Talented muso turns lessons to profit

It is no mystery that the entertainment industry is a tough nut to crack, a sentiment which is shared globally. However, local entrepreneur and 2015 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® entrant, Thando Nyameni, seems to have found the recipe for success.

Thando, a talented and multidimensional businessman from KwaZulu-Natal, is a singer, song-writer, and music producer who co-owns and manages Spotless Worx Entertainment, a Multifaceted entertainment company that is composed of a Record Label and an Events Management Company. He also owns Spotless Worx Klean along with his wife Nyameka ‘Pru’ Nyameni, which provides office and domestic cleaning services. In addition to these two full time jobs Thando is the chairman of the KwaZulu-Natal United Music Industry Association, a feat that he considers as one of his proudest achievements, and embraces wholeheartedly and has recently been elected to sit on the National General Council of the Creative & Cultural Industry Federation of South Africa.

Considering Thando’s upbringing in the industry, the journey to setting up his own music business was inevitable. He started singing at a very young age, and then joined theatre legend, Mbongeni Ngema, at the Academy of Excellence in Performing Arts, which exposed him to theatre, drama and music on a professional level.

“Regardless of what I was doing or where I worked at the time, I would often find myself in a recording studio or performing somewhere for free, and so I decided to follow this uncontrollable urge and make it my full-time job. I had been exposed to managing businesses at different levels whilst working in the private sector until the eminent entrepreneurship bug bit me,” says Thando.

Thando explains that it was when he was performing in and around KwaZulu-Natal that he, along with his wife – who has a human resources background, decided to start their own company. “We noticed that many artists in the country were, and still are, greatly exploited by some record labels. Some of these artists have had to leave KwaZulu-Natal to search for better opportunities in other more advanced provinces in terms of entertainment, such as Johannesburg and Cape Town.”

Thando says that he was able to grow two successful businesses by seeking help when he noticed he needed guidance. “We applied, and were accepted into Shanduka Black Umbrellas’ intense Incubator Programme, which proved to be instrumental in equipping us with the necessary skills and resources to enable us to run our business professionally.”

Thando’s wife, Prui, is the co-founder, and business partner at both entities. “She’s always had a passion for cleaning, and we believed it would make business sense to run the main company, Spotless Worx SA (PTY) LTD, as a parent company to both Spotless Worx Entertainment and Spotless Worx Klean, with the intention of turning it into a fully-fledged holding company,” says Thando.

Not new to the start-up business game, Thando is also the co-founder and former CEO of the now defunct Bhethatainment, which was also an entertainment company. He says that it was during this part of his life that he learnt many lessons he believes will aid him in growing Spotless Worx. “The number one lesson I learnt was to delegate more. I tried to do everything myself, and that limited my partners’ movements, and as a result we were unable to function properly as a unit. I have since realised that a company’s success is attributed to the team that supports the vision and mission of the company. Currently, my focus is in ensuring that we have a good team of people who believe in the vision of the company.”

Aside from his passion for music and business, Thando says his community project, Spotless Worx Entertainment Outreach Programme (SWEOP), which focuses on youth empowerment and HIV/Aids awareness, amongst other projects, is truly the heart of the business. “We believe that music can be utilised as a tool to help promote love and peace in action, which is what SWEOP is about. We focus on partnering with a number of charities with the idea of assisting where we can, and giving back to our communities through fundraising concerts and a variety of other music affiliated projects.”

Reflecting on his entrepreneurial journey, Thando says that the greatest on-going challenge is the lack of funding, as they have been running the company on ‘sweat equity’. This however hasn’t stopped his team from winning three Shanduka Black Umbrellas Enterprise Development Business Awards, including two Regional Awards (Best Performing Company & Most Jobs Created Award) and a National Award for Best Performing Company in third place.

On his highs, he says moving the business from a home to an office environment is the biggest step they’ve taken so far, and is rewarding as it has resulted in increased productivity for the team. Thando urges entrepreneurs to seek mentorship, as business in practice is not business in theory. “Being part of a successful incubator taught me how to create a realistic and functional business plan that now serves as our constitution and guide.”