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Entrepreneur Cairo Howarth – CEOwise with Dan Newman #4


So I’ve just arrived at the EFC gym where
we’re going to be interviewing Cairo Howarth from EFC Worldwide, to see how he’s grown his
brand EFC to what it is today, let’s go take a look. Cairo, howzit, awesome and you Dan, awesome,
welcome to CEOwise. I think I’m ready to be signed up, you ready? I’m ready. Title shot straight away. Welterweight. My boxer is very ready, I think he can fight. Skip Dino, skip Maarten, Francois, let’s go
for Dricus. Straight for Dricus, haha. Bring it on Dan, I’m waiting for you. Cairo, thanks for joining us. What’s happening? Awesome. How was your training? Training was great. You know it’s harder work than you actually
think. It’s different, I guess all training is different
if you’re used to, like you cycle a lot and if you’re used to cycling a lot and then if
I go cycling I’ll probably struggle, but I do a lot of boxing and it’s visa versa. What I do like about the boxing training is
that you’re learning a skill at the end of it, so you’re getting better. So tell me, Cairo how did you get into EFC,
where did the idea originate from? So, I’ve always trained in martial arts just
for fun and fitness you know when I was smaller, and I was big fan of UFC and we used to watch
it online, it was never on television in South Africa, there were no big events here, so
we used to just follow the international mixed martial arts market and myself and my brothers
had a television production company background and we had an events company and essentially
what EFC is is a combination of a live event experience and marketing for an event and
a television show. So we were fortunate that we had the resources
available to us that most people don’t and we really looked at it as a great business
opportunity and said well mixed martial arts is exploding around the world it’s the fastest
growing sport in the world. As with most things Africa is the final frontier
for big international companies so we realised the UFC aren’t coming here any time soon and
there’s one point, at the time, two billion people in Africa, mostly the same timezone,
mostly English speaking, what an opportunity to own a new sport that’s so popular, that’s
going to be so big, and if it’s so big around the rest of the world why won’t it be so big
here? Exactly. There are a lot of people doing it, putting
on events for MMA, for mixed martial arts, and you got in a few years ago, how do you
think you stood out and why do you think, do you think it’s because of your production
background, that you made it a production, an entertainment event, rather than an underground
MMA event? The simplest one would be we were willing
to actually invest in it and build it up, we knew we were going to lose money when we put our first
event together and our first ten events together there was no way we could make money, it was
going to lose us a lot of money. Where as our feeling is everyone else was
not willing to lose money on their shows, they were doing it smaller, renting a small
little room, not spending anything and trying to make ten, twenty, fifty grand, hundred
grand, maybe they were making a hundred grand a night, I don’t know, but you’re never going
to grow it beyond that without investing in it. We took a different view and said we want
to build the most dynamic, the most exciting, one of the biggest sports organisations on
the continent. You’re never going to do that what these guys
were doing, they’re never going to grow, so we build it big and everything else will come,
but that takes a lot of time and it took a lot of money and investment to get there in
the first place, so I think that was the first fundamental mind shift that we had, different
to the other guys that were operating at that time, and in the end we had a vision for it
and we kept doing it and pushing until we got it. We were with you back in the days from the
start of EFC 1 and now we’re on EFC 57, how has it grown, how has it changed from EFC
1 to EFC 57? Vastly I think, the sport itself was new essentially
in Africa, there weren’t any professional participants, it was all very amateur, there
were no corporate sponsors, there was no broadcast support, there was no media covering it. So we had to grow a whole new industry is
essentially what we did. We had to educate everyone from fans to media
to corporates about what we were doing and essentially we had to build it and everything
else would come. It was there and we had to come in from the
bottom, we had to build an industry from the top down. For sure, and especially nowadays content
is king and you guys have done a great job with getting the content out and how have
you used social media and your content to better EFC and to grow it? Yeah, it’s interesting that we’re pretty much
one of the only, if not the only big sport in Africa that actually produces their own
content in house. Everyone else, if you’re watching the big
rugby, or whatever it is, it’s all produced by the TV networks so the big TV networks
will send their vans and their crew and they’ll film it and produce it where as we’ve done
the complete opposite of that and we go, we’ll produce everything ourselves, we want complete
control and that way we can guarantee what we’re doing, we know the product, what we
put out is going to be what we want, we know we can guarantee, for everything, so our messaging
gets across correctly. Then on a social media point of view, we really
look at it and go, we’re a content producer, we want fans engaging with our content, we
don’t care where they engage with our content, we just want them engaging with it. So if a fan is on Facebook we’ll talk to them
on Facebook, if a fan is on Instagram then we’re going to go on Instagram, if a fan’s
watching on television then we’ll give it to them on television, so we want to make
our content as accessible to as many people as possible and give it to them where ever
they are. Do you encourage your fighters to engage with
social media? Yeah 100%, so we literally give cash bonuses
monthly to the athletes that do it the best, so we heavily incentivise them to do that. We understand that the bigger brand our athletes
become the better for us and the more popular they are the better for us and the better
for our partners, so we’re all in it together and we all need to get the right messaging
across a building the sport correctly. You’ve just secured TV rights from SABC Sport
which is an awesome achievement for you guys. Where do you think that’s going to take EFC
in Africa itself? Last year on television in South Africa specifically
we had over 9 million people watching EFC on TV in South Africa last year, this year
we’re going to shoot the lights out from that number. Last year we were on free to air television
for a total of 20 hours the whole year, 20 hours of TV time, this year we’ll have over
200 hours on SABC, so it’s over ten times the free to air television broadcast, I’m
just talking South Africa. We obviously have Kwesa Sports across Africa,
we have numerous TV networks around the world, so that’s just South Africa specifically that
we’re talking about, but certainly SABC is fantastic from building the sport and continuing
the kind of growth that we’ve had. Now I see a lot of guys walking with EFC apparel
on, now you got EFC into Mr Price Sport, is that a sideline business or have you got people
dedicated to growing that side of things as well? We did a licensing agreement there, so we’ve
got a licensing agreement with Musgrave agencies, which is a big apparel company. They do Jeep clothing, Salomon, Quiksilver,
a whole bunch of different brands, so for quite a few years they’ve been our licensee
for EFC apparel and they then go on to supply to places like Mr Price Sport and different retailers. On top of that we did a separate deal with
Mr Price Sport where they wanted to license directly from us equipment range which we
did with them as well, so all of that is anxillary, building on. It’s really nice for us from building our
brand, it’s great that someone can walk around with an EFC TV on. Absolutely, it’s free advertising. and live our brand which is fantastic. Well I wish you the best of luck, thanks for
being on CEOwise and I look forward to the next event. Cool, thanks, it should be fun.

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