A significant increase in the uptake of young creatives, steady client growth and an expanding footprint has positioned the young and dynamic empowerment agency, Sum of 21 Academy, as a creative force to be reckoned with.

Carmen Gunkel, Sum of 21 Academy Academic & Business Head

Carmen Gunkel, Sum of 21 Academy Academic & Business Head

Essentially Sum of 21 serves as a creative incubator offering a 12-month training platform to young, previously disadvantaged creatives and communicators who already have a creative/tertiary qualification and who want to enter the creative industry.

“The fact that Sum of 21 functions as a fully fledged creative entity and agency, sets it apart from other internship and learnership programmes. It generates real-life marketing/client projects for young creatives and young communicators to work on, thus empowering talented, driven and ambitious youngsters to reimagine their future while bringing fresh ideas and perspectives into the South African advertising landscape.

“Moreover, Sum of 21 Academy is fully in line with the objective of Government’s Youth Employment Service (YES), namely to create more than one million paid internships for mainly black South Africans, between the ages of 18 and 35, over the next three years,” Carmen Gunkel, Sum of 21 Academic and Business Head, points out.


“Since inception and humble beginnings some 24 months ago with only five interns – four on the creative side and one on client service – the intake steadily grew and increased to 20 young creatives and communicators who completed their training programme at the end of April this year.

“Two weeks before the completion of the programme, more than 50% of these young creatives and communicators were already employed. One month after completion, 75% were either placed in permanent employment or pursuing further studies.

“The demand for a position at Sum of 21 as a young creative or communicator is huge. For one advert posting vacancies in an internship programme, we receive about 500 quality applications. More and more young graduates realise the value and importance of participating in, and completing an internship programme in order to gain better access to permanent employment within the creative industry,” says Gunkel.

“We are also very fortunate in that we could expand the number of young minds we can enrol, and on 1 August, we will have a total of 50 creatives and communicators part of the programme,” Gunkel continues.

Selection criteria

Candidates must firstly hold a creative/communication qualification from a reputable institution. Their CV or portfolio of work, as well as their personal passions or interests also come into play. “Mostly, candidates must bring special skills and uniqueness to the company, whether it is a passion for photography, fashion, blogging, etc. Candidates must be passionate about creating and innovating and embody Sum of 21’s creative soul,” Gunkel stresses.

Going forward

As a result of the agency’s rapid growth, the establishment of a Johannesburg branch of the agency, manned by 25 young creatives and communicators (and some senior staff members) within the next month is well underway. Cape Town and possibly Durban agencies are also on the radar to extend our footprint nationally. The plan is to have a total of 100 learners and interns early in 2019,” adds Gunkel.

Sum of 21 also started the process of becoming an accredited training provider, Gunkel says. “Becoming our own accredited training provider means that we effectively are able to manage, administer and facilitate our own learning programmes instead of relying on external service providers. We want to develop content that is not only relevant to the industry but provides real learning value to the learners who join our programmes. Being in charge of our own content and delivery thereof, affords us the opportunity to tailor-make and integrate workplace learning with theoretical learning.”

In addition, the agency also sets it sights on extending its portfolio to include different (yet related) disciplines such as PR, software testing, media strategy & buying and video production. The software testing learnership has officially commenced earlier this month.”

“Perhaps most importantly, because Sum of 21 consists of young and vibrant creatives with a fresh approach and a new way of thinking, we are set to extensively tap into these young minds to come up with products and services that will excite and invigorate the industry,” Gunkel concludes.