Innovation Is Key To Becoming A Successful Entrepreneur – Usman Nagenu Awal

Usman Nagenu Awal is a Civil Servant/Fish farmer based in Niger State. He talks about the pros and cons of marketing dry fish in Minna and Abuja. 

TMG> Tell us about yourself? 

Usman> I am from family of Barr. Mohammed Awal Bida and Hajiya Maimuna Larai Awal. I attended Model Islamic Primary School, Minna. I proceeded to FGC Maiduguri then GSS Suleja. I have a Diploma in Financial Studies and HND in Accountancy both from the Federal Polytechnic Bida. I did my national youth service at Oyo state and joined ICA Logistics Ltd Port Harcourt which is a shipping company. I was also a manager at Tagwai Bakery and confectionery Minna for 3 years. 


TMG> What made you go into fish farming and marketing?

Usman> Personal love for good food and hygiene. I realized that our artisan method of smoking fish is not hygienic and most times the taste of sand, dust and maggots due to flies and other things that settle on the fish made me think of other methods to improve on it. That gave rise to the idea behind Mashura dry fish.


TMG> What types of fish do you raise and sell? 

Usman> Dry catfish and extrovancus.

TMG> Which areas do you need to improve on in your company? 

Usman> The areas that need improvement are packaging, marketing and distribution. The cost of packaging and creating awareness to the consumers on the differences between the artisan method and our improved and better way of processing dry fish. 


TMG> What are some of the challenges you have faced in starting the industry? 

Usman> The challenges I face is raising of capital, publicity and how to strategise on marketing. 

Vehicles for distribution and cost is a major challenge.


TMG> What style of management do you think works in becoming successful at your kind of business?

Usman> Sole proprietorship works for me. 

TMG> Have you ever suffered loss during sales and what did you learn?

Usman> The profit margin is between 50 to 60% after expenses but spoilage due to lack of storage facility, issues of bad debt and delivery vehicle, if not properly managed, can lead to loss. The most important thing is that the source of raw material is readily available in my state.


TMG> Who are you comfortable selling to and why? 

Usman> I’m comfortable selling to anybody who can afford it. It is all about business. 


TMG> What motivates you? 

Usman> What motivates me is the need to make a living and to meet up with the challenges. 


TMG> What is your ultimate career aspiration?

Usman> My ultimate career aspiration is to see my fish farming business (mashura fish) go national.

TMG> How do you keep a smile on your face during a hard day to make sure your clients feel good enough to come back again? 

Usman> By letting my customers know that every thing is OK, and not being aggressive in my credit recovery (smile, saying sorry and thanks).

TMG> What role does marketing play in your selling process?

Usman> Marketing plays a very important role. It’s the only way that people get to know what you do.


TMG> What way can you encourage other youths not to depend on government for jobs?

Usman> I encourage the youths to look inward, especially agriculture and commodity business.


TMG> Do you socialise and when?

Usman> Yes I socialise; I enjoy watching movies, reading books and at times hanging out with friends.

Love For Servitude Prompted Me To Start My Business- Hauwa Idris Audu-Bida

Hauwa Laaibah Idris Audu-Bida is an Architect who imbibes creativity in every aspect of her life. The CEO of Sidri Foods Ventures Ltd. speaks with TMG on her food processing business and more. 

TMG> What made you start a processed food business?

Hauwa> Simply hospitality! The love for servitude.

TMG> Did you go to culinary or business school & What credentials did you earn through the training? 

Hauwa> Yes, I went to culinary school (in my mother’s kitchen!)Trust me, it’s one of the best trainings anyone can have but it took a period 10 to 15 years to perfect.

TMG> How did you actually start the business?

Hauwa> I began producing for the consumption of family and friends. At a point, I had to make a yearly production for my family living abroad and it was then the idea came to me to make a business out of it.

TMG> How many employees report to you?  

Hauwa> Five people report to me aside my marketing and distribution crew.

TMG> Apart from food processing business, what is your favorite cuisine to cook and Why?

Hauwa> Local Jollof rice made from palm oil, adequate daddawa(locust beans) and smoked fish. It is simply tasty- the kind of dish that leaves you wanting more.

TMG> What do you do to stay educated about new trends?

Hauwa> I am a research freak;  always on the verge and seeking something new. I attend seminars and conferences when I have to. I also do alot of internet surfing.

TMG> What do you do to ensure the best quality of your products goes out to customers?

Hauwa> My kind of products attract its own type of consumers; as much as I would like to do alot of marketing, it is still limited to those that know the exact quality of what Kunu is, those that appreciate its taste, and those who know the nutritional and health value. So my customers keep finding me. I also have distributors in strategic locations.

TMG> Tell us about an accomplishment that you are most proud of in your career? 

Hauwa> It depends on what field? I am a diversified person but my greatest accomplishment is being able to start up my little projects and finish them, whether it’s construction or production projects.

TMG> Tell us 3 things that you consider to be your strengths as a business person?

Hauwa>1. Faith 
2. Perseverance 
3. Extra attention to details

TMG> Tell us something you would like to learn or improve upon in your business? 

Hauwa> I would seriously appreciate it if I can pay more attention to marketing, also take an overview course on packaging and distribution.

TMG> What other things do you do as a business person?

Hauwa> I study and I write.

TMG> What are your challenges and how do you intend to handle them?

Hauwa> My major challenge is mechanization, which I and my team are working on vigorously now.

TMG> What other back-of-the positions have you previously held before going into food processing? 

Hauwa> I’m an Architect who imbibes creativity in every aspect of her life. 

TMG> Who are your role models and what inspires you about them?

Hauwa> My role model is my Rasul Muhammad (SAW), my faith inspires me about him. Others are my parents for all that they taught and have given me.

TMG> What way can you encourage other youths not to depend on government for jobs but to be self dependent?

Hauwa> The hustle today is out there on the streets. There is little to nothing left in the offices. And even if there was, I wonder how much of it can go round?

TMG> Do you have time to socialise and how?

Hauwa> Yes, I find time to hangout with my friends and family – we either go shopping, catch a movie or go for food exhibitions and funfairs.


Good Journalists Shouldn’t Engage In Negative Stories For Popularity Or Monetary Gains- Ahmed Haruna Tswata

Ahmed Haruna Tswata is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Fortune World Magazine in Abuja. He speaks to TMG on how a childhood pastime became reality and he also shares what inspired a youth summit coming up soon in Mokwa, Niger state. 

TMG> How did you become interested in Journalism?

Ahmed> My interest in Media started while I was in Nursery Class in NEPA Staff School, Jebba Niger State where I read the news in Nupe during our end of the year graduation ceremony.

At that period, I used to look for old newspapers to read, in fact, there were times that I would buy old newspapers from the street to read. This really prepared my mind to go into journalism.


TMG> How long have you been a Journalist?

Ahmed> Informally, I would say I have been a journalist since my years in primary school, (laughs). but I took it up professionally since 2007.


TMG> Did you go for any formal media training or school? And what is it like to be a journalist?

Ahmed> Yes, I studied Mass Communication. Being a journalist is a joy, as the fourth realm, one is saddled with a lot of responsibilities to get people informed about the happenings around them.


TMG> What do you like most about your practice?

Ahmed> What I like most about journalism is the respect that is accorded to the profession by the public; we are the eyes through which the public sees or hears the happenings around them. This gives me so much joy.


