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Meet The DOME Group’s Sulaiman & Lesleigh Mausi: The Art Of Cool Festival’s New Owners

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Durham’s new power couple, Sulaiman & Lesleigh Mausi (Photo: Mel Brown)

Through the efforts of their company, the Divine Order Music and Entertainment Group (The DOME Group, LLC), husband and wife team Sulaiman and Lesleigh Mausi aim to entertain. When the couple relocated to Durham, where Sulaiman attended North Carolina Central University (NCCU), they saw a niche in the market that was unfilled.

L-R: Sulaiman Mausi, Lesleigh Mausi, V.P. -The DOME Group; Al Storng, AOCFEST Co-founder; Cicely Mitchell (Photo: Mel Brown)

“We saw there was a need for a mature adult concerts and entertainment. It’s people who’ve graduated from NCCU, where at some point you don’t want to go to the clubs anymore,” Sulaiman said.

Taking that to the next level, on March 27, the DOME Group announced the acquisition of The Art of Cool Festival from the Durham-based 501(c)(3) The Art of Cool Project. The music festival, now in its fifth year, will shift from operating under the non-profit organization, to being owned and managed as a subsidiary of The DOME Group LLC.

The DOME Group was founded in 2008, an antecedent to Detroit based entertainment production company The Right Productions Inc., which is owned by Sulaiman’s mother, Shahida Mausi and staffed by other members of the Mausi family. Lesleigh and Sulaiman both grew up in Detroit, Michigan. The two also have in common families with experience in music and entrepreneurship. “For me the entrepreneurial spirit has been in my blood since I came out the womb,” Sulaiman remarked.

While he grew up in Detroit, his family roots can be traced back to North Carolina, where he spent childhood summers. His grandfather, Nathan Garrett opened his own CPA accounting firm in Durham in 1962, making him the first African-American in North Carolina to do so. He says he got his love of music from his father, a drummer.

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Backstage at Chene Park Amphitheatre (Detroit), which Sulaiman operates with his mother and family. (submitted photo)
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L-R: Sulaiman’s mother Shahida Mausi, Sulaiman, Lesleigh and her father, Raymond Hicks (Photo: Mel Brown)

Meanwhile his mother’s job working for the city of Detroit to coordinate concerts, plays and special events, gave him his passion for the logistic

al side of project management. “I just got that bug from seeing how things work behind the scenes, and that’s my passion,” Sulaiman said.

Beginning in his undergrad years at NCCU, he gained experience working in different aspects the entertainment industry by throwing parties and club events. When he returned to Michigan, he began coordinating transportation, equipment, catering and security for various shows. This background, he says laid an important foundation of knowledge that allows his business to be successful.

Lesleigh’s father owned the first Black bus distributorship in the state of Michigan. Her mother was a first chair violinist and her grandmother was a church organist. Lesleigh herself began her classical piano training at the age of 5 and learned gospel through her participation in the church.

Her job as a minister of music at an Ann Arbor church helped her pay her way through her undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan, where she and Sulaiman first met. After graduation, she pursued a career in education, holding various teaching positions, culminating in her appointment as Vice Principal of Jordan High School (Durham).

In 2016, Lesleigh left this position to contribute her talents to the business efforts of the DOME Group. “I always felt that there were more of my talents that I wanted and needed to develop. I wanted to really build on my broadcast and marketing side.” While she had been involved behind the scenes before, the growth of the company led her to take a self described leap of faith into a business partnership with her husband.

“I had always seen my mother and father working together growing up. She was the educator and he was the entrepreneur but I would see them in the evenings sitting at the dining room table talking about business. Even then that was my example of how a family could be a team,” Lesleigh said.

The DOME Group employs a multi faceted business strategy to obtain success in their field. They key into the marketplace to determine which acts they are going to book by looking how artists are touring, who comprises their target audience, and what kinds of events are happening locally. The daily operations might include anything from attending a show and monitoring social media interaction, to coordinating transportation and catering and negotiating contracts.

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Sulaiman & Lesleigh seeing eye to eye…
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…if not , they will work it out. Divine Order! (Photos: Mel Brown)

The various details that go into event production make the DOME Group a wealth generator in the community. By utilizing the services of other small, local businesses, the revenue from shows filters back into the local economy, something Sulaiman thinks is important especially in the black business community.

The company has exciting prospects on the horizon including further forays into staged theater following Love Jones The Musical, the first theatrical act they booked in 2016. The couple also hopes to make a positive impact among the younger generation.

In business classes at St. Augustine’s University, the two have presented students with information about business plans and marketing, while also giving them the opportunity to showcase their business ideas through “Shark Tank” style demonstrations. “You have to know all aspects of the business, you can’t be afraid to the groundwork that way, you can’t be hustle,” Sulaiman advises.

At W.G. Pearson Elementary, the two attended a teacher appreciation event and gave away tickets to connect with the community and answer the question, “how can we being a business in the area that help educators bring parents in and solicit more engagement from parents?” as posed by Lesleigh.

Beyond the aspects of entrepreneurial development that are purely business related, Lesleigh stressed that an important part of success comes from truly understanding oneself. “Know what you bring to the table, who you are, know your values. This sets you apart, far from the typical. Be confident in your talents and gifts,” she said.

Another pillar of the couple’s success has been their faith. The company’s name “Divine Order Music and Entertainment” is based on a saying the two often use in their daily life, “may everything you do be in God’s order.”

Lesleigh said that even in hard times, “divine order” is something spoken aloud between the two as a way of affirming that they are being led by a higher power.

AOCFEST 2018

The 2018 5th Anniversary AOCFEST will be held September 28-29th, 2018. Festival performers for this year include Nas, Erykah Badu, Damien Escobar, Sons of Kemet, Iman Omari and Sango. Additional national and local acts will be announced on a rolling basis. The main venue will be the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, located at 408 Blackwell Street. Additional venues will include the Durham Armory, Motorco, Carolina Theatre, and the Pinhook. Presale tickets will start April 25th, and general on sale opens to the public on April 27th. All previous ticket sales for AOCFEST 2018 will be honored. Refunds through the Eventbrite ticketing system will be accepted until April 27th.

theartofcoolproject.com

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Anica Green
Anica Green is a recent grad with her BA in International Relations. A Durham native, she loves biking, drawing, and nature. Her aspirations include using technology to help developing communities raise their voice and achieving fluency in Mandarin Chinese.

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