I cannot honestly tell you the exact moment in which I knew I had to pursue my dreams but it was definitely within my childhood. I cannot recall a version of myself that did not create and/or innovate in the spaces I resided and with the tools at my disposal.
By my teen years, I was fascinated by world-builders, individuals that built something out of nothing! My heroes started to form; Steve Jobs, Da Vinci ,Ye and Virgil — to name a few. It was the latter (Virgil) that solidify my belief in the power of connecting, world building and building bridges between the worlds.
By 2013, my co-founder and I would engage ourselves in the most thought provoking conversations, from our sublte comparisons to our heroes Pharell and Kanye (#MrWestandMrWilliams) to full-blown ideations of floating islands as cities. Our ability to bounce ideas, inflate each others ideas, remould and burst ideas is unmatched! As creatives, we were both very clear cut on the idea of building a company that produces creative content in any and every shape possible. The traditional spaces to start were fashion and music, with either one of us invested personally in each venture. However the bigger goal was to always build something that would outlive us, that would serve beyond us and ultimately be bigger than ourselves. As we dove into the creative structures, organization and professionalism of the African creative industry, it became more and more apparent that African art/tists were either undervalued, misrepresented and/or lacking in opportunities.
By 2018, we were personally invested in our dreams, and attempting to make them realities. The process was daunting, from registration of the business, to seeking clients. Our network and expertise enabled us to connect with key industry players and gatekeepers, in a variety of ways. From podcasts interviews, to panel discussions and hosted events — our creative network was able to expand in this time throughout EAST AFRICA.
By 2020, the pendulum was swinging, having drawn out a plan (Phase 1) and begun executing — the lessons learnt in this period of time were plenty, from communication to management, key takeaways were littered in this period of time.
More details on the AMPRSND Inc. story can be found here
The following are key lessons I have learnt in real-time and through real experiences.
- Whats you’re WHY?
When you start anything in life, whether brushing your teeth or accepting that offer, there is no action that comes without a motive. For tooth brushers, we wish to maintain hygienic teeth, for the offer, it depends on its pros and cons upon your life.
The same must be asked while starting a company, why? In my view, the why, must be personal for the founder, it cannot be merely materialistic or an accolade i.e. to be rich, to solve an issue. These are textbook reponses within the entrepreneurs 101, problems will always exist. So to merely solve a problem is not enough, this problem must be personal it must itch you and push you to doing something. Starting a company to be rich is not the founders job, if you wish to make money off companies, be an investor! One’s why is absolutely vital in the long-run and is the fuel during times in which other forms of fuel (revenue, profit, data) are scarce or non-existant.
I’ve come across this feeling on a daily, from understanding business from its inherent numeric stand-point (revenues, profits etc.) to understanding business from its servitude point (purpose). Depending on your role in a business, you will lean towards various metrics, it is my view that the founder must understand his role as one of servitude, of purpose. This is where he/she,their WHY will reside!
2. Trust The Process
We will reap what we sow. I love this saying for it reminds us to remain calm in the storm. Our habits will define us, then we are defined by our habits. This also speaks on the process. For me the process is more than the time spent crafting, creating, innovating, its also the moments you are inbetween, the things we get ourselves involved in, this for me is all part of the process. I do believe this to be so important, for in moments of creative blockage, one can then lean on those in-betweens for inspiration. This is vital, as 9/10 the process will take sometime, hence the word process as opposed to task. The process is meant to evolve.
i.e. in creating a film, day one will not look like the release day, nor will day 50/100 look like 50 days after the release day. Point here is whatever the vision, you must embrace and trust the process. Trusting each stage of the process until completion is the key.
3. Invest in Yourself
If individuals are not willing to focus and invest on what they themselves have going on, why should anyone else ? It’s like the saying ‘put your money where your mouth is’ if you are not willing to make financial sacrifices then you will easily be swayed by challenges and unwilling to make sacrifices and commitments. The financial sacrifice is important, for its a tangible metric that can be measured but as importantly it showcases commitment and belief. In addition, this investment (commitment) will have a postive effect on your effort, now that your money is where your mouth is — you have incentive to give 1,000%
Perfection is a myth, however, magic is merely a mystery and doesn’t magic present perfectly. Art is magic!
4. Communication is KEY!
I feel victim of this in the early stages of 2021. Assuming that a client, employee, customer etc. is thinking what you are thinking is one of the worst communication errors one can make. As they taught us in school, there is no such thing as a stupid question. Better to ask than assume.
“when you assume, you make an ass out of u and me” — Ted Lasso
5. Value All Wins
The start-up journey can be daunting and filled with failure after failure. Taking moments to embrace the wins is important for momentum.
6. Measure EVERYTHING
Under KPI or even SMART goals the two similar topics are measurement/indicators its important to track the process in order to gauge your progress
7. Short and Sweet
When communicating avoid tangents, keep things short and sweet, deliver the key points of discussion, leave room for Qs and end with kind regards. I have both in my personal and business life been accused of ‘ranting’. An accusation you never want to associate with yourself, it implies craziness. Thus its really important to speak soft, speak short and speak sweet.
8. Smile (without teeth) & Eye — Contact
Be engaged in deep eye contact especially when speaking one-on-one, this will eliminate any external distractions , smile to defuse any tensions that may arise. These simple social queues one can make with just their face can go a long way in creating and fermenting a relationship.
9. Receipts and Book-Keeping
This is a must! Once you are an entity (registered) you must begin the process (if haven’t already) of filing all paperwork. This process must have a system which is timely and consistent to avoid back-log and other errors. This is a key organizational skill required in formulating a structured company. Whether you are one or two or 100, as long as the business is an existing entity — this process must occur.
10. Everybody EATS
I do not believe the zero-sum game theory is the natural order of things. Not from my experience! Diplomacy and relationship building is all about one’s ability to compromise, the idea of everybody eating for me is a big influence in how one must negotiate. The excess of anything is not good for you, therefore there is no reason one’s plenty must result in another’s crumbs. Maneuvering yourself in order to make sure equity on all ends is fair is a key ability in leadership as well as business.
11. Master The Art of Taking an L
L - stands for lesson, understanding that there are lessons to learn in each moment is vital! Allowing setbacks and shortcomings to be defined as mere losses can dampen the company mood. In all operations there are lessons to be learned thus master this art, find ways in which each process can be assessed, analyzed, critiqued if need be and understood. If we do not understand why we went wrong, then we are likely to go wrong again.
12. Know When To Regroup
Coal and diamonds are both pure carbon, the way the atoms arrange is what makes the difference. Understanding the value of organization, placement, position, timing and execution is vital. