Zimbabwe: Turning Dreams Into Gold

column

Zimbabwe has a dearth of arts managers.

This now seems to be the missing link in the local entertainment industry - that rare breed of people devoted to the nurturing, packaging and selling of creative talent.

South Africa has the likes of Mr Nciza ( who discovered Zahara) and Britain, if not America, has the likes of X-Factor founder, Simob Cowell who are ushering talent out onto the global stage like a conveyor belt. Welcome indeed to the Information Age! The age in which the market place is really one of ideas- creative concepts that jostle for recognition and pay. Zimbabwe has its own fledgling crop of scouts the ilk of one Mr Barney Mpariwa ,the tenacious steerer of the resurgent Starbright talent show, SIYAYA ARTS' Simon Mambazo Phiri, IYASA's Nkululeko Dube, Tsungai Zvobgo (Chiwoniso Maraire's manager).

But they are the exception rather than the rule. Arts managers such as Jane Morris a publisher of amaBOOKS and others converged at the Unlimited Connect Centre venue by Haddon and Sly in Bulawayo to hear the sage wisdom of David Parrish who specialises in advising and training creative entrepreneurs using his own experience and international best practice recently. Parrish is also the author of, "T-shirts and suits - A guide to the business of creativity".

Bulawayo is literally brimming with raw creative talent from dancers to theatre to musicians. Waiting for Intwasa or Ibumba festival to showcase the talent is actually a very ridiculous and sorry state of affairs.

The British consultant, who was in Bulawayo to conduct a workshop on creative entrepreneurship facilitated by the British Council, shared knowledge garnered from assisting numerous businesses, government agencies and not-for-profit organisations in the UK, India, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, France, Italy, Switzerland, Egypt, Turkey, South Africa, and China to mention a few.

One of the key concepts that emanated from Parrish's presentation is that lateral thinking entrepreneurs, "search for and listen to ideas from outside their industry or culture to find great ideas or new techniques, the apply them imaginatively to their own enterprise" Getting the structure right at the beginning according to Parrish, may seem inconsequential at the beginning of a creative enterprise but it will prevent problems latterly.

The organisational structure should be the launching pad for your business strategy.

The question that begs scrutiny is this: what kind of structure must one have if one is to set up a creative industry business?

According to Parrish, the information age enterprises need new organisational models which have been called virtual network and club sandwich organisations.

A network organisation can describe a platform on which several entities or individuals collaborate for a common cause e.g. designer, manufacturer and suppliers.

The term can refer to a larger organ in which the different aspects cross pollinate in a more organic and autonomous way than the traditional hierarchical style.

A club sandwich is Parrish's concept of a business model in which, "acknowledges creative individuals who need the social interaction and facilities of a member's club, provides a metaphor for the three layers of core staff, freelance workers and subcontracted firms and the different relationships and level as of bonding between the three slices which can be likened to the different fillings of a club sandwich".

A summation of Parrish's presentation is in his own words, "the business of creativity is the art of turning recognition into reward, and the science of turning intellectual property into income streams" and turning creativity into cashflow is the job of an entrepreneur in the creative enterprises whether it is managing an artist, running a tv production house or setting up a web development outfit.

A creative enterprise's stock- in- trade are ideas which it must generate every day. These are the organisation's intangible assets i.e. brands , trademarks, patents, copyrights hopefully registered and protected at law and exploited for profit thorough direct product sales or via licensing agreements.

A good example for a potential and new income stream is the current selling of ringtones by mobile phone operators such as Buddie Beats and Teletunes etc.

There is room artists to make money directly by instituting licensing agreements with mobile phone network operators.

David Parrish's thoughts on competitive advantage are:

"What can we do better than our competitive advantage which may not necessarily what we are best at! It is about finding the area where you can beat your competition hands down - even if it's not your best skill or the thing that you enjoy the most."

On business strategy, he says, it involves deciding what specifically to do and with which customers.

It also involves what not to do concentrating on areas where you have competitive advantage.

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