Published: 09 Aug, '23

Getting Animated: Kenia Mattis, Co-Founder and CEO of ListenMi Caribbean

4 Min Read

Building a business from scratch is a daunting task for most people, but when you are operating in an industry that is almost non-existent in your country, getting a company going can look even more overwhelming.

When Kenia Mattis launched her podcast production and animation brand ‘ListenMi Caribbean’ in Jamaica in 2013, she was one of the first entrepreneurs in the region to explore this creative space as a viable business idea.

Initially, Kenia did not even know that this sector was where she was meant to be. But while studying for a master’s degree in marketing, which included a module on entrepreneurship, she began to envision a way to combine her business acumen and logical side with her love for creating.

“I really started this journey not sure of what I wanted to do,” Kenia recalls.

“I grew up in a musical family. I studied piano and was surrounded by music at home, but I was always a left and right brain person. So, at school I was doing business subjects while pursuing music and audio production on my own. Media, marketing, and music were the three subjects which interested me.

“The seed was firmly planted for me to go into the creative industries when I went to university in Costa Rica. That area seemed ripe for innovation.”

Kenia knew Jamaica was not a strategically advantageous base for her new company, but she wanted to tell Caribbean stories and share her island’s perspective with the world, which meant becoming a pioneer.

She states: “Our biggest challenge was working in an environment that was not conducive to what we wanted to do. Jamaica is not known for animation and a lot of resources were not readily available.

“So, in the beginning the labour pool was small and our first employees were graduates from the Edna Manley College (of the Visual and Performing Arts) but they studied illustration or fine arts, so we had to train them internally and create processes to give them the skills that we needed.”

‘ListenMi’ initially operated as “a creative lab” but by 2018 it had begun to cement its place in the animation sphere. Its portfolio of work now includes several commercial assignments for recognised brands, such as Sesame Street and GIPHY, along with various passion projects.

Kenia’s core ‘ListenMi’ team consists of five other creatives but for some projects she has employed up to 15 people. She also partners with other studios when necessary.

“The evolution has been amazing,” Kenia says. “We’ve consistently set ourselves higher goals and have grown strategically and organically. Now, we are settled in the animation zone and have won local and global awards.

“Our first ever short film “The Adventures of Kam Kam” won the KingstOOn Best Concept Award in 2019 and that spurred us on to want to produce even more culturally infused stories where our Caribbean culture is seen, heard, and celebrated.”

In June 2022, ‘ListenMi’ attended the Annecy International Animation Festival in France with the support of the Caribbean Export Development Agency.

Kenia believes Annecy came at “a critical time” for the company as it continues to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. She says it was a great opportunity to meet people face-to-face to solidify relationships and expand her network of industry contacts.

She explains: “Annecy gave us a chance to connect with people who we had been having conversations with, and putting faces to names really made a difference. We had been talking with a company about a co-production deal and we had a handshake on that at Annecy which made it feel more definite.

“It was also great just to see what is out there, to inspire us to create in new and interesting ways based on what we know we want to say.”

Kenia adds: “Since the festival I have also worked with a company that Caribbean Export engaged to generate 50 leads for us. From that I have contacted potential business prospects and organised some meetings.”

Over the next 12 months, ‘ListenMi’ will be busy working on its first animated feature-length film which it has been commissioned to produce for the pre-teens market. Kenia says this will be the first project of its kind created in the Caribbean and demonstrated how far the industry has come in the region.

She adds: “We want to tell beautiful, meaningful, authentic stories which draw people in and not just from what you see on screen but including licensing, merchandising, and other opportunities for our people.

“One of our big goals is to be one of the premier storytelling hubs for the Caribbean and the diaspora. I am really excited about what the future holds”.


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Caribbean Export is the regional trade and investment promotion agency focused on building a resilient Caribbean by providing cutting-edge and high-impact support to the private sector.

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