Former TV researcher Kanya King founded the Mobo Awards in 1996. As chief executive, she has seen the venture expand to be worth more than £10m and been honoured with an MBE for services to the music industry. Here she reflects on her career so far…
I realised only I could change my humble circumstances. As a five-year-old, and one of nine children, I’d sit in the park to escape our noisy council flat and daydream about what life would have in store. Dreams and desires inspired me but discipline and controls later turned them into reality.
I developed an eye for making money at primary school age. I collected empty bottles from the park. Each one gave me a return of 5p, which soon added up. My only cost was time – I could spend all day in the park and generate a good income.
My first job was a paper round at the age of nine. I never took time off and I learnt the importance of the shop owners and the customers being able to rely on me.
My greatest inspirations were my parents. My mother came from Ireland and my father from Ghana. They came here in the Fifties, aged 18, at a time when life was difficult and discrimination was rife for mixed relationships. My mother was always doing the best she could to keep everything together. She would also take in others who needed shelter and were homeless as well as looking after my father, who had poor health.
When I was 13 my father passed away. His words of wisdom impacted on my approach to life and career. He told me to be the best I can be. I strive to do this every day.
I left school at a young age. Having no decent careers advice at school, little guidance at home or a support network made it hard to get a decent job… but education was important to my parents so I returned to studying [enrolling at Goldsmiths to study drama and English].
I recognised a gap in the market while both working as a freelance TV researcher and creating music events. Amazing music was being enjoyed by many but genres such as hip-hop, RnB, soul, gospel and jazz weren’t receiving the right support. I decided that a televised music awards show would be a great way of honouring the artists who were making and producing this music. Not only would it [the Mobo Awards] help them to pursue their musical dreams but also motivate them to pursue their entrepreneurial ones too.
I am most proud of driving the development of Mobo music and the talent we support. I am proud to work with artists, partners and brands that support and inspire new talent, and to be able to run a calendar of events including tours, acoustic sessions and artists’ development programmes next to the provision of daily music content.
I would only tell my mother once I’d started a new venture. Whenever I had the urge to do anything entrepreneurial, she gave me 101 reasons why I shouldn’t do it. She wanted me to have a ‘secure job’ – she feared that I would risk losing my home.
Where the right advisers are, many plans will succeed. When I launched my business I felt isolated. I quickly learnt that I needed to meet other people like me who were passionate about growing their businesses and open to helping others – there wasn’t the support out there that there is today, so I formed my own networks. Today I’m on the board of E2Exchange [a community of entrepreneurs, investors and non-executive directors].
I don’t see obstacles as obstacles. I see them as opportunities to grow, change approach, gain insight and act accordingly so you can utilise the obstacles as a stepping stone for success.
I set goals and make the best possible choices to achieving them every day. This requires positive thinking, an empowering quality and an ability to remain driven.
I’m proud of so many employees. One who sticks out is Vanessa, who came to me as a 17-year-old intern doing odd hours that fitted around her studies. Recognising that she would be good at PR, we created a role for her, gave her contacts and put her with someone experienced. Vanessa stayed with us for seven years before setting up her own successful PR and management company.
Success takes passion and vision. Passion spawns perseverance and determination to get you through the tough times. Vision will take you to where you want to be. Achieving success is about having the right attitude, not talent, luck, money or education. It all comes down to attitude.
The HTC Mobo Awards will take place at Wembley Arena on 22 October