#BehindTheNoise: We shine a spotlight on Sonja Myburgh Ellis, brand manager for SA’s most successful band-turned-brand, Fokof Lager

#BehindTheNoise is a campaign that we created and launched last year, specifically for Women’s Month.

The idea of the campaign was to highlight the various superwomen running the many avenues in the music business and industry. I’m talking journalists, radio presenters, bookers, photographers, brand reps and marketing heads…

The more we learned about these spectacular women, the more we realized that there were so many other women whose stories we really thought deserved shining a spotlight on.

So here we are in 2020, with more stories to share, and the next superwoman on our radar is Sonja Myburgh Ellis, Brand Manager for Fokof Lager.

I met Myburgh at Henk van der Schyf’s June 2019 edition of Capital Craft Beer Festival. I could neither kiss nor shake her hand, because she was more concerned about quenching my thirst with an ice-cold Fokof Lager — in that moment, I was smitten.

Months later, I’m sitting across from Myburgh, at Kloof Street House in Cape Town, as she readies to spill all.

She starts with growing up in a small town up the West Coast – Malmesbury. She had no intention of staying there any longer than she needed to, so she made her move to the Mother City to pursue Clothing Management at CPUT, “I got really interested in production of clothes — the systems behind it and the timelines and all the elements that lead to producing a garment, but I didn’t want to work in a factory.”

A young Myburgh spent some time as an office assistant before being shipped off to London to broaden her horizons. I realize that she will have to actually send me her CV, so I can keep up with all the changes — Event Management at VICE Magazine, Brand Ambassador for Sailor Jerry, Presenter at Assembly Radio, PR for Suukie Music (Fokof, Die Heuwels Fantasties, Jack Parow) alongside Louise Crouse, and Activations Manager for Night Vision Marketing.

Everything Myburgh had ever learnt and done, every position she’d ever held down, every partnership she’d made and project she’d ever run, seems to have prepared her for her involvement in one of South Africa’s most successful bands-turned-brands.

I ask her about her now three-year stint as Brand Manager for Fokof Lager, and she’s beaming with pride, explaining, “When I started out 3 years ago the brand was relatively small and just gaining momentum. I was hired to raise the profile in trade and marketing as well as manage the external sales team.”

She’s got a thing for planning and organising, so I ask what her favourite thing is about the job and she doesn’t skip a beat saying, “I honestly don’t think there is anything I don’t like about my job – but I must confess that doing my yearly/quarterly planning is my favourite. I get to clear my dining table and throw down massive sheets of paper, get out all my highlighters, colour pens and sticky notes and just vomit out all my ideas.”

I have never heard anybody speak this passionately about spreadsheets and stationery, but her genuine excitement has me wanting to swing by a CNA for fresh new parchment and a stack of metallic glitter pens.

Apart from working with beer (which lets face it is almost every South African’s dream job) Myburgh gets to work alongside the famed boys from Bellville who changed the face of Afrikaans rock. I’m mildly jealous, but I also want the skinny on what it’s like working so closely with Fokof. “Honestly, it’s really difficult to put into words, since everything about Fokof is a feeling. It hits straight to the heart and I guess that’s what makes it such a massive success,” she confesses.

“These guys work their poes off and are so meticulous about what connections they make and what they put their name to. By curating their circle they manage to avoid assholes and industry pitfalls.”

Myburgh has climbed a good number of rungs on the way up the Fokof ladder, so I ask about the not-so-pleasant, lesson-learning moments in her career. Her response is something that I can completely relate to – managing money and, more importantly, saving. “This was my first and biggest life lesson ever. Save, save, save! Prepare for the future and make sure that you are always secure in your spending.”

When I ask about women in the industry who inspire, she singles out four.

Claudia Moine Voigt, who Myburgh considers, “A powerhouse in production” someone she still learns a lot from. Tecla Ciolfi, one of her best friends who happens to be, “…Inspiring as fuck.” Melanie Rossline Kriel, someone who puts a lot of trust in her abilities and allows her to trust herself, and Tourmaline Berg, an advocate for female empowerment in the industry, “Her work with local female musicians is also inspiring and I love following her progress.”

Myburgh is a woman of many strengths, however my favourite thing about her is her loyalty and her insistence to give credit wherever it’s due. Fittingly, she gives the last mention to the brains behind Fokof beaming, “Wynand Myburgh is an absolute genius and his approach to business and life is like no other. I am eternally grateful that he trusts me with their legacy.”

To celebrate all the epic women who hustle #BehindTheNoise and behind the decks in SA, check out this epic competition we’re running with Strawberry Lips, and you could win your favourite professional DJ a headset and yourself a Strawberry Lips hamper.

Check out Part 1 of #BehindTheNoise with Helen Herimbi.

Check out Part 2 of #BehindTheNoise with Mantsoe Pout.

Check out Part 3 of #BehindTheNoise with Laura McCullagh.