Joyce Mhango-Chavula, Founding Director of Rising Choreos, which invited Nollywood star Desmond Elliot to Malawi last year, on ploughing into a relatively new field with a company whichÃ‚Â does theatre for development, concept development, TV and radio commercials, documentaries, marketing consultancy, script writing and stage performances, selling brilliant ideas and dreaming big.
What initiated the establishment of the Rising Choreos & Theatre Company?
Drama was dead in the Central Region, part of the reason being that groups couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t afford to sustain themselves, so Rising Choreos had to find ways of sustaining their performances.
What qualifications do you hold?
Graduate Diploma in Business administration, public relations, sales and marketing, strategic management obtained from Simard, executive institute of Management studies
Did you train in theatre, film production?
Ã‚Â I havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t had any formal training, just acquired the knowledge through working with some professionals. At the end of the day, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s passion that drives me.
What exactly does the company do?
We offer services in a number of things such as theatre for development, concept development, TV and radio commercials, documentaries, marketing consultancy, providing models for adverts, script writing and stage performances (drama). I have done work for Evangelical Association of Malawi, National Aids Commission, Callista Mutharika Safe Motherhood Foundation, Fincoop, Sukam Energy Systems, Nasr group of companies; the list goes on. Combining acting and marketing is awesome, acting gives me courage to face certain situations. Currently, we are based in Tikha House, Lilongwe, but we are not limited, if there is a job in the North or South we travel.
How lucrative is your business?
It is a very good business. As long as you have good ideas and you implement them into great products, you never go wrong. I believe the most valuable product we have are brilliant ideas; these bring income to Rising Choreos
Setting up Rising Choreos must have been difficult. What did it involve?
When I started out in 2009, combining theatre and advertising was an area that had not really been exploited, so it was hard going. Right now though, it seems a lot of people want to do it, so we study the market with care and try to always come up with something unique.
How did you cope with the challenges then? How do you deal now?
I believe that challenges are what make us stronger and they prepare us for greater things to come.Ã‚Â I turn to the one who is able, God, as nothing is impossible with him. God has always guided me to the right doorsteps.
A lot of women think setting up a company is extremely difficultÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
I used to think likewise, but then I had to take a step or remain dependent, it was a choice. I have been in the media for over 10 years, specialising in advertising and marketing but time was due for me to move on and take up this challenge. Before I went into this business fulltime, I had such a lucrative job, but sometimes we get so absorbed in where we are or what we have and the danger is: you have no mental growth! I worked for Nation Publications Limited for about nine years. When I left, I was a Sales Coordinator. The knowledge and experience I gained equipped me to take on this challenge. We all have to start from somewhere.
Considering that this kind of business is some sort of new what marketing tactics do you use to lure people into hiring you?
I am a professional marketer who knows that different customers have different needs. Mostly, what I do is sell ideas, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s challenging to win a customer over because their money comes first and they wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to just throw it away. Research is vital in this area. I do a lot of it before presenting my proposal.
Does your gender have an effect on how people treat you and how you run the business?
Being a woman is not a challenge, it is actually an advantage; thank God am a woman! When people find out that behind Rising Choreos is this young woman, they are surprised and I ask them why.Ã‚Â After all, the world is changing and today, a lot of women are becoming independent. They are rising up and doing great things, I am just adding to that number. I have seen that people in Malawi sometimes associate actors with all sorts of bad things, but acting is my life. I feel satisfied when I am on stage. It is like a ministry; sometimes you touch lives and your performances help people make sound decisions.
What drives you?
I am driven by touching peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lives through my acting and having a satisfied customer when allÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s said and done.
Are you where you dreamed of being as a child?
A big Yes! I am doing what I love and I am on my way to great things.Ã‚Â Looking back now, my earliest childhood memories are of Zambia, where I was born. My late dad was a successful engineer in Kitwe but he thought Malawi had better educational standards, so, I came to Malawi and I grew up in Blantyre and Lilongwe.Ã‚Â I come from a family of eight, five girls and three boys. We are a very close knit family and we stand up for each other. The environment I grew up in and the encouragement my parents gave me helped me learn to think outside the box.
Whose production was Footsteps of the first lady, in which Desmond Elliot acted as a houseboy?
The Artistic Director of Rising Choreos, Ian Chisekula wrote the production. It is not new, we performed it 6 years ago, but it did not get the recognition it deserved, which is why we brought it onto the market again.Ã‚Â Ian was my mentor, he made me believe I could really act. He owned a theatre group; Reformation Theatre and when I was part of that, he always gave me leading roles.Ã‚Â That only happens when a director really believes in you. It was my time to say thank you for making me believe I had this talent and I thank God that his production has attracted tremendous recognition.
Why did you decide on inviting Elliot?
We did some research because we had a number of guys we could choose from but DesmondÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s name was often recommended and we settled for him.
How did you convince him to come to Malawi ?
It was GodsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ grace, it took me six months to seal the deal. Desmond also believed in me and he was very flexible in certain terms. This is a long story but the short version of it is; God did it for me.
What did you learn from working with him?
Professionalism is essential. When you want to have the best product donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t compromise.Ã‚Â He taught me never to limit myself. I now know that I can achieve greatness if I am willing to take chances.
How much did you pay him or rather, what was the payment agreement?
He was paid a very good money (laughs).
After Desmond, whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s next?
Rising Choreos is yet to surprise its fans, we are currently working on certain projects and making very big strides.Ã‚Â My plan is to make Rising Choreos touch lives beyond MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s borders and with God, we will make it. As an individual, I plan to going for training outside Malawi just to add on the knowledge that I have. With the help of God, I would like to venture into films soon enough and I hope to have a full studio so that Rising Choreos becomes a full production company.
How would you describe yourself?
I am God-fearing , a risk taker, fun loving and so caring
What are some of your favourite foods?
I am very traditional at heart, so chigwada, kondoole, bonongweÃ‚Â andÃ‚Â nkhwani are my favourites but a little junk food doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t hurt, so pizza with lots of cheese and chicken does for me once in a while.
Are you married?
I am happily married to my best friend Francis and we are blessed with a sweet girl, Michelle.Ã‚Â I thank God for them every day and I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t ask for more.
How do you balance the travelling with being there for your family?
I travel a lot, but I have such a supportive family. My husband is very close to our daughter and he is so awesome; he makes it so easy for me. My daughter has come to understand that mummy is always travelling, so we talk on the phone often when I am not at home but when I am at home, I make the best out of our time together.