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The woman who found gold in filming

Dorothy Ghettuba, CEO, Spielworks Media Ltd. Photo/COURTESY
Dorothy Ghettuba, CEO, Spielworks Media Ltd. Photo/COURTESY 

“Content is the new petroleum,” Dorothy will tell you succinctly if you ask her whether local television programming is lucrative or it’s just crudely over-hyped.

Dorothy, who appeared in this paper’s Top 40 women under 40 list of 2011, is a known to be a fierce hard worker, a bruising negotiator and an unapologetic corporate boardroom brawler. Of course she might shake her head at these superlatives.

She co-founded Spielworks Media, a local production, content creation company hardly four years ago and in that time, it has had numerous productions that have aired in Kenya, and television stations in east, south and west Africa.

Her shows, that have now crossed over into the UK and soon to be seen in France, have employed some 300 actors and 100 crew members.

“If we don’t tell our own African stories,” she states, “someone else will.”

The alumnus of Germany’s prestigious Bucerius School for Global Governance is ready to take over the world. Literally.

Allow me to ask an embarrassingly clichéd journalistic question: who is Dorothy Ghetubba?

A simple girl, born and raised in Kenya until I was 18 then moved to Canada for my university studies. I’m the girl who after being away for 14 years dismantled her mid-priced IKEA furniture business in Canada, packed my shoes, clothes and books in boxes and left her entire family in Canada and moved here to start a company with only $3,000. The rest is history.

There is a lot of talk about the emerging middle-class. Do these guys really watch local television programmes that you produce?

First, Kenyans don’t watch channels, they watch programmes. I hear people comparing our industry with the South Africans and Nigerians, but they shouldn’t, we are a young industry.

Our major consumers are the slightly lower demographic, the mass market, that is where the money is. But that doesn’t mean they expect cheap productions. I, for one, distinguish myself by shooting in HD and with great sound quality.

The many times I have run into you at functions, Dorothy, you are always in high heels, is that symbolic of you trying to tame the world around you?

(Laughs) I’m a great lover of shoes and heels particularly. Good shoes give me confidence. I can take on the world when I’m in a pair of heels. I love my shoes, Biko. (Smiles)

Your reputation of being an unflinching and tough businesswoman supercedes you. What makes you go all-soft in the inside?

(Laughs) Oh my goodness, what reputation? I’m grossly misunderstood! I’m only tough in business because it’s a prerequisite, I mean when you are wheeling and dealing because you have a company to run, you have to be tough or you will sink.

My employees expect that from me, so do my partners. But I’ve been told that I’m kind to a fault and people might sometimes take advantage of that. But generally, when you give, you get.

Are you single, searching, dating?

(Laughs) I neither deny nor confirm that question.

So you are dating!

(Laughs) I neither deny nor confirm that question.

You mentioned that you are big on books, what are you reading now?

I’m always reading numerous books depending on my mood. I’m currently reading four books; Barack Obama speeches, a novel called Where We Belong by Emily Giffen, Mastermind by Napolean Hill and, oh, one of the books that shaped me when I was 11 years ago, a gift from my mom, was Ben Carson’s Think Big.

What’s on your bucket list?

I’m big on travel. While most people are investing in real estate, buying land and what-not, I’m investing in my intellectual property (company) and in travel. This year, I plan to visit some of the Seven Wonders of the World.

I will do the Great Wall of China, The Taj Mahal in India and the Statue of Zeus in Greece. I also want to write a book and also to learn how to ride a motorbike…but only because I would get to wear a leather jacket and pants.

Leather pants and jacket? Dorothy, is that your fetish?

(Laughs) Leather is cool; leather is smooth and so sleek. Don’t you think? I own some leather pants, I think leather is sexy.

Yes, leather rocks. What does travel bring to your life?

I’m just from Peru; I climbed the Machu Pichu Mountain, took me 3 hours to get to the top and might definitely take you longer (smiles). After that climb, I knew there is nothing I can’t do in the world. In December, I was in Korea.

I travel because I learn when I travel, I meet people doing amazing things, and I talk to them and learn from them. One, I shared a flight with an Iranian tycoon and he taught me how to do business in a Third World, lessons that I still find useful to date.

What would you be doing on a Friday evening?

Depends on many things. I could be watching movie at home, or working or hanging out with friends over a glass of wine. I like Baileys because it never has any effect on me. I can drink as much as I can. Also I could be eating out, I love eating out.

Where does the food go, Dorothy? You are so slim!

(Laughs) I haven’t been in a gym in 15 years. I walk a lot and do yoga. But I always tell people, if you want to remain slim, run a company, the stress is enough to put off weight.

A strong lady like you must surely have a weakness.

(Thinks hard) I honestly can’t think of anything. Maybe impatience, I’m very impatient. But I’m learning to be patient; I have learnt that people can’t be on the same speed as I am.

(Thinks) I don’t like pain, but that’s not fear, is it? I mean, pain is like a stomach ache or heartbreak…

Trust you to cluster heartbreak and stomach pain in one category.

(Laughs) They are all pain, aren’t they?

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