TMG> Is it difficult to be a journalist and how hard is it to reach out to your readers?

Ahmed> It is not really difficult to be a journalist if only you choose to be honest and stick to the ethics of the profession.


TMG> What makes someone successful in journalism?

Ahmed> A successful journalist is one who is proud of his profession, and sticks to the ethics of the profession


TMG> How would you evaluate your work and what kind of feedback were you receiving from your readers?

Ahmed> I have been able to command the respect of alot of people in my social handles, mostly on Facebook and Twitter. I do not engage in cheap popularity, my posts are very neutral and I don’t engage in any kind of negative story for popularity or monetary gains.


TMG> Tell us about your social media and Youth programs you also established as a social media influencer? 

Ahmed> My stance on various social media platforms sts has been inspirational to a lot of people, most especially the youths. Majority of them look up to me as a motivating factor and they come for advice and encouragement.

TMG> Can you tell us how the idea to organize a Youths Summit came to be? 

Ahmed> It is a summit that is being organized by my magazine (Fortune World Magazine) for the youth in Mokwa Local government. Recently, there has been a lot of violence among and by the youths and this is organized to educate them on how to use non- violent methods to solve problems, to take the youths off the street, help them get back to school and the need for the youths to stop electoral violence and so on.


TMG> What are the biggest challenges facing journalists today?

Ahmed> The biggest challenges facing the profession in Nigeria today is funding.

Most journalists are living from hand to mouth, some media organisations don’t pay workers or their payment is very poor.

Non- availability of funds for journalists has been a factor that has militated research and investigative journalism. This trend has made some media outfits to churn out news stories that are not reliable and do not conform with the ethics of the profession. 

TMG> What do you do differently to ensure you deliver good quality to the public as a professional?

Ahmed> I make sure whatever I want to do should be in tandem with what can be obtained from journalists around the world. 

I make sure whatever I do is done with utmost responsibility that comes with intergrity and deep honesty.


TMG> Who are your role models and people that motivated you into this profession?

Ahmed> My role models are Dele Momodu, Haruna Mohammed, Dan Agbese, Sam Nda Isaiah, Ibraheem Dooba,Toni Kan, Ibe Kachikuwu and host of others


TMG> Tell us about an accomplishment that you are most proud of in your career?

Ahmed> When I started my own magazine, Fortune World Magazine.


TMG> Tell us about your management style and how you handle your co staff?

Ahmed> We are a little company that is growing – no boss/subordinate relationship – we work as a group to make sure our aims are achieved.

TMG> Tell us 3 things that you consider to be your strengths as a journalist?

Ahmed> 1- My ability to stay neutral.

2- My diplomatic nature of handling issues.

3- My nature of wanting to get facts right before going to press.


TMG> What motivates you as publisher? 

Ahmed> I have to make sure money is not the motivating factor to become a publisher. What matters is to be a goal-getter, get your priorities right, never get discouraged and never allow anyone dissuade you from aiming for the top.

When you make decisions, make sure they are well thought out before taking action.


TMG> What great plans and advice do you have for youths in your area? 

Ahmed> I have always been a youth activist. I’ve always nutured the younger ones on the need for them to show respect to their elders. We are Africans and that we cannot take away.

I have always advised the youths to stay off any kind of violence, that violence has never effected anything good, that they should never allow politicians to use them for thuggery, anyone that asks them to do so should be directed to bring his/her own children.

I have been an advocate of using non-violent means to solve problems. I say to my fellow youths that there is no need to stone or harrass any of our elected leaders. The theme for the campaign is “Drop The Stone and Pick the PVC.


TMG> What way can you encourage youths to be independent in any profession?

Ahmed> My magazine in conjunction with some youth organisations is organising a youth summit for youth in Mokwa, Edati Lavun Federal constituency. We will be bringing the youths together to discuss and fashion out a way to put a stop to youth restiveness. There have been a handful of youth violences in and around Mokwa of late.

We have approached the Niger State Government and stakeholders like Deputy Governor of Niger State, Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed Ketso; former Speaker, Rt. Hon Adamu Usman; Hon Ahmed Abu, Alhaji Abdullahi Ndafogi Nasiru and Hon Mohammed Baiwa Banshe and responses from them have been very positive. They all want the youth violence to become a thing of the past, create meaningful ways to engage them and to be useful in the society.

TMG> How do you spend your free time?

Ahmed> I spend my free time reading and watching soccer. I am an avid supporter of Chelsea.

Battle For My Life: Story Of A SCD Warrior

Emira Ukuta, a 17- year-old Sickle Cell Warrior granted TMG this inspiring interview on what it is like to live with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD), how she is fighting it daily and her hopes for the future.

Every year in sub Saharan Africa, more than 300,000 children are born with the sickle cell disease. Sickle cell disease is a genetic blood disorder affecting the red blood cells. It causes the cells to lose oxygen very easily, turning them from round shapes to crescent shapes that cause painful episodes known as pain crises.

For Emira Ukuta, life is much better now compared to what she has been through since she had the disease. Spinal fractures in two places due to complications of the sickle cell disease had her hospitalised for a long time. She describes that period as a painful and miserable one.
“Upon my discharge from hospital, I was placed on total bed rest for three months. I had to wear a corset, use a wheelchair and missed two years of school. It was a painful and miserable time for me and I hope that no one ever goes through that.”

All she kept wishing for was that the pain would go away. The prayer was soon answered. Between the long stay in hospital, pain, numerous medications and facing surgery, she would find relief in some supplements that were introduced to them.

Emira was to undergo surgery on her spine when help came her way.
In between raising money for the surgery and dealing with agonising pains, some supplements were introduced to her which improved her condition drastically. She shares her experience.
“My life back then was pain filled. I had a crisis almost every two weeks, some of which lasted over a week and I missed school a lot.

I was supposed to undergo spinal surgery to mend the fractures but then I was introduced to these supplements: Arthrizin, Immunozin and Fortrezin (all products of Rahma). After taking them, the fractures in my spine were stabilized so the surgery was no longer a priority and I get to focus on school and life.

To Emira, going to school is very important to her actualizing her ambition of becoming a Psychologist. She wants to help people who have emotional and psychological challenges.

“My life is a lot better now that I take Immunozin supplements. Since I started taking it, I hardly ever have a crisis and I haven’t missed a day of school this year,” she adds positively.

Asked if her current method of treatment is commonly available to other warriors, Emira says:

“I would like to believe that it is, seeing that it (Immunozin) is produced in Nigeria. The challenge I see is that of exposure. By that I mean that not many other Sickle Cell Warriors know about it but between myself and my Mother, we have been recommending it to all those we know.”

Emira’s mother, Barrister Uche Ukata speaks on how her daughter’s condition has affected them and if any other member of the family had SCD.
“No other person has it in the family, she says.
Emira’s younger brother is very protective of her and always willing to lend assistance should she require it. Financially, it’s been rough paying for her treatments when she is hospitalized and especially now that we are trying to save up for her Spinal surgery which has been put at about $20,000. Emotionally, it’s heartbreaking to see her in such pain during a crisis. But luckily since she started taking Immunozin, she hasn’t had any major crisis.”

So how did she hear about these supplements by Rahma and what advice does she have for people suffering from SCD or their families?

