Mike Sharman

Mike Sharman is set on making a difference, and he is determined to do it in flip-flops. Although he sees himself as just a regular citizen, what he has managed to achieve in the past few years is quite extraordinary. After a stint at acting school in Hollywood and another as a stand-up comedian, Sharman realised he could use his performance skills to grow ideas and brands, as both require a knowledge of how to gauge and engage an audience. Retroviral, the digital communications consultancy he started three years ago, has won numerous awards, among them the 2011 Prisa Prism Gold award in the digital media relations category for Nando’s “CEO” campaign and the 2012 award for Nando’s “Last Dictator” campaign. But it is the work he does for the Put Foot Foundation that gives him the biggest kick. To Sharman, “being able to build something that gets other people involved is almost more important that any business success”. Working in digital he is putting opportunities and ideas out into the public space so everyone has a chance to participate and be part of the change. The Put Foot Rally, which is about putting shoes on the feet of the poorest school children in South Africa, has not only raised R1.3-million, it has also created a following of people inspired to get involved. Even through the work he does for major brands, he has managed to get people on the ground and doing something good. The Nando’s #Diversity campaign, for example, focused on creating soup kitchens for people affected by xenophobia. “I work in a very tangible space, and getting an idea, and seeing the result, that gives me goosebumps,” says Sharman. There is one message he hopes to get across with all his campaigns and work, and that is: you can be successful and have fun doing it. — Caroline Cowan