About Us

GradStar is our programme that recognises the Top 100 students across the country based on leadership qualities and readiness for the workplace. We received over 3,500 entries in 2016 and narrowed then down to the top 100, ‘then the 10 of the Finest’.

Many of the Top 100 recognised students have received job offers from major employers as a result of being recognised through this programme.

All varsity careers centres from across the country are contacted to market the GradStar programme to their students, ensuring representation from across the country and from all disciplines. We also advertise in relevant press and online forae.

The students go through a rigorous 4 phase judging process, culminating in a day of workshops hosted by potential employers (sponsors). All flights and accommodation for the students to attend the judging and celebratory Gala Dinner are paid for by BlackBark Productions.

In addition, all 100 top students are connected with a successful business mentor, recognised through the Rising Star Programme, to further ready them for the workplace. The mentorship café takes place at the Rising Star Summit the following day (, a leadership conference which all the Top 100 attend free of charge.

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.

Yusuf Seedat

General Manager, BlackBark Productions

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.

Tamsyn Lee Brown


From becoming an SA long boarder and Stand up paddle boarder who taught many women in South Africa how to surf in the first ever women’s only surf school, to becoming an on air personality at Good Hope Fm, Tammy’s life has been filled with hard work, passion and drive. When she won the FEM sports presenter search, she began on a 3 month contract which turned into 7 years of sports, contribution, news, surf and beach reporting, as well as producing the Ayanda Tini Dlamini show.

She is a proud ambassador against all forms of abuse and is am the Alumni and Events manager for the GradStar Awards as well as managing Social Media, Press Releases, Media liaison for both the Rising Star and GradStar Awards.