Monday, August 3, 2009

The Reggae Artist as Entrepreneur

Reggae singer Levi Roots has been on a roll, and "putting music in your food" in the process. Since 2007 he has become known as the singing chef and noted entrepreneur. His more recent, July 2009, success seems to be his Reggae Reggae Chicken Breast Sub offered by the Subway chain in the UK. Click here to view the site. The site is complete with the nutritional low down on the product, a Levi Subway song, and a guide to speaking Jamaican. The last two are offered as free downloads. Check out the TV ad for the sandwich below.

Levi Roots has an interesting website, I like the promotional video on the site. He is evidently a very busy entrepreneur who finds the time to create new music, promote his sauce, promote his Reggae Reggae Cookbook, speak to students, and do some TV cook show gigs. Click on the highlight here to watch his "How to prepare jerk chicken" video. Based on the info on his website, Subway is not the only restaurant where this artist has his product on the menu. He does have his sauce associated with a fish burger at Hungry Horse in the UK. Here's a video of Levi Roots cooking on the BBC Good Food Show to promote his recipes as featured in his Reggae Reggae Cookbook.

Levi Roots' success has not come easy as he testified. He did much on his own, but things took off after he received £25,000 from two investors who took a 20% stake in his business. This apparently wasn't a bad deal, one of the investors made one phone call and got his products into the Sainsbury's retail chain. There's been no looking back since. Here's a video of Levi Roots talking about what it takes to be an entrepreneur, the video is part of the Inspiring Entrepreneurs series in the UK. Take note of his thoughts on Caribbean food at the end.
(USP = unique selling point)

I remain a champion of the idea that we need to introduce more Jamaicans to the possibilities of cultural enterprise. I led the design of the BA in Entertainment and Cultural Enterprise Management at the University of the West Indies (UWI) so that we could address this. However, the buy-in at the top has been very very slow in coming. Part of the challenge comes from what economics professor Vanus James identified as the paradox of entrepreneurship in the Caribbean. He wrote, "entrepreneurs with substantial capital are usually not drawn to invest in key creative activities of the copyright sector, such as music; those entrepreneurs who are drawn typically have only small amounts of capital." I'm pretty confident that Levi Roots would never have attracted that £25,000 investment from the Caribbean. This is a sad reality, because there are many many more business opportunities I see coming out of Jamaican music and culture by leveraging the range of our intellectual property in a variety of ways.

For starters, creatives will need to take themselves more seriously and think big, but equally, the folks in the Caribbean with capital need to seriously work on their biases. I think Levi Roots is an entrepreneur that we should invite to impart some of what he learned along the way if we want to take what we do to a higher level.

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