From hoop dreams to Hip Hop, the business secrets of Tibz, SA’s number one influencer

In music, in fashion, in movies, in tech, “cool” is the quality that defines itself. Elusive and seductive, it projects an aura and a presence that you sense as much as you feel.

Cool is what Beyoncé has on stage; it’s what Charlize has on screen; it’s what the iPhone XS (or let’s be fair, the Galaxy S10 or the Huawei P30 Pro) has when you hold it in your hands. But cool is more than a look, an attitude, a daring fusion of function, style, and design. It’s a business.

And in South Africa, when it comes to defining and monetising cool, there are few who are as practised at the art as Tebello Tibz Motsoane. Not only does he look the part, whether groomed for business in a tailored three-piece suit, complete with tie-clip and kerchief, or hanging out with his crew in tee-shirt, sneakers, and jeans, but he plays it too, for money and for love.

His event management company, ShowLove, which styles itself as “The Creators of Cool”, has been setting trends and building brands since 2006, when it was little more than an organiser of hip hop parties.

The first, at a club in the Johannesburg suburb of Norwood, was a disaster, recalls Tebello – the sound blew, and the partygoers streamed in for free – but since then, he has worked hard to earn his reputation as SA’s undisputed Ambassador of Cool, whether as manager of the rap star AKA, purveyor of clothing labels and fine wine, or as chef at his pop-up restaurant, Café Tibz.

An only child, Tebello grew up in Katlehong, where he took to basketball in a bid to lose weight, becoming so good at the game that he earned a scholarship to study International Relations and Media Studies at Wits.

Although he dropped out when the party business grew big enough to be a career on its own, he is still learning, to network, to influence, to play the game of cool. He took a break from his busy schedule to share his secrets, his story, and his thoughts on what’s cool, on Ruda Talks Change.

Hello, welcome to another session of The Change Exchange. And my guest is Tibz Motsoane. Tebello Motsoane.

Well done, you got that right.

Did I? Good. He is the founder of Show Love Brand Management, not Management, consultancy, which started as an events company.

Yeah, it started as parties in Joburg, and then we started throwing events for different brands and then we managed a lot of South Africa’s major, major talents. And then now, we kind of a… our slogan is ‘We’re the creators of cool’. So, we kind of go into companies and give them angles for them to reach their target markets. So yeah…

Can you remember the first party?

Yes, definitely.

Or maybe only the beginning of the first party?

Look, I remember ‘cause everything went horribly wrong, you know, so I mean, you never forget that first one.

Tell!

Norwood, a place called Amore cafe. I was charging R10 and no one paid, then I let everyone in for free. Then the sound blew. And then people got in for free but they got upset, you know, it just taught me a lot about people and I’ve been stronger since.

So why did you throw that first party?

So, I’ve always enjoyed going out. My older cousin is Rude Boy Paul, so I was always around like the original YFM crew. I was like a little roadie just going out with them. But I’ve always loved hip hop, so I’d go out and I’d be hearing a lot of deep house, a lot of Kwaito back then, but very little hip hop. So I decided to do something about it and decided to stop complaining. I was at Wits at the time. A lot of the guys were at the Wits DJ Academy, like your Dimples and your Milkshakes, you know, they were, they didn’t really have any gigs at the time. So, we decided to start this thing together.

You’ve also said that growing up in Katlehong, what you learnt in the hood, was that you have to make it happen for yourself.

Yeah, I think I would say that, you know, the hood gives you like a blind spot, you know, it’s very difficult to explain, but it makes you a negotiator. It makes you see the things that aren’t necessarily there, you kind of have to figure them out, you know. So, everybody in the hood is innovative. Everybody is entrepreneurial, in my opinion, you know, because you have to, you know, but we didn’t know this at the time. So, a lot of the stuff that I kind of execute today, I think I learnt it from just watching people in the hood.

Finding a way for themselves.

Yeah. What choice do they have?

What were you doing at Wits?

I was studying international relations and media studies. I was on a basketball scholarship, didn’t really want to study, but I actually enjoyed it.

Yeah. Did you finish?

No.

Can you remember that decision, when you decided that, you know, that point when you thought, no, this is not worth it. This is … for whatever reason.

Look for me, I was already throwing parties and I didn’t see myself in the field, so to speak, in terms of media studies and international relations with the prototype sort of jobs were presented. I was already in entertainment by default. I guess I just wanted to stop wasting everybody’s time and just start doing what I wanted to do.

And how did the realisation come that organising parties could actually be a job, that could earn you a living?

