The Company We Keep is a column on the CN&CO blog that profiles some of the most interesting people in our networks. Here we share the details of the lives of people we know, showcasing the extraordinary diversity of our society and proving that people truly are at the heart of everything we do.
This month’s instalment is by CN&CO’s newly appointed deputy chair, Carly Barnes, who has just left her job at EasyEquities to go and work at a fintech start-up in Cape Town. She also recently got engaged! Here’s her story…
By Carly Barnes
My nursery school teacher wrote in my report card that she thought I would be a ballerina one day. She also noted that I often stuck gold stars on my own forehead when I thought I had done a good job of something. Back then I thought that I would be an extra-terrestrial investigating FBI agent like Agent Scully from the X-Files. Turns out we were both wrong, but a little bit right as well. I’m a curious and creative soul with an affinity for the stage and telling stories.
Before I started applying those skills at my job as EasyEquities Brand Manager, or rather brand goddess which is my official title, I set out to give Beyoncé a run for her money. I studied music and acting at AFDA and my major was musical theatre. While I was still at varsity I earned extra money doing small acting gigs for corporate events and actually started a business around that concept with two of my acting mates. We ran a successful and profitable business providing industrial theatre concepts, experiential marketing and actors for events. Looking back at that now makes me feel extremely proud and I’m kind of amazed at how brave we were to be able to pitch and win over contracts with major companies when we were really just kids.
That experience taught me a lot of hard lessons about business and also a lot about myself. Even though I had written and performed a one-woman musical comedy which went to the Grahamstown National Festival of the Arts, I knew that I was being pulled in a different direction and had started finding my flair for marketing and creative direction. I went on to do a bit of PR, wrote for a few magazines and worked my way up to deputy editor of Screen Africa magazine. And then, there was Easy.
These chapters of my life and career have been anything but predictable. I have learned so much about myself and found so much joy and fulfilment in what I do. I’ve gone from feeling (like I suspect so many South Africans do) intimidated and nervous about the concept of investing, to empowered and excited about what I can do to secure my own financial destiny. I’ve been able to share this journey with the EasyEquities investing community which is now over 200 000 strong! Tweeting them, meeting them and getting inspired by their absolute tenacity to rewrite the story of wealth creation in our country still gives me goose bumps.
I’ve had some pretty incredible characters play supporting and lead roles in my journey too. Listening to our CEO Charles Savage speak at my first staff meeting at Purple Group three years ago, I felt like I was teleported to Silicone Valley in Google’s HQ or Amazon’s boardroom. The amount I’ve learnt from his vision, strategy and passion is invaluable and it’s infectious. We all catch it when we start here – that ‘EasyEquities-Ness’. The essence and magic that gets us up early, makes us want to push harder and do what it takes to make a difference.
It’s not all magic all the time, of course. Being in a start-up environment, with ambitions that seem impossible and economic challenges that constantly tug at your trajectory. Always thinking on your feet and adapting or changing course because it’s what’s right, not what’s easy. And yet those challenges have in a way been the best part. I’m grateful for the incredible support I receive from my team and mentorship from Carel Nolte, who has kept me from going crazy but at the same time empowered and allowed me to be insanely true to myself.
Every day I have been part of the EasyEquities tribe has been a page-turner, and even though I’m about to close this chapter I feel really good knowing I’ve been able to play my part in the story, which is headed for the history books.
This new chapter of mine is off to whirlwind start – I’m engaged to marry the most wonderful human and talented editor Jack Esterhuizen, who is also on the Jozi Film Festival jury. I love that I still get to play a role and stay involved in the arts, which I’ll get lots of opportunity to do as well now that I am deputy chair here at CN&CO. I am really excited to be a part of this amazing, dynamic team.
I’m also making the move to the mountain after being a Jozi girl for 34 years. I’ll be in Cape Town working with an online lending start-up that services small to medium businesses. I know this is a space I can continue to find purpose and do cool things with and for South African entrepreneurs.
If you had asked me 10 years ago where’d I’d be right now, I never would have guessed that this is where I would be standing. Looking both behind and in front of me though, the view is pretty incredible.