This Swedish visionary wants to bring the young talents of Africa into the spotlight

Characterised by enthusiasm and initiative, Nicole Landgraff is a Swedish visionary who aims to put the young talents of Africa into the spotlight. With experience gained on three different continents, Nicole is currently the CEO of an entertainment company based in South Africa. She was the first alumna interviewed by our team, opening the new series UNFILTERED. We invite you to discover her story of chance and courage that started after her graduation in 2010.

What is your best memory of Hotelschool The Hague?

It is very difficult for me to pick a favourite one! From spending the weekends on Scheveningen beach with my friends to enjoying the sun on a cold October day, my time at Hotelschool The Hague is packed with numerous joyful memories that stay with me to this day.

Graduation was a moment that I can clearly recall because it was a mixture of joy and sadness. I was exalted that my efforts were finally crowned with a degree, but at the same time I felt sad that this unique experience had come to an end.

What did you do after graduating?

I did my second internship in Granada, Nicaragua. Originally, I planned to stay for six months and then go back to either Sweden or The Netherlands. However, upon finishing my internship, I accepted a job with a travel agency prolonging my stay by another six months. It was an unexpected choice that enabled me to discover Nicaragua and return to Sweden as a fluent Spanish speaker.

What inspired you to come up with the idea of Hitchat?

This Swedish-South African concept, called Hitchat, was developed by a dynamic team of three co-founders which I am a part of. Mikael Samuelsson and I, who is a professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Cape Town, are responsible for the administrative side of the business whilst the artistic sphere is being taken care of by Erik Grönwall, who is a renowned Swedish artist.

Hitchat started from Erik’s belief that artists from developed countries are privileged, already having a head start in their careers. Hence, this thought led to the idea of “giving back” to the international community of artists. From this initiative, we created a platform where young talents from disadvantaged communities could grow: Hitchat.

This market is often underestimated due to its alleged low spending power. However, from a different perspective, each township has approximately 150.000 people and South Africa alone has over 70 communities. From a business perspective, we consider the population an advantage for Hitchat. Bearing this in mind, expanding on the whole continent counts among our future perspectives.

How did the pandemic change your industry?

Our inventiveness was strongly challenged by the fact that Hitchat was founded in 2019. The pandemic determined us to find creative alternatives to ensure that all processes within the business will go as required. One of the most daunting consequences of the pandemic was switching from the live environment to the digital one. Our teamwork was also impeded by the inability to travel to South Africa, as we had planned.

Which was the industry that you enjoyed working in the most and why?

The theory basis which Hotelschool The Hague provided me with represented a cornerstone for my career. This acquired knowledge eased my transition between different departments and later on in different industries. Along my path, I have learned that the ever-changing business world implies various situations and circumstances, but I felt prepared to a certain extent for many of them.

Before working in the music industry, I believed that interior design was the most enjoyable domain to work in. Nevertheless, when I discovered the dynamism and ingenuity that entertainment involves, my opinion changed. The position of CEO brings me constant satisfaction because it allows me to learn more about every shade of our business.

What achievement are you most proud of?

The fact that we succeeded with launching Hitchat and securing our initial investments in this time of instability and uncertainty is a major milestone for me. I take very much pride in this achievement that started as a distant dream and unfolded gradually. Overcoming obstacles and seeing real growth empowered us to be bolder in making future business plans for Hitchat.

What do you consider your biggest failure?

I am a very outcome-oriented kind of person. Each experience taught me either what to do or avoid doing next time in certain situations. Even though things do not always end up the way we planned, there are many lessons to be learned just by making mistakes.

A so-called “failure” that I would like to share is one initiative that we adopted for Hitchat in its beginnings. At the outset of our journey, we opted for a technology-driven path and invested in developing an application that was supposed to be used by our target market. Later, we learnt that our audience was not prepared for such a platform yet. Upon noticing this we had to step back, re-think our strategy and come up with an alternative. In the end, this 6-month period of reconversion turned out to be a great source of insight into our target market.

What advice would you give to a student who wants to start a career in a foreign country?

Even though it might seem scary in the beginning, I believe that everyone should try to live and work abroad at least once in their lifetime.

When I was a student myself, I remember being scared of going to Nicaragua because I did not speak Spanish. This resulted in me questioning my choice of being there during the first three weeks of my internship. However, I kept telling myself that it would be an experience which is going to bring me a lot of knowledge. By doing so, I started to enjoy my time there and made so many unforgettable memories.

In order to conclude the interview and fully introduce Nicole to you, we would like to unveil her preferences, hobbies, and rituals:

What is the last book you read?

Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action by Simon Sinek

Do you have a favourite quote?

"Just do it!" It is not really a quote, but it is representative of me.

What is the greatest lesson you learned at Hotelschool The Hague?

I remember that I was having my practical education block and a section had to shut down. At that time, I recall Mr Mielke saying that this is the way things would go in real life. The takeway was that you need to be resourceful and find alternatives even though you encounter challenges.