While the phenomenon is still relatively new in South Africa, the YouTube influencer market in the US and Europe is more established and lucritive; this is mainly because we live in a time when Generation Y and Generation Z are slowly shying away from traditional professions and have started exploring different avenues of generating an income.
Notwithstanding that, South Africa has birthed a number of successful digital entrepreneurs, and found on this long list of successful entrepreneurs is Sibu Mpanza. He has made a name for himself through YouTube and has used that as a stepping stone to creating more avenues. He is also the owner and founder of the digital marketing company, Mpanza Network.
We caught up with the well-known YouTuber to chat about his path and his experiences within the creative space:
How and when did you start your YouTube channel?
I started my channel in 2014 while I was at UCT. I borrowed a camera from a friend and just said what was on my mind.
What profession did you want to get into when you were younger? Has YouTube always been an option?
It was music; music was a big thing for me. I thought I was going to do music, get a gig if I can join an orchestra, or maybe teach music, but whatever it was, it was always going to be centred around music. I’ve always wanted to be in the creative field. Video, photography, and anything to do with the camera was never on my radar.
When did you realise that money can be made through this online platform?
I moved to Joburg and I was like “I’m gonna make something out of it, even if it took me like five years of working at some agency or a publication, but one day, I’m going to get enough money to be a YouTuber full-time.” I was lucky enough that a month after I moved to Joburg I had already gotten my first gig in terms of YouTube and that’s when I thought maybe I could do this.
You are currently sitting on 17 000 subscribers, how have you been able to achieve this and grow your channel?
I am actually sitting on about 43 000. I have 3 YouTube channels in total. The others are MoreMpanza and ArcadeZA. I keep trying to innovate and cultivate my following by being my most authentic self. Many new Youtube creators forget the importance of creating a community.
The term ‘digital entrepreneur’ is one that has been buzzing as of late. Can you explain what a digital entrepreneur is and what they do?
What I can tell you is the reason I call myself a digital entrepreneur is because creating YouTube videos is not the only thing that I do, and I felt like calling myself a YouTuber (although it’s fun and it works and it makes sense) was me limiting myself, and I got to the point where I was going into boardrooms and I was talking to multi-million Rand international and local businesses, and here I am calling myself a ‘YouTuber’ when I can call myself a digial entrepreneur- something that they can understand better. So I think a digital entrepreneur is someone who does more things than one; it’s an umbrella term for me, for example, I do YouTube, I work with other people’s YouTube channels, I work with brands for their social media, so what is the one term that could also include that I work with other brands and help them enhance their social media presence.
So since you do quite a number of things and not just YouTube, would you say YouTube is your main source of income?
I would say that YouTube is the core of the incomes that I generate, so everything sort of starts from there, everyone finds me there. I’m brought into the room because of my YouTube presence. However, most of my income mainly comes/came from working with other YouTubers and helping them with their brands, and also working behind the scenes with other brands to help them enhance their social media presence.
I think a lot of people are still bit confused and also quite curious about how money can be made through YouTube. Can you share with us how you make money?
So I always say there are three primary ways of making money on YouTube. The first is the ‘Google way’, so every time there’s an ad on your YouTube video you will get a certain amount of money. The second way is through a corporate; e.g is how Standard Bank worked with me at the beginning, they asked me as an online personality to be on their videos, and then the third way which is how most of us make our money is through brand deals; so a brand will come to me and ask me to talk about their brand on my channel.
As a South African YouTuber, what are the biggest challenges you were faced with when starting your channel?
The same ones I deal with now. High data prices mean creators and viewers struggle with access to internet. One thing I can say is that brands have started to take us more seriously
because there are more of us and a much higher quality of work.
After the development of your YouTube career, you decided to explore different avenues and launched The Mpanza Network. Please tell us a bit more about the company and how this came about.
So I was watching a lot of creatives and people I work with very closely and my colleagues, and we kept having this conversation where people kept asking me how much they think they should make with certain brands. I realised that my peers really struggled with asking for money and knowing the correct etiquette to deal with and speak to these corporate people, and I decided that I need to formalise a way to help them speak to brands, on top of just helping them with their YouTube channels based on what I have learnt over the past five years. It [Mpanza Network] was more of a solution to the problem that I was finding a lot of my friends have where they didn’t know that their videos should cost R15 000 and not R5 000; so the Mpanza Network is a response to a lot of agencies, a lot of brands taking advantage of creative who don’t understand the business aspects of the work that we do.
What advice would you give to someone who is working towards creating their own YouTube channel?
Just start. You will never start if you’re waiting for everything to be right. I got a tattoo that says “Create” because I sometimes overthink the videos which stops me from making anything. Just start.
Sibu Mpanza focuses on a wide range of topics throughout his three channels. You can check out his main channel here.