ZIO MWALE, Lusaka
FORTRESS Media, with the tag line “Enter the Fortress”, is one firm that cannot be excluded from the annals of conversation when talking of media development in Zambia.
Fortress is a Zambian, owned award-winning media production house that specialises in photography, video production and graphic design.
Under the management of two gentlemen Malekano Mwanza, 36, and Edwin Chibanga, 37, who both quit their respective jobs in 2014 to pursue what they call their ‘dream’, the firm has grown to be one of the best media houses in the country producing high quality works for its clients.
“Owning a media production house is a realisation of a special dream for me, it’s a passion I have had since I was young,” Mr Mwanza said.
However, Mr Mwanza did not immediately follow his dream as after completing his secondary education at Matero Boys Secondary in 2000, he enrolled at the University of Zambia where he obtained an undergraduate degree in Natural Resource Management in 2008.
Prior to the establishment of Fortress Media, Mr Mwanza was economic development co-ordinator for Expanded Church Response, working on various projects for the USAID and the European Union.
However, the desire to pursue his media dream persisted even through his formal working days until he was left with no choice but to follow the desire of his heart.
With time, his passion for media was enhanced and he decided to pave way for the growth of his dream by forging forward with his cousin Edwin Chibanga who at the time was a freelance photographer and graphic designer at Plsy Communication and Taurus Music in Kenya.
“My cousin and I often talked about starting a media house which would create employment for the young people in the country. So, after many discussions and brainstorming sessions, the concept for Fortress was born,” Mr Mwanza says.
Mr Chibanga completed his secondary education at Naledi Secondary School in 1998 in Botswana. Later he acquired a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Namibia (UNAM) in 2008.
His interest in media saw him work as a radio presenter and production manager at UNAM radio station in 2003 to 2007. Mr Chibangu said he had always had a desire to return home and be of the growth of the country.
“I have spent my childhood out of the country and my wish was to come back to Zambia and contribute to the development of the country in one way or the other,” Mr Chibanga said.
The two started Fortress Media House in 2014 with only two cameras and a few computers.
“We had numerous challenges due to limited resources that we had at the time. Our only vehicle could run out of fuel at times and that meant finding alternatives to keep the business going,” he said.
At the beginning of the business, the dual encountered difficulties because of lack of customers. However, with time, the business started attracting clients especially when it clinched some deals through the Ministry of Youth Sport and Child Development.
Mr Chibanga recalls that sometimes he and his business partner could do free shoots for people in order to get their brand known to the public.
“There was a lot of sacrifice at the beginning of the business but now we are ripping the benefits,” he said.
According to the two, Fortress Media’s success lies in the discipline that the dual put in.
Fortress Media has covered events such as the 2015 Lusaka Agriculture Conference, Jameson Concert in Kenya, Stanbic Music Festival in Lusaka, Zambian Fashion Week 2014 to 2016, DSTV Film Awards, and Fashion Week Dubai.
Among some of their distinguished clients are the Zambia Fashion Week and Stanbic Music Festival who have annual events.
To ensure the growth and sustainability of the business, Mr Mwanza and Chibanga both emphasised the need for mutual respect of each other’s ideas concerning the business as well as guiding each other on personal development.
“This partnership is like a marriage characterised by ups and downs, but we always focus on the ‘big picture’, which is basically our desire to grow the business,” Mr Chibanga said.
Today, the firm produces high-end photography for various clients ranging from corporate entities, non-governmental organisations and government institutions.
The media house, which only started with photography today boasts of its expertise in functions that include weddings, modeling shoots, television series, political advertising, culinary events, and conferences.
The dream to be part of the country’s development plans is also being realised as the firm now offers employment to young people.
From its humble beginning, the company has managed to employ 12 young people who are working at the firm’s different departments organised into divisions of administration, photography, video editing and graphic design.
With their vision focused on establishing their business as a global media brand, the story of Fortress Media House’s success journey has just started.
“In five years’ time we are hoping to have conquered the international market and position our media firm for world recognition,” Mr Chibanga said.