Ten years of Legend Manqele

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Legend Manqele

ADVERTORIAL: The Barleader TV CEO, Legend Manqele, isn’t an overnight success nor is he a one-show wonder executive producer. If anything, he’s a content whizz. We get a glimpse into his business-savvy mind on his path to building an empire

Manqele’s on a mission to form a sentimental connection with the month of May, in the same way that Jay-Z treasures the number ‘four’. His birthday is on 12 May, his production house The Barleader TV went live on the same day and he now plans to launch two more ventures this month. As the 29-year-old celebrates a decade working behind the scenes of the TV and film industry — three of which have been spent at the helm of building The Barleader TV into one of the fastest growing production companies — he still has more to achieve.

Not one to commemorate milestones — including his own birthday — Manqele, instead, plans to launch two new business ventures to mark this turning point. “As much as it’s important for me to have been around for this long, I haven’t thought of celebrating because it’s too much work to plan something then be anxious about whether people will attend,” he says, before breaking into a short chuckle. He adds: “I’m learning that the key to success is to be malleable, shape-shift all the time and not stay married to one idea.” Longevity, after all, is pivotal to building a trusted brand in this industry.

For Manqele, creating quality content isn’t just a craze, it’s a calling. His new ventures The Bar and TRILAB are both aimed at raising the content creation bar to compelling heights. The former is a website set to create one-of-a-kind content around the film and television industry, while the latter is a branding, strategy and digital agency that aims to assist brands with communicating distinctively by drawing from their contexts and histories. The Bar will have a CSI arm titled The Classroom, a series of film and television lectures that Manqele will be hosting with other industry thought leaders.

Manqele cut his teeth at Urban Brew Studios and later Don’t Look Down Productions. As an employee, a constant feeling of inadequacy haunted him, forcing him to admit that he didn’t enjoy living up to anyone’s expectations. And so his company was born. Channel O Top 50, Dineo’s Diary 4, The Cover, Rich Kids 2, Living The Dream With Somizi Seasons 2 and 3, Being Bonang and Cishe Ngafa are some of the productions under The Barleader banner.

“I never set foot at a tertiary institution and as a result, I’ve had to learn to bargain with my Imposter Syndrome throughout my career. However, when I went into business, I realised that I already knew most things about the industry but lacked the know-how to package them for clients,” he says, adding that studying information that wasn’t privy to juniors during his formative years helped empower him. To this day, he’s passionate about up-skilling his staff through gestures as simple as having pitch decks readily available on the company’s server and exposing them to other facets of the creative business. What he’s not interested in, however, is dwelling on his earlier struggles, even though he had to work twice as hard as many of his industry competitors, he has never felt hard done by life, he explains. He does however, want to thank all those who have walked this journey with him. Those who he says have given him a hand up, those who have given him a chance and even those who have said no, because each of those experiences have given shape to the man and business mind he is today.

Manqele’s story reads somewhat like a modern-day fairytale, but it was saying ‘Yes’ to everything and an impeccable work ethic that got him to the top over the 10 years. “We work in an industry where the guy who is bashing cables could easily become your boss. I’m proof of that and so are many others,” he says. To improve his staying power, he’ll continue to trust his gut more than just being reliant on a strategy, it’s a balancing act. “It pays you to understand yourself and the space you’re playing in, as meaningful thought produces meaningful work. Beyond the success we all need to realise that what truly matters is that this ecosystem of storytelling relies on all of us to work together in ways that will serve our country” he concludes. What lies ahead in the next ten years and beyond for this challenger brand will be most intriguing to watch.

Written by Motlatsi Radebe

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