About Us

About Us

The overall purpose of this assessment is to identify and publicly recognise ‘Rising Stars’ as having the qualities needed to join a guiding coalition of other Rising Stars able and willing to walk the talk to help themselves and others rise to the top of their game. Our Rising Star Network will be formed from the top 5 finalists in each of the 12 business sectors – making a network of approximately 150 (over the last 3 years) of the most talented young people in the country. We are very committed to keeping this network alive, by means of personal development and intra network education – In this way we can assist their further development benefiting them personally, the organisation they work for and in turn the wider economy.


Our Vision

Raise awareness of the breadth and depth of talent in the 28-40 year age bracket
Create opportunities for young talented individuals to grow, connect and give back
Bring the leading organisations of South Africa together to raise talent on the national agenda
Provide inter-connected, interactive group driven social and growth platforms for young talented individuals
Grow the stature of the Rising Star Awards, Summit and associated ventures to be the most recognised national initiative focusing on young talented individuals


Meet the Team


Laura Barker
Managing Director, BlackBark Productions

Laura has over 10 years experience working in business media, both in the UK and South Africa. She has developed initiatives for clients including the British Retail Consortium and the Commonwealth Secretariat as well as having launched numerous awards ceremonies with great success – the most recent being the Enviropaedia Eco-Logic Awards. Her previous employers include the Stationery Office (formerly Her Majesty’s Stationery Office) and Caspian Media in the UK, and Topco Media and Eco-Logic Publishing on South African shores.

Alister Swart
Chief Operations Officer, BlackBark Productions

After numerous years working in the hospitality industry, Alister decided to move into sales and marketing. He now plays a critical role in the BlackBark office as Chief Operations Officer.
Managing both creative design and general day to day operations – two roles that are not often seen hand in hand yet a role that Alister straddles comfortably.

His passion for the Rising Star Network drives the programme to reach out to new territories with the vision of developing a Pan African Network of Rising Stars in years to come.

Hazel Valantine
Nominations & Events Manager

A far cry from her current position, Hazel has spent the last 15 years in the nature and hospitality industries. She is a qualified Level 2 Nature Guide with The Nature College and has experience with the Big Five of Africa and has worked at the London Zoo Reptile House. In hospitality she has worked in several hotels and restaurants in the UK and SA. Moving out of these spheres, Hazel has been at BlackBark Productions for over a year and is proud to be helping to give Rising Stars a place to shine.