Have you ever been told to stop following your passion? Questioning yourself, “Am I on the right path?”, doubting your capabilities to do things your heart compels you to do.

Dealing with self-doubt is one of many inner battles many successful entrepreneurs overcome and continue to face on their journey. I have been blessed with numerous opportunities to interact with a diverse range of entrepreneurs and their stories all seem to share a common theme –  long stressful days and sleepless nights. However, once you are making a successful living through what you enjoy, you would not change it for the world.’  


I had the chance to peer into the mind of a self-starter who continues to slay self-doubt in extraordinary fashion. Danai Mavunga is a PR and brand consultant wiz and uses her talents to open doors and push her clients to new uncharted territories. DJ Neptizzle, Gina, of Just Geen, Nigerian hitmaker Dr. Sid and super talented music producer Juls are a few of her influential and respected clients. _mg_2668Danai harnessed her talents at Rwd Magazine, Arise magazine, MOBOs and most recently Google via Fresh Strawberry Management. She is one of the founders of Soobax, which is an online guide to cultural events in London.

The evidence of Danai Mavunga’s work has set her out to be considered one of the best independent PR and business management millennials in the creative industry. Let’s meet the founder of LIT Management – Danai Mavunga, the silent force in the Afrobeats scene.

Kofi: I first heard about you in 2007/8 during the days of your blog – Love Letters; where you wrote about African culture in music and fashion, at a time where we could say it was uncool to be African. What made you express interest in Africa so publicly?

Danai: {laughs} I was so shy, I can’t believe I wrote that blog.

As long as I can remember, I have always had a natural connection with Africa. I grew up in a household where Africa was always the agenda – from politics to fashion. My father had books from different authors across the continent, old music records from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Ghana, and Nigeria. I have always had a keen interest in Africa from an early age, so it had just been my norm.

Since a kid, people have called me “Afro-Puff girl.” I found it funny when people said, “I’m so Afrocentric. Now that I’m older, I can make sense of my identity as a Black woman, how I fit in today’s society and why some people call me Afrocentric. I’m from Zimbabwe, and I was born and raised in London; I’m proud to be British, at the same time Africa is within me.

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“Since a kid people have called me Afro-Puff girl”

K: Would you say your interest in Africa has influenced your business moves?

Danai: Fundamentally, yes.

After I had attained a degree in marketing, I knew that I was not interested in marketing everyday products like toothpaste or dog food – that didn’t excite me. My eldest sister works in PR and advised me to do work experience to explore what I like. I worked at RWD as a writer for Grime music, where I realised I enjoyed writing, however, I wanted to write about what I had a strong passion in; African culture. I later landed an intern position at an African lifestyle magazine – Arise magazine. It was like the African Vogue. The pay wasn’t great, but I loved my role. I worked on features during Lagos Fashion week, and I got to travel to Nigeria for the first time. I met a lot of famous African musicians and significant figures. I believe this was where I built my foundation subconsciously.

To some degree, working in the creative industry goes against the traditional African route of becoming a banker, lawyer or doctor. How did you cope going down an “unconventional” path?

Danai: Careers in the creative industries, especially in African communities, tend not be held with the same high regard as conventional jobs; even more so when you are starting from the bottom. At first, my parents were a bit weary – but now they are my biggest supporters. All they want is the best for me. But I had to prove that I was serious. I had to cut certain lifestyle habits and people out of my life and replace it with sources of inspirations. I follow inspirational pages on social media, I follow and engage with individuals who are succeeding in their chosen path and even paths unrelated to what I am doing.

I am incredibly blessed as my family are my biggest support network. My middle sister Vimbai is always giving me money when I’m struggling and my big sister Taponeswa is my champion. She essentially laid the foundation for me to follow. I’m motivated by her accomplishments and her position at Sony Music – she pushes me all the time. My parents haven’t stressed me out by pushing me down a path that I’m not interested in.

