Hub helps to ease owner’s ‘hardest job’

Bonie Sithebe proudly holds the title "Fun, Fearless and Female".

Bonie Sithebe proudly holds the title “Fun, Fearless and Female”.

Bonie Sithebe holds the title “Fun, Fearless and Female” – one she is immensely proud of.

Rightly so, as she is currently making waves in an industry that is still largely male-dominated.

Sithebe is an up-and-coming film director who started Durban Motion Pictures with her scriptwriter husband, Philani Sithebe, eight years ago.

“It started as a hobby. We didn’t know that you could actually make real money out of films,” says Sithebe who previously owned a graphic design business.

The pair invested their savings of R300 000 in their first film as no one would fund them because the business was considered too much of a risk.

Sithebe’s business is one of several businesses housed at the Small Enterprise Development Agency ‘s (Seda) incubator, SmartXchange. The incubator seeks to develope and support businesses in the ICT sector through incubation, training and business support.

“I first heard about SmartXchange at the Durban Film Office as they had the facilities we needed and we submitted an application – registration documents, track record of our films and our business plan,” says Sithebe.

It didn’t take them long to hear back from SmartXchange, and the business has been housed at the incubator for the past three years.

Since then, success has rolled in and their turnover has quadrupled.

Their first movie – “Nothing for mahala, Gazi” – was accepted by the South African Broadcasting Co-operation (SABC) as part of an initiative featuring student films as well as licensed by M-Net’s Mzansi Magic.

Mzanzi Magic recently renewed the license to air the film for the next three years.

Sithebe has been recognised by the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) as one of the best filmmakers in Durban and is currently working with a large Johannesburg-based film company as a director.

She was also named the top woman in business at the 2012 Information Communication and Technology (ICT) awards and was a judge at the 2013 awards in November held by the Black Information Technology Forum (BITF).

The NFVF has been mandated by parliament to spearhead equitable growth and development in the South African film industry, and the BITF was formed with the aim of addressing the shortage of black businesses in the ICT sector.

However, all of this has not been without challenges.

Says Sithebe: “Being in front of the camera is glamourous, but the actual process of making a film is not very glamourous. You need to be passionate about what you to to make it a success. We had no support at all. It is the hardest job I have ever had.”

She says she used to do everything – editing, catering and make-up – herself while her husband did the scripting and video production.

“Since being a part of SmartXchange I have learnt to hand over some of my tasks to staff. This enables me to be out promoting my business and trying to bring in more business instead of being stuck behind a desk,” says Sithebe.

Another perk of being a part of SmartXchange is that she is able to make use of the services of other businesses at the incubator and then pay them at a later stage ,because she has been able to build relationships with them and there is a certain amount of trust.

Business owners interested in applying to SmartXchange for assistance must meet the following requirements: the business must be in the ICT sector, be a legal entity, must be SMME, have sales up to R5 million, maximum of 10 staff, operational for under five years, be BEE compliant and adhere to SmartXchange’s house rules.

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