“My older sister and brother were taking Rahma supplements and found them efficacious and recommended them to me. This was at the point we were told about the need and cost of surgery for her spinal fractures.
Parents should ensure their Warriors take the necessary medication and supplements to enable them live healthy lives. I’ve recommended the supplements my daughter uses to quite a number of such parents and have sent them bottles of the supplements to try out. They have since started ordering theirs directly and are very pleased with the results. As a matter of fact, one of the Doctors that treated my daughter at the Sickle Cell Clinic at UNTH has indicated interest in running a private clinical review of the supplements. He was that amazed at the difference in her between the last time he saw her (when they diagnosed the fractures) and today.”

Emira had this to say about helping sickle cell warriors even further.

“Firstly, find an affordable cure to the disorder; end the stigmatization of people with sickle cell disorder, and educate people on the need to know their genotype. In addition, provide affordable medical care for sicklers and keep researching and improving on drugs to manage the disorder.”

There’s currently no widely accessible cure for sickle cell. Advances in bone marrow transplant and gene therapy has altered the landscape of sickle cell suggesting a cure is on the horizon giving hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Entrepreneurship Can Be Better Than Employment – Amina Musa Suleiman

For Amina Musa Suleiman, taking a decision to bake doughnuts was a step to keeping herself busy. Now she has made it a full-time business. The B.A History graduate and CEO of Delight Doughnuts in Kano State tells TMG her story…

TMG> How did you pick an interest in becoming a pastry chef?

Amina> My first interest started when I graduated from Bayero University Kano before going for the National Youth Service Corps. I don’t enjoy staying at home doing nothing, so I decided to think of what to do that would keep me busy. Then l decided to start making doughnuts because of my passion for baking.

TMG> Did you go to culinary school?

Amina> No, I didn’t

TMG> If you did not attend culinary school, where and how were you trained?

Amina> I learned and trained myself through the internet; I also watch different tutorials on YouTube.

TMG> How many employees report to you?

Amina> Three employees for now.

TMG> Who do you run to when you have any problem in your kitchen?

Amina> I go to my mum and some friends of mine that also bake.

TMG> What is your favorite cuisine to cook and Why?

Amina> Both traditional and foreign cuisines

TMG> What do you do to stay educated about new trends?

Amina> I watch food channels and read online

TMG> What do you do to ensure the quality of the doughnuts going out to customers?

Amina> I make sure the ingredients are of high quality and I taste samples before they go out.

TMG> How do you ensure/test the quality of your ingredients?

Amina> I don’t change the products I use and always check expiry dates. I make sure I buy products from the same place too.

TMG> Tell us about an accomplishment that you are most proud of in your career.

Amina> I was featured in a food magazine due to the quality of my product and I’m going to co-sponsor a show soon.

TMG> Describe a problem you had with an employee in the kitchen and how you handled it.

Amina> There was a time I gave instructions to one of my employees to mix some dough but unfortunately, she made a mistake by pouring alot more water than measured. I ended up making a new dough myself.

TMG> Tell us about your management style and how you handle your Customers?

Amina> I make sure I’m involved in almost all aspects of my product and monitor the workers by being friendly. 

TMG> Tell us 3 things that you consider to be your strengths? 


    a)-My cooking skills
    b)-My passion to succeed
    c)-My network

TMG> Tell us something you would like to learn or improve upon in your kitchen? 

Amina> I would like to upgrade my kitchen equipments from manual to automatic which will help me ease the stress.

TMG> What other things do you do as a Chef?

Amina> I’m currently doing a Postgraduate Course

TMG> Give us an example of someone you have trained or mentored. Where did they start and where are they now?

Amina> Her name is Maryam and she lives in Kaduna. She came all the way to learn how to make doughnuts from me and now she’s doing very well as expected and I’m vey proud of her.

TMG> How do you resolve the menu development and overall design?

Amina> I always try to create my own and make sure I present the best.

TMG> What are your challenges and how do you intend to handle them?

Amina> My worst challenge is when a customer places an order and when I call for them to pick up, they give excuses. Sometimes others will just cancel their orders at the last minute so I decided to change methods to payment when placing orders.

TMG> What positions have you previously held before being a Chef?

Amina> l have worked in a consultancy firm and as a classroom teacher before.

TMG> Who are your role models and what inspires you about them?

Amina> My role model is my Dad. He inspires me with his self- reliant attitude and he always encourages us to be self-dependent and to always read hard.

TMG> How do people react when they taste your doughnuts and what do they think of you as a chef?

Amina> People always compliment me after tasting my products and this spurs me to be better.

TMG> What way can you encourage other youths not to depend on government for jobs but to be self dependent?

Amina> The youth should try and discover what they’re good at and develop themselves. Over time, they could be better than employed people.

TMG> Do you have time to socialise and how? 

Amina> Yes, I do. I love watching movies and use my phone to keep me entertained. That, I can say, is key to my doughnut’s success story.

Friendships I’ve Built Through Photography Are Priceless – Mohammed Alamin Samaila

Every photographer sees pictures as one of the simplest means of communication. Mohammed Alamin Samaila, CEO Photography by Amin, is no different. His love for beautiful imagery and stories told by pictures in a split second cannot be over emphasised, he tells TMG.

Photography By Alamin

TMG>Tell us about yourself:

Mohammed> My name is Mohammed Alamin Samaila and I come from Plateau State. I’m a graduate of MBA(IT), Bsc Software Engineering from Staffordshire University, University of East London respectively and CEO, Photography by Amin.

TMG> Why photography?

Mohammed> Well, as cliché as it sounds, photography is my hobby and the love for doing it takes away the stress of the profession. I could not picture myself doing a regular 8-5 job, plus it’s fun and you always meet new and interesting people.

TMG> What was your original career path? How did it grow from hobby to professional photography, and actually doing it for a living?

Mohammed> Initially I wanted to be a software developer, but soon realised I was more drawn towards visual content and contextual elements. I’ve always documented my travels with my phone and that pushed me towards getting a camera and I kept upgrading ever since and the need to do it professionally came when my school started paying my photography club to take pictures during school events, festivals and functions. So I took it a step further to hone my craft and try and be more professional. When I returned to Nigeria, I worked at a Photo studio but felt stuck creatively, so I quit and my friends started helping me get jobs and one thing led to the other.

TMG> Where and how were you trained? Did you go to professional school to learn photography & what credentials did you earn through the program?

Mohammed> I didn’t attend a photography school, however, my passion drove me towards attending lots of workshops and courses. Among notable ones are are Sony Alpha Workshops, Learnfinity, Creativelive and KelbyOne. I’m still learning though, so I would not rule out photography school yet.

TMG> What other positions/jobs have you previously had before going into photography?

Photography By Alamin

Mohammed> Well, I run a vegetable farm which produces beef and cherry tomatoes, bell peppers and Cucumbers. It’s taken much of my time in the past but I’ve slowly given my passion the time and energy it deserves so the farm has taken a back seat.

TMG> What motivates you to continue taking pictures economically, politically, intellectually or emotionally?

Mohammed> Pictures are one of the simplest means of communication and are more dangerous than weapons in some instances, hence my love for beautiful imagery cannot be over emphasised. It’s the stories the pictures tell in a split second and how it defines the subject that motivates and wants to keep telling more powerful stories to my imagery.

TMG> Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?

