ALA's Crisp multimedia connection: SA's township entrepreneurs on the rise

African Leadership Academy’s many different programs means we get to host a number of memorable events – none more so than in our Decennial Year. We couldn’t do it without external service providers, and we’re always on a mission to ensure we find companies and consultants who are not only aligned with our ethos, but echo our mission: that of developing young African entrepreneurs. Indigenous Dance Academy does just that…

Sabza, Master (in van), Mdu (front) and Jarrel.

 

Indigenous Dance Academy, founded by Jarrel Mathebula and Neo Sebete, is more than a dance studio. “It teaches youth various leadership and entrepreneurship skills,” explains Mdu Mahlangu, a veteran IDA dancer. “Dance doesn’t really make money in South Africa, so Jarrel and Neo founded a company called Verge Consulting, which incubates small businesses, providing mentorship and incubation so young entrepreneurs can get to the point where we can source our own business; do our own proposals and run independently.”

That, essentially, is how Mdu got to form Crisp Consulting, the video production company ALA calls upon to record a number of our events, including Friday’s Graduation Ceremony. Crisp comprises Mdu (26), his brother Sabelo (‘Sabza’, 22), and cousin Master Manana (23), who all have been dancing with IDA for over 5 years. “Sabza introduced me to it, he’s been there for 6 years,” says Mdu, who was a rapper in high school going by the tag ‘Methodical’ hence his current nickname, Meth.

The crew credits IDA and Verge as the driving force behind their newfound careers. “I already had a passion for photography, and when I upgraded my camera, I handed my first camera to my little brother (Eddie); we started taking pictures together, mostly for social media, then started doing events in the community. Jarrrel noticed, and asked us to start taking pics of the dance crew,” Mdu recalls.

The trio fell naturally into place, adds Master – and not just because they’re family: “Sabza was into video, I was into pictures, Meth was into both, and suggested we start a company. We went to our mentor (Jarrel) for advice, and he practically showed us everything: how to find the right clients, knowing your target market, because we were taking pictures and dance videos and, he said, ‘we need to capture these moments’.”

Incubation Station

Jarrel did more than just encourage them, adds Mdu: he pushed them into expanding their vision, and their business: “He incubated the whole Crisp movement from scratch – he advised us to start buying more equipment, register a company, get a bank account…” reflects Mdu.

Sharing skills, knowledge and resources is crucial to the couple who founded the Dance Academy. “Coming from Tembisa and having minimal opportunities, we saw the need to cultivate young talent and groom future leaders,” says Jarrel. “By so doing we’re not only giving hope to young entrepreneurs, we’re also giving hope to Tembisa – and soon, to reach the rest of Africa. I’d like to think we’re making good progress by changing one life at a time.”

“The one thing we’ve learnt from Verge is being resourceful, because we know that we come from a place where you’re always limited by resources. Verge taught us to save, buy and own. All our equipment is ours, that we saved up for – we don’t have to worry about outsourcing – and we’re slowly understanding the whole business element of it. At first, Jarrel would be picking us up everyday. Now, we are able to get ourselves here from the money the company makes – it’s a company expense; I’ve always wanted to say that,” smiles Mdu.

Jarrel also, more importantly, introduced the guys to his industry connections – like ALA.

Sabza’s first experience of the Academy was as part of a crew doing a pantsula (indigenous dance) workshop for a Global Summer Program event. It was interesting because pantsula is fast, like tap and gumboot dancing, but more technical –and they loved it. We danced, paired them in groups and choreographed a routine for them to follow. That was my first time ever coming to ALA – but I didn’t know it was ALA until three years later.”

In 2017, Jarrel was invited to graduation and brought Sabza along. “He said: ‘Bring your camera, let’s shoot a couple of things.’ I took some videos and when I showed it to him he said: ‘Someone needs to see this; I’m going to send it to ALA.’ I was nervous because this is a big school, and I was scared of criticism,” Sabza recalls. The feedback, a few days later, was more than expected. “They loved the video – said they wanted to use it, and asked me to change a few subtitles. When they sent me a logo, I knew it was official.”

‘Trust your dopeness’

One year on, Crisp is ALA’s preferred multimedia service providers. And they give full credit to IDA for gearing them – and other young township entrepreneurs – up. “They taught us how to believe in ourselves; it’s scary when you are a small company from the township, to ALA a client. You think: ‘Can I pull it off, are we good enough, can we provide the best quality?’ Verge taught us how to ‘trust our dopeness’ – that’s Neo’s quote, and what she instilled in us from the start: ‘Trust your dopeness’.

“More than anything, they teach social entrepreneurship. Others have started their own companies from the dance academy – clothing brands and started their own organisations to help youth – and we have been able to learn the importance of entrepreneurship. We all want the freedom to be artists, but need money to survive,” says Mdu.

Working with ALA has only enhanced this, and inspires the crew to constantly strive for bigger, and better, reckons Sabza.Being here has actually allowed us to think freely, because of the inspiring speeches we hear when we’re recording – it’s like we are students of ALA, like Dean Hatim and his tree and bananas… That’s why I’ll run – why we always have the energy, from morning to noon; same energy, same level… because we understand the vision. And because we know that this is the place where future presidents are born; this the incubator for future African leaders…”

WATCH Crisp Consulting’s overview of ALA’s Global Summer Program