Well, I mean, at the time I was still under my parents’ roof, but it got me everything that I wanted, you know, it got me fresh sneakers, you know, it got me, uh, reputation and I could walk into other, other establishments. You know, you walked past the line, you feel cool and all the people with you look cool, you know. It helped me network very, very quickly. And I always knew it was a thing. Obviously at the time I’m reading stuff like The Source, Rap Pages, Vibe magazine, so I already knew it existed somewhere else. It just didn’t exist here. And I was more than willing to be the guy to kind of push it forward.

And how did it grow? How did it find its feet?

Look it grew for me with the name, you know, with name Show Love and you know that, you know, I was always looking for the next DJ or was always looking for the next rapper or the coolest graphic designer or who’s the best on the dance floor. And like we would, you know, get them a bottle. And back then getting a bottle was like a big thing, you know, so it was always about showing love, you know, and that’s, and that’s how we grew.

Showing love in the sense of making connections and giving other people a platform for their best talent.

I mean, I, yeah, I wasn’t, I wasn’t a rapper, I wasn’t the DJ, I wasn’t the graphic designer. But I, I enjoy it, all of that. And I knew how to make their talent grow. I wasn’t taught how to do it. Maybe just again, being an observer, you know, I, I knew that this thing could be a vehicle for a lot of people. I don’t know how I knew it, but I did.

And then as you said, you became, uh, the manager for a number of rappers among them, AKA, for example. How was that? Was that a big step? Was it a big Change?

I think it was very natural step. There wasn’t much change at the time. Again, with the development of talent and then you, you also develop competition, you know, so now there’s other hip-hop parties and they’re also cool and they’ve also got beautiful girls and you know, so you’ve got to stay in the game. So, he (AKA) was kind of like a Show Love hype man in the beginning. I had a relationship with him…

So, he was like a brand ambassador.

Yeah, he was definitely like a Show Love influencer, you know, I had a relationship with the IV League, which was the production house that he was a part of. And I would hear his music and I put him on stages, you know, put him on my stages, you know. And in terms of managing him, it was probably the most organic thing ever. Like it just happened. Literally. He was in my apartment in Killarney and we were working, we were just working on stuff. Yeah.

So, what is your advice to young people getting into this space? If I can use that word, that I do not like. I want to say there’s a lot of self-belief, that I can do this even though I’ve never done it. I can just take the next step and it comes easy and I do the next thing is that how it happened?

You know, for me it’s a great era. I mean, there’s a lot of guys my age now, that are doing exceptionally well, that were starting out back then. I look at guys like, Thapelo Mokoena, you know, your Lungile Radus, your, you know Siyabonga Ngwekazis. We were all young guys, just loving this music and just hustling at whatever we did and then this is where we would congregate, you know, so …

So, there was kind of generation coming up?

100% and the, I mean, again, I go back to the love, you know, we, we enjoyed it. And what I see now is that now there’s money. It’s, it’s, it’s clear that you can make money doing this if you do it well and if people buy him, of course. And I think a lot of people are trying to do it because of the money. And it’s, I’ve seen more people lose money than make money in this game personally. So I would, my advice is to do it firstly because you enjoy it, you know, and if you enjoy it and learn as much as you can about it. We weren’t armed with, uh, you know, knowledge about the music industry, about patenting, about trademarking and what all these things that, who knows, maybe we would be sitting a lot of money now if we, if we did, you know. Like learn the game, you know, the Internet’s a beautiful thing, you know, the information is there. Arm yourself with knowledge and do it because you enjoy it because that’s the part that’s also going to keep you sane. Because when you’re on your gigs are empty and the executions do not work out and you don’t make money, then you have to really look inside yourself.

Yeah. How does one get passed the low points? Because especially if you’re, if you’re working for yourself, you have to generate your own income. There’s no one writing a check or will pay in money into account at the end of the month. How does one lift yourself up again when you have fallen?

You know, hopefully you’ve got good people around you. But again, it’s, it’s always going back to the foundation of why did I do this in the first place? And then you can always track back, maybe I didn’t handout flyers, maybe I didn’t go to this place where I know that attraction from this place, it spills over to the event. So your basics, you have your basics and because you’re doing well, sometimes you get comfortable, you know, and you rest on your own laurels and develop an ego and you just think people are going to come, you know, because it’s you, you know, so when you get a punch in the stomach, you know, you just go back to your basics.

Well, and you look with very clear eyes at why did this happen?

That’s it!

And not kind of fall into a heap and say, oh, I can’t do this. I’m a failure.

That’s it! Cause there’s a reason why it happened. Yeah.

And it’s not the universe, it’s you.

Maybe you didn’t check the weather forecast. Yeah. You know, there’s a reason why it happened.