Mohammed> Gregory Heisler, Joe McNally and Dani Diamond are photographers I always look up to. Heisler’s ability to bring out emotion in his portraits is something I’m still trying to emulate. McNally could light anywhere with ease and Dani’s images have a look and feel that’s just mind boggling. Henry Orgi (Big H) and Obisomto are also awesome photographers; I love their work.

TMG> They say photography is a medium of expression. What exactly do you intend to express with your photographs?

Mohammed> I am always trying to appreciate nature and depict it in the best way my technical abilities allow. I always try to avoid a busy and distracting background, colors need to balance out hence complementary colors are a must on most of my pictures, and finally, placing my subjects to a pleasing compositional frame and then click the shutter.

TMG> How do you get the person, place or thing that is in front of the camera onto the film, chip or paper in just the way you want?

Mohammed> I think the most important thing when it comes to portraits is the relationship you build with your subject. Being the director means I will always engage with my subjects and make them comfortable and relaxed. Once they are in this state, it’s an easy task to make beautiful photographs.

Photography By Alamin

TMG> What technology/software/camera gear do you use to keep focused as you photograph?

Mohammed> In terms of Camera gear, I strictly use Sony Alpha and some of their best lenses (Zeiss 16-80f4,70-200 f2.8, 50mmf1.7, 11-16f2.8, 90mmf2.8 macro).I use an Apple MacBook Pro  15”retina for all of my editing due to its power and portability. I like to use reliable equipment whenever I can afford them, as that keeps you focussed on your subjects without fussing with technology .

TMG> How many employees report to you and how efficient are they? If you are alone how do you manage?

Mohammed> I work alone presently  but usually have an assistant or two whenever I need extra hands on set. I usually work with people I trust are reliable and professional in handling themselves. I’ve developed a system that lets me work alone as well, with lots of redundancies just incase something decides to fail. 

TMG> In case of problems, how do you manage? Do you seek for help from another professional?

Mohammed> I am always expecting a problem so I have enough backup in most cases, however, I have a set of really awesome friends that help me when I am in a situation that needs them.Photography By Alamin

TMG> What do you do to stay educated about new trends?

Mohammed> I am mostly overloaded with information on my industry, especially now with the ease of internet access. I always learn new things or better ways to do things. I’m on You tube at least 3 times a week learning new techniques and a couple of websites to keep me updated on what is going on in the photo industry.

TMG> What are your challenges and how have you been able to handle them?

Mohammed> My major challenge has to do with being under appreciated as a professional and this affects most photographers and our ability to grow and compete with our global peers. The recession is not helping as well, hence this is the perfect time to do lots of personal projects and try new things that will hopefully be used in future Jobs.

TMG> Give us an example of someone you have trained or mentored. Where did they start and where are they now?

Mohammed> I haven’t trained anyone professionally but I do guide people willing to learn mostly through assisting me and learning practically on the job.

TMG> Tell us about an accomplishment that you are most proud of in your career.

Mohammed> While I’ve won a couple of photography competitions, it’s the friendships that I’ve built through photography that I am most proud of.

TMG> Describe to us a problem you have had with any customer and how you handled it.

Mohammed> There was this time a customer got me to shoot their pre-wedding with the agreement and promise that they would pay with the wedding booking. I ended up forfeiting that payment as they stopped picking my calls. Needless to say that it taught me a lesson and has affected my payment before service policy ever since.

Photography By Alamin

TMG> What is your management style like and how do you handle your clients?

Mohammed> Every potential client is important and every customer is special in their own way. I usually go above and beyond to make my clients happy. I never promise something I can’t deliver and really value building a relationship out of every client. I’ve gotten lots of return clients and referrals from happy ones, which is something I am building upon – trying to please them without hurting my business.

TMG> Tell us 3 things that you consider to be your strengths in photography?

Mohammed> 1) My smile is one I think – I always handle every possible situation with a smile on my face and because I mostly enjoy working it’s usually there by default;
2)Planning – I usually plan out every thing and go over every possible detail before any shoot and that has helped me anticipate and prepare for eventualities;
3)Friendships – I can’t overemphasise how friends have helped me and how they opened doors where there were none .

TMG> Tell us something you would like to learn or improve upon as a photographer?

Mohammed> I would like to learn to market my business better and effectively. I’m a shy person so I’m not always willing to walk up to everyone and try and sell myself but that is something I really need to improve on and perfect.

TMG> How do you manage risk, in terms of damages or loss?

Mohammed> Risk is present in every endeavor so my best techniques in mitigating it involve having contracts drawn with clients, Model releases with models, insurance for your equipment but above all, being careful and not taking anything for granted is a must.

TMG> Would you encourage other youths to go for entrepreneurship instead of depending on government for jobs?

Mohammed> One way to encourage other youths is by succeeding in what you’re doing and being a good role model; most will want to emulate you and with that drive they’ll chase their passions which no government job can provide. Another way is to encourage and nurture young talent from a small age so whatever they do becomes second nature to them. The Chinese Olympic teams are an excellent example of this on how they’re grooming different sets of youngsters that’ll represent their country in upcoming competitions.

Photography By Alamin

TMG> Do you have time to socialise and how?

Mohammed> Yes, just a little though. Hanging out with friends , doing some fun adventure or even taking photo walks with other photographers with no goals but to share and network with each other. Other times it’s traveling to new places to meet new people and experience their culture.

The Need To Excel And Be Helpful Motivates Me- Fatima Umar Balarabe

To make a success of what you do, one has to be vibrant, hardworking and a go-getter like Fatima Umar Balarabe, the CEO Teecakesnbakes and founder of Arewa Market Hub and Kaduna Food Festival. She shares her thoughts on what it’s like being an entrepreneur with TMG.

Fatima Umar Balarebe

TMG> Tell us about your background and what you do? 

Fatima> My name is Fatima Umar Balarabe, I come from Kaduna State and I’m a baker/caterer and also an event planner. I am the CEO Teecakesnbakes and also the founder of Arewa Market Hub and Kaduna food festival respectively.

TMG> You are into many things at the same time…what informed this?

Fatima> While growing up, I found myself interested in business and it was not just one particular type of business….I have been involved in so many businesses, including farming. But I realised that I have more passion in the kitchen as a baker /caterer and talent in event planning.

TMG> How far have you gone with all of them? 

Fatima> Alhamdulilah. I am a baker/caterer and I have been in this line of business for as long as I can remember. Although I started my event planning career not too long ago.

TMG> Which areas do you need to improve on in your business?

Fatima> I believe the areas that need improvement in my business is the aspect of marketing and publicity.

Fatima Umar Balarebe

TMG> What do you feel is the next step in developing your business skills?

Fatima> I feel the next step for me to develop my business skills is to gain more experience, and learn innovations.

TMG> What are some of the challenges you have faced in starting your business?

Fatima>  In every business challenges are necessary, both in the aspect of baking and event planning. Finance and marketing have always been a challenge; getting your products and services to reach a wide range of people is usually not an easy task.

TMG> What style of management do you think works in becoming successful at your kind of business?

Fatima> Carrying everyone along and working as a team rather than being a boss and lording it over them has always worked for me in managing my business successfully.

TMG> Tell us about a successful business pitch you have used for a difficult client. How were you able to handle it? 

