Power couple bag international award for business founded during lockdown

Mirko and Kayla Manfredo. Picture:Supplied

Mirko and Kayla Manfredo. Picture:Supplied

Published Nov 30, 2022


Johannesburg - The Covid-19 pandemic had a global impact on many business operations and posed some serious challenges for many. It completely changed the world of work, with some even losing their livelihoods.

While it was undeniably stressful, some overcame the challenges and leveraged their circumstances to build new and successful businesses. They are now reaping the benefits of being brave and taking on new challenges.

Mirko and his wife Kayla Manfredo started their business in July 2019, at the height of the lockdown, a little over two years later the company they founded, ZenZero Agency, won an international award.

The ZenZero team Picture :Supplied

ZenZero Agency, a Johannesburg-based creative agency has come out top and has won the “Web design specialist of the year” at the 2022 Innovation & Excellence awards in the UK, beating off 1 500 international companies on their way to claiming first prize.

Kayla Manfredo, a qualified graphic designer, found herself with little to do at her workplace when the pandemic struck. She started doing some freelance work to supplement her income. Unbeknownst to her at the time, this would be the beginning of a much bigger project.

Mirko, speaks about the inception of the company.

“Her company graciously said to her that if she wanted to freelance she was more than welcome to. So we were both working from home at this point and we were chatting saying ‘why don't you try the freelancing route and see what comes of it’ even if it brought a little bit of extra income into … Maybe it will bear some fruit so let’s plant the seeds now and see what happens”.

“We started getting some good reviews and I decided to resign from my full-time job and become this company’s managing director, to see how (we) would push this and develop its potential to the maximum,” said Mirko.

Within six months, Kayla took the proverbial leap and resigned from her place of employment and the husband and wife duo concentrated all their efforts on their fledgling business.

The Manfredos brought on two employees as sales persons and their team has steadily grown to seven members.

ZenZero has grown substantially and has a truly global client base, with ongoing projects in the UK, USA, and Africa and an international roll-out across four continents.

Mirko highlights the importance of entrepreneurship in South Africa and points to South Korea as an example of the approach the country could adopt to make entrepreneurship part of the fabric of our society. This approach he believes would go a long way to alleviate poverty and unemployment and ultimately boost the South African economy.

“After the Korean War, South Korea employed a strategy, which was to teach schoolgoing children, the importance of being an entrepreneur. It was drilled into their heads from a young age that being an entrepreneur is exactly what they had to do and not to become an employee,” said Mirko.

According to Mirko, this is one of the areas in which the South African education system is lagging behind in.

He also urges would-be entrepreneurs to put in the work necessary to succeed.

“People need to take it very seriously. If you want to be an entrepreneur don’t treat it like you can just spend two hours on it and hope for the best. There have been many nights when I have not gone to bed there was just so much work,” said Mirko.

Mirko has big dreams for his company and wants to grow ZenZero’s footprint on a global scale.

“We actually within the next five years would like to have an office on basically every continent … and be able able to service these territories with a specific strategy tailored to their individual needs and requirements,” said Mirko.

It’s safe to say one wouldn’t bet against the couple achieving these lofty goals if the first two years of their foray into business is anything to go by.

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