Home African CEOs Interviews How Ex-BBA Winner Idris Sultan Went Broke After a Failed Business Venture
Interviews - October 20, 2020

How Ex-BBA Winner Idris Sultan Went Broke After a Failed Business Venture

Tanzanian superstar Idris Sultan is an actor, comedian, radio host and winner of the 2014 Big Brother Africa-Hotshots. He also hosts Tanzania’s biggest comedy news show called “SIO HABARI”. 

The stand up comedian’s journey to stardom began when he represented his country in the 9th edition of the Big Brother reality TV show and emerged winner to claim the $300,000 grand prize.

Prior to that, he had dropped out of medical school because he just didn’t see himself becoming a doctor. After the show, Idris tried to setup a business with the money he had won, but lost all of it due to his inexperience and fell back to zero. He even ran into huge debts and had to work harder to payback. Determined to turn his life around, Idris learnt from his failures and set out to try another business again. This time he was successful, making three times the $300,000 he lost and landing a Forbes feature that same year.

In this this interview, Idris opens up on his journey before and after the Big Brother Africa, plus how he celebrated being broke.

Please tell us about yourself 

This is possibly one of the toughest questions I face. I am, in two words, a “Simple complication”. I spend most of my time studying things that I want to do, and I get easily bored with accomplishments, so I constantly set new goals. I know I should take a break and enjoy a win but I never seem to enjoy a win for more than a day. Besides that, I enjoy time alone watching movies and TV shows. Simplicity is complex I say. Ask me anything but not to tell you about me, I might turn it into a whole physics or chemistry equation for you. But one thing I know I can easily say is, I am very passionate with whatever I do; I choose passion over qualification any day.

How did you find yourself in this career path?

Back when I was in primary school, I remember there was a drama and someone had to act as a radio. Thinking about it now, it sounded insane but I jumped to it and took the part. The drama was about a boy that was with a girl in her home and the father came back early, so the boy pretended to be a radio.

Honestly, if you tell me how that came about I still don’t know. The part gave me so much credit and respect in the acting industry of our primary school [haha]. I had realised that I loved what I did, so I did more and more acts. I was even given so many famous actor’s names. Coming from a family that isn’t well off, it was a good feeling knowing I am great at something and can bring respect to my family. I went through school studying science hoping to be a doctor, finished high education and was admitted to study medicine. But right then and there, I realised, I was really not one bit excited about being a doctor. I switched courses to architecture, then petroleum, then computer science. I even changed to information technology and interior design before I chose to completely quit and made a choice that from most people’s viewpoint seemed the dumbest choice ever. I went to be an intern in a photography studio. Here I am now with a production company feeling nothing but the energy to show the world the greatness of African talents.


What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before you started in business?

I wish I knew that is subjective. I really wish I knew that. You will never be perfect enough; however perfect you see your work to be, it has a discrepancy to someone.

If I knew this, I’d have started earlier than I did. I would have embraced my mistakes more and learnt by doing and not by waiting for when I’m ready and good enough according to my thoughts. I am now celebrating every mistake along the way and making sure I don’t repeat.

What does your company do?

Our company is called ‘Locomotions’, from the words local and motion, meaning it is a movement of the local people. It’s about time every locality embraced itself and not glorify others. Every culture has so much beauty to share, it’s time to show that and not just feed each other what we think should be the norm culture. We do productions of TV shows, films, and festivals. We have online shows and also a new section of visual podcasts coming up…

Read the rest of the interview in our digital magazine here: Find it on pages 56 & 57.


Editor’s Note: This interview was originally conducted by Victor Oluwole.



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