Fatima> Having at the back of my mind that without a client there’s no me and no business. Also, knowing that a client’s referral is the best marketing strategy to a business makes it easier for me to deal with clients. Once I had a client who ordered a cake and then came to collect her cake earlier than the agreed date of delivery. She insisted that she had told me the date she wanted the cake, even after I showed her evidence of the order she had placed. I was angry but calm. She demanded a refund and called me incompetent but I told her to come back in a few hours so that I can arrange her money. After she left, I set to work and made her a cake and also gave her a free box of 12 cupcakes. She returned angry but left with a smile after apologising for the way she spoke to me and told me how impressed she was with me for not retaliating. A few weeks later, 3 different customers called to order cakes through reference by that same client.

Fatima Umar Balarebe

TMG> Tell us how you manage other responsibilities and businesses? 

Fatima> I believe that whatever is worth doing is worth doing well. I carefully delegate duties to responsible and capable people who I work with as a team.

TMG> Have you ever lost during sales and what did you learn?

Fatima> Yes, I have lost during sales. Some circumstances are unforeseen, and as a Muslim I believe in fate (either good or bad).

TMG> What motivates you?

Fatima> The need to excel and be of help when needed motivates me.

TMG> What is your ultimate career aspiration?

Fatima> My ultimate career aspiration is to be a globally recognised professional baker/chef and a competent event planner

Fatima Umar Balarebe

TMG> How do you keep a smile on your face during a hard day to make sure your clients feel good?

Fatima> There’s always a smile on my face as long as am relating with a client… I have programmed myself that way. The thought that what I am doing will put a smile on another person’s face automatically makes me smile despite the hurdles I am going to go through. Besides, this is what I love doing. 

TMG> What way do you think your business could do better?

Fatima> Gaining more experience and publicity would really make my business do better.

TMG> What’s your approach to handling people or Entrepreneurs?

Fatima> My approach to handling people in general is respect. Everyone wants to be respected for who and what they are.

TMG> What role does marketing play in your business?

Fatima> Marketing plays a vital role in any business. Without the people knowing about your business, there’s automatically no business.

Fatima Umar Balarebe

TMG> In terms of skills, where would you like to get better?

Fatima> In terms of skills, I know I would like to be more experienced, more creative and more innovative.

TMG> Tell us about the greatest goal that you’ve ever accomplished professionally?

Fatima> The greatest goal I have accomplished is contentment- knowing that my products and services are valued, appreciated and honored is an achievement.

TMG> Have you remained persistent during a business deal, even though everyone else around you had given up? How and what have you learned? 

Fatima> I have remained persistent in some business deals, and alhamdulilah, believing in God and in myself has brought out my inner capabilities

TMG> What’s your approach to handling people or Entrepreneurs?

Fatima> So far the editions of the events I have planned have been a success in all ramifications. So handling people is one of the greatest ‘weapons’ and gift any business person should have. 

Fatima Umar Balarebe

TMG> What kinds of sacrifices have you had to make to be successful?

Fatima> Time: I have sacrificed a lot of time and attention to what I do. Because apart from it being my passion, for now it’s my source of livelihood and that of others.

TMG> Tell us something you would like to learn or improve upon? 

Fatima> Even though I know a lot of things about what I do, there’s so much I still don’t. Knowledge is vast, so I would like to know more about other aspects of baking and also improve in my techniques.

TMG> How do you manage risks, in terms of damages or loss?

Fatima> Even though I believe in fate, when there’s a damage or loss, I try all possible ways to move forward and also review why there was a damage or loss and also develop ways to avoid a reoccurance

TMG> Who are your role models and people that inspire you to move on in the world? 

Fatima Umar Balarebe

Fatima> I have a lot of role models, and they inspire me in different fields, but in the field of baking, the cake boss and Yolanda Gamp are my role models.

TMG> What way can you encourage other youths to be self-reliant in order to depend less on government for jobs?

Fatima> As a young person, the only one you should depend on is yourself, and you can’t do that comfortably if you rely on government jobs; think of government work as a bonus,  if they come, fine, if they don’t, no problem. Just get something enterprising to do. No matter how little, self-reliance always pays off.

Fatima Umar Balarebe

TMG> Do you socialise and when?

Fatima> Yes, I do socialise, especially during the events I plan.

I Feel A Sense Of Responsibility In Helping Refugees- Rakiya Witwer

Rakiya Witwer is a Cosmetologist turned Economic Empowerment specialist working with refugees at the International Rescue Committee, a non profit organisation that helps refugees from around the world assimilate into communities through employment.

While sharing her experience in this interview with TMG, she describes what it’s like supporting vulnerable people.

 Rakiya Witwer

TMG- Tell us about yourself:

Rakiya- I was born in 1970, in Lagos, Nigeria. I attended Capital Primary School Sokoto and Zarumai Primary School Minna for my elementary education, then proceeded to FGGC Bida for my secondary education. I studied Industrial Designs at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria and later relocated to the United States of America in 1995, where I proceeded to study Aesthetics and Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetology from the San Rafael Cosmetology Academy. I became Board certified Cosmetologist and worked as a licensed Cosmetologist for 18 years. I made a decision to return to college. I attended the University of California Berkeley, where I studied Social Welfare and Global Poverty and Practice. I live in Albany, California with my husband and two children.

TMG- You worked as a Cosmetologist for 18 years before changing your career path. What prompted that decision? Are you fulfilled?

Rakiya- My decision to be a cosmetologist was an extension of my creative side; I loved makeup, hair and skincare. So Cosmetology marries all three areas. I could have focused on just skin care or doing hair, but I felt I would be more marketable doing all three. It was rewarding and fulfilling because It helped me express my creative and artistic side while at the same time it allowed me to make a living. My decision to change careers is because I realised that as much as I loved being a cosmetologist, I still felt a strong pull towards academia.

My work at the IRC is more fulfilling because I am helping people who have lost everything rebuild their lives. When I show up at work and a refugee client is waiting to thank me because they got hired, that to me is the icing on the cake. To me that’s priceless.

TMG- Tell us more about the International Rescue Committee and your work there…

Rakiya- The IRC is a nonprofit humanitarian and development organisation that was founded in 1933 by Albert Einstein. The organisation offers emergency aid and long term assistance to refugees and those displaced by war, natural disaster or persecution. The IRC is located in over 40 countries worldwide. What we do in the US which has 22 locations is refugee resettlement and helping them become self-sufficient. Basically, we help refugees rebuild their lives.

TMG- What inspired you to work with refugees?

Rakiya- I came to the US many years ago as an immigrant and my experience navigating a new country and the challenges I had to face, even with my western education led me to this job. I had to work hard to be accepted. I was in a new town, where I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t really have anyone to help me find all the resources I needed. So when I had this opportunity, I thought what a great way to do your job helping people who are where I was many years ago. Some of these refugees are in even worse positions than I was because they don’t speak English and this language barrier is a huge challenge.

Rakiya Witwer

TMG- How many refugees do you work with on an average?

Rakiya- As an employment specialist my primary goal is to get my refugee clients into the labour force and have them self sufficient in the shortest window of time which is 180 days in our early employment program. I work with at least 10 refugees per day. And like I mentioned earlier, one of the major challenges is the language barrier, the inability to speak English limits the kinds of jobs refugees can apply to. Lack of basic English means I can only find entry-level menial jobs for my clients regardless of how educated or skilled they may have been in their country of origin. I have had refugee clients who were emergency room surgeons in the country only to come here and have to work as dishwashers, because they don’t speak English! This happened a lot with many of my Syrian refugee clients.