Yup. And how did the business grow into brands? And, you say that you are now a brand consultant?

Look again, it was this young generation of even the young brand managers, you know, cause there’s promo companies and there’d be the young guys at this beer company, and they’d want to activate. You know, that’s when we started learning about sponsorships and you know, and activating, you know, product placement in music videos. All the stuff that I think has spilled over into what people call, you know, influencing now. You know, what influencers are now, for me, is the same thing and every three years or so, there’s a new name for the same shape, you know. But we were learning that, we just didn’t know what it was. So in doing that, you develop the relationships because those guys from about a decade ago and now a very senior, you know, and you’ve got a relationship that you’ve developed over years and you can sit down and you can have dinners and you can talk about their plans and their strategy.

Networks, huh!

And you build them over years.

Yes. So, pay attention to every interaction because you never know where this person goes.

Including our friends. I always tell people we don’t network with our own friends, because maybe my friend has the contact that I need, but I haven’t told my friend what I’m trying to do. Maybe he golfs with that guy and you’re one person away from that guy. So, we’ve got to constantly network.

You use the word cool every now and again in talking but also everywhere.

Sure. That’s what I sell.

What do you mean?

Well, at the end of the day when I was throwing parties, people had to feel cool at the party. You know, people came to the party because it was a cool party…

Cool, as in the in-crowd?

In-crowd, you know, in-music, in-slang, in-fashion, in-brands, you know, we became the platform for kind of like endorsing what was cool, you know? And I think every brand, every industry needs a level of cool.

So, when you’re now partnering, for example, with Diners Club, what are they buying? What are you offering?

Well, look, I think they have cool products, you know, uh, and I don’t think everybody knows what their core products. So, it’s my responsibility to, to engage with the, the potential new members in a cool way. You know, that they can learn what, what Diners Club has to offer. And you know, if the client wins, I win. And then people win, and how cool is that?

Social media is such a huge part of what you do.

Yeah.

How does one stay centred so that you don’t get pulled this way and that, by that one’s response and that one’s response. Because everyone’s, you know, everyone has an opinion.

Sure. Look for me, I think the one thing about social media that people forget is the social part. You know? I chose to follow you. You know, I, I like your pictures or like your commentary. You know, I, maybe you speak about basketball and I chat to you. I think every once in a while, it can get to a dark place. I think there’s a lot of people that are there just to cause tension, you know. But if you remember why you were there in the first place, you’ll be fine. Well, I’m fine.

Tell me about the start of Café Tibz and your interest in cooking and becoming a chef?

Sure. Look, I’ve always cooked…

Why did you stand at your mothers’ elbow?

I’ve always loved food. I was a clinically obese child, you know, and doctors and my parents put me on all these bland diets that, you know, I think I was depressed, but it definitely, it wasn’t happy, you know. And I had to lose a lot of weight and then losing the weight. That’s when I, I became pretty decent at basketball and I got to travel, a bit through basketball, so I’d be somewhere, eat something amazing like in Brussels or something and I’d want to eat it at home. And my mother would be like, dude no one’s gonna make those for you. And, uh, I would try to figure out how to make it for myself because they would give us a per diem and like pocket money. So, I started getting my own groceries, you know, started, you know, burning up my mother’s kitchen and just learning about food and cooking. And then as I got older, I was always a guy that was in charge of food. I, if I liked the girl I would offer to cook for her, you know, and that would usually work.

A babe magnet.

With Café Tibz, I had actually taken a break from the entertainment scene, in about 2015, you know, and I was spending a lot of time alone, watching a lot of documentaries, traveling a little bit and then when I travel, I’d come across like these supper clubs, you and I’m like, why don’t we have these at home? This is so cool. A place where you can dress up. There’s little bit of music, you know, there’s a late kitchen, you know, cause our kitchen’s close at 10:00 PM for whatever reason.

What’s the difference between a supper club and the restaurant?

To be honest, nothing, you know, it’s more look and feel.

Sounds cool.

Yeah, that sounds great. The original name for Café Tibz was the supper club in my head, you know. So, I approached a few brands and I said, look, let’s try this. You know, I’m kind of like, at the time Bisquit Cognac was the first to come on board. So, the thing was pairing food with the Cognac and I was like, I don’t think people are used to this, so let’s, let’s put it out there. I did my first one and my goal was a 100 people, you know, and I got 68 people, so I was pretty happy. then what I realised was, yeah…

Where did you do it? In an existing restaurant?

