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No Flight Just Fight

Published 7 years ago
By Forbes Africa

Reality television often tries to portray the behind the scenes activities of well-established TV personalities, showing their good and bad days. Sometimes there’s more drama when the lights go off. It was a resignation from two shareholders that dimmed the lights on Damien Brown’s diversified media company, New Vision.

Before graduating from high school in 2000, Brown found his entrepreneurial feet selling watches and cologne to his classmates. With this experience, he started his first registered business, The Grounds Communications which was a vending machine business distributing prepaid airtime. A friend’s father gave Brown an opportunity to start securing sites for these vending machines.

“I ran that business for about two and a half years successfully and after that the [mobile] networks decided that they needed to invest in the new technology at the time, which is now called 3G,” says Brown.

This would become his first major setback on his entrepreneurial journey.

“The vendor’s cash got sliced quite a bit and it forced me and my business out of the market,”  he says.

So, in 2003, Brown started New Vision, a company that sold advertising space on the vending machines from his first business. Through the years, the business diversified into a media group housing a production business, an advertising agency and a gear rental business.

But seven years later, New Vision changed their focus completely. A change caused by his worst day in business.

In 2010, Brown was sitting in his office when the chairman walked in with surprising news.

“I think I was 27 at the time. He came in and handed in his resignation. His son had emigrated abroad and was also a shareholder in the business… [he] had also taken money out of the business,” says Brown.

“The business had slowed down quite a bit and he thought ‘this was my exit strategy time and now it’s time to move on’. The shareholders had milked the business and pulled out when it slowed down. At that point I was very young and naïve. I didn’t understand what it all meant, resigning as a director and the other as a non-executive director and me being left in the books as the only director.”

A tough time for a young entrepreneur without any formal business training nor a university qualification. He knew no other way to deal with the drama but to shed tears.

“I was very emotional. I lost everything. I think when I was pinned up against the wall, I had nowhere else to turn. So it was either flight or fight. You really only got those two options and I don’t think I have it in me to run so I had to deal with it,” says Brown.

This was one of the reasons that Brown changed New Vision’s focus. There were too many facets to the business and it was too much for one person to focus on. Brown was worried he would become a “jack of all trades” and never really achieve anything. The second reason was passion.

“It’s one thing just making money but it’s another thing also being happy. Money doesn’t buy you happiness. And I’ve always had a passion for television. I love how you put everything together; the entire method is such an intricate process which I’m really attracted to,” says Brown.

The 30-year-old had to do things differently with the next season in his life.

“This time we watched every cent. We vet everyone we get into business with. We have a committee that makes decisions on everything. Basically, we cross our Ts and dot our Is seven times over before making decisions,” he says.

Today, New Vision is predominantly a production company specializing in producing content they own and content produced on behalf of their clients. They’ve produced reality television shows like Being Mandela, a show that chronicled the lives of the late Nelson Mandela’ws granddaughters, which aired on NBC, and The Blueprint Travel Show for Fox TV in the United States.

“We’zve just returned from a four-month stint in Los Angeles where we produced the next season, I suppose it’s called The Real Plastic Surgeons of Beverly Hills, but ideally it’s what Dr 90210 used to be on E! with Dr Robert Rey,” says Brown.

In Africa, New Vision currently has four projects in production, including Kelly-Ann Cooks in Africa, which is being shot in Mozambique.

The reality television bubble is big at the moment, Brown says, so there’s a lot of content viewers can choose from. He hopes that the bubble doesn’t burst like his dreams of a younger day.

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Related Topics: #Damien Brown, #Grounds Communications, #Networks, #New Vision, #September 2014, #Television.