The Silver Bullet strikes business gold
On the 9th of August 2012, on a starlit, muggy evening in London, 18-year-old Nijel Amos lined up for the 800m Olympic final.
The next 102 seconds (1min 41.73 to be exact) would change the course of the teenager’s life forever.
He crossed the finish line second, smashing his own national record to win the country’s first Olympic medal.
Six years on, and the Marobela marvel’s London achievement remains the pinnacle of Botswana athletics.
Although he continues to work hard on the track, Amos has a keen interest in business and recently launched ‘Chase Dream Empire’, which includes four ventures under one roof.
The proud father of one sat down with Voice reporter SHARON MATHALA at his plush office in the Gaborone Commerce Park area to give a little insight on his new path.
The ‘silver bullet’ is clad in a blue suit, which compliments the colours of his security business.
We find the athlete in a heated meeting in his boardroom whilst we wait.
He eventually exits under the escort of one of his ‘agents’, the agent comes back and ushers us into the runner’s office.
After exchanging pleasantries, Amos explains his business model…
Q. For someone who has never heard of Chase Dream Empire, what would say your company represents?
A. Chase Dream Empire is a place of hope.
It is place where creatives meet and come up with creative ideas that will push the country forward and, most importantly, in the process create employment.
Under Chase the Dream I have a security business, a water business, a transport business as well as an artist label that we are still trying to push.
It is basically an empire where dreams come true.
Q. You are a busy man travelling all over the globe competing in the world’s biggest athletic competitions – how did the idea Chase Dream Empire come about?
A. It is not a complex story really, the idea first started with a company that I called ‘Strong Points’.
The business idea was great back then but I did not have the proper planning to back it up so, in 2013, it died out.
As time went by I decided to host an end of year event for the Marobela community so at first Chase Dream Empire was just about the end of year event, I eventually decided to widen the company’s scope to include all the other ideas.
Q. Looking around, your staff seems to consist predominantly of youth. Was that a deliberate move?
A. I mean of course, I fall under the youth bracket myself and more than anyone I understand the hardships my peers go through.
I was lucky enough for God to give me the talent I have, so with that it was only inevitable that I too give my peers a chance to better their lives.
I have a staff of about 22 people but I have an older guy who is 74 years old.
He is like a big brother to us in the family.
Q. I hear one of your staff members is the recipient of a presidential pardon?
A. Yes. When I heard his story and how he was finding it difficult to restart his life outside prison without the shadow and discrimination following him I just had to take him in.
I mean his story inspires me a lot and at Chase Dream Empire we are all about realising dreams and not being judgmental on anyone about their past.
He was one of those released by former HE, Ian Khama and has really rehabilitated his life.
Q. You came into the spotlight at a very young age, how have you been able to handle the pressure that comes with being a national and international icon?
A. You know it’s funny that you say that; people often forget that I came into the limelight at such a young age.
I was only 18 years old – an 18-year-old boy not from the city but from Marobela.
I was a teenager and people did not at the time allow me to make mistakes that all teenagers are bound to make.
But what kept me going is knowing that I had to provide for my family; I was raised by my Grandmother with nine children at home so I knew what was expected of me with the God-given talent I have.
Q. You suffered a near career ending injury back in 2013 when you tore your quadriceps. It forced you to miss the World Championships when you were seen as one of the favourites for Gold. Emotionally and psychologically, how were you able to overcome that setback?
A. It was a really tough one. It was one of the most confusing and heartbreaking times in my life and sometimes I sit back and ask myself how I got out of that one.
I wonder how I managed to triumph through and remain, as people always say, one of the elite athletes of the world.
But I guess the love and support from my team, management and most importantly my grandmother kept me going.
Q. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, you were widely tipped to win 800m Gold but were eliminated in the first heat. What went wrong?
A. I will throw that question back at you and say those who had wanted us to deliver and come out with medals, did they put the proper structures and support for that to happen?
Was there proper structures placed so that I could deliver to my best potential?
I say to Government that if you want your athletes to perform there should be better structures and support.
How do you think I felt when I heard that the night I was due to compete the then Minister was flying back home?
Q. You have experienced quite the rollercoaster when it comes to your career, was there ever a time you felt like giving up?
A. You know people have been saying my career is going to be over year in and year out, but six years later I am still counted as one of the fastest runners in the world!
Do I have hard days on the track, sure, just like any other athlete.
But I am that athlete that commentators will talk about whether I am part of the race or not.
So that in itself means I still have a lot to offer, which helps me ‘not give up’, to use your words, every time.
Q. Tell us about your short stint as DJ Zoro.
A. (Laughs) That was an interesting time in my life.
You see that was around the same time that I was injured and I had time on my hands.
With all the pressures of life, music was my only escape.
I fell in love with music so I thought I could tap into that.
I quickly realised it was not the move for me so I let that dream go!
Q. Just as the race is about to start, when your name is being called out and you hear the expectant roar of the crowd, what goes through your mind?
A. That every race is a blessing.
I always want to perform better than I did in my previous race.
There is obviously a little bit of fright but I always aim to be better than I was in my previous race.
Q. At what point will you hang up your spikes?
A. (Laughs) Why do you want me to stop running Sharon?
I still want to win a Gold Olympic medal.
I also want to win a medal at the World Champs.
Let me get those first, then I will have an answer for you.
For now I am here for as long as God will have me.
Q. Tell me about your relationship with Nike?
A. My relationship with Nike has been going for seven years now.
Nike basically helps with my everyday life and makes things much easier for me by lifting some of the weight off so I can concentrate on the track.
Like right now, I decided to move to the States (USA) so I could get better and work on my talent.
So Nike helps with a lot of stuff, like my gear, my coach, training and general upkeep.
Q. Will we see a Biography of Nijel Amos in the works any time soon?
A. Yes, definitely I am working on my biography.
I am working on the Nijel Amos documentary and a book which will be released I think by 2020.
There are certain things I want to focus on for now.
I have a story to tell which I want the world to see.
I have raw footage of all backstage events that have never been seen before.
From a boy that grows up in the village to one of the top elite athletes in the world, I think that story deserves to be told!
Q. Last year the cameramen at the Miss Botswana pageant could not get enough of you and your cheers; will you be attending the Miss Botswana pageant on Saturday?
A. Yes I will be.
I mean I have not received an invite yet but I will be there to support my beautiful Modioki.
You know we are winning this year right (laughs).
Q. TGIF, what will Zoro be up to?
A. My beautiful daughter is visiting so I will spend most of the day with her before attending the pageant.