TMG- As an employment specialist what jobs are available to them?

Rakiya- As an employment specialist the jobs I procure ranges from hospitality industry for example housekeepers, dishwashers, bell hopping, to the technology industries, for example, Tesla assembly. It just depends on the education, skills and language proficiency of each refugee. One of my jobs is employment advocacy, I reach out to local businesses to let them know who we are and what the IRC does. I serve as a broker of sorts bringing the refugee and the employer together. My job involves putting the business owners at ease by letting them know that refugees are hard working people who can be an asset to their business and the community, because they have real marketable skills. I also have to make sure businesses in the community know that our refugee clients are not here illegally, they have been screened and vetted, they are green card holders which allows them to work legally in the US.

TMG- How do you prepare newly arrived refugees for the job market?
Do you also assist with job applications?

Rakiya- I start by interviewing each refugee to assess their education and skill level through that identify their marketable skills. I then prepare a CV for those who don’t have one and update or revise CVs for those who do. We make sure CVs are in the standard American format. Once their CVs are ready I assist them in job searches and preparing for interviews once they have applied for jobs and received responses. I also accompany them to the interview in many cases, because some of them require interpreters which means I have to bring one along to the interview. Once they actually find work, I also have to continually check in with them to get a report on how the job is going from both the refugee and the employer. The employment process start to finish is different for every refugee, but my goal is to find meaningful employment for them- a job that allows them to become productive members of American society.

Rakiya Witwer

TMG- What are some of the lessons you have learned since working there?

Rakiya- I learned so many lessons working at the IRC. One thing that sticks out to me is that no matter who you are, our humanity is important. Every refugee I have been fortunate to work with just wants to survive and live their lives. Many of the refugees I worked with especially from Syria didn’t choose to come to the US, they were just brought here after spending close to 3 years living at a refugee camp. Another eye-opener was meeting a young refugee from the Congo who was born and lived in a refugee camp his entire life and he was 25 years old. I learned about PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) a common thing among many refugees who have lost everything and have to start over with no guarantees in the US I could go on and on. I just feel a sense of responsibility to contribute to helping them. There is an IRC office in Maiduguri and I often think about working there if I can convince my family to let me go there.

TMG- What challenges does the organisation face in dealing with refugees and how is it meeting those challenges?

Rakiya- The IRC is having issues of funding at the moment. This is due to the Travel Ban imposed by the Trump administration. This led to the immediate suspension of funding from the Department of States Bureau of Population, Refugee and Migration and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement. These two federal government bureaus match all funds the IRC raises privately. This has affected the number of refugees we can help. The IRC now has to increase its funding through fundraisers and soliciting grants from wealthy corporations and other private foundations. Overall it has been a challenging time.

TMG- Have you had any mentors or role models that have influenced you? Describe the impact

TMG- I have many people that I would refer to as mentors and role models. I am really influenced to do what I do by two of them: the first is Laura Nader a professor of Anthropology at UC Berkeley who shaped my thinking in terms of law and development, and the second is Robert Reich a professor of Public Policy also at Berkeley shaped my thinking with regards to wealth and poverty. The combination of these two people allowed me to focus on what’s really important to me in terms of how I want to contribute to humanity. The impact of their influence is that I have become more involved in issues of social and environmental justice and I have become a strong advocate for civil rights and matters that affect us all instead of being a bystander.

Rakiya Witwer Interviewed By TMG
Rakiya Witwer Interviewed By TMG

TMG- What’s in the future for you?

Rakiya- I hope to continue my career in humanitarian work  wherever that may take me. Maybe the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) or International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Who knows? Time will tell.
My goal is to continue to do my part in the service of humanity.

I Want Every Soul To Be Inspired By Images I Create – Ayodele Akinwale Oyewopo

Ayodele Akinwale Oyewopo is a final year student of Law, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State who found that his passion in photography could not be ignored. He built on it and now, the CEO of AKINKOREDE Studio, Akinkorede OAK films and (APA) Akinkorede Photo Academy has sucessfully carved a niche for himself in the world of the camera. 

Ayodele Photography

TMG> Why did you choose to go into photography as a student of Law?

Ayodele> I believe I didn’t choose Photography, “it chose me.” Growing up, I was really good at drawing, painting and basically anything that said ‘creativity’. However, all this changed when I gained admission into OAU to study Law. It was as if the ability left me because I simply did not have time for it. Ironic how I now have a career in Photography, right? Naturally, I began to manifest traits of one who will come to create great images and it all began while I was in my 100 level. 

TMG> What was your original path? How did you get from being an aspiring photographer to actually doing it full time, for a living?

Ayodele> Well, the line between an aspirant and a full-fledged service provider is resolve. I remember there used to be a time when images I took looked good to me, then I started to get exposed. Convinced that I could be a lot better than I actually was, I started my journey. Photographers all know and agree that getting to your destination in terms of desire is likened to building blocks. You cannot get it all once except you’re sitting on oil money and even so, there is the skill acquisition in itself as opposed to the gear acquisition. As a photographer, one of my mottos is “Rome wasn’t built in a day, definitely my studio cannot be built in a day”. The little you have at intervals must go a long way into making up for the large you need.

TMG> Did you go to a professional school to learn photography & what credentials did you earn through the program?

Ayodele> Because of the level of understanding I had while starting, moreso, it wasn’t as serious as it is now, and also because of the little or no resources at hand, I had nothing more than few opportunities to experiment with and immediate environment exposure. I had to do a lot of trial and error. It helped me create something new each time and chased me into seeking to know more. Need I tell you that today, there should be only master classes, there really are no beginners at anything because technological resources can give you most of the foundation you need in pretty much anything.

However, that basic knowledge will only take you few steps. At some point I understood that to leave the local champion’s saloon I had to have formal interaction with the standard. In 2015, I enrolled for the Fayrouz l’originale contest with my team of 3 others. I like to refer to this moment because it happens to be the point where I became trully enlightened for the first time. As it is said, competitions make us discover the best of ourselves while we learn from others too.

 Ayodele Photography
TMG> What other positions have you previously held before going into photography?

Ayodele> I’m not sure if this would qualify as a position but I was good at playing the guitar, I was a blogger and poet as well. Other than that, I was just another regular person on the street.

TMG> What motivates you to continue taking pictures economically, politically, intellectually or emotionally?

Ayodele> God motivates me. Everything around speaks to me as His marvelous masterpiece of creativity. I feel like a little god when I document and create. My surrounding motivates me. The thought of excellence motivates me. Just knowing that there is something better with your name on it just around the corner is exciting. I know there is no limit to creativity and how it can be manifested. This limitlessness inspires me to keep plugging away. There is always a story waiting to be told. Being the one telling such stories is a great honour. Also, veterans and highly creative individuals from every field especially photography motivate me to do more. To start mentioning names is to end this dialogue.

Ayodele Photography

 TMG> Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?

