Levi’s Pioneer Nation | An Interview with Uno De Waal

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Uno De Waal is the publisher and co-founder of Between 10and5, South Africa’s online creative showcase. Uno is one of the selected speakers at the Levi’s Pioneer Nation, which is a conference about inspiring the pursuit of originality, celebrating productivity with purpose fuelled by passion and encouraging the dogged self-confidence needed to thrive.


You’ve spoken a lot about being a creative entrepreneur in the past. How would you define a creative entrepreneur?


Being an entrepreneur is primarily about taking opportunities and creating value from them. I think that the creative angle comes in when you play in creative disciplines, but it’s more about operating in the art sector. That might be quite a narrow definition, but I think it’s how most people understand it. From dance, illustration, photography through to advertising, music and event organising even. I’d say that most entrepreneurs are creative in what they do.


How was Between 10and5 established, and how has it evolved into the platform it is today?


10and5 started mainly as a site to gather our friends’ work and put it in one place. I was doing a lot of research work at the time and I needed a place to collect all the info I was finding (it was specifically advertising). As the volume of content grew more people joined the team and we branched out into other areas too. I knew that we couldn’t sustain a business from only ads on the site and that we had to flip the business to do something different with a higher value, and that’s where we started our content production business. We are also always on the lookout to create new channels for exposure for our contributors. We try and broker exposure deals with other bigger publishers or websites to get our content on their sites.


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As the recipient of the 2014 British Council’s creative entrepreneur award, how do you see Pioneer Nation equipping or advancing young South African entrepreneurs?


Pioneer Nation is a great example of showing young people that there are so many interesting career opportunities for you to take. It’s inspiring to see other people start their own businesses and do something that they love. I think it will inspire young people who might have thought about it to do it, but also connect and network with the other entrepreneurs attending.


The 5 year journey of 10 and 5 must have been an interesting one. What have been some of the highlights along the way? And the challenges?


It’s been tricky to manage growth, and to make the move from a part-time side project into a fully running business. We only really moved to become a real business in 2013 and it was difficult to learn how to manage all the different balls one has up in the air. Every time someone tells me that they are a reader of 10and5 and love our content is rewarding, and each time we produce something great we feel inspired again. It’s been a real highlight to see more and more people come to our events too.


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What differentiates 10and5 from other companies operating in the same industry?


We have a very specific view on how and what we publish. Some other sites would publish any press releases sent to them, but we would rewrite them first (if we publish them at all). We have a healthy respect for our readers, which is really important. We also create a lot of our own content instead of copying and pasting articles we find elsewhere. This has really put us apart from most of the other sites I think.


Other than the online publishing platform, what falls under the umbrella of 10and5?


We have an events arm that hosts regular exhibitions and talks, but our main business is actually in creating online content. Our custom publishing business is very squarely focused on the arts and creative industry and we’ve done some great work for brands.


How do you align Uno the “adrenaline junkie” with Uno the “brains behind the business”?


Being the brains behind the business allows me to do the adrenaline junkie stuff! It means I can take the time off when I want to. I think it’s important to always have a side project. For a long time 10and5 was my side project, but it’s now my main thing. I’ve recently started a new website with some friends that documents our adventures which now serves as the side project.


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Embracing the mantra “each 1, teach 1”, what are some of the lessons you have to share with the South African youth?


Don’t hesitate to start a business. You can always start something with very little capital. I think the sooner you start the better as you get feedback so quickly. You will learn more from 6 months as an entrepreneur than a year in varsity. Not that it isn’t important to study further, but you’ll get to focus pretty quickly. It also teaches you a lot about the customer.


What’s the most valuable piece of advice you would give to the attendees coming to Pioneer Nation in terms of embracing originality, sustainability, self-confidence and hard work. In other words, what is a true Pioneer?


It’s often said that overnight success is the result of years of hard work. And it’s true. 10and5 has taken 5 years to really get off the ground. We aren’t an overnight success and I invested a lot of time and money into it in the early days because I knew that it was something I believed in, as did the team that has helped it grow. Have the ability to stick through with an idea that you have and you’ll be a pioneer.


What are you most looking forward to at the Pioneer Nation festival?


I’m really looking forward to some of the other speakers. They are voices that you wouldn’t normally hear on a stage elsewhere, and I think it’s an important platform to get those voices out.


What can we expect from 10and5 going forward? Do you have plans to branch out in any ways?


We’re working on some new exciting ways to deliver content to our audience, as well as expand that audience in new markets. We think there’s a gap in the publishing industry for what we’re doing, so we’re pretty excited to see where we can take it.


Follow Uno on Twitter @Unodewaal


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This interview is part of a collaboration between us at 10and5 and the Umuzi Photo Club’s #P50 students, who interviewed and photographed a selection of creatives who will be representing at the upcoming Levi’s Pioneer Nation Festival.


This interview was conducted by Keneilwe Motshoeneng, with photographs by Farazanah Caster.




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