About Us

The Rising Star Programme, operated by BlackBark Productions, has been established for the purposes of recognising, celebrating and connecting young talented people who have a capacity for achievement and success and who contribute in an inspirational manner to the future of our nation. The qualities that elevate Rising Stars to the top go beyond performance and technical excellence. Rising Stars are polished, brilliant individuals with tremendous promise and great talent who excel for reasons that go far beyond their technical abilities alone. Talented people make things happen, are highly committed to achieving goals, innovate very rapidly, and create a great deal of value (for companies and/or themselves) when their talent is spotted and harnessed.

The Programme aims to be a significant and sustainable vehicle through which organisations, our country and our continent can identify and nurture these “organisational and national assets” who are set to play a key role in shaping the future of our country and our continent. Using a new and innovative approach, the Rising Star Programme is establishing a living community of young South African talent that will be developed, mentored and provided with platforms for development and communication, therefore enabling them to become role models, opinion leaders and the inspiration for other future South African Talent.


Our Vision

Raise awareness of the breadth and depth of talent in the 28-40 year age bracket
Create opportunities for young talented individuals to grow, connect and give back
Bring the leading organisations of South Africa together to raise talent on the national agenda
Provide inter-connected, interactive group driven social and growth platforms for young talented individuals
Grow the stature of the Rising Star Awards, Summit and associated ventures to be the most recognised national initiative focusing on young talented individuals


Meet the Team


Laura Barker
Managing Director, BlackBark Productions

Laura has over 10 years experience working in business media, both in the UK and South Africa. She has developed initiatives for clients including the British Retail Consortium and the Commonwealth Secretariat as well as having launched numerous awards ceremonies with great success – the most recent being the Enviropaedia Eco-Logic Awards. Her previous employers include the Stationery Office (formerly Her Majesty’s Stationery Office) and Caspian Media in the UK, and Topco Media and Eco-Logic Publishing on South African shores.

Alister Swart
Chief Operations Officer, BlackBark Productions

After numerous years working in the hospitality industry, Alister decided to move into sales and marketing. He now plays a critical role in the BlackBark office as Chief Operations Officer.
Managing both creative design and general day to day operations – two roles that are not often seen hand in hand yet a role that Alister straddles comfortably.

His passion for the Rising Star Network drives the programme to reach out to new territories with the vision of developing a Pan African Network of Rising Stars in years to come.

Hazel Valantine
Nominations & Events Manager

A far cry from her current position, Hazel has spent the last 15 years in the nature and hospitality industries. She is a qualified Level 2 Nature Guide with The Nature College and has experience with the Big Five of Africa and has worked at the London Zoo Reptile House. In hospitality she has worked in several hotels and restaurants in the UK and SA. Moving out of these spheres, Hazel has been at BlackBark Productions for over a year and is proud to be helping to give Rising Stars a place to shine.

Lesly Musakwa
Brand Consultant

Lesly Musakwa is Zimbabwean born . He currently is the Brand Consultant at BlackBark Productions helping clients and sponsors align themselves as employers of choice with the Rising Star programme and develop their brand equity. A natural salesman who believes in different solutions for different clients he has been in media and event sales for close to a decade. Lesly has left an indelible mark in his employ at EnterMyWorld Events hosting the annual Marketers Association of Zimbabwe Summit and Awards for organisations like Econet. At Capemedia, he pioneered The NEPAD Freight into Africa Summits and at Topco the Careers24 Future of HR Awards and the National Development Plans’ Vision2030 Summit. Lesly has amassed numerous awards of in recognition of this excellence. Lesly continues to grow these lifetime friendships and partnerships at BlackBark.