_mg_2597How did you form your business relationship with Dj Neptizzle?

Danai: During university, I used to run club nights with my two friends (Nana Agyei and Akosua Acheampong) The aim was to fuse African music and other mainstream popular music together. My friend, and business partner at the time said her Vietnamese friend could play plays Afrobeats. My first thought was ‘’Yeah, right!’. But when I heard him play he shut down the party with an amazing set… then our friendship built from there.

As Neptizzle grew popular, I gained more experience in PR/marketing in the music industry. Neptizzle traveled to Vietnam, and he asked if I could help manage his bookings while he was away. I agreed, and I shortly realised this could potentially turn into something viable for the both of us. I could see gaps, and I knew I could grow his profile even more. He is such a dope DJ, so he makes my job a whole lot easier. {Laughs}

 

Working for Google, the MOBOs, and multiple international print magazines enhanced Danai’s skills to grow people and brands. Within the last three years, she has propelled Dj Nepitizzle from the local London Afrobeats’ scene to the international circuit, playing in various countries in Europe and Africa. He has been featured in mainstream outlets such as the Guardian, SBTV, and the Voice. He is supported by the global brand Adidas, and not to forget he has a new weekly show on RinseFm.  

So managing was not part of the business plan?

Danai: I never started with a business plan; I never went to a business school. My background in PR and my natural ability to grow brands is something I was just passionate about.

In the beginning, a lot of people assumed I was just following a DJ around and it rattled me to my core {Laughs}. I struggled with self-confidence, and I almost quit at one point, but it was my friends and family that kept pushing me. I continue to find ways to develop my skills, and I just had to cut out the negative talk and believe in myself and trust in God.

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How were you able to juggle work at Google and fulfilling your business venture?

Danai: It was tough but rewarding at the same time. I worked at Google in 2015 under an events company called Fresh Strawberry, for a year. I was working over 60 hours a week, and it began to affect my other projects and my social life. It was an amazing experience which, helped me develop my skills to another level. However, things suddenly became out of balance at home, which forced me to leave. I considered my options in my career and personal life; I became aware that I might not be in this position again to take this opportunity of going independent and being a full on business woman.

There’s an inner voice that tells you go and get a job, flourish in an industry that you’ll love, be financially secure. However, life is just about choices. I want to be the woman that helps people, employs people and gives people opportunities to succeed. That to me is more rewarding than anything else in this harsh industry.

It must be a great feeling to know that large enterprises and brands recognise your talents._mg_2642

I still get shocked when I get approached to work with known people and brands. When Gina of Just Geen, approached me to work with her, it gave me confidence that this is my lane!

What challenges have you learned growing brands?

Danai: To build brands you have to be adaptive and learn your market. I don’t necessarily have to understand everything about fitness, or music. However, I’ve recognized that you have to have different approaches for each brand depending on the industry.

Why do you think people hold back from pursuing their passions?

Danai: Confidence is a big issue to why people stop or fail. I’ve passed on a lot of projects because of it. But that’s just the enemies of progress talking and winning.

I recently completed a business management course and everyone in my class say that they are here because they lack confidence.

There are certain things I still struggle with, but I always find solutions. Self-affirmations are important. You have to believe in yourself, and you have to trust in God.

What’s next for you?

Danai: I feel like I’m living in a whirlwind right now, my story did not start off being smooth, but I am so grateful for the position that I’m in today. I want to be a sponge and soak more information and continue to grow my business.

I grew up in an era where the tables were turning. Being African is cool. 2016 was probably one of the best times to reflect this. Drake had a number 1 track with a Nigerian artist… How mad is that? So many people with African descent are doing great things. Stormzy, Skepta, Michaela Cole, Fuse Odg, Lupita Nyongo and Danai Gurira – I could go on and on. One of my short term goals is to work more across Africa.

Subject – Danai Mavunga

Writer & Photographer – Kofi Dwaah

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