The line-up is popping, the tickets are worth the money and you and your friends TURNED UP. But what’s a good event without good planning and tight management? I for one can testify to just how well organised the guys at Powerhouse Entertainment are. Last Bank Holiday weekend, I attended their first Stamina All-Dayer at 93 Feet East in Brick Lane. Food and drink flowed, the DJs came through and the performing acts – who included Bonakz and New Gen – kept the crowd of 500 entertained. Out of many good things one thing I can say is that these guys truly know their audience.
Co-founders of Powerhouse entertainment Issac Kikabi and Dean Attil, speak to Out The Box about delivering quality entertainment and events to young people across the UK.
Tell us about yourselves
Isaac: My name’s Isaac Kikabi. I work around strategy, marketing and general operations. I’m always focused on the outcome so we can attain the best results. The main area I tend to get stuck into is marketing, how the brand looks and how it is perceived. I always keep a check on how our campaigns affect our sales and see what was effective and what wasn’t.
Dean: My name’s Dean Attil, and I’m the face of the brand. I specifically focus on team building with all of our brand ambassadors across the UK. I make the connections by networking and liaising with different people and bringing different ideas to the brand.
Isaac: There’s also Bradley who we call our risk manager. He manages the finance, budgets, and has an overview of what we’re doing at different stages. He has a different perspective so can make sure we’re not over committing or taking too many risks. It goes beyond money, it’s about making the appropriate investments.
Did you guys always see yourself taking this as a career path? Or did it come from first putting on parties?
Dean: I didn’t see it as a career until our second Stamina event in 2012. That’s when I realised we could really do it. I was quite popular in uni so everyone would make the effort to come out to our parties and enjoy themselves. I had fun doing it. Seeing other guys at uni who had done sick events before, made me think: “Yeah, I can do this too.”
Isaac: First year of uni, I saw events as an opportunity to do something for my friends, and everyone around us. Probably to be a little more popular, (laughs) and just get stuck in. But I’ve always been a fan of business, so there’s something about developing an idea from scratch. But it was in 2012, that I realised the brand was bigger than us. It became its own entity and as long as people want what we’re offering, it will always work.
So tell me about the other things you do beside Stamina.
Dean: A lot of people just associate us with Stamina. But we’ve done loads of different things. We’ve created PH:UK (Powerhouse Live) with G Fresh which was our first taster in London.
Isaac: PH:UK was originally created for a sub-culture. A younger audience who were trendy and fashionable. We wanted to create a brand for them because we believe they’re the trendsetters. We’ve also worked with Entertainment Cartel on Masterclass UK where we staged Giggs, Fuse ODG, Stylo G and more. We hosted it in Birmingham and Leicester. That really allowed us to understand how the concert model works.We’ve also dabbled in brand partnerships. Recently, we worked and toured with the Compozers.
Dean: We knew their manager Brian and he wanted to work with us. So we came up with the idea of touring them around the midlands using our brand and networks. We handled the design, the ticketing, promotion. We hosted a date in Birmingham, and one in Leicester. The concerts had a nice intimate vibe which the Compozers liked. The overall process wasn’t perfect, but there’s lessons to be learnt. That’s who we are as Powerhouse, we learn as we go along.
What would you say makes you guys different from other brand managers, party promoters, and event management companies?
Dean: We bounce of each other. People don’t realise, but we’ve known each other since 2007 and that bond has been there throughout. We’re very serious, very professional and we’re not money focused. We have a bigger focus than that and we’ve already crossed one big vision off our list which was to sell out Republic in Leicester. It took us 5 years, but now we’re onto the next big thing.
Isaac: We also take a sense of accountability for the culture. There are many promoters who reach a certain point of success and realise that they’re going to have to talk to the police, talk to the council, be more organised and do paperwork. It’s a challenge, and that’s where people tend to fall off. Putting on a rave is straightforward, but putting on an event holds many technicalities. We’ve definitely rebuilt a better perception of the scene and showed the police and council that this is an audience worth dealing with. We’ve also changed the opinion of the partygoer. There used to be an expectation that something would kick off at our event, but nothing has in the past six years.
So as well as taking responsibility and being accountable, what is it that you’re trying to offer young people as well as just another party.