Ayodele> As you already know, Kelechi Amadi Obi influenced me- being a law graduate also keeps me inspired because it applies so directly to me. My best friend and photographer Imogirie Afouda also, had a role to play. By the way, he went ahead to become the first runner up at the Fayrouz challenge. On the political phase, Bayo Omoboriowo of His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari, Tollani Alli (Ajimobi Oyo state), Oladapo Jullius (Aregbesola State of Osun) and TY Bello amongst others. Tollani once told me, “Never allow anyone tell you what pictures to and not to take. This is your voice” I went ahead and took that portrait of the Governor of Osun state. Others like Bisi Daniels, Trans4maz, Dami Taiwo were close by to advise. On retouching, I also learnt a lot from Trans4maz works as well as ArtbyOye, Artssassin in Kaduna, ChuckDaniels and the king PrinceMeyson. Lastly, my Big Uncle, the Sarkin of Sokoto, George Okoro with Weddings. These are to mention but a few!

TMG> Exactly what is it you want to say with your photographs, and how do you actually get your photographs to do that?

Ayodele> Photography is seeing through your mental eyes and causing others to see in that same light. It is beautiful that when this is intended, various other things are seen too, things that the photographer himself may not have noticed or intended. I want to tell my story with my photographs, I want people to see where I’ve been, what goes on in my thoughts what I know that can help them be better people. Also, with portraits, I want to inspire people to see the heights of perfection they can reach. Alli said,”To be the best, tell yourself you’re the Best. If you’re not, pretend you are.” Images help people to believe. In law, it’s called Evidence. “If it’s in an image then it’s probably true or possible” so when I create an image, I want every soul that sees it to know exactly what I’m telling them and be inspired.

TMG> How do you get the person, place or thing that is in front of the camera onto the film, chip or paper just the way you want?

Ayodele> I think this is a practical question. After the image is taken, it goes through a process we call the post-production. This is to fine-tune the features of the image. When a client asks for a portrait, I take many things into cognisance including their preferences and view. This helps me bend and blend the image into a suitable piece of art that the client or subject will appreciate. This process happens on electronic devices such as a computer or some really topnotch phones. For paper, we take the images to digital or dark room labs. However, dark rooms are easily substituted today for more efficient as well as faster digital photo labs usually called the Printer. 

 Ayodele Photography

TMG> What technology/software/camera gear do you use to keep focused, as you photograph?

Ayodele> Today, there are multifarious options to pick from in the world of photography. There has been an age-long comparison between Canon and Nikon photo brands especially cameras. You know for instance, 6D(canon) or D610(nikon). Personally, I hold my preferences to myself as I can handle both camera brands just fine. However, in my years of experience,I’ve only been opportuned to own Canon brands. Currently, I shoot a Canon 7D. Softwares like OneCapture, Photoshop, Lightroom, Snapseed are my favourite choices for studio practice.

TMG> How do you get paid to do what you want to do with your photography?

Ayodele> Ideally, I have a price range catalogue I draw out and work with. But before that, as a photpgrapher, I first came out and made it clear of what I was about to start. People need to know how serious you are before they can feel comfortable paying you for something. I won’t buy something, if I know it’s bad or fake. Therefore, a venture that intends to be commercial must first brand itself. Registration is another important thing but branding is the image people remember when your advert isn’t on anymore which drives them to still pay you for what you do. Also, to keep getting paid, I resolve not to be better yesterday than I am today. Continuity in brand content is the soul of any business-as is advertising. If you are better than you were yesterday, people want what you have and pay you for it.

TMG> How many employees report to you and how efficient are they? If you are alone how do you manage?

Ayodele> Right now, I only have interns that work with me as one of the requirements in our Academy. No paid staff except my Manager. As regards their efficiency, it’s a known fact that sometimes you can’t have everyone on the same page as you, which is why I feel reluctant to jump into training people because many people love photography and want to practice it.  However, after a while, they quit because of one challenge or the other. So most times, we have people who are not a hundred percent committed and some even refuse to show up later. But we won’t quit.

I started alone and I have coped well for a very long time. I actually learnt to get used to it. So if I’m alone, delivery remains intact.

 Ayodele Photography

TMG> In case of problems, how do you manage? Do you seek help from another professionals?

Ayodele> While in my early stage, I ran into challenges and problems frequently. Most times, gear related and some other times, intellectual challenges or roadblocks. It’s good to connect with others in the field because no one is a compendium of knowledge or experience. Everything is unique and when you throw your pride away, you learn and move faster. From time to time, I call other professionals even now, to get clearance. Recently, I was working on a wedding movie and I’ve not spent as much time shooting videos as I have taking pictures. I needed to deliver to the client on a DVD device and I was having issues burning. I tried every software at my disposal and even started to doubt the quality of the disc and my computer. I then made a call(not the first) and what my friend had asked me to do was a tiny detail different from what I had been doing. But it worked and I learnt further.


TMG> What is the volume/revenue your establishment has gained in a year? Any profit?

Ayodele> My management may not allow for a full disclosure of figures but I can assure you that with photography, as long as you have made returns yesterday and used it to upgrade your base, no matter how little, you have made profit. Sometimes clients as natural bargainers present unfavourable bills and sometimes the cost of what I’m doing and the price being paid are on the same level. Sometimes all you have is a bottle of coke in between but if there is a satisfied client as well, it is worth the risk for me. However, I like to create the image that I’m trying to get somewhere and that the more cutbacks I allow, the harder I am able to get where I’m going. AHEAD! Conversely, I make enough to invest in my business and move ahead.

TMG> What do you do to stay educated or abreast of new trends?

Ayodele> I’ve got several platforms to do this, most efficient of which is the Social Media. To stay up to date or educated as you have put it, I create a hunger coupled with that desire I mentioned earlier- desire to be better than yesterday. That’s what drives me to research. Also, one must dig deep into one’s creative soul and explore the possibilities that lie within. Like I said, it’s not enough to harvest from the media, I must also plant in it. Contribution is key and this is what keeps us all educated. Because as students learn in class, so also does the Teacher. The easiest way for beginners is to stay close to their mentors and role models and follow their steps.

 Ayodele Photography

TMG> What are your challenges and how do you intend to handle them?

Ayodele> The earliest challenge I faced as a photographer apart from the obvious challenge of limited resources faced by most beginners is that of parental support. I lacked that. Having parents who feared for your outcome should you let something as ambitious as Photography get in the way of studies earned me nothing but the sore disapproval. Every parent wants what is best for their child and will stop at nothing to protect them from harm,especially the ones that may be caused by the child. I later understood this and didn’t blame them for not supporting. As a matter of fact, my father also practiced Photography in his days. 

Ayodele> So I believe what parents need is a conviction that their ward is not just busy wasting his/her life on a futile endeavour. Record success at what you do and people will see why you did it in the first place.

Another challenge as I said before is the lack of resources (mostly financial) which sets me chasing one grant or the other or meeting prospective investors far and wide. All because photography is not a cheap hobby. 

TMG> Give us an example of someone you have trained or mentored. Where did they start and where are they now?

Ayodele> One of my “Brightest stars” as I like to call them, who went ahead to establish his career and whom I can tell will go far is Victor Abiola, Founder of Purisima pixels. He shows promise. He started off with me as one who knew next to nothing as far as Photography is concerned but due to his unquenchable thirst and desire to be rooted coupled with a vast reserve of passion for photography (permit me to use the phrase-“THE GAME”) He has not only established his name here in Ife, he has proven that in a short time, he will make additional giant strides. The peak of my joy was insurmountable when earlier this year (2017), he was nominated into the same award category as I was- the joy of every proud father…(sorry, teacher) His quest for knowledge can drive you nuts. And that’s all a student should be. There are others but because you said “an example”- that must mean only one. 