Yeah, I did at a restaurant called Verdicchio at Monte Casino. It’s beautiful. It’s got the wine cellar that goes all the way downstairs, so it’s crazy. I did it there pretty successfully, but then I studied this thing again and I was like, you know, I think I’m, an abused word in Johannesburg is the word ‘exclusive’, you know. And I was like, I actually want to take over this word and, have an exclusive thing. You can’t just come, like people mustn’t know how they can get to Café Tibz. And so, I started doing invite only, secret times. People wouldn’t know where the venue was. I would invite people and I would tell them on the day, I would tell them that “there is security, so don’t bring your friend. Only you”. Then I’d have a great cameraman, a great photographer. So now we’re building the FOMO on social media and it became a thing.

So, how long have you been going?

Since 2016, October.

How many do you do in a year?

I probably do about one a month. Oh well there’s ones I’ve done that people actually have never seen on their end of the world, uh, you know, just for specific clients. But it’s become another vehicle. It’s for me, it’s become, you know, it’s like music, you know, it’s like a, the Show Love platform. So, it’s not DJ’s anymore. It’s young chefs. You know, it’s …

Do you cook yourself?

I definitely cook myself. I’ve developed a lot of the recipes myself. I’ve got a young team, but, in the end, I have to approve. I mean, I just signed my book deal, you know. So next year I’ll be coming out with a book…

A cook book or a memoir or a what?

It’s a… the food is definitely the base, you know, but I want food to spill over into all the things that I enjoy. So wine, cocktails, art, fashion, travel. So, I’m going to take a year to really, really structure this thing and name it. And my goal is March 2020.

Can I ask you, you said that you were clinically obese as a child, and so many people struggle with that. How do you manage your relationship with food? Because one has to eat, you call it, you know, if you have a, if you’re an alcoholic or whatever, you can give it up, but you go and give up food …

You know, again, you know, I think the beauty of spending time on stuff, you know, I’ve fortunately been able to learn that healthy food doesn’t have to be bland and, you know, healthy food can taste great, that you can have a beautiful meal and it’s good for you. You know, so, I mean, I definitely didn’t know that growing up. I thought the healthiest thing you could eat fruit, there was a time, I think we even thought, pasta was healthy and good for us, you know, even juice. My relationship with food is that I eat for nourishment. You know, I went to boxing this morning, I had egg whites, you know, because it’s good for you, you know. I made my lady some fish before I came here, you know, because it’s good for me and because she likes fish. I probably won’t have the healthiest thing, you know, late afternoon, but, it’s a balance and this nourishment and I always try and make the smartest decision in the situation I’m in. If I’m leaving the club at 04:00 am, you know, no smart decisions will be made, you know regardless.

So, is there a simple line of advice for people who are struggling?

Fresh, eat as much fresh as possible.

And cut out sugar?

Yeah, it’s the processed stuff. The processed stuff, that’s what’s hurting you. It’s the stuff that says low fat, you know, it’s hurting you. Like fresh, fresh, fresh …

Because so much of what says low fat on it has sugar in it or some kind of sweetener.

Or it was processed or yeah, there is something that they have to do to maintain it and keep it that way.

And to make it taste good. It doesn’t, it doesn’t have the cream, or whatever.

And yeah put in the time, you know, to learn, you know about like seasoning, you know, because also we have to watch ourselves. You know, cholesterol is a real thing, but something like garlic and lemon juice can do so, so much for most, most dishes, you know, so just cook man, you know, just cook, just play with food, just a you’ll enjoy it.

And instead of thinking of it as almost an enemy, yeah. Turn it around and focus on it and turn it to your advantage.

Sure. Yeah. You know, and I mean, why wouldn’t you want to eat a great meal? Yeah. You know, just take care of what you consume.

Tell me about the birth of Atelier, your sparkling wine?

My sparkling wine, my MCC.

Yeah.

So, again in 2016, you know, was this year of just trying to I guess kind of rekindle with Tibz and find myself. And I was spending a lot of time in the Western Cape as well. And the farm Wildekrans, they approached me, at the time they wanted me to be an ambassador, I guess similar to like an influence of thing. So, I spent some time on the farm and I was fortunate enough to spend some time with the wine maker and he was telling me about MCC. How South African MCC is, is really, really going to take over the world. He was talking a lot about Chenin, you know how Chenin, South African Chenin, they’re just beautiful and we’re going to take over the world. Then I went away, and I sat by myself that night, I dropped my email and my suggestion was that I don’t want to be an ambassador. I want to partner up in something great. At the time I was reading up a lot on how the systems work for like Uber and your Airbnbs. So, companies that basically don’t have, you know, the running cost of certain things. So, you own, cars but you don’t, you know, you own properties, but you don’t, you know. And I was like, I don’t want to own the wine farm, you know, I don’t want to take care of the three hundred plus people, but I want to own wine. So how can we do this, you know, can we back and forth? And then we agreed that I take a takeover sets and vintages and I’ve created a completely new brand, so that’s Atelier is from scratch. I spent a lot of time thinking about the name. We are roughly 16 months old now, we’re getting into our second vintages and I think we’re going to be a major player in the MCC game worldwide not just here.

