Shaun Duwe is a multifaceted entertainment industry mogul, who, arguably, understands how the South African alcohol and entertainment landscape fits together, better than anyone. After nearly three decades in the industry, the man originally from Jozi has an intimate knowledge of all parts of the complexly dynamic organism that is entertainment.
Duwe heads up The Unit, South Africa’s leading entertainment-based holding company, which comprises a collective of enterprises that service all aspects of entertainment: From branded entertainment under Anything Goes, as well as Jet Black and Bella Bookings (full spectrum talent booking agencies) and, the venues in which he is a partner – Coco, GoldBar and Souk (restaurant), among a host of others.
In the past few years he has perhaps best been known as co-founder and director of ULTRA South Africa, (which brings together 50 000 dance-music revellers) and Corona Sunsets Festival, (which takes revellers out of their routines and deeper into their essential nature). From out of these properties he has set the trend in ‘branded entertainment’ and he and his team at Anything Goes have crafted marketing campaigns and branded events for icons the likes of Corona, Budweiser, Jameson, GH Mumm, Skyy Vodka, Dom Perignon, and Olmeca among others.
Anything Goes has been the heartbeat of most of his recent projects and includes design, marketing, sponsorship management and strategy for all his brand partners and projects. Recently he has evolved into the digital content creation space with his Anything Goes team being responsible for the launch of Sun El Musician’s beautiful new album through Platoon Records, ‘To The World And Beyond’ as well as the virtual output for African Fashion International (JHB Fashion Week 2020) and the ideation behind the Corona Chasing Sunsets campaign.
In early 2021 Duwe diversified even further, teaming up with Adam Chaskalson and Tyrone Lasarow to form Cascade Holdings, a dynamic, multi-dimensional organisation offering solutions that revolutionise various aspects of the South African drinks industry.
“Now is the right time,” Duwe explains of the new partnership, which comes during a time when the greater alcohol industry is picking up the pieces of lockdown prohibition regulations.
According to Duwe, the strength of the new venture lies in the sum of its parts – how the three entities (liquor.co.za a B2B and D2C e-commerce portal; Cheeky RTD, a product development lab featuring the Skinny range of hard seltzers; as well as have a mobile bar service and academy, under the Salute banner) will function separately, but in full synergy with each other.
“It feels as though everything I’ve done throughout my career has built up to this,” says Duwe.
Through his countless achievements and accolades in business and behind the decks as ‘Shaun Duvet,’ he has remained humble and grounded to his core club roots, however. “Club culture,” he says. “That’s what it’s always been about for me.”
“You can never lose sight of that culture,” he reiterates. “There is so much excitement and passion around what we do – around the entertainment industry – that it is easy to get caught up in the ‘lights’ and forget what it’s all about.”
Duwe is passionate about giving back to the industry which has given him everything and is a board member on Bridges for Music, a local NGO that utilises the power of music to uplift communities through creative education.
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Arguably anyone in the country understands youth culture better than Shawn Duwe. His experience in all aspects of the entertainment industry means he is invaluable in assisting brands (of which his existing client list is prestigious) with marketing campaigns and branded events speaking to the relevant audience. Some of the brands that Shaun has helped include: Samsung, Standard Bank, Corona, Budweiser, Red Bull, Maserati, Tag Heuer, Jameson, GH Mumm, Skyy Vodka, Pernod Ricard corporate, Distell, RGBC, Moët and Chandon, Dom Perignon, Olmeca, Belvedere and many more.
His first love remains music and having been a sought-after dance music DJ for years he remains grounded in the club culture. “Club culture is what it has always been about for me. You can never lose sight of that,” he says. If it is this core ‘culture’ credibility that has kept him relevant for well over three decades, it is the understanding of the market within that, which has made him successful.
The Unit started small but has evolved into a collaborative of companies that now (among a host of other things) own the franchise rights of Ultra in Africa, one of the biggest dance music festival brands in the world. “You have to surround yourself with the best partners and brands,” he says. “I wouldn’t be anywhere without my team. In addition, get a good lawyer, the best accountant… All of those things are crucial.”