TUMISANG NDLOVU: In this week’s SME Corner we speak to Mangi Mbileni of Love Affair Production. Mangi, take us through what Love Affair Production is all about: what do you guys do?
MANGI MBILENI: We are a content creation agency. In short it’s a bit like a production house, but our [core business] focus is on creating video content that will live in the digital space…. but we are open to trying new things and I think our strongest point is in the short format. So we do short format like documentaries, again for the digital space, but we also do corporate videos, [we’re also] trying to dabble in animation. My business partner is very passionate about animation, so it’s something that is part of the plan in time to come. In short that’s what we do.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: When and why did you start a company of this nature? One, it sounds like it costs a lot of money to start and run. Two, it’s not quite popular here in South Africa.
MANGI MBILENI: My background is in media production, in radio initially and then TV production. I have always been fascinated by new media, particularly the digital space, and then my business partner’s background is in editing, videography and now he’s getting into graphic design.
So we thought how do we marry our skill set and, with doing that, also create something that is new but also a much-needed service still in South Africa. Obviously we were inspired by the fact that we want to be the first ones to do something like this. So when we get cheaper broadband in South Africa we can be the first ones to maximise on that.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: How has the industry received you so far?
MANGI MBILENI: We started in December 2015 and initially it was very, very slow. The first half of the year was very slow; we’d get odd projects here and there. I still produce at a daily TV show, so it’s as if I have two full-time jobs at the moment and then my [partner] runs the day-to-day business. So I think it’s an exciting space to play in.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Challenges in this journey -have there been any so far?
MANGI MBILENI: Definitely, our biggest challenge … you said earlier on that it seems like an expensive thing to get into. It is in a sense that you need your own equipment: so you obviously need your own cameras, lighting equipment, sound equipment, post-production equipment in terms of editing software and so on. We’ve been lucky in that we had bits and bobs of our own equipment prior to getting together. So in that sense it is expensive but I think our biggest commodity is our time. So in a sense getting started isn’t that difficult if you have access to the equipment and clientele.
In terms of challenges now for us, it’s been how we go about securing long-term clients. So what you want to do in a space like this is sign a retainer with someone – be it a brand, be it a corporate, be whoever it is – you sign a retainer and they say “listen, guys, I want you to produce X amount of content for six months or 12 months”. So it makes it easier to forecast and to plan and obviously to live off and pay your expenses.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: At this stage how are you guys doing the whole marketing-PR setup, seeing as you are new and you are looking for a client base? How do people get your services? Where do they see your material?
MANGI MBILENI: What’s actually really crazy with us and what’s blown us away, is that a lot of our work has come from word of mouth. So we haven’t overtly gone out and done huge marketing and put ourselves out there. We’re actually finished building our website right now and we’re just in the process of populating it with content and it’s time consuming because it’s video content. We don’t want to create content that is time relevant; we want something that is timeless, even if a year from now you consume it – it’s still very relevant. So we haven’t gone out of our way to produce.
I think because it’s quite a unique space, as soon as people hear about it and they say, “wow that sounds fascinatin”‘, and then they say “what can you do for us”. A lot of brands and a lot of corporates and just a lot of people in general I think don’t realise the value of creating other content for their platforms or for their clients as well, until you do it and until you show them the benefits of it. So that’s been a great way for us to get our business out.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: That’s wonderful. We spoke about challenges earlier, a lot of small businesses will struggle to start up solely because they mention start-up capital, what are your views on the current SME space in South Africa, should we be at a far better place than we are right now?
MANGI MBILENI: I definitely think so, I think a lot of people are put off the idea of starting their own business not because their isn’t capital out there but it’s really difficult for young people to access that capital, particularly young black people I think. If you don’t already have a full-time job and saving up money to finally start your venture or you don’t have wealthy relatives or friends who believe in your idea, it really is difficult to get that capital. I look to other countries and it’s not just capital but the process of registering a business here in South Africa is tedious, it really is tedious. If you want, like we did, we paid a company that specialises in it and it was quite fair amount of money but just so that it wasn’t a headache for us, that’s what we did. When I look at countries like Rwanda, it takes something like 24 hours to register a business if you’ve got all your documentation in place and then they’ve got various funds, depending on the type of business there are various funds for you to access. So they are going out of their way to look for young people and young entrepreneurs to set up businesses. So I think that’s something we really struggle with here in South Africa.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: How then would you advise someone who’s looking to get into the industry that you are in? What does this person need?
MANGI MBILENI: It’s very specialised, so you definitely need to know what you are doing. Again just referring to myself and my partner, Nanka Hawes’s, skill set, we complement each other. So we definitely in that regard know what we are doing, so I guess we are experts in our field. So I don’t think you necessarily need to have studied formally but you do need to have worked in that industry for some time to know what you are doing.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Most definitely. Before we let you go, explain Love Affair, how did you guys come up with this name?
MANGI MBILENI: It’s quite a crazy story, I’m actually a DJ part-time and I used to host these events, I have a love affair for deep house music, so that’s how it came about and then Nanka came onboard and he loved the name. So we have a love affair for what we do and that’s how the name came about.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Very adorable. Lastly, where to for Love Affair Production, what can we expect in the near future, I’m very excited about the animation space.
MANGI MBILENI: Ja, I think that’s in a year or two from now, that’s not something that’s immediate. We’re very busy right now with a lot of corporate work, which is a huge blessing and that’s all stemmed from our web series actually called Unfiltered, if you get a chance go onto Youtube, check out Unfiltered or #unfiltered on Twitter, you’ll definitely catch us there. We are working on a huge documentary right now as a side creative project, a huge documentary about the historic black schools of South Africa like Adams College, Inanda Seminary. These are stories that haven’t been told. So I think in the next year or so you are going to be seeing some really great work on traditional TV, as well as in the digital space from Love Affair.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: We wish you all the best.
MANGI MBILENI: Thank you very much.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: That was Mangi Mbileni of Love Affair Production in this week’s SME Corner.
-Brought to you by Moneyweb