Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your journey with NATYF TV? For example, where did your passion for media, production and television come from, where did the idea of NATYF TV originate from, etc.)
A: I was born and raised in Montreal, in a poor area named St-Michel. At the age of 16, I wrote and directed my first independent project: a 30-minute drama short film about a young Black teenager navigating his way through gang violence in his neighbourhood. We distributed several copies of it in all community centers in St-Michel and Montreal-North, and it became popular. After this first experience, I knew that my future was written, and someday, this would be my life.
During the first decade of the 2000s, I worked as a corporate advertising video producer, collaborating with many artists and content creators. They frequently complained about the lack of opportunities in the media industry here in Quebec. This was a problem I was keenly aware of, and at some point, I told myself that enough was enough; something needed to change. To me, the ultimate solution was obvious: to control the narrative, we must own a TV station. So, it wasn’t just a dream of mine; it was an undeniable need to help my community. This issue needed to be addressed once and for all. It became a mission to accomplish, whatever the sacrifice; it became a life purpose I was finally ready to embrace.
Q: How did NATYF TV get its start?
A: So, in 2011, we applied for a specialty TV license that the CRTC approved a year later. While my partners and I were developing our business plan, it took over 5 years just to secure our first carriage agreement with a national carrier: Bell. Then, after another full year of preparation, on June 14, 2018, Natyf TV was born.
Q: When you first came up with the idea, what were some of the larger challenges you
A: Basically, two things: accumulate enough funds to start the business and secure a cable carrier to put the TV channel on-air. You could have a million bucks in your bank account, but without carriage, the money you spend will be a total waste. Even if you decide to launch a media exclusively on the web, it’s almost impossible to monetize it. Why? Because your competition is YouTube and META (FB & Instagram), and they’re monopolizing all the advertising revenue on the web. So the only possible way as a new media to start is to be part of the broadcasting ecosystem—well, as long as it’s still there, because we don’t know how long it will last. Probably between 5 to 10 years at most before the streaming business completely takes over. My prophecy: in a decade from now, broadcasting will be a thing of the past.
Q: Can you share some insight or tips on how you were able to overcome those
A: First things first, you better believe in yourself. Spirituality is also another powerful weapon to deal with adversity. Discipline and focus are non-negotiable. Make sure to surround yourself with people who have skills and knowledge you don’t possess but definitely need. Also, be open to criticism from people you trust and who want you to succeed.
Q: As a FACE loan recipient, what was your experience with FACE like? (How did they
A: When I first heard about FACE in 2021, I wasn’t quite sure if the people in charge of this program would understand our vision and the importance of having a TV channel owned by members of our community. Other funding opportunities for racialized entrepreneurs that we tried to apply for didn’t believe we could achieve something like this without ‘established white corporate media figures’ involved in our business. However, the fact that FACE wants to uplift black-owned businesses by allowing us to maintain 100% control of our company with no strings attached makes all the difference.
Q: If there was any advice you could share with like-minded individuals from the POC
community seeking to maintain a successful business, what would it be?
A: To be perfectly honest, ‘this game is not for the weak.’ It takes a lot of guts and sacrifices that most people don’t have the capacity to deal with. So, if you want to succeed as a business owner, ensure that you are passionate about what you involve yourself in. That is what separates those who will fail from those who will be victorious, especially when adversity comes knocking at your door.