At 25, Machel Waikenda had achieved one his life long dreams. He had just completed his studies abroad when the national carrier, Kenya Airways, offered him a job as a first officer. With a bachelors in electrical engineering, an MBA and a commercial pilots license with ratings for the 737 and 767 planes ,a youthful and ambitious Machel took to the sky.
"To me, literally, the sky was the limit. I grew up with a passion to fly. I always dreamed of sitting in the cockpit," says soft-spoken Machel.
He continues: "I liked the fame and fortune that came with it. I liked the challenge too. Soon, I was brushing shoulders with the high and mighty and living my dream."
Flying the Boeing 737 at such a youthful age, Machel had attained enviable success before his peers and was the pride of his family and close friends.
But Machel had another passion. Months before KQ hired him, he, together with Marcus Kwikiriza and Smallz had formed Blackstar Entertainment, a breakaway unit from Code Red. Building a team of media personalities; DJs, emcees, cameramen, video editors and sound engineers, the three established what they believe will soon become Africa’s greatest entertainment empires.
"Back then, I had to juggle showbiz and flying. With time, I realised that my passion for showbiz outweighed my love for piloting. I was at a crossroads. For many nights and days, I contemplated ditching flying," he says.
"I knew it would be a risk that every one who was close to me would oppose. Flying was fun and the pay was good. I was young and the future was promising. But my vision, to spearhead the greatest entertainment unit gradually overshadowed all that. When I handed over my resignation letter, everyone thought I was insane," he recalls
Two months ago, Machel quit his piloting career to concentrate on entertainment, and he says he owes no one an apology.
The move was a shock to the KQ top management and the pilot’s family.
"They (former bosses) kept calling insisting I review my decision. They said I was young and had a bright future in the aviation industry. But I had made up my mind. The next time I will be flying, it is going be my own jet. Sooner than later, this will come to pass," says the go-getter.
"Life is not all about money or fame. Since we started Blackstar Entertainment, I realised that my passion was in the entertainment industry and now, I have taken the risk. I want to give Blackstar Entertainment my undivided attention," he affirms.
Now 28, Machel believes that the entertainment industry is the next big thing and has taken a keen business interest in it. Besides investing in real estate, he has put his money in to Blackstar Entertainment’s ventures. From well-equipped studios with state-of-the art equipment to well trained personnel, the new entrepreneurs are quickly changing the face of local entertainment industry.
Blackstar is a multimedia solutions provider with a diverse portfolio of local and international clients. They run a number of TV music programmes among them Wakilisha and Rush Live. They also own Blackstar Comics and Blackstar Films as well as providing digital animation services.
Having stamped their presence in the Kenyan urban music scene through TV music programmes and themed gigs, the young chaps are now crossing borders and establishing offices in Uganda, Rwanda and soon Tanzania.
Following the success of Homeboyz Entertainment, Kenya’s pioneer showbiz unit, Machel believes it’s only a matter of time before entertainment becomes a leading income earner in Kenya.
"It is time we prove that young people can create income generating projects and turn them into multi-million enterprises. Homeboyz have done it and we are following close," Machel says.
"Days are gone when entertainment used to be regarded as a career for the uneducated. The perceptions have changed because many have now proved that they can make a good living from showbiz," he says.
"People may not support my move now, but with time, I will prove that quitting my flying career was worthwhile. Just watch this space," he concludes.