By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 23 September 2019)
Ndanu Kilonzo understands she has the missing link that many creative artists don’t understand. It’s got to do with her ability to blend business with the arts to achieve so much media success that her company has gone global in the last few months.
As CEO of Okuhle Spielworks, Ndanu is in the business she was already doing successfully for more than ten years with Dorothy Ghettuba-Pala as Spielworks Media’s Company Operations Officer (COO).
“Our plan had always been to tell our Kenyan stories on a global platform, and we did it with shows like “Lies that bind’ and ‘Ladies First’, which have not only been aired on local channels [like KTN, NTV and K24],” says Ndanu. “They have also been shown on MNet, SABC and even Fox TV which picked up our ‘Ladies First’,” she adds.
But her vision has always been large. “Kenyans have amazing stories to share, but what we are doing right now is specifically thinking about how best to address not just a local but also a global audience,” says the 33-year-old mother of two who has recently partnered with the South African-based Okuhle Media to create Okuhle Spielworks Ltd.
Having started off as a ‘line producer’ at Spielworks with Dorothy early in 2011, the two women actually met the year before when they were both working at Sterling Quality (SQ) where Dorothy was production manager and she was her production assistant. “Dorothy had already registered Spielworks in Canada where she had had been working, not in media, but as a venture capitalist,” Ndanu recalls.
But then they both left SQ to create Spielworks’ first TV series called ‘Block D.’
“It was KBC that first picked up the pilot for Block D,” she says. After that came shows like ‘Higher Learning’, ‘Saints’, ‘Urembo’ and ‘Lies that Bind’ among the 41 TV movies, 18 TV shows and more than 20 web shows that Spielworks has produced.
In all of these projects, Ndanu has been in charge of production. “That has meant being responsible for everything from the initial concept and doing the budget to all the details involved in producing the finished product.”
Having her first degree in Creative and Performing Arts from Maseno University, Ndanu’s decision to go back (while still with Spielworks) to get a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from Strathmore grew out of her recognition of the relevance, even the necessity of having business skills.
“I have always loved working with numbers so preparing budgets for all our projects hasn’t been a problem for me,” says Ndanu who grew up watching my father draft a family budget every month and being fascinated by the process.
It’s a skill that has served her well, especially as Dorothy’s forte has been in fund-raising while she’s done budgeting for all 289 episodes of ‘Lies that Bind’ for instance and all 120 episodes of shows like ‘Jane and Abel’.
Confident that the future looks bright for Okuhle Spielworks, Ndanu has her sights set on bringing Kenyans’ stories into a global arena. “We have conquered the local media scene. Now’s our time to grow and share our Kenyan content with the rest of the world.”