Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 1st 2015 Contents The view of Port-of-Spain
from his west Trinidad pent-
house apartment is spectac-
ular. Sitting on a barstool on
the balcony of the apart-
ment, Machel Jesus Montano
contemplates the scene.
In person, Montano is cool, calm,
almost zen-like, in stark contrast to his
high energy, sometimes controversial,
stage persona. He possesses an urbane
wit, something he doesn t hesitate to
"Am I a businessman?" He mulls the
question over and takes a page out of
Jay-Z s book, "I m not a businessman.
I m a business, man!"
The boy who wowed crowds at 12
with an irresistible cuteness at the 1986
Dimanche Gras competition, singing Too
Young to Soca, has spawned his own
sub industry within the soca genre, with
a branded concert series, merchandise,
food and beverage, an app and even his
own video game.
This, despite his own admission of not
having a "fondness for figures or even
While public speculation into his earn-
ings and net worth is rampant, Montano
shies away from specifics.
"I work hard enough to make sure I
have enough to do whatever it is I like
to do," said the soca artiste.
"I ve never really hung my hat too
high. I m not really much of a spender
either. I m very, very disciplined in terms
of savings and very much into re-invest-
ing in what I do."
Warming up to the interview as he
realises the discussion will not be cen-
tered around his winnings, income,
concert receipts and the like, Montano
discloses why he chose the Sunday BG
to talk about his journey from the
Savannah stage that night in 1986 to a
multimedia spectacle that attracted
between 25 and 30,000 people at this
year s Machel Monday.
Montano says it is for people to know
and understand his business philosophy,
which is built not only on constant re-
investment in his product and diversifi-
cation of his assets, but also investment
Montano has a staff of 50, more at
Carnival and he said encourages every
one of them to become business people
in their own right.
"I also think it is important for busi-
nesses to invest in people," said Mon-
His story is his way of leading by
example, encouraging business owners to
invest in their employees.
He didn t always see things this way.
Montano reminisced about his attitude
to money in his late teens.
"I had a very carefree attitude towards
it in the early years. I remember think-
ing somewhere in the teenaged years,
that if I did X number of shows, if I
keep taking shows, I could probably
make some serious money and I started
trying to do more and more and more
One summer he, the band and another
teenaged friend acting as manager, set
up their own solo shows.
"We did them and we did them and
we did them," Montano thumps the
table for emphasis here. "We were buy-
ing sneakers and hats and clothes while
we were doing it. When the end of the
summer came, we wanted to see where
the money went and we couldn t find
any of it. That was a definite, definite
point in my life, around 18, 19, when I
realised, run down money, what you will
probably do at the end of the day, is
probably lose it, you ll probably spend it
just as fast as you earn it."
Montano said this was the point he
decided to create legacies.
"I told myself, I ll work hard on the
integrity of my product, I ll work hard
on making something that will stand the
test of time."
"I stopped looking at the bottom line,
stop looking at what was being made at
every show and started looking at what
kinds of albums would I make and what
kind of songs would they have and what
kind of look I wanted the band to have.
What I wanted the stage show to look
like. And I kept increasing in that prod-
uct, investing in that product, letting it
stand out. Letting it mean something to
people...You see, sometimes there is a
healthy reward in keeping your head
down and working hard on your prod-
Monk's profit philosophy
Montano s "reward" has allowed him
to invest heavily in something he has an
almost spiritual reverence for: land.
While he admits to have some equities
in local and foreign markets, real estate
is his true love.
"For me, it s almost like owning a
piece of the earth. It is something that
doesn t rotten. It only increases in value
Montano owns properties in California
and New York and has plans to make
purchases in Jamaica and other
Caribbean islands. He also holds real
estate in Trinidad, as well as Tobago.
The lands that grow the cocoa that will
eventually become his branded chocolate
hold pride of place.
"I think it is not just meaningful in
terms of the intangible, but also some-
thing that is purposeful. For example,
my investment into cocoa and chocolate
is really based on sustainability for com-
munity, for the farmers, the villages that
invest in these things. The Brasso Seco
Village, Maracas Village where we have
land, I see a long-term vision to help
with agriculture and to teach people
Working as one with nature is also
important to Montano. The soca artiste
said much experimentation has gone on
at an abandoned property he purchased
in Toco, including trials in manufactur-
ing soap and wine. He sees the property
possibly becoming a "wellness" centre;
the concept of wellness itself, he thinks,
will become increasingly important in
Montano s financial ethos is an eclec-
tic blend of the hard-nosed rational and
the esoteric. Its development is a con-
stantly evolving process
"My philosophy is the monk philoso-
phy. It is a Movement of New Knowl-
edge. Where is this movement happen-
ing? This movement is happening first
of all inside of me. That is based on
three pillars, the triangle."
The table again becomes his drawing
"Tradition on the left, technology on
the right and the truth in the middle.
Left is the past, right is the future, the
middle is the present...You want to
marry the traditions of your past, with
the ever changing, fluid situations of
your future and technology and you
want to bring it into your present
moment and let it inform your truth, let
it inform your reality."
Giving an inside look at his financial
underpinnings, Montano said his parents
always encouraged himself and his sib-
lings to be workers and savers, while
giving them much leeway to develop
their own business sense.
"I always remember, being in charge
of our own money from the age of 12.
How much money we made, how much
money we spent, buying our own
clothes. Our parents set us up to be very
independent. I say that in a good way.
We were making our own destiny and
our parents stopped giving us
allowances. At age 13, we were really
businessmen of our own, because we
were working and performing."
The soca star said from a very early
age he had funds invested in the Unit
Trust Corporation. His parents were also
aware of the pitfalls of the entertainment
SBG4 | COVER STORY
SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt MARCH 1 • 2015
NATALI E BRI GGS
Monk Monté s
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