Sonal Vara-Parmar talks to Emirates Woman about how she successfully built IAM Entertainment, one of the region’s most renowned international artist management companies with a portfolio of global names.
What do the first 30 minutes of your day look like, your morning routine?
My daily routine is the only part of the day that remains consistent. I wake up with a gratitude prayer, as soon as I’m awake or even with my eyes closed, I say, “thank you for today.” I then follow this with a prayer and ten affirmations. It’s something I’ve learned from Steve Harvey to give gratitude, first thing in the morning. I then proceed to having my morning hot water with cinnamon and lemon and a meditation session for 15 minutes.
What led you to launch IAM Entertainment and how did your previous roles support your ability to do this successfully?
I didn’t want my wings clipped within a corporate structure. I was grateful to receive a roadmap into the industry, the teachings and structure, but knew I wanted ownership and the creative freedom to delve into more than one aspect of the entertainment industry. Setting up IAM gave me the opportunity to bring my best practices to the industry and be creative and more importantly learn and absorb areas I wanted to focus on at my pace. You’ve had a phenomenal list of clients from Mariah Carey and Alicia Keys to Tony Robbins. Black Eye Peas, Steve Harvey and Sadhguru who you recently bought to the region.
How did these relationships begin and what values are key to retaining them?
As a Libran, I function and believe in balance. As a business owner, I have an obligation to both my clients and my talent. Trust plays a large part in this, and therefore your network is everything. More often than not the relationship begins by someone endorsing or vouching for me or my team that is close to the talent, so there is a level of trust already there, it’s our job to honour this and nurture and respect that relationship.
What are some of the creative ways you’ve found to successfully bring talent to the region?
IAM prides itself with innovative concepts and ideas that don’t colour within the lines, and that’s the exciting part of what we do. Creating innovative out of the box concepts like Kevin Hart’s MarsShot campaign at the height of COVID-19, was something we are very proud of. A large part of the success of the campaign was Kevin’s own input, creativity and trust in the vision of our client, the UAE government. In the same way we conceptualised Alicia Keys first musical motivational event with her for the “Achieve the Unimaginable” event. She used music and her songs to tell and inspire the story of her life. The events industry is growing rapidly. How do you scale without compromising on quality of both talent and deliverables? I think each project where talent is concerned is very individual and focused. We could be working on a concert, or a brand campaign or talent in movies, each segment’s needs are so different that there is no conflict and compromising. Additionally, prioritise, hand-pick your projects to maintain the integrity and quality of the work we deliver. Giving the team ownership is equally important to maintain a high standard of work.
How has social media supported growth and which platforms do you feel are most successful?
The pandemic really helped the growth of the entertainment industry to grow social media. It was really the only tool to stay connected. Smart celebrities understood this and remained very present and connected to their fan base. They found innovative ways to stay engaging. They no longer had to be paid to be present, and this was a gamechanger for the entertainment industry. Celebrities are now much more candid, available and engaged with their fans and audience which makes interacting with them even more exciting. After years of not being on social media Jennifer Aniston broke the internet in 2019 when she joined Instagram. It’s evident she understood the changing times, and the connection she needed with her audience.
Did you have a mentor and if so, what advice did they impart?
I’m lucky enough to have Venus Brown, music producer, expresident of SongBMG. as my mentor. He’s mentored and worked with the largest names in music from Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars, the Black Eye Peas. He has taught me in order to sustain and have longevity you have to build a brand. To achieve this, you need to have a great team around you to help execute, deliver and build so the company isn’t based around a single person but a multi-functioning entity that will hopefully outlive you.
What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Do not let anyone disparage you from your dreams. Stay confident and true to yourself. Believe in God or a higher power and always be grateful and humble for what you have. Thank God every day, meditate and manifest. Your vision board is your greatest ally and your superpower.
This is the Entrepreneur Issue – what does that mean to you?
I think a true entrepreneur stays in the game, no matter the success or failures, it’s part of the journey as a business owner. Being recognised as an entrepreneur solidifies IAM Entertainment and I am in the long game to build something both unique but hopefully inspirational too.
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