Big interview the life changer
GURU: Joe Manuel

33-year-old Joseph Manuel has made his name as one of the country’smost respected and sought-after Events Organisers.

Through his company, Brave Heart, Manuel has brought the likes of Benjamin Dube, Sfiso, SollyMahlangu and the late Lundi to Botswana to entertain the masses.

The Mogobane native also enjoys a long-standing relationship with South African gospel group, Joyous Celebration (JC).

For the second year in succession, the legendary band will headline the Life Changing Concert, an increasingly popular event organised by Brave Heart.

The show promotes local artists, who are given the opportunity to share a stage with JC.

As the countdown to the August 24 concert enters its final stages, The Voice’s Portia Mlilo caught up with Manuel this week to discover a bit more about the brains behind the concept.

Q. When did you start organising events?

A. I started when I completed my Form 5 in 2006.

I worked with a company called New Ground and I have partnered with a couple of guys locally before registering my own, Brave Heart.

I decided to start my own events organising company because some of my business partners did not understand my vision which made my job difficult.

Q. How have you found going solo?

A. Is been a journey.

It was the beginning of good things, pursuing my vision fully.

It was challenging at the same time.

The industry we are in is capital intensive -sometimes when you are one man it’s very difficult.

When you are more than two you can bring together resources to organise an event.

This was a calling. I pushed extremely hard through steel walls, open doors and it was by the grace of God that I succeeded.

I have a very supportive and dedicated team and I am where I am today because of them.

Q. Most of the international musicians you bring to Botswana are from South Africa. How did you set-up the connections?

A. Passion has been the most important thing that has been driving me and bringing all the South African acts was from the way they do things.

One of the groups that I ended up partnering with is Joyous Celebration (JC).

We started a project called the Life Changing Concert in 2011, held it again in 2013 before going on a break until we resumed it last year.

Q. Why such a lengthy gap?

A. The event turn out speaks for itself.

The first edition was in Ditshupo Hall and 1, 500 people attended.

But for the second event only 1, 000 turned up.

We had to go back to the drawing board to evaluate and come up with ways of marketing the event.

I have realised one thing: whenever you pursue a vision or build something you need to establish some sort of loyalty with your partners.

People ask ‘why JC?’ It is a huge group and they do things in a professional manner.

We decided to sign a Memorandum of Understanding for five years to grow this event.

The MOU is not about the concert only – it includes a couple of components.

We have another concept called Gospel Icon TV Show, which will give artists a platform to unearth talent and export it.

A month before the concert there will be a Gospel Icon grand finale and the winner will relocate to SA and join Joyous Celebration full time.

Q. How is the concert going to ‘change lives?’

A. Our ultimate goal here is to change lives.

After this TV show we want to send an artist to SA, exporting talent.

The artist will be employed by JC full time. Recently one of the JC founders,LindelaniMkhize came to Botswana and we went to Mogobane Junior Secondary School and donated P20, 000.

Not only that, before the concert the principal and production team come in advance and we conducted workshops attended by local artists and promoters.

We educate them on how to run and manage shows.

JC is a group that has stood the test of time.

Right now they are on JC 23 and they are still solid.

If you look at how they work, it will show you why they grow from strength to strength, becoming a bigger and better brand every day.

These are the things that inspire us, we want to try and learn from the best.

Q. When should we expect the Gospel Icon TV Show to air?

A. This show would have long been launched and it is a huge project.

For the past three years it has been a lot of back and forth, removing this and adding that.

The production is going to be beautiful.

It will be launched in September after the concert.

We will conduct a cross-country tour looking for talent and then shoot in Gaborone.

It will be structured in such a way that it will run for 11 months and next year July is the grand finale for our Top 3.

They will be recorded and the winner will go and rehearse with JC in preparation for the 2020 concert.

Q. What are your future plans with this partnership?

A. We have huge plans and dreams.

One of JC’s mission statements is Changing Lives and Empowerment aligned with what Brave Heart wants.

We want to empower, especially youth.

We want to see Botswana giving back to a similar group like JC to create jobs.

JC has employed over 300 people.

We are also saying the government alone will not manage to create jobs or diversify the economy so we want to have an input.

We want arts to contribute in our GDP. This is not just a one-man show, a lot of people benefit and we have our nation at heart!

Q. The concert is scheduled for later this month. Kindly give us an update on the final preparations?

A. All is in place. We are ready. We can assure our followers that they will be properly taken care of.

We have introduced something that has never been donebefore in this country called reserved seating.

When you buy a ticket, it will give you a row allocation and seat number.

It is a well-planned show, there is no first come first serve.

We have adults’ beverages, soft drinks and meals.

Brave Heart is a sound, lighting and stage company so everything is in place.

Our tickets are sold across the country in Spar Outlets and webtickets kiosks.

We urge people to buy tickets in advance.

Last year we returned hundreds of people by the entrance because tickets were sold out.

Our capacity is 5, 000 and we have so far sold more than 3, 800 tickets.

Q. What additions can the audience expect compared to last year’s concert?

A. JC records every year so there will be new songs.

After they came here and saw the support they got, their new album includes Setswana songs.

I was there when they were recording.

It was so amazing, so you can’t afford to miss the concert!

Q. What kind of support do you get from Ministry of Youth Empowerment Sport and Culture Development as far as your business growth is concerned?

A. We submitted our proposal last year – we were turned down and this year the same thing happened.

We had a meeting with the decision makers to try to break it down and explain our vision but we were not successful.

It is so disappointing but we will not give up!

Q. What are some of the challenges you face in your line of work?

A. My worst experience is lack of sponsorship.

It is really frustrating.

Sometimes, a company says they will get back to us.

We remain waiting with hope but then at the last minute they tell us there is no money.

Venue prices, service providers are also a challenge.

This industry is expensive!

Q. What are some of your career highlights?

A. The Lord has been faithful.

We always wanted to organise corporate events and now I believe we are there.

We are the trusted organisers by big companies.

One of our biggest achievements was when we partnered with JC, which shows we are doing something right.

Q. What does it taketo reach the top of the event-organising ladder?

A. It takes dedication, devotion, patience, learning and focus.

This industry is not for crybabies! We can’t all be promoters; someone has to be a musician, event manager, public relations officer and so one.

You need to manage your expectations because you do not determine what you get out of the show.

Q. Who is your inspiration?

A. I am inspired by my Pastor,DrEnockStima of Bible Life.

I am mentored by Mkhize as well and my wife Kelelo Manuel.

She is a strong woman and has her own unique way of doing things and always pushes me to go beyond.

Q. And finally, Thank God it’s Friday. What are your plans for the weekend?

A. We have a couple of events at GICC and Boipuso Hall.

My weekend is going to be a bit hectic but I always try to create time for my family.

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