In Conversation with… Meli Candela

The dancing entrepreneur tells FACT how Candela Entertainment started and how it’s going today.

How long have you been in Qatar and what first brought you here?
I have been in Qatar since 2008. I came with the idea of creating a Dance Salsa Scene, back then it was a very small community with no exposure to the world salsa scene. I also had a job, at the time, as risk manager in a bank. Soon things started picking up and I left my job and my professional career to do what I love – events and dancing as Salsa n Candela.

Before founding Candela Entertainment, your background was in banking and finance. What prompted you to make the switch?
Salsa n Candela was getting bigger and I started getting requests for different types of entertainment and acts, other than salsa and bachata, so I had to create a separate company with a name that explains what is does, which is purely entertainment. Therefore, Candela Entertainment.
The biggest flip for Candela Entertainment was when me and my partner Radi, who is also my husband, started The Backyard. Honestly, we never expected that such a simple, casual event would go this far. We started The Backyard in a cosy garden at The Ritz-Carlton, Doha, bringing rugs, cushions and furniture from our houses. We had a small budget for set up, the idea was to do a chill-out live music session outdoors where you come as you are, lie on the floor and sing and dance with your friends under those fairy lights. Soon the concept picked up so well and gained such popularity that we were getting more and more requests for bands, DJS, et cetera…
Having Radi as my partner plays a huge role, he is a singer and guitarist and has his own original band. He understood the market, knows all the local musicians and some internationals. He was selecting the best of the best, looking for talents and working with them to be ready to perform, bringing bands such as Caracan Dream, Noemi Crus, Major Fifth, Tornado Band, Pablo Discobar, Faraway Martin and many others.

What is your favourite part of working within the entertainment industry? And also, the most challenging?
What we do Is not about providing entertainment, we develop shows. I focus on dance shows, as it is my expertise, and Radi on music. Today we work with more than 90% of the hotels and events in Doha and regularly supply them with our shows. Our strength is that we provide local acts which saves on costs and gives flexibility and quality.
Our biggest challenges include always having last-minute inquiries and having to adjust accordingly. Obtaining licences in Qatar is also a challenge. We try our best to educate our clients on the entertainment requirements. It’s not just a plug-and-play show, it needs practice, sound checks, rehearsals, proper sound et cetera.

Aside from your many other business interests, you also offer various dance classes. How did you become involved with this? Is dance a passion?
I have been dancing and teaching salsa since the year 2000. I travelled all over the world to learn, dance, teach and perform. Since I arrived in Doha, I wanted to create this experience and bring this passion to the people who love dancing. Today, Salsa n Candela is a studio at Music & Arts Atelier. It is a music, dance and art school located in The Gate Mall, we teach everything and for everyone – piano, guitar, drums, vocal, violin, salsa, bachata, tango, ballet, hip-hop, Oriental as well as arts and painting. We also have baby music and sensory classes which are very popular and we have organised a summer camp this year which runs until August 18.
We organise weekly salsa nights here and there and I also have created my own dancewear brand called CANDELA’S offering Latin and ballet shoes, dance clothing and costumes, available at our studios at Music & Arts Atelier.

With your finger in so many pies, from a creative agency and events to dining, from arts to dance and even dancewear – you seem to be the definition of a true entrepreneur. What’s next for you?
For the past year, I have been managing a brand agency called Becreative and as well InnovationCafe. I found Becreative, a group of talented people doing beautiful work. With my experience in managing different businesses, I wanted to take Becreative to the next level, as it deserves. With the support and trust of the owners, myself and my team were able to do amazing work.
InnovationCafe is another unique concept, imagine you have an idea and you don’t know where to start; this is the place. You come to us and we develop it, guide it and launch it with you. We provide consultancy, workshops and networking events. We also have a platform called connekters that provides training and hiring opportunities for interns.
I like to learn and try new things every day and I am open for any new opportunity that comes my way. What’s next is what will come next, I know I am in the right place and love what I do, and more things will keep coming. ✤