Dean: We offer young people the opportunity to work alongside professional brands such as Stamina and we’ve had a lot of success with that. Our project manager started of selling tickets for us at university. She’s seen the progress and is now actually working alongside us and even running an event by herself.
We also have our brand ambassadors in different cities. Many of them are working with companies that we brought in to work alongside us. There’s many opportunities for the students. I’m an open book with them. They know they can come to me for anything, whether it be a reference or anything else. We give what we can, and I think what we’ve done so far is quite good.
And that’s not come without a process for you both. What have been some of the challenges of running this company?
Isaac: The biggest challenge is sticking at it and having a reason to. There’s many times where we could’ve just turned around and said: “We don’t have to do this”. We didn’t make any money for the first two years. We lost money in the first year, we broke even in the second year and made a little in the third year. But it wasn’t enough to say we had a business.
For us to really stick at it, we had to look within. Anyone who stuck it out up to this point has had to experience those loses and the trials and tribulations. We’ve had challenges with the police. People from London often liked to come to our parties, but they were ones who caused the most trouble so we had to risk losing money from that particular coach just for the safety of others. That shows the commitment we have to make sure the right message is getting out there. We had to reinforce rules and regulations and set a standard.
What have been your best moments so far?
Isaac: Having Stormzy perform. A lot of people contact Stormzy at the same time and want to book him. But he actually prioritised our booking.
Dean: First of all, I want to big up Cleo. She’s another member of our team. She has many relationships with people on the scene. In November, we had section boys in Leicester, two days later they won a MOBO so we wanted to keep the standard high.
Isaac: That was a key moment. It was a chance to show our followers and the industry that we are a contender and we’re not here just for the short term. Those in attendance got a bargain. The first tickets that went out were £8 and the top ticket was £25. People spoke about the event for a lot longer afterwards and it was positive for our brand.
So how do you work on keeping that momentum going?
Dean: Instead of having Stamina twice a year, we’ve decided to do it all year round so it creates the same buzz. That way people won’t always be waiting for the next big artist. We’re here to create an environment where fans of urban music can enjoy themselves.
Isaac: We also want to be accessible. We’ve just reviewed our business plan, and our core missions are growth and accessibility. Growth for our team while the brand grows at the same time. You’re also going to start seeing Stamina in places such as Europe and up and down the UK in different segments and offerings.
You two started off as friends, how do you keep the friendship and work balance? Do you ever argue?
Dean: We have debates just as everyone does.
Isaac: I’ve picked and chosen who I want to work with in business and I’ve learnt very quickly who can handle it when it’s time to take your personal hat off, and put your business hat on. I’m quite fortunate that as a team we’re able to do so. We have common interests and if I’m not happy with something, I have no problem telling it how it is. Feedback, honesty and transparency is crucial.
What keeps you both inspired and motivated?
Dean: My "why". The reason why I’m doing entertainment is because I love it. The reason why I’m doing business and why I’m trying to get to the top is because I want to look after my mum. She works very hard and we’ve gone through a lot. I also want to get to point where I can give back and share my knowledge with other young people who want to make something of themselves. I’ve also seen myself change a lot, it’s about continuously learning.
Isaac: I enjoy development and growth. That’s to do with business, people and myself. I continuously challenge myself to grow and I‘m always throwing myself in the deep end. The biggest satisfaction is watching other people and seeing how something I’m apart of is able to take them to a different level. What we do is bigger than just a few numbers; we’ve been able to inspire young people across the country to be active and be engaged and unified in something. We’ve inspired long term friendships. To see a team of 100 black young people unified and be respectful, gives me hope that the next generation is serious and are going to change perceptions of what currently stands.
On that note, what advice would you give to inspire other young people to keep going?
Isaac: Be active. The worst thing you can be is switched off. No one can put you on trial to say your idea is good or bad, the only person who can is yourself whilst you make action.
Dean: Don’t take business so seriously. Business is very simple and the reason people start it is because they have a vision. That’s it. Have fun with what you do. I’ll go and turn up after a meeting. Don’t think you have to have a load of money to start a business and if you’ve got people around you that support you, go for it. Don’t let no one tell you no!
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