A Kenyan TV producer shares her thoughts on the business of showbiz

Ngibuni’s approach has been to make quality content that appeals to pan-African and international audiences.

“It’s been a tough journey. But I am happy to say I am the first producer [in Kenya] to do a full multi-cam studio. M-Net have come into the market and revamped the studios.”

Ngibuini said her company has been successful because she looks beyond telling a good story.

“It is not just about telling a great story. It has to be economically viable. Can the show be syndicated? Does that story appeal beyond Kenya? I am not in the showbiz world. I am running a business. People see the glamour, but for me this is a business and at the end of the day it must generate income.”

One of the major challenges Al Is On Production faces is increasing competition in the industry.

“I am filming commercials for much less than I did, say five years ago. The market has shifted. It has become a lot more difficult to justify a TV commercial. The budgets are not what they used to be. What I quote, there is someone else willing to undercut that price. It is getting leaner [and] meaner.”

This has inspired Ngibuini to explore ways to evolve the company and stay relevant in the market.

“It keeps me on my toes on how to remain competitive. It has made me reinvent my company and diversify into other things so that we don’t plateau and stagnate.”

Although it is “still a man’s world”, Ngibuini says she is “willing to navigate the space”.

“I feel there is great opportunity. I would like to leave a giant footprint for young girls to know that they can achieve anything. The only real obstacles are the ones you create in your mind.”

Moving forward, Ngibuini would like to double her firm’s turnover.

“I cannot do that by sticking to what I do all the time. I want to go into new ventures, diversify and add new portfolios to what I already have. I love telling stories, but TV financing is always an issues. I want to get my company to a place where we can self-finance products and reap the benefits of it.”

Working together

As Kenya and other African countries gear up for digital migration, Ngibuini is positive this will open opportunities for existing and new players in film production.

She argued that for Africa to develop, the continent ought to stop looking inward and start looking outwards.

“We need to move away from our own self-serving interests. Africa needs to negotiate as a block, as opposed to each country pushing for its own individual interest. We should open up our space. Why is it cheaper for me to travel to London than it is to go to Nigeria? We should stick together.”

Ngibuini advised other entrepreneurs to maintain good relations and have a mentor to guide them on their journey.

“We are all something, but none of us is everything. Be a good listener because you don’t know everything.”

Ngibuini, who is in the process of completing her MBA, added that entrepreneurs need to reinvent and improve themselves.

“Don’t be static. I always ask myself: what is my market worth?”

As difficult as entrepreneurship is, Ngibuini noted that aspiring business people should learn to overcome their fears and pursue their dreams.

“You also need to be tenacious, resilient and patient and do serious networking. When you fall, get up, dust yourself off and keep going. Your drive will determine how far you can go. You also need to be money smart.”