Sibu Mabena is a 27-year-old creative businesswoman and founder of Duma Collective. She currently employs a staff of eight, including freelancers, and plans to employ more young people in the coming months.
This young woman and her team are behind some of the biggest on-stage productions we’ve come to see in recent years; but despite triumphing in a somewhat precarious economy, she remains grounded and purpose-driven.
We sat down with her at her offices in Sandton, north of Johannesburg to learn more about her journey, Duma Collective, her recipe for success and plans for the future.
From Humble Beginnings
Now a force to be reckoned with in her field of work, Sibu’s journey began when she was in her teens. “I started freelancing when I was 16 as a production assistant and runner. I worked for pop bottles as a production assistant. At some point, I was a bartender at the Sands. I was doing a lot for a little bit of money because I wanted to learn,” she recalls.
She Learnt About Money Early In Her Life
The 27-year-old learnt very earlier on that one has to sacrifice temporary satisfaction for lasting fulfilment. “I used to sleep on the couch at my dad’s apartment; the place was small. I took so long to move out because for me it was about the vision. I was working to gain experience and learn.”
Her mother taught her to make the most out of the little she had. “When I wanted money to do my hair, my mom would ask me why I didn’t just cut my hair myself. I was also exposed to things; I used to take part in dance competitions overseas. The first year my parents paid, the second year I found a sponsor and the sponsor paid. I put together the presentation.”
Valuable Lessons From her Upbringing
For someone who’s achieved great success, Sibu remains level-headed and attributes her great qualities to her parents. “I don’t just want to say it’s all me and my natural ability. I think there are a lot of factors from your childhood that contribute to the person you turn out to be.” She explains.
“Team sports also helps one develop that confidence and sometimes you don’t always win and you must accept that. My parents taught me that very well. I didn’t always get what I asked for, but it wasn’t just a ‘no’ without a reason. My parents made sure I saw how hard they worked to provide for us,” she says.
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Our @dumacollective team has a new home. This morning the awesome team @spacesworks Atrium on 5th welcomes us to the family and we’re really excited to take on the next 12 months together! May we find inspiration, joy, courage and have lots of fun in this incredible space. Now we can say our offices are inside @sandtoncitymall ✊🏾😊❤️ #GodBlessOurBusiness #GodBlessOutFuture
Here she breaks down what her company Duma Collective entails: “We’re a creative communications agency. We use four main tools to communicate brand messages. Number one being events – we connect audiences to brands. Two, we do social media management and influencer strategies, so anything one would like to communicate via social media.
Three is a creative direction for live shows – that would be your SAMAs, MAMAs and SAFTAs; we consult from a performance direction perspective. Lastly, we do talent procurement for other production agencies.”
“I want to show people that you can have fun, do what you love and still get paid. I love what I do and I’m creating opportunities for other people to do fun work. That’s my legacy: making hard work look cool,” she says.
On Joining Global Citizen
Sibu was one of the elect few South Africans chosen as ambassadors for the Global Citizen Festival that took place in Joburg last year. Here she explains how this opportunity came about.
“What happened was I worked with Afropunk in Brooklyn and then Afropunk here in Joburg. The Global Citizen team asked Afropunk if they knew any people in the PR space and then the Afropunk team asked Theresho if he knew any people and he put my name forward. We had a meeting with Andrew, Global Citizen’s head of communications, and a month passed by and they met with another PR company which ended up getting the job.”
But the people at Global Citizen were impressed by her so much that they had to bring her in. “A month later, I get a WhatsApp from Andrew telling me that they liked my vibe and that I seemed to be in the know in terms what’s happening, not just from an entertainment perspective but also from a political standpoint. They asked if I’d be keen on joining their team for scriptwriting and of course I said yes.”