Tibz as someone who’s 25 years older than you are.

It doesn’t show.

Thank you so much. He’s cool. It seems to me that there’s a new generation and new market, coming up, coming through of cool black South Africans.

Oh okay!

Yes?

Look, I don’t know about new.

Or am I seeing this, in old-fashioned terms.

I understand why it’s probably new to you.

I really feel that I’ve been an outsider for a very long time.

We just louder about what we enjoy. Hmm. You know, I think also, I mean there’s always a debate about whether or not we have a middle class, you know. But I think, we’ve developed our taste, you know, we know what’s for us and what’s no longer for us. We’re not, you know, we’re not doing things just to show that we’ve arrived anymore, you know, and I understand why we had to do that as well, you know. I mean, a 25-year-old Tibz, definitely did some unnecessary things that, you know, but, I’m glad that’s out the way, you know. So now we’ve developed taste, you know, what this cuisine, whether it’s wine, whether it’s travel, whether it’s fashion, whether it’s where we live, whether that’s where we hang out, you know, it’s how we get groomed. We were very comfortable with being black, you know, you know that being black is beautiful and we don’t even have to be aggressive about that anymore. We are black and we have beautiful. Yeah.

And the black men, I was fascinated. There’s Gillette, at the moment, there’s Vaseline and there’s someone else. All centring their campaigns around black masculinity.

Sure. Well look, I think it’s very important because for the longest time and I mean with respect, something as simple as Men’s Health, I mean you only ever saw white guys with six-packs. You know what I mean? And you’ve seen that change a lot in the last year that we have different needs. You know, we, we ate different things when we were 10/11 years old, you know, so we develop differently and so you have to take that into account if you want our money, you know. If you want to speak to us, you have to understand us. So, we, again, we were vocal about that. You know, we’re learning about that, you know, we understand something as simple as maybe speaking to a dietitian if you in sports, you know, like you have to take care of yourself. We see too many black athletes that just, you know, maybe don’t develop the way they’re supposed to. And a lot of that is nutrition.

Do you think this new consciousness will help us as a country deal with violence against women and children, if men see themselves differently?

I think the most important thing that has to happen with men, it’s for men to speak to men. You know, I think there’s a big gap there, where guys don’t speak to each other. Guys expect each other to be strong, you know? And I think it’s taken out on women, you know, because when you’re with your guy friends, you are perfect, you know? But guys don’t feel the need to be perfect around their women. And I think that weakness makes them act a certain way, you know?

Interesting view.

Yeah. It’s like, it’s like a question. There’s a common question here in Joburg: “How’s business?” You know what I mean? And I was like, do you really want to know? Because guys just expect a great answer. Oh yeah things are good man, picking up, you know. Maybe things aren’t good, you know? But now there’s the facade of I can’t let that people think that things aren’t good. And then you get home and then you don’t want to be home.

You don’t only kick the dog. Talk about your home. Where have you chosen to live and why?

I currently live in Bryanston, initially when I moved there, it wasn’t my favourite place in the world, but work was around there. A lot of the agencies were around there. My office is around here in Sandton, but I don’t spend too much time there. But I’ve adjusted, you know, I like Bryanston now, you know, I can deal with William Nicol now.

And the space? What made you choose that specific space? Do you like big windows? Do you like cosiness? Trees outside?

My complex is pretty big, but it’s quiet. It’s close enough to everything. But I can also hide and that’s important.

And how do you take the cool concept in there? What do you do at home?

Into home? Ag, it’s very old school, you know, huge couch, coffee table, lots of books, lots of old LPs and then always a full fridge. Yeah.

Do you like many people around you in your own space or is that your private place?

Very, very quiet. Very private. Very few people get to come there.

So, it’s exclusive?

Yeah, very exclusive.

And plans?

You know, look, there are things that are on the cards and they’re growing. They’re growing every day. So, from Atelier, to Café Tibz and the spaces that Café Tibz is getting into, to the consistent work we’re doing for clients like Diners Club. So, for me, it’s just about consistency. You know, I’m traveling more, hopefully do more things on a global scale. The plan is, is to grow. Yeah.

Fantastic and good luck.

Thank you so much. I appreciate that.

Thank you for spending time with us. All of the very best, until next time. Goodbye.