An expert analysis of current opportunities, existing challenges, and recommendations to boost entrepreneurial growth in Jamaica’s entertainment sector, took centerstage at the 10th Joan Duncan Memorial Lecture hosted by University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech) in partnership with the JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation, which was broadcast live on TVJ on Sunday (May 21).
This year’s lecture titled ‘Party Done? Entrepreneurial Opportunities in the Entertainment Industry,’ was delivered by Ibrahim ‘IB’ Konteh, CEO, IB Enterprises and Director of IBE Limited. IB shared his personal journey as an entrepreneur, marketer and author which has taken him to his current position as owner of five event brands servicing five international markets in Jamaica, Atlanta, New York, Florida, Washington DC, and Canada.
Referencing his fascinating background of being born in Moscow, Russia, his early years in Freetown, Sierra Leone until age eight, before escaping the civil war in a refugee move to neighbouring Guinea, Conakri, and relocating six months later with his parents to Portmore, St. Catherine, where he has since called home, the acclaimed entrepreneur demonstrated that the circumstances of one’s beginning does not determine your future and potential success.
Konteh shared that his entrepreneurial journey had its genesis during his time as student council president at the Wolmer’s Boys High School. There, he led the planning and execution of successful large-scale fundraising concerts and later at The University of the West Indies, Mona (UWI Mona) where, in his leadership role on the guild of students, he continued to revolutionise the staging of events such as “Integration Thursdays” and UWI Carnival.
Bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, Konteh shared, “I moved on to start my own brands such as ‘Barcode’, ’11:59′, ‘Strictly Addi’, and in more recent years, ‘Strictly 2K’, where we recently joined ‘Vacay Weekend’, ‘Afro Soca Jam’, ‘Baddish’, and now this year, I started my own 360 events company, where we offer bar service consignment and event cleanup.”
Challenges in the Jamaican Entertainment Industry
While acknowledging, “I’ve done well for myself,” the seasoned entertainment entrepreneur cited current challenges in the industry, chief of which he described as “the lack of organisation and informality of the sector.” He lamented that many players, such as suppliers of goods and services, refuse to register their businesses and are reluctant to sign or are unaccustomed to using formal contracts, which carry inherent risks.
IB also pointed to the challenges of securing sponsorships, even for well established brands. In addition to the difficult process of accessing funding from financial institutions, he also related the experience of the hurdles due to the additional bureaucracy involving the variation in rules and regulations in each municipality and the various payment agencies a party promoter is required to visit, such as Jamaica Music Society (JAMMS) and Jamaica Association of Composers, Authors and Publisher (JACAP).
“Take for example, when you’re having an event, if you’re applying for a permit, the different municipalities, whether Kingston or Portmore, St. Ann and so forth, they have different requirements,” he explained.
Though acknowledging that the government through the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, have been making efforts to support the entertainment industry, Konteh asserted that, “I don’t think enough has been done. When we consider the fact that Jamaica is the only country in the world that has created seven genres of music,” and is arguably “the cultural and music entertainment mecca of the world.”
Pointing to the recent support provided by the government in offering grants to registered entertainment businesses who suffered immeasurable loss during the heights of the COVID-19 pandemic when movement was restricted, IB urged entrepreneurs to register their businesses and to ensure that they are part of the government’s entertainment registry, so as not to miss out on such future opportunities.
Digital and Value-Add Entertainment Solutions Presents Major Opportunities in Entertainment
Jamaica’s entertainment industry is a multi-billion-dollar sector which reportedly contributes nearly 5 per cent of GDP and generates between USD$15 to 20 million in revenue per year. Against this background, Konteh turned his attention to prospects in the entertainment value chain.
He asserted that in the post-COVID-19 era, opportunities abound for entrepreneurs particularly in the digital space, pointing out that advertising spend has shifted primarily to digital media. He noted that this has created demand for innovative and creative talent such as social media managers, content creators, copywriters, video editors and graphic artists as well as for production managers, sound equipment engineers and stage designers.
The entrepreneur also spoke to opportunities for revenue generation through merchandising at events, offering branded items such as caps, shirts and other paraphernalia that make an emotional connection with consumers.
In closing out his presentation, Konteh shared with the live and in-studio audience insights into creating and sustaining his own business model in which he underscored is built on creating value for the target audience.
“I tend to generally look at what’s the problem … And also a lot of events are similar to each other, so the solution to that would be to create brands of events that cater to their evolving needs, creating niche events that are safe, that are inclusive, that are consistent with what you deliver each time,” he shared, adding that persistence, determination and self-belief in the face of repeated failures, are key values for finding success as an entrepreneur.
The one-hour broadcast also featured a short documentary that underscored the contributions of late pioneer money market in Jamaica, Joan Duncan, who is also the co-founder of JMMB Group. The lecture honors the vision, mission and passion of the late corporate leader, whose mission was to improve the lives of others through financial inclusion and access.
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