As a social entrepreneur, your adventure started with GUYZ, which stands for Gugu Uniting Youth in Zululand. Tell us more about it.
GUYZ Models & Productions was the first entertainment and media company in South Africa to have six components/divisions under one roof. These six divisions complemented each other and they were: Artiste Management, TV Productions, Fashion, Image Consulting, Magazine and Music. My purpose with GUYZ was to create a platform for newcomers in the entertainment and media industry to showcase their looks and talents through modeling, acting, and music; while at the same time I provide advertisers, producers and directors with well-groomed artistes for their projects. GUYZ allowed me the opportunity to be the first director in South Africa to produce a straight-to-dvd film with my project U-Sthandwa (The Loved One); and this was the first project to use all new actors in the whole cast of the film. It was through GUYZ that I was able to create my own clothing label, G*Fly, to give models an opportunity to showcase their talents. When I created the online magazine I wanted to honour the role models in South Africa who are inspirational in the media and entertainment industry of South Africa. My main focus with GUYZ was the youth especially from the rural areas in KwaZulu-Natal but as the company grew I ended up having artistes from different provinces of South Africa.
How can you take a break from GUYZ that was doing so good to go back to school?
GUYZ made me learn more about challenges that youth face which most of those challenges are not visible through the media. The pressure they (youth) find themselves under, which for some becomes too much and lead them to substance abuse. I witnessed some of my artistes I was managing wanting to see results overnight, not strong enough to exercise patience. As much as I had a good understand of their behavior from an educator’s point of view, I felt that I needed more knowledge not just to understand them but to be able to come up with practical strategies that will help them cope. I could have chosen any other course but I chose BA in Health Sciences and Social Services and decided to specialize in Psychological Counselling because after doing my research I discovered that it was this course that would help me achieve my goal of assisting with emotional struggles that youth and people in general in media are experiencing. My goal was to become a special psychologist within the entertainment industry. Since I have the background as a teacher I decided that it is at school that I can be more exposed to the youth in numbers. When I shared my plans with my profit share partners, with an idea to let one of them continue running GUYZ in my absence, they doubted that I could finish my degree in less than four years and also felt that GUYZ was not going to survive without my full attention. To me four years did not seem too big but since they had invested in the company I had to respect their decisions which meant sharing the profit and me going back to school with a hope of coming back more wiser and ready to make bigger difference in the lives of the community.
You are currently MD of your new business called VMC. What this stands for and what is its purpose?
VMC is a legacy for my kids. These initials are taken from the middle names of my kids which V stands for Vanessa my first daughter, M stands for Moses Jnr, my son and C stands for Charlize, my second daughter. With VMC I bring the activities I was doing under GUYZ which is Media Center of VMC includes film productions; and I am also able to provide the practical strategies I went to school to study for. I am able to empower through motivational talks and workshop, have a one-on-one with clients and assist them in turning their lives for the better, provide them with practical strategies which will help them achieve more. I have a better understanding of people, their behavior and the different challenges they face but the good thing is that studying psychology has helped me to come up with solutions which is why most people call me The Fixer. I am a consultant not only in the media and entertainment but I am now able to assist small businesses turn around, I work with NGOs in making sure that their projects especially youth projects are effective and also sustainable because I provide skills; I assist with public relations and communication for companies and individuals at the same time help my clients to create the image they want.
From GUYZ to VMC it has always been some kind of connection with people. Why this passion for community?
I grew up in the rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal and I learnt very early that “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” which means a person is a person because of the other people around him/her. It is in our culture to help others and growing up without a father and a mother who worked very far as a domestic worker, I had my grandmother to look after our extended family. I remember the days where we would go to our neighbours to borrow sugar and salt sometimes. My education was paid for by my aunt. These things made me love people with passion. I believe I was born to make a difference because in my village I was always among the first people to learn new things and I would call the kids from the neighbours and teach them, for example new dance moves. I was again very lucky to work for an organization that was passionate about the well being of the community and their work was in rural areas, which connected me to people even more.
What did you learn from your work experience with Africare that helps you change peoples’ lives today?
Part of my duties at Africare was public relations which meant writing about the success stories of the projects that Africare has implemented in the community. In order for me to produce the facts I had to visit the project sites before the implementation and after; and also talk to the beneficiaries. The appreciation they expressed and the visible change that the projects made would bring tears in my eyes but at the same time made me realize that help will never be enough. As part of the team developing the proposals we always discussed and strategized the sustainability which taught me that you can not always give people fish but rather teach them to fish so that even when you are no more there, they can still survive. This knowledge has taught me that liberation of the minds is more important than any other because it is the liberation of the mind that leads to liberation of economy which will eventually lead to other achievements; and psychology has emphasized this for me and gave me knowledge on how to do that.