TMG> Tell us about an accomplishment that you are most proud of in your career.

Ayodele> Wow! Many. Very many. In my time so far I’ve been nominated for more than 10 awards both inside Nigeria and out. Altogether, I’ve bagged only two but a fire of encouragement burns within me anytime I get nominated. I go learning from the other people’s works and even sometimes when according to other people’s standards, they may not be as vast in experience as I may be, I still end up learning a whole lot collectively on how to be better. 

The day I got to meet Kelechi Amadi Obi must be the first of those days. He was the judge sitting in terms of photography. Then the words came out of his mouth:” Your picture is really good, I like it” I was only just getting exposed for the first time and this was a surge in my bones to exploit harder. The audition even got aired on SoundcityTv

Another huge accomplishment I choose to admit was the day I was called to photograph 2 Nigerian Governors on visit. I was in the clouds all through.

The most recent of the accomplishments was when I was nominated for an award I didn’t even know about till time was almost up. ‘The Law Gala and Awards Abuja 2017’. It meant a lot to me even though I didn’t make it. It told me that someone somewhere was watching.

TMG> Describe to us a problem you had once with any customer and how did you handle it?

Ayodele> The only major problem I consider serious is when my client doesn’t like what I’ve given them. Unsatisfied clients are my greatest challenge. Not knowing what they want or not being able to provide it. Because we all prefer different things, it may be quite challenging for a photographer to cope. But if I can standardise my production to a level of excellence, the ration of unsatisfied client will surely dwindle. Which is why I try my best to have substantial understanding of every part of client behaviour and service delivery.

I once got commissioned to document an event early 2016. A beauty pageant, because of unknown reasons to me, I didn’t get the balance of my bill which was a little more than half of the entire bill. My client was just hellbent on not paying claiming he did not want the job anymore. I considered what was at stake if I took it up with someone so influential, so I decided to take a’ bullet’ that day. My business image is far more important than a few thousands of naira. 

Sometimes, my problem arises from not being able to meet up with deadlines based on unforseen logistical challenges, thus creating a confused spot for both myself and the client. What I do in those situations is simply to compromise on certain benefits and leverage with the client. ADDED VALUE FOR THEM. Anything to make them happier. Also, I learnt to apologise a lot.

 TMG> Tell us about your management style and how you handle your Customers?

Ayodele> I handle my clients on an individualistic basis. When the client walks in to sit on the model stool, they become my subjects, but before then, we must have driven through the wall of unfamiliarity and most times, I have lunche dates or meetings with my client first of all before beginning anything. I want to know my client as a person, then as my subject. That is what then enables me to create a world for them in my head. You must know this, to build a concept around somebody, you must first have an understanding of their personality. Some ideas work with some and don’t for others. As one of the banks in Nigeria will say, “we are the ONE CUSTOMER BANK”, I’d like to consider myself as a One subject Photographer. 🙂

I always try to make the client important and feel that way too. Talk with respect and want to know everything about them. They see me ask a lot of questions, they feel that someone cares about the unimportant stuff” about them, they tend to loosen up. When they loosen up, I get to capture their true self. Then you hear things like:” oh I like this one, ah and this too. I don’t know which one to pick. You pick for me” and so on. 

Lastly, I convince my clients that I will stop at nothing till I give them my possible best.

TMG> Tell us 3 things that you consider to be your strengths in photography?

Ayodele> First is INSIGHT. Very early enough into photography I noticed I could tell possible outcomes; hardly anything runs by me. Also, this led to an ability to create ideas within split seconds of something happening. I enhanced my speed of capture. Which is why events are my most efficient works. I see myself all over tracking multiple subjects at the same time. It increases your productivity as a “shooter”.

Second is PHOTO ART. The ability to decipher what makes a picture look it’s best. A picture might have come out in its not-so-best form, I believe I possess the skill to even the odds and make it top-notch again mostly through post production. This works hand in hand with understanding the viewing audience demand. What they want to see. Which is why markets sell. 

Third is Resourcefulness. I remember on several occasions whereby I’ve been limited on resources, perhaps in the studio, or outdoors where I’m lacking something pivotal to shoot, my head works faster in those situations to find alternatives. And make the best of what is at hand. 


TMG> Tell us something you would like to learn or improve upon as a photographer?

Ayodele> I’d like to do a lot of investment on my knowledge and control of light. The ability to bend light to your every will is one of the hallmarks of a Top-notch Photographer. Also, in terms of developing other skills, I’d love to work under big and experienced names in Cinematography like Clarence Peters, Kunle Afolayan, WalinteenPro, James Abinibi and Abula.


TMG> How do you manage cost? If your labour is running high with low profit, what measures do you take to control it?

Ayodele> Profit is something that as a startup, you cannot control or predict. You just have to keep on giving your best. When cost is running low or profit rather, I cutback on purchases. Also, I have a separate account for my studio; whenever there is insufficiency of funds for the business, I invest by myself with my own money. I payback if I can and if I can’t, no harm done. I try not to take out of the business account for things unrelated to my business.

I must also say at this point that Profit is measured in several forms. It doesn’t manifest only in cash. Half of the clothes I wear, I shot to get them. What matters most is the value added. Some clients may have better need of the money you’re asking them for while they have something you may need. Just let that one time go. Not everytime though. Ultimately, in managing my cost, I’ve never lacked.

TMG> How do you manage risk, in terms of damages or loss?

Ayodele> Risk is inevitable, I tell myself. Those who run from risk, never get anything done. A risk is a reason standing against what you need to do. In risk management, I have come to learn that some risks are affordable while some are not. Not that the higher the risk of doing something, the higher the gain if you succeed. However, you need to weigh every option and consider yourself at the wrong end of that situation- is the risk worth the failure? Will your business survive the fall if things don’t work out? I ask myself these questions and to whatever extent I’m able to answer them, I decide. If I don’t have enough to get a damage or loss fixed, I search for alternatives to maximise the time. I try at all times however to make sure I can afford the risk I’m taking.

TMG> In what ways can you encourage other youths not to depend on government for jobs but to be self dependent?

Ayodele- I’m currently sourcing for a grant which I applied for not too long ago. One of the reasons I gave was that, impact is a reciprocal concept. To impact others, you must first be impacted by something or someone and also to be impacted, one must have already caused some level of impact no matter how minute. 

Nobody will save this country but God, through us.  Look at it this way, we are all woodpeckers on a dying tree. Some of us fat and convenient while some of us on the verge of desperation.. If we don’t figure out a way to repair this tree, even if we abandon our eggs(the future) and fly off to another tree, we might live but someday, that tree will fall, that’s if we don’t peck it down first. 

What I’m saying is, “woodpeckers must learn to plant or repair trees”

If every youth in Nigeria is providing a solution to his immediate environmental challenge, people will pay to see that need go away. If I’m hungry, I’ll need to buy some food to make the hunger go away. Whoever is making the food doesn’t need to wait for the government to come to his aid. He is already empowered. 

I always say, with every problem, there comes a solution. YOU JUST NEED TO FIND IT.

Ayodele Photography

TMG> Do you socialise and when?

Ayodele> I do socialise, although not in the general sense of it. I don’t club, drink or smoke but for as long as i can remember, I’ve enjoyed meeting people. My vocation does not allow me to meet people.