Cheryl Ingram, Founding Partner of The Digital Media Collective (TDMC), has carved out a niche, showcasing a remarkable journey spanning nearly 11 years. What began as a response to a “do or die” moment after facing redundancy transformed into a thriving business that defied expectations.
As Cheryl reflects on the rollercoaster ride that brought TDMC to where it is today, she shares insights into significant milestones, the unique qualities that set TDMC apart, and invaluable advice for women aspiring to make their mark in the industry. This interview showcases entrepreneurial tenacity, innovation, and a commitment to transparency in an ever-evolving digital landscape.
Hey, Cheryl! Thanks for chatting with us! Can you tell our readers about yourself and your company, The Digital Media Collective (TDMC)?
The honest truth is that I never set out to create what we have today. I found myself being made redundant with a family to support and the decision to try and build my own thing really was that “do or die” moment for me. Today we are knocking on the door of 11 years which I often find hard to believe – it’s gone by in a flash and sometimes still feels like I started just yesterday. But then I look around and find myself on the wrong side of 50 trying very hard to keep a pace with a team of 55 digital natives and that’s when I am reminded of the journey we’ve been on. It’s been a rollercoaster for sure but I wouldn’t change a thing and I’ve loved every single day of TDMC.
Can you share any significant milestones or achievements of your business thus far?
A little-known fact about TDMC is that we were the media partner in the Huffington Post “Stop the Cycle” campaign which ran in 2017. The campaign was nominated for and won 2 Bronze Lion Awards. They still hang proudly on our wall.
More recently, I was a finalist in the 2022 Santam Women of the Future Awards, my fellow Director, Caleb Shepard, was a finalist in the 2023 TransUnion Rising Star Awards and earlier this year, TDMC won the Smarties Media and Marking Award for E-commerce with our Futurelife entry. We took a leap of faith this year (2023) and opened a business in Cape Town so certainly – when I look back over the last few years, each of these milestones is a reminder that hard work pays off and I really am so proud of what we have achieved.
How do you stay motivated and continue to innovate in your industry?
I am surrounded by an energetic team of digital natives. Their energy is infectious so I would have to say that anyone in our team who doesn’t feel motivated by just being at TDMC, is definitely in the wrong job.
What sets TDMC apart from other agencies?
We are a very specialised ecommerce and performance team. Ego metrics (likes and follows) really have no place in our reports and we work hard to educate clients on what meaningful KPIs really are.
We are also very clear with our clients on what it means to be transparent on buying rates and as a result, we make sure that every client owns their ad accounts and we encourage clients to spend time in their ad accounts and in their analytics accounts understanding what we do, how we do it and why we do it. This empowers them to ask tough questions, to make better budget allocation decisions, and to be more educated on channel selection.
Can you share any advice for women looking to enter your industry?
Firstly – make a point of understanding YOU. What makes YOU tick, what gets YOU excited, and where YOUR strengths lie. I use Gallup for this but Enneagram is also a good tool. Once you have a good understanding of yourself, then start to build a team around you with complementary skills. Add people to your team who are excellent at the things that don’t inspire you, who think differently to you, and who challenge your way of doing things. Don’t be scared to hire people smarter than you – ultimately this will stretch you and lift you up and your growth will be immeasurable. You will look back after a while and be amazed at what can be achieved by a team of people who bring something different to the table, each talented beyond measure – maybe even smarter than you BUT ultimately, your smartness lies in putting that team together and the benefit to you and your business will be easy to see.
Getting to know Cheryl:
If I had to choose one person, alive or dead, as my inspiration, it would be… it always was and always will be my dad. Sadly, he passed before I started my business. He was a Head Master here in Durban for many, many years, firstly at Montclair Senior Primary and then Penzance Primary School. He commanded a room. He talked off the cuff with wit, with charisma, and with confidence. He was wise and stern and fair in equal measure. He was a flipping amazing man and I’m just sorry he never got to see me build a business because I know he would have been so damn proud of me.
My favourite hobby is… I don’t really have a hobby but I do love to scroll Instagram. Does that count as a hobby? I’d like to think so (haha) although it annoys my husband. He thinks I have a phone addiction!
My daily mantra is… Control the controllable and let everything else go for there is no point worrying about things that you cannot control.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the HEYBOO readers?
As a Founding Partner of TDMC, I would be lying if I said my goal was to run a business & I certainly never set out to run an agency. But here I am today doing both. The agency world has long been a boys’ club where deals are cut on the golf course & where girls have been little more than eye candy. I don’t cut deals & I’ve certainly never set out to be anyone’s eye candy! As a result, TDMC has, for a long time, flown below the radar as I’ve grappled with feelings of self-doubt while trying to find my space in this industry. Perhaps it was turning 50 combined with TDMC turning 10 that changed things for me because 2023 has been a year of absolute clarity around what TDMC is & who I am.
I trained as a teacher but I’m the first to admit I wasn’t very good. I can teach an A class but I can’t teach an E class. I have no time for people who aren’t interested in learning & I have even less time for people who don’t share their knowledge. I’m a mum & a wife. I’ve always struggled to balance work + family. In fact, I still struggle to find that balance. I’m tough & fair in equal measure; that applies to my team, my daughter & our clients alike. I won’t be bullied. I’m your partner, your advisor – in some cases even your mentor.
Reaching 50 made me realise the importance of saying No. I say No a lot; not because I want to be otherwise but because when I do, it’s the right answer. No to toxic clients, to industry BS, to undisclosed buying rebates, to unfair payment terms, to half-baked outputs & to anything that’s not beneficial to our team or clients. And I say ‘yes’, a lot too. Yes, to doing things differently, to working with brands we love, to clients who appreciate our value & to the fact that we’ve built a business that rivals any global agency. E-commerce & Retail Marketing experts delivering value daily – that’s TDMC!
So, who is Cheryl Ingram? Loyal beyond measure & leaving no stone unturned – the Greatest Showman Lyrics from “This is me” answer that perfectly. “I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I’m meant to be, this is me! Look out, because here I come and I’m marching on to the beat I drum. I’m not scared to be seen; I make no apologies. This is me.”