In the dynamic world of experiential marketing, few stories are as compelling as that of Leanne Pechey, the visionary founder and Managing Director of Matriarch. In 1999, from a humble corner under the stairs of her Glenwood, Durban home, Leanne transformed her passion for marketing into the powerhouse that Matriarch is today. A former Grade 1 teacher, Leanne’s journey took a pivotal turn when she pursued marketing studies in London, equipping her with the skills to lay the foundation for her business.

Leanne’s transition from education to marketing is not just a career change but a testament to her belief in continuous personal growth and innovation. Under her leadership, Matriarch has flourished, growing from a small startup to a leader in the industry, known for creating memorable and impactful brand experiences. Her unique approach—blending educational insights with marketing expertise—has shaped the company’s values and strategies, making Matriarch a beacon of creativity and integrity in the marketing world. Amidst her professional achievements, Leanne has balanced her career with her role as a mother to two children—one currently studying at the University of Cape Town and the other in matric, highlighting her dedication to her business and family.

We’ve asked Leanne a series of questions to gain further insights into her inspiring journey and the future she envisions for Matriarch.

Transitioning from teaching to experiential marketing might seem unconventional, but it felt like a natural evolution of my skills and interests. Initially, my marketing projects were closely aligned with educational settings, particularly in youth marketing within schools. This niche allowed me to leverage my teaching background effectively.

My experience in education has deeply influenced my approach to business, particularly in how we communicate complex ideas simply and engagingly, much like in a classroom. This educational foundation has helped us craft campaigns that are not only informative but also resonate deeply with our target audiences.

One of our notable school projects was the ‘Woolworths Making the Difference Program,’ which we ran for eight years. This program aimed to provide schools with valuable educational resources and learning opportunities nationwide.

Reflecting on the myriad milestones we’ve achieved at Matriarch, what fills me with the greatest pride is witnessing our team’s phenomenal growth and development. Most of our directors, who joined us early in their careers, have been with the company for 18 to 25 years. Watching them progress from eager young professionals to leaders filled with creativity, passion, and drive has been incredibly rewarding. It’s not just about the company’s growth but about the personal and professional journeys we’ve shared and the lessons we’ve learned together. This deep, mutual growth within our Matriarch family is what I cherish the most.

Our long-term partnerships with major clients such as Pioneer Foods have been instrumental to Matriarch’s success, which has flourished for over two decades. Similarly, our relationships with Beiersdorf and Unilever have demonstrated remarkable longevity and mutual growth.

These collaborations are rooted in a deep commitment to loyalty and excellence, reflecting the trust and respect we have earned from our clients. This strong foundation is the cornerstone of our success and continuously ignites our passion. These enduring partnerships exemplify what we strive for at Matriarch—lasting impact and mutual advancement.

Throughout Matriarch’s history, we’ve encountered significant challenges that tested our resilience and adaptability. The 2007 recession was our first major hurdle; although we retained all our clients, the budget reduction required us to streamline our operations and intensify our efforts to expand our client base, ultimately strengthening our organizational efficiency.

The COVID-19 pandemic presented an unprecedented challenge, particularly as experiential marketing and live events ground to a halt, erasing nearly 90% of our income practically overnight. Fortunately, the years leading up to the pandemic had been fruitful, allowing us to build a financial cushion crucial for weathering the storm. During this period, we made strategic pivots, tightening our operational costs and innovating our services to include a variety of online experiences. These adaptations helped us survive and prepared us to thrive in the evolving landscape of experiential marketing.

Looking back, stepping into the world of marketing from a teaching background was immensely intimidating, especially presenting in boardrooms that were not as diverse as today. There were moments early on when I grappled with imposter syndrome, questioning my transition into a predominantly male-dominated industry. If I could advise my younger self, it would be to trust in your abilities unequivocally. Believe in yourself and your unique perspective. You are more capable than you think, and every challenge is an opportunity to prove that you can achieve anything you want.

What truly sets Matriarch apart is our unwavering commitment to exceptional client service. We prioritise building strong, supportive relationships between our team members and every client we work with. Our approach is centered on teamwork and collaboration; we are deeply committed to fostering the growth of the brands we partner with. We consistently go above and beyond, ensuring that every campaign meets and exceeds expectations, making every client’s success our personal mission.

The future of experiential marketing is incredibly exciting as we stand on the brink of revolutionary changes brought by digital innovations and AI. Integrating these technologies opens up new realms for creating customer-centric experiences that are more personalised, engaging, and interactive than ever before.

At Matriarch, we are particularly enthusiastic about blending traditional experiential tactics with cutting-edge digital solutions, including AI, to deepen customer engagement and deliver truly memorable experiences. This convergence is not just about staying current; it’s about setting the pace, anticipating customer needs, and fostering a profound connection between brands and their audiences.