Happy in a hard hat


She has her feet firmly planted in what may be called a male-dominated industry that loves the mud and dirt but she is standing her ground. Renay Tandy chats to us from her Meyersdal home about being a business woman, mother and wife.

As a five-day-old baby, born in Durban, Renay was adopted by two people she calls her ‘amazing parents’. The family then found their way to the suburbs of Joburg South where she grew up in Mondeor.

“I went to Mondeor Primary and then Mondeor High, and have lived in the south pretty much my whole life. I have one older brother and a very close group of friends who are like sisters to me.

“The south is my home, and has become a part of me. I love living in the south – I love its beautiful hills and open spaces, the small-town feel, and being so close to nature.”

Home is where the heart is

She married her high school sweetheart and business partner, Russel, 11 years ago. The two have been dating since they were 16 and grew up together.

Today, the couple lives in the Meyersdal Nature Estate with their two beautiful girls, Emma (7) and Megan (4). Emma is in Grade One at Marist Brothers Linmeyer and Megan is at Creative Academy Preschool. “They are everything to us, and Russell and I both put our family before anything else.

“When I was seven months pregnant with Emma, Russell and I finished building our home in the Meyersdal Nature Estate, just a few weeks before I was due! We love living in the Estate – our children can ride their bikes around safely, and we enjoy driving, walking and cycling through the beautiful nature reserve right on our doorstep.

“We are very much an outdoors-loving family. On the weekend, you will find us either at Penbritte Equestrian Centre, where Emma and I ride, and where my other baby, my horse, lives. I have been riding horses since I was six years old, and it is my absolute passion.

“I am also a mom to a beautiful palomino rescue horse, Brenny, who is such a big part of our lives. Being at the stable is my happy place, and it’s where I go for my ‘me time’.”

Another place the family spends quality time together is at one of the driving ranges where Russell and the girls love hitting balls, or visiting friends and family, “When we still could!” she added quickly.

Their favourite holiday destination is Dunkeld Equestrian Estate in Dullstroom with its rolling hills and breath-taking views where they love waking up to the view of horses grazing in the white-picket fenced fields and picturesque fly fishing dams.

“Russell is an avid fly fisherman, and the girls and I love the out rides on the horses.”

Back to business

Not many people know this, but her plan was to become a horse riding instructor until her beloved horse died while she was writing her matric exams.

“That completely changed my life course, and made me rather decide to study journalism.

“I was working as a journalist for a mining and engineering trade magazine before Russel and I started NGAGE. We spotted a gap in the market for a public relations agency that specialised in industrial sectors such as mining, engineering, construction, IT and agriculture.”

Fourteen years later, NGAGE has won a number of industry awards, the most recent for Best Industrial Communications Agency in South Africa, and has filled the gap for an agency that loves the mud and dirt of communication.

“Over the years, we have grown into a full-service agency, offering everything from public relations to social media, advertising and design, online marketing and video production in-house.”

Today, their business has a team of 20 professionals who are happiest in their hard hats on site with clients, and they absolutely love what they do.

Challenges in life and business

“In life, I think that the biggest challenge I have faced is lockdown and learning how to change our normal way of living overnight.

“Juggling home-schooling our two girls, especially Emma, who is in Grade One, working from home and keeping the agency running successfully while the office was closed, all while cooking and cleaning, was a huge challenge for me.

“I normally lead a very busy life, between the school run, extra-murals, non-stop client and internal meetings and exercising and socialising. Lockdown forced me to slow down, which was a difficult change for me to process.

“I’ve had good and bad days, but I have learnt to love this new slow-paced life. There are so many positives to being in lockdown with your family for nearly three months, like sharing all of our meals together as a family, afternoons filled with board games and telling stories.

“I love being included in my children’s schoolwork and watching them learn and develop and, most of all, being at home with my girls all day, which has been amazing.

“I will look back on this with fond memories. In between all the craziness, the time in lockdown brought us together as a family and slowed us down to enjoy the small things in life.

“When it comes to business, I look back at to when we started NGAGE. I was only 22 years old.

“Selling to our male-dominated industry, and expecting them to trust me to manage their communications portfolio with very little examples to show them was very difficult.

“I had to learn to prove myself very quickly in meetings and make sure to deliver on any promises that I made, so that we could quickly build up a reputation as a trusted supplier.”

Any future plans?

“The world of public relations has changed more over the past 10 years than it has for the last 50 years!

“PR professionals need to learn and evolve to stay relevant, which is very difficult for some. I, however, love the challenge of learning something new, and I have embraced the changes and opportunities.

“Social media is an integral part of a PR professional’s portfolio. If you don’t learn how to incorporate social media into your PR strategy, you will be left behind.

“Another opportunity is measuring the effectiveness of online coverage and showing actual leads from these articles. This is something that we are very excited about at NGAGE and something that we are incorporating into our report for clients.”

A message for other women out there?

For some reason, we are too hard on ourselves. I recently learnt that you can’t pour from an empty cup. We need to sometimes put ourselves first so that we can take care of our family.

Text: Carina van der Walt. Photo: Elzaan Pienaar.