CityLife Arts

Three young creatives who have everything going well for them without funding

By Edward Tsumele

They are young, black and bold creatives who are making things happen for themselves, instead of waiting for someone else to ignite their creativity. They doing it s without funding too.

And because they have realized the power of a collective effort and collaboration, instead of working in silos, they have come together to make their lives easier and to complement each other’s set of skills.

Meet fashion designer-turned visual artist teacher Jean Mahlangu, business strategist, life coach and author Mthandazo Sibanda, and business consultant and creative in the film industry Karabo Thahane.

The three are not only blazing a new path in their different paths of creativity, but are merging their creativity with business acumen and things are moving in the right direction for them, especially since they have recently teamed up together to share resources and share their vision about their individual projects.

Jean Mahlangu

Mahlangu, born and bred in Johannesburg, who is also increasingly carving a career as a public speaker on women empowerment, encouraging especially young women to unlock their potential within themselves and make things happen, instead of playing victim, comes from a visual art background and she is using her visual art skills to impart creativity in children.

“I currently run art classes for children around Malvern in Johannesburg, working closely with Early Childhood Development Centres (ECDC). What I have found out is that children, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds never have an opportunity to use their creativity early in their lives, and that is not good for their development. Personally I struggled with that as I grew up. Children have the potential to be creative If they are given an opportunity early and the stories they can tell through say drawing and painting are quite powerful as they reflect their own experiences in their own environments. For example I have noticed that some of the children I teach art classes prefer to use dark colours, and that suggests that they are trying to tell a difficult story about their circumstances from where they come from,” says Mahlangu.

Mahlangu before Covid-hit in 2020 used to manage the famous Market On Sunday in Maboneng, but when the pandemic hit, everything came to a standstill, and because she is a creative who used to be a fashion assistant with well known fashion label Black Coffee where she learned a great deal about design, she decided this was the time to launch a business by teaching children visual art.

Her business is called Mood Perfect.

Recently she has teamed up with Thahane and Sibanda to grow her business.

“I come from a creative background, which is essentially a background steeped in informality. I needed a formal structure that would support my creative business, and the two partners bring that into my business,” she says about her recent decision to collaborate with Thahane and Sibanda.

Sibanda does not shy aware from being forthright about his Pan African ethos, which are a pillar stone of his business values. His business strategy company is called Sharp Minds Business Consultancy which also publishes a business magazine.

“I am a Pan Africanist through and through and am not apologetic about that. My role as a business strategist working on the continent is to help especially young Africans to have a rethink about the value they bring into society, especially when it comes to business because in most cases we have been brainwashed to think that we cannot be in charge of our own destiny. I assist as lot of African entrepreneurs when it comes to business strategy as well as playing a role of a life coach. I am a key note speaker as opposed to a motivational speaker. I believe that there is a weakness in casting yourself as a motivational speaker, because after motivating and inspiring people what happens? I believe in doing,” said Sibanda who is busy completing studying for a degree in Business Administration, specialising in entrepreneurship. He is also an author who has contributed to business anthologies with fellow writers on business on the African continent.

Thahane completes the trio of this young grouping who believe they can change the face of entrepreneurship particularly when it comes to dealing with hurdles of lack of finance when it comes to funding start ups.

“My journey in entrepreneurship started when I came back from Cape Town where I have been a rapper with a hip hop group for nine years. I came back to Johannesburg in 2014, and I realized that I had no job and honestly felt out of place since I had been away for a long time. It was then that an idea of working for myself started to kick Iin. Because I come from Sharpville in the Vaal, I realized that the place is rich in history, as it is a place where 69 people were shot and killed in 1960  by apartheid police for protesting against the carrying of Pass Law. I therefore decided that I was going to start a festival that would include food, music and other performances, and potentially turn this place into another Vilakazi Street (the famous strip in Soweto bustling with energy, art and restaurants, which has since become popular, especially with tourists). But that festival could not take off because I did not get support from the municipality even though I engaged with them meaningfully.

“I abandoned the idea and embarked on another journey. I firmly believe in the business philosophy that holds that do what you can where you are with what you have. And that is exactly what I did after meeting a brick wall when it came to funding for the festival.

Mthandazo Sibanda

“I approached the Department Education District office in the Vaal to propose that they give me access to high schools in the area where I intended to run a writing competition about human rights for  high school learners with the winners getting sponsored laptops. And luckily they gave me access to schools where I engaged with principals who liked the idea. I wanted to have about 2000 high school learners participating and the winners were going to get laptops that I had secured from a sponsor,” he revealed.

But that idea too, just like the festival in Sharpville, did not take off.

“While I was busy running around organizing sponsorships, I expected teachers from the participating schools to co-ordinate the writing of the essays by learners. But guess what happened come submission day. I only had 39 essays out of the 2000 that I had expected. The teachers did not play their role in encouraging the learners to write and submit. I was devastated  especially because I had convinced the University of Potchefstroom’s Department of Linguistics to publish some of the essays and they had agreed. However I was not defeated”

Having failed again for the second time within a short space of time, Thahane did not give up on pursuing his dreams. He teamed up with All Africa Media Foundation, an organization that taught film skills to especially young people, where he worked his way up until he became the chairman of the organization. That exposed him to people with power, including the SETA that deals with accreditation for film courses.

“By the time left All Africa Media Foundation in 2019, I had learned a lot about filmmaking, including filmmaking education and had knowledge about how the accreditation system works. I then started my own company that not only does business consultancy work for entrepreneurs, especially when it comes to branding and content production using digital technology, but we also provide film education through one of our new programmes called Mobile Film Lab that provides online filmmaking skills to young people using cell phones.”

In fact that programme has become an instant hit, especially because it does not require a lot of investment in expensive cameras on the part of the learners because all they need is a smart phone and Thahane and his team teach learners how to produce high quality content films. He also teaches the learners how to monetize the content through using digital marketing platforms.

The fact that Covid-19 has made personal contact difficult, this way of teaching filmmaking has become convenient and so popular that Thahane has just clinched a deal with a Stellenbosch organization which has contracted his company to train 20 youths skills  in film making online for this accredited course. The course commences in May.

. “The course is still running under the Digitl Apostl banner (his business constancy company) , which has more services included. I was blessed to secure a client in Stellenbosch, Pinotage Youth Development Academy (PYDA), who have funded 20 learners to take the Digitl Igniter Course. They are my first official customers for the course and we aim to build from this point.
Currently, I have not been funded by public sector despite all the applications I have submitted. As a result, I have been pushed to develop a value proposition that is attractive to private sector
customers. To me, this has been a blessing in disguise because it has allowed me to create the best product for the market.
I am now looking to promote and sell the course to more people following the success of the pilot run in Stellenbosch which officially kicks off on 31 May and ends on 9 July.

“All the training will happen online. In fact I am only going to meet the learners for one week only for induction, and the rest will happen online for this accredited course in filmmaking. I will also teach the learners how to market their content digitally,” he said.

These three entrepreneurs and creatives indeed have everything going well for them.

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