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Meet Kanya King MBE


Kanya King MBE is living proof of the old adage that a genuine leader moulds, rather than seeks, consensus. An internationally renowned entrepreneur, Kanya has – through her role as CEO and founder of MOBO – displayed the drive and vision needed to help take urban music from the margins of British popular culture to the heart of the U.K. mainstream.

She’s always been an innovator, but she’s also had a lot of practice at persuading people to come round to her way of thinking. The youngest girl of nine children born to a Ghanaian father and Irish mother, Kanya grew up in a “crowded council flat” in Kilburn, North London in notably less enlightened times. But while her family faced “a huge amount of discrimination”, Kanya was influenced far more by her father’s advice to “be the best you can be”.

It was that advice that motivated her to start contributing to the family finances, aged just 17. It drove her to study English Literature at Goldsmiths College and later, while working as a TV researcher, gave her the courage of her convictions that there was a place for a mainstream British awards ceremony celebrating music influenced and inspired by black music.

When she couldn’t find a financial backer who agreed with her (or, indeed, find many supporters in the wider music industry at a time when Britpop was at its peak and British urban music was so far under the radar it was practically invisible), she “put her money where her mouth is” and re-mortgaged her house to fund the TV production herself. That she not only persuaded Carlton TV to broadcast the 1996 event, but also managed to organise and book it inside six weeks, is testament to the dynamism of a woman who has become a watchword for great British entrepreneurship and business acumen.

The first MOBO Awards succeeded against the odds with many high influencers in attendance from the world of music, film and sport and everything Kanya has done since has proved it was anything but a one-off.

Since then, MOBO has boosted the careers of everyone from Amy Winehouse to N-Dubz (Tulisa famously said the band “were on the edge of giving up” before they won Best Newcomer in 2007) providing the launchpad for British urban music to dominate both national and international charts. It’s become one of the most prestigious events on the international calendar, annually attracting A-list celebrities and music legends alike. And MOBO has become much, much more than just an awards ceremony: it’s now an iconic, year-round, agenda-setting brand which encompasses everything from a live tour to a TV channel and website, while offering training and guidance to several generations of aspiring singers, MCs, DJs and producers.

“We’ve always encouraged young people to achieve not only their musical dreams, but also their entrepreneurial ones,” says Kanya, whose own passion and determination has seen her expand her own achievements far beyond the music business.

Kanya was presented with her MBE by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace. She was invited back to meet The Queen at an event celebrating exceptional achievements by British women that also featured JK Rowling and Cherie Blair. She’s also been acclaimed as one of London’s Most Influential People (Evening Standard), as one of Britain’s Most Entrepreneurial Women (Real Business) and as one of Britain’s Most Influential Black People (Thomson Reuters/JP Morgan Power List).

She’s hugely in-demand as a media figure, making regular appearances on the BBC, Sky, ITV and CNN and featuring in everything from the Sunday Times, The Guardian and The Telegraph to InStyle, Stylist and Hello! She also starred alongside the likes of Duncan Bannatyne and Jacqueline Gold on ITV’s “Fortune – Million Pound Giveaway”, giving financial backing to worthy causes and ambitious young people.

She’s become the go-to person for public speaking at community, educational and corporate events, giving inspirational addresses to everyone from the British Library and Leeds Metropolitan University to Morgan Stanley and the Scottish Institute For Enterprise. She also now has an honourary fellowship from Goldsmiths College to go with the respect of everyone in the international music business.

But with plans afoot to expand the MOBO brand and its influence still further into international territories and further brand extensions, and with Kanya’s own profile growing ever higher, there’s still more to come. Even after all her achievements, you can bet she’s just getting started.


Awarded with ‘Lifetime Achievement’ from the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs in celebration of over 20 years in enterprise.

Presented with the accolade of ‘Media Pioneer Award’ at Women In Music Awards ceremony in honor of the impact made in media throughout her career

Presented with the Ambassador Award at the 12th annual NatWest Everywoman Awards ceremony in recognition of her entrepreneurial ambitions and commitment to advocating female leadership

'Contribution to Music Award' granted by the Ghana Black Star Network and included in 'Britain's 100 Most Entrepreneurial Women' by Real Business, in association with the Bank of Scotland Kanya is regularly listed as one of the top Black Britons

Taken up in Bryan Adam's photo series 'Modern Muse' at the National Portrait Gallery and represented as one of today's black UK role models in the Black Britannia Exhibition at City Hall

Panelist on ITV prime time series Fortune, Million Pound Giveaway; accepted role of 'visiting professor' for London Metropolitan University

Conferred with honorary degree of Doctor of Business Administration at London Metropolitan University

Started international voting campaign for African artists to vote for Best African Act

Started annual educational student programmes supported by artists

Presented with an Honorary Fellowship at Goldsmith University

Initiated the release of a charity CD with 35 British artists and proceeds to Leukemia and Sickle Cell Society

Joined Music Industry Task Force (Government committee) and appointed with an MBE

Listed in the following

Guardian top 30 ethnic minorities in media

Mayor's power list as devised by New Nation

Evening Standard's 1000 London most influential people

Real Business – Britain's 100 Most Entrepreneurial Women

One of 'Britian's 100 Most Influential Black People' in the 'Power List' sponsored by Thomson Reuters and JP Morgan

A Member of the Board of the E2E Exchange (Entrepreneur 2 Entrepreneur Exchange)

Recent articles about her appeared in Hello Magazine, She Magazine, Red Magazine, Sunday Times' Style Magazine, Stylist Magazine, InStyle Magazine, Financial Times, Independent, Guardian, Cosmopolitan, The Telegraph, Growing Business, Start Your Business, HBOS, RBS and Easyjet magazines to name a few.

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