As we bid farewell to Women’s Month, we sign off with one more story worth telling, the one of a woman whose name is attached to many South African top stars in the music industry.
Her name is Sheree O’Brien: an exclusive manager and publicist to rapper and SA Idols’ presenter ProVerb, award-winning vocalist and songwriter RJ Benjamin and Chad Alexander artist.
In addition, other artists that were privileged to be managed by Sheree include the legendary late DJ Brett Jackson, DJ Mbuso, DJ Claude, Dj China, Relo from Skwatta Kamp, Jub Jub, Pebbles, Noxolo Hlatshwayo and Giggs Superstar.
Despite working behind the scene, the 15 years career mileage of Sheree, 32 – a respected workaholic businesswoman and mother of one, who has given birth to Splakavellis Management after her modelling career ended, who believes in developing artists as a brand to give their careers longevity – has attracted media attention and her incredible journey has been documented by national magazines and newspapers… written in colourful descriptions and titles:
The First Lady of SA House; A woman who has a natural talent of creating super stars; The most influential women in the Dance Music scene; a master of multi-tasking and a true media maverick. The first female Marketing Manager in a major house music label, Soul Candi Records.
No doubt, it is evident that Sheree lives in a musical space. It is in her veins
Some of the popular projects Sheree has been working on include Big Brother, Soul Sessions and Idols SA.
In an exclusive interview with TVOSA (The Voice of SA), Sheree shares her thoughts about Women’s Month and 15 years milestone career journey.
What does Women’s Month mean to you?
SHEREE: I personally don’t see the need to have a special month to celebrate women, this should be done on a daily basis. I also don’t do anything special for the month, I work equally hard every day.
Have you done something special for Women’s Month?
SHEREE: Not at all, every moment that I achieve something becomes my Woman’s Day.
15 years in the entertainment business, how did you manage to last this long?
SHEREE: I often wonder about that myself! But it’s obviously because I’m a tad insane *laughs*
Well, I believe there are a few reasons why I have achieved the longevity: I am driven by the passion for it; I just do me; I don’t think of competition or worry about who is doing what, it’s my lane in my race and I go at my own pace I respect my industry, my clients and what I do; and I have earned that respect in return; I work extremely hard, but more importantly I work honestly, ethically and loyally.
My good business ethics have never been and will never be negotiable. Then the fact that I am an “all-rounder” is really important – I started off doing events management and marketing, then moved on to artist management, bookings & PR. I then entered the record label industry and managed almost every division within the label from Marketing to Artist Development to product Distribution.
I then moved on to focus strictly on artist management but with a brand development specialisation and doing more events PR. I have also become quite involved in the Television world over the past 2yrs in terms of placing artists onto shows, client relationship management and PR. Last but not least I believe with my entire being that it’s because it is my God given talent and that it was my calling. Once you hear your calling and discover your purpose, you cannot ignore it or turn your back on it… believe me, I’ve tried! …(Laughs)
What are you most proud of as a successful businesswoman?
SHEREE: Honestly I struggle with the term “successful” because I feel that it’s a journey on which I am constantly trying to do more, achieve more, learn more and grow. In relation to my dreams and goals, success is still a long way away. I am proud however that being a small city girl, from an average income home, had big dreams and followed those dreams and made them come true on my own terms. The road was never and still is not easy but I built a business out of it because people believe in me and my abilities for what I can do for them and see my value. 15 yrs is a lifetime – a lifetime of sacrifices, trials, errors, failures, lessons but also tons of joy
One (or two) lesson that other South African women can learn from Sheree?
SHEREE: My life motto says it all: Dream, Pray, Believe, Receive and above all, Trust God! That your background and history has absolutely nothing to do with what you make of your future.Know what your strengths and weaknesses are in your character because all industries require different characteristics in order to crack it. It’s important to dream but even more important to KEEP dreaming. Keep shifting the goal posts and raising the bar for yourself. Always remember to stay humble and take nothing for granted.
What is the hardest challenge of a single mother, who is also a very busy businesswoman?
SHEREE: I believe I am only a single mother in terms of a relationship status but not in how my child is being raised. The reality is that I am blessed to have THE most amazing support system in my family, so I really don’t have much challenges to complain about. For me, honestly, the only challenge is that I don’t get to spend as much time with him during the week as I’d like to because I work long hours, my work is extremely deadline driven and the schedule is erratic. So I only get to spend about 4 hrs a day with during the week.
However, when I fell pregnant I made a decision to cut down on all the travelling so that I could focus on being a Mom. So most weekends I actually get to spend with him and I now only try to travel every 6 weeks or so as opposed to every weekend as before. I do believe that when he is older he will understand and respect me for working as hard as I do to give us a better life and I do hope that I too can instil the value of hard work in him.
What has been your lowest point in 15 years of your career?
SHEREE: In 2002 when I lost everything due to a bad business investment I made. I lost my entire investment, my car, my house and most of my belongings. I had to move back in with my parents and literally start from scratch. It took me close to 8yrs to recover from it and get back on my feet again. I was depressed for about a month. I wouldn’t get out of bed, wasn’t eating, not speaking to anyone.
It was hard for my family to see me go through that and hard for me to see them see me go through it. However, from every failure there can only be lessons. It taught me not only about business risk and lessons but so many life lessons as well. When most people would have called it quits and taken another direction in their careers, I only became more ambitious to pursue it, conquer it and make a “success” of it. I look back and I don’t regret that time of my life because I know I am far stronger than just a trial.
What makes Splakavellis Management different from other artist management companies?
SHEREE: Firstly it’s the fact that are not just an artist management company, even though that is what we specialise in. We do Artist, PR, Bookings, Client Relationship and Project Management for the entertainment industry, specialising in Music. In terms of artist management – we keep our unit small whilst others try to sign on as many as they can to make more money – good for business but the artist suffers due to a lack of enough individual attention. Our artists and clients are niche market as opposed to the commercial market. We don’t take on too many artists or clients as we do career development and branding which often takes years to build and accomplish, so our work is quite long term. We do what we do out of passion first, sharing a common vision and we work as a team. We really work off family values. I am very proud to have artists that genuinely get along with each other and want to see each other grow, there is absolutely 0% insecurity or jealousy amongst them which is common amongst artist stables.
If you could change anything about the South African music industry, what would that be?
SHEREE: The government would start investing into our industry via development and financial backing. The use of international music being licensed for local adverts and campaigns would be banned. Companies need to start feeding their own musicians instead of overlooking them and sending millions to the international artists that couldn’t care less about their company or campaign. Radio also needs to start playing more local music.