Jeremy Nicholls is an ambitious, multifaceted entrepreneur, who although working full-time in the IT industry, has succeeded in carving a niche in the entertainment arena. He has worked in the entertainment field since 2009 and is the CEO of Roast Entertainment, as well as the band leader of the Kadooment band Xhosa. Additionally, Jeremy has the desire to give back to the community and share his talents. He facilitates workshops for students in the art of costume making and launched Xhosa Cares, the philanthropic arm of Xhosa Barbados.
Xhosa was registered in 2015 and consists of both local and overseas members. It has made tremendous strides in the Crop-Over scene, but this was no smooth road to travel. Accustomed to taking risks, Jeremy’s decision to create Xhosa, saw the loss of partnerships and alliances. This he admits was not an easy experience, but his determination and ability to remain focused, ensured the band’s survival and growth.
Evolving from a popular Facebook page to t-shirt design, parties and now a Grand Kadooment band with a philanthropic arm, was an eventful business journey. Declaring that individuals should ‘whip it until it can’t move any further’, Jeremy believes that one should not give up easily. This ambition and determination will no doubt enable him to remain relevant in the entertainment field and become a force to be reckoned with.
Who is Jeremy Nicholls and what is your role in Xhosa?
I am 34 years old, grew up in Bathsheba, St Joseph and went to school at Grantley Adams Secondary School. I believe that I’m fun loving but I’ve now begun to focus a lot. I have also been working in the IT field for about 14 years and I’m the founding member of Xhosa. I am one of its 5 original members.
Why was the band established and why did you choose the name Xhosa?
It was felt that Roast was stagnant, limited by the party boat capacity in Barbados. Roast produced a section for crop over with another band in 2014. We were looking forward to the 2015 Season, but in my opinion we were offered an unfavourable contract. I couldn’t sign it, but my partner wanted to and it created a rift. I was looking for brand growth, and suggested to him we start our own band, but he didn’t agree. He eventually left and I decided to go ahead with creating a new band.
Shortly before this decision, I had the opportunity to go to South Africa with my friends, and I read about the history of South Africa and Nelson Mandela. We visited one of the many museums and Mandela’s house and I found out that Mandela was a member of the Xhosa Tribe. In thinking on a band name, Xhosa was the first name that came to mind.
Xhosa was registered in January of 2015 and was formed as a growth opportunity for Roast and any similar brands seeking the same opportunity. Mandela represented unity and I wanted the band to represent the same for the region. This also influenced my decision to join with other international brands (e.g. Punchy Punch, LehWeGoandSleek, and Scorch) for this venture. Together we put out Xhosa’s first presentation “One Sun”, representing the attributes of the Caribbean and our people.
How was the band received by the public and is it successful?
When we launched the on social media after one of Roast foreign events it went completely viral. There was a huge buzz both negative and positive. It was the biggest controversy…. Many were happy with the finished product and about 65% of our band members were from overseas. In 2015 we sold over 500 costumes in 2 months…this year (2016) we sold the same amount within 2 weeks! We were able to appeal more to our local market splitting our masqueraders 50/50.
Did you experience any challenges, e.g. sponsorship?
I had previous experience from branding parties and there was no problem with sponsorship, because we used the Roast platform to leverage sponsorship for Xhosa. Doing certain aspects of the business was based on trial and error, because there were shipping issues and dealing with the importation and duties. There was a lot we did not understand such as classifications and different terminologies used by customs.
How do you balance working full-time in the IT Industry and managing your business?
At least 3 days a week, I dedicate an extra 4 hrs to the business. I schedule my events in my vacation, which is taken one or two days at a time. I have a 7 year old son Javier and I try to include him in all other time in between. I bring him along to the band house and he loves Xhosa more than Roast.
Explain the relatively new concept of bands using other partners in band sections
People are looking for avenues to grow their individual brands. There are only so many parties you can do in a year without doing the same thing. Having a section in a Crop Over band is different from traditional parties. Also, everyone does not have the resources to put a full band on the road, or to own a truck, but when it is split among more people it is a win-win situation for everyone.
What advice would you give to those who want to become band leaders or entrepreneurs in the entertainment field?