About Us

BlackBark Productions, incorporated in 2010, founded and runs 2 talent recognition programmes across South Africa. The initial, Rising Star, identifies and recognises the most talented employees across all sectors, under the age of 40.

As part of the programme overthe past 9 years, we have developed a series of events designed to connect and assist our Rising Star alumni:

  • Rising Star Leadership Conversations webinars (http://www.risingstar.co.za/upcoming-events/) Inspirational sessions featuring leaders including Saks Ntombela, CEO, Hollard; Hennie Heymans, CEO Sub-Saharan Africa, DHL Express; Kgomotso Lebele, MD, Accenture ad many more.
  • Rising Star Female Forum (risingstarnetwork.co.za) (physical events and webinars) – events designed to assist and guide our female alumni in their quest for success.
  • Rising Star Summit (risingstarsummit.co.za). linking GradStars with Rising Stars mentors.
  • We also produce an Annual publication – the Rising Star Annual – designed to feature Leader and Rising Star stories as well as sponsored corporate EVP messaging (risingstarannual.co.za).


The second programme designed and operated by BlackBark Productions is the GradStar Awards, now entering its 6th year.

Since its inception we have taken over 40,000 tertiary level students through the application process and have ensured the employment of many of them. Limited to 5 equal Employer Sponsors and 1 Platinum title rights sponsorship, this event ensures exclusive and elite access to the very best South Africa has to offer. GradStar partners with every tertiary level learning institution in the country.

We are also proud to announce our PIVOT to Digital Marketing through our hosted GradStar Career Conversations, and the launch of our World First GradStar Campus App.

Our Team

Laura Barker

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.

Yusuf Seedat

Yusuf Seedat

General Manager

Yusuf has been in the event, publication and media industry since 2002. Having come through the ranks and starting off selling directory adverts for Jo’burg Tourism, Yusuf has in depth industry knowledge and extensive relationships across the corporate world. He has worked with clients in the US, Europe, India and across Africa. In Print Media Yusuf was the Associate Publisher at Topco Media, working on titles like the Top500 – SA’s Best Companies, Top Empowerment Companies and Top Performing Companies. He has also worked on International Titles at Spintelligent – (Clarion Events) such as ESI Africa and Metering and Smart Energy International with worldwide distribution and key clients in Europe, The America’s, Africa and India. He has worked on large scale expo’s in the power and utility space for Clarion Events, and within the construction sector at dmg Events, and brings his experience of having worked with two of the World’s Largest Event Companies. He is passionate about sales and is responsible for growth at BlackBark Productions, with key responsibilities within the Gradstar portolio.