For 40 years Machel Montano has captivated and commanded audiences through his performances.
His extensive musical catalogue speaks for itself, but over the course of the career the King of Soca has made his fair share of investments.
In an interview with the Business Guardian, his mother Elizabeth Montano explained the soca star and his team have always been mindful about life outside and indeed after the stage lights come off and have consistently reviewed plans and strategies for sustainability.
“We always met at various times to plan our strategies. We were always concerned about the business of music so that we will always come together to discuss how we can do smart business, you know, and we will look at things like what is the music content we wanted to do, what live shows, and how can we do this in order to make sure what we do in smart business,” Lady Montano told the Sunday Business Guardian (SBG) in a telephone interview.
Unsurprisingly, the first few major business investments undertaken by Montano and his team were directly connected to music with an aim of making the most sound business decisions.
“We have several companies and we really started our parent company is Xtatik Limited, right? But Xtatik Limited was formed in order to look after live performances and live performances in terms of in Trinidad and Tobago and then we started after a while to go off into different businesses, and we formed our Ruf Rex productions which specifically deals with recordings and videos and that kind of thing.”
The Montanos’ however have continued to diversify their investments over time, and the soca megastar has made his foray into Real Estate with MJM and EVA Properties Limited, while the family also owns and manages Jammev Beach Resort in Toco and Tobago respectively.
Also under their umbrella of enterprises is a small boutique hotel called M Suite which also serves as a museum for Machel Montano’s musical career.
“That is almost like a heritage hotel because like it’s small, but you can come in there and see works of Machel and Xtatik on the walls like a little museum. The rooms are named after seven of his road marches,” said Lady Montano.
In the last decade, Montano also ventured into alcohol, unveiling his 3Zero rum back in 2012. However, Lady Montano explained that the venture was shut down as the soca star stopped consuming alcohol. The Soca Star also operated the M Store at the Piarco International Airport, after purchasing the Piarco Airport kiosk of historic record store Rhyner’s in 2013. However that store was shut down just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But as the list of businesses started to grow, the family recognised the need to declutter and re-organise.
“As Machel was stating in an interview, he trying to streamline the business so that less is more,” said Lady Montano, who explained that while many of these businesses were set up, the family decided to move most of the still functioning properties back under the Xtatik Limited banner.
Now the family has another focus on the production of chocolate through Montanos’ Chocolate Company Limited.
“As the years went on, we continue to diversify and we got involved in chocolate making, and then it was done under Xtatik Limited. But after a while, we had a discussion with our business managers and management and we decided to take it out of under Xtatik and form a family business and this family business was Montanos’ with the apostrophe after the s, because now is not Montano as in Machel Montano, but it’s Montano’s Chocolate Company Limited as in all the Montanos,” Lady Montano told the Business Guardian.
She explained the company was set up to be a truly generational business.
“This company is made up of three generations. So you have my husband and I as generation one, generation two includes Marcus and Machel my two sons and their two wives, Renee and Elisha and then the third generation, our grandchildren. So it’s a total of three generational family business,” she said.
The company has been making major strides, as it was nominated for an award in the category of Entrepreneurship in the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce’s Champions of Business Awards 2021.
The roots for the company were sewn from as far back as 2014, when Montano offered the “Happy Nation” 50 gramme bar as a Carnival and Valentine’s Day promotion.
However the family has proven its involvement in the Chocolate business is far from promotional as it has made significant moves over the past two years to solidify its presence in production.
“Even though we were under our own company, somebody used to make our chocolates for us, so we didn’t make our chocolates. Sun Eaters made the chocolate for us. In 2021, we decided that we wanted to do it ourselves, so that is when we form the company. We developed our factory, so now we have our own factory where we were making our own chocolates and we have Machel is our brand ambassador,” said Lady Montano, who explained while her popular son is the face of the brand, her eldest son is in charge of the decision making.
“I am one of the directors and Marcus now, my big son is the one who is the operations manager. He is the man who kind of heading it as he is doing the everyday work, he’s in charge. And we are led by him in terms of what is done at all the meetings,” said Lady Montano.
The company has also been doing its bit to give back as through the Machel Montano Foundation it has offered support to various communities such as Lopinot, Brasso Seco, Biche and Machel’s hometown Siparia to encourage chocolate production in those areas.
“Alongside Montanos Chocolate Company Limited, you the have Machel Montano Foundation working, where we invest in rural communities that plant their own cocoa and that made their own chocolates, and we do this sometimes, like, in the earlier years, we had about five or six communities that we used to give soft loans and these loans will be to buy equipment and to get trained. And then all of them went on to make their own chocolates, and it can be very profitable,” she explained.
She said the goal of the Chocolate Company was to improve and bolster the industry, and become a major forex generator for the country.
“Right now we are investing as I say very heavily in the chocolate business and in the cocoa industry. We are involved in assisting with the revitalization of the cocoa industry in Trinidad and Tobago. We are also looking at earning foreign exchange and contributing to the national economy by exporting our product. So we have been on a very heavy drive since like 2019,” said Lady Montano, who explained the company has been exploring markets across Latin America and the Caribbean to further grow the brand .