that money we bought ourselves a scanner/printer. We still use that same printer every single day!
What’s a day at My Friend Ned like?
Their isn’t anything typical about a day at My Friend Ned. Every day is different here. The castings bring a whole new dimension of weird and wonderful. We laugh, drink lots of tea and troubleshoot… all day.
Tell us about Scout’s Honour? How does this venture complement the work My Friend Ned does?
Scout’s Honour is a casting studio. Together with my beyond organised studio manager, Simone Giessel and co-casting director Pammi-Joy Oppenheimer, we are such a happy team. I actually love them. Like a lot. It’s a bit of a dream come true to be honest.
Any exciting plans for the future?
My Friend Ned will open in Jozi soon, it’s just about getting the timing right and making sure we’re financially fit for the fight.
Any advice for aspiring creative entrepreneurs?
Make sure you get a good accountant/book keeper before you do anything. They will guide you through many bumpy roads and can help you set up systems way before you get into trouble. We did it with Ned, and have had very few problems with the SARS creeping up on us. You need to be diligent and dorky with that shit. Oh, and make time to do your sums. Be patient, and slowly catch your monkey.
Starting your own business makes you the IT Dept, The HR dept , the cleaner, the big sister, the admin secretary – you are the everyone, so be prepared for that. You’ll never make it if you don’t work hard, and you’ll never make it if you don’t like being all those things either. Be patient and hopefully a time will come when you get to un-learn all those things, and then trust others to do them as well as you can.
My Friend Ned‘s New Home