Does the name ‘Aliaune Damala Badara Thiam’ ring a bell? Probably not. How about ‘Akon’? Well, I’d like to think anyone with a pretty decent idea of pop culture will be familiar with that name, and probably its African roots too.
Okay, for the sake of those who probably have no idea that there once was MySpace and Orkut before Facebook and Instagram, multi-platinum R&B singer, Akon, rose to fame in the early-2000s for his musical talents and unique sound.
The Konvict Muzik boss whose net worth was recently placed at somewhere around USD 80 Mn, has enjoyed quite a stellar career in the music industry. And even though there may still be glimpses of genius here and there that might suggest that he’s still got it, the Senegalese-American is now best known for some astute business moves which put him at home with some of the world’s most influential businessmen.
Be that as it may, this piece is not about the man, Akon. Few people actually realize that while the fame of the ‘Ghetto’ crooner may have done a solid to the brand’s global acceptance and acclaim, it owes its success at the business end of things to a certain Khady Thiam Gueye, who is, in fact, younger sister to the golden-throated singer.
Like a geyser, she was the force behind the jet-like rise of Akon’s successful brand. She called the shots, pulled the strings, and held down the fort when it seemed like things were going to implode. In many ways, the brand was built on her own backs.
Beyond that, the female juggernaut also runs a consulting firm called True Media Independence (TMI) Worldwide; a company she built from scratch. And she has her sights trained on yet more gold in the future.
From an early stage, Khady had displayed an incredible aptitude and appetite for business. She made her first real foray into the business scene right after she obtained a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations.
Her brother, Akon, sought to first try her out as an Executive Assistant. Even though it was more or less a ‘family affair,’ she exhibited professionalism and competence that belied her years of experience in the field and it was only natural that a bigger responsibility was shoved right into her quite capable arms before long.
In keeping with the saying that ‘the reward for hard work is even more work,’ and having proved her mettle fulfilling the initial role, she was chosen to run point on a project called Akon Lighting Africa. As Project Manager, she did a good job of championing a PR strategy which spread the word of the initiative’s efforts to various parts of the globe.
The project turned out a remarkable success and having pulled it off with aplomb, she went on to work as COO of KonLive and Chief Brand Officer for Bu Vision Entertainment. The latter is an entertainment company owned by yet another sibling, Abou “Bu” Thiam.
Khady Thiam Gueye is known to have also had stints at a number of global brands where her expertise at providing strategic solutions on how to maximise exposure and increase profits have proved invaluable.
Despite all those commitments and the lure of the untapped fortunes of the business world, Khady still managed to shut out the noise and return to school for a Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship. The knowledge she gained from the programme may have laid the foundation for what eventually became TMI Worldwide; her own consulting firm, in 2013.
While the challenges associated with breaking out of administrative roles and making big decisions at the executive level may be daunting, especially for a woman in a male-dominated scene, the knowledge that numerous women around the world are beating the odds and doing impressive numbers on a daily while tending to their families, fuels her drive.
“This superpower provides indisputable evidence not just of women’s talents and capability to lead but that my contribution is now widely recognized and welcomed in entertainment arenas and networks,” she told Black Enterprise.
Although her firm consults for the entrepreneurial duo, Akon and Bu, more than any other client, she revels in the business relationship, highlighting the closeness as one of the key ingredients of their collective success.
Khady is a mother of one and just like most moms, she struggles somewhat with striking a balance between career and family. Even though the boat is rocked side-to-side time and again by precarious winds, support from her husband and mother helps to steady things to an extent.
Going forward, she plans to launch an online school that would provide both mentorial and financial support to aspiring entrepreneurs and creators. Khady also hopes to launch a makeup and cosmetic line which would be a tribute to melanin skin tones, while there may be whispers of hosting a TV show dedicated to the life and success of entrepreneurs and creators in the future.
Featured Image Courtesy: Twitter/@khadythiamgueye