At the age of 31, Joseph Manuel has already established himself as one of Botswana’s most respected and sought-after events organisers.
The Mogobane native is the founder and Managing Director of Brave Heart, a six-year-old company that specialises in event management.
However, his background in the industry actually dates back almost a decade, when he learnt his trade at a promotions company called New Grounds.
Located in Gaborone’s Commerce Park, Manuel’s spacious office is dominated by a big, bright poster of South African Gospel choir, Joyous Celebration – it seems a good place to start the interview……..
Q. What’s with the Joyous Celebration poster?
A. This poster carries lots of memories! I brought Joyous Celebration to perform in Botswana in 2011, for the first time in the country’s history.
For me to have managed to bring them, it gave birth to the Brave Heart company.
Q. What triggered your love for events?
A. It is something I discovered at church. I grew up in a family with a Christian background.
I grew up attending Pentecostal Holiness Church.
I was one of the zealous boys who played guitar, drums and the keyboard.
Q. Which other Gospel giants have you managed to attract to the country?
A. I previously brought Gospel heavy weights such as Rebecca Malope, Solly Mahlangu and Benjamin Dube.
Q. There are so many events organising companies in Botswana, how do you stand out and survive the competition?
A. What makes Brave Heart different as a player in the industry is its focus on the technical and production aspects of the promotional services industry, including rental of lighting, stage and audio-visual equipment.
We do generator hire as well. What I do meets the wants and needs of the country.
I have benchmarked from South African companies, and I have been trained there.
I believe that our creativity and strong basic-skills training set us apart from the rest.
Q. How do you empower your employees?
A. I happen to network a lot! I have friends and associates in South Africa.
I have around 12 employees that have been fully trained.
I push them very hard as we emphasise on professionalism.
Next week I will be sending some to Johannesburg for training and from there I will be sending them to London to benchmark.
Q. Brave Heart was recently accused of ruining the Botswana Musician Union (BOMU) awards – your take?
A. The BOMU awards – it was all a mess! The event started without knowing who the Master of Ceremony was.
We were not even given the event script.
The whole event was a commotion – it started without knowing whether it would be broadcast on radio or television.
I told you that I am a Christian; sometimes the best way to be in the fight is not to fight back.
BOMU was not organised when we got there, they were divided and fighting – clearly they did not know what they wanted!
Q. Were there any life lessons learnt from the event?
A. Yes, because going forward we do not play games. It is not necessarily about making money.
When someone approaches us without knowing what they want, we tell them what is needed to be done for the event to take place.
Q. What keeps you going in business?
A. It’s all about making sure we build long lasting and sustainable customer relationships through provision of professional service, reliable backup and consistent quality.
As long as the customer is happy, nothing can go wrong.
Q. What would you say was the standout moment of your career to date?
A. We have done lots of events but the recent ministerial rebranding under the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture.
We came out with a beautiful concept and we did everything.
Other events include Orange Monyaka tour, Barclays Kabelano Charity Cup, which has attracted over 30, 000 people, the President awards and we recently organised the BTC Premier League awards and we nailed them. But the Joyous Celebration still remains a landmark in my career.
Q. What constant challenges do you face in your career?
A. Our main challenge is the uprooting funny companies, which think event organising is all about lifting the speaker and putting it there for music to play. It really hurts most!
Q. What advice would you give to aspiring events organisers?
A. To succeed one has to be passionate and believe in themselves.
You can be ambitious but do not be dangerously ambitious because it harms the whole industry.
Q. How do you charge for events?
A. Events are charged according to a number of reasons.
I won’t disclose figures but they are charged based on the creativity and the artists involved, the time they take, number of crew and whether it’s a day or night event.
There are a lot of things considered but more sound, more crew, more money!
The biggest event I have ever done was P3.8 million and the cheapest is P50.
Q. What support has the Ministry of Youth offered you?
A. I received a sponsorship a few years after establishment.
Q. How do you balance family time with business?
A. I am married to a beautiful, understanding woman.
She knows the industry and grants me enough time to dedicate to work.
The industry is time consuming but when I get the chance I spend time with family.
Q. Thank God it’s Friday. What are your plans for the weekend?
A. I have just arrived from Tonota.
I have couple of line-up events – we service our corporate clients on daily basis.
I will be attending an event at Gaborone International Conversion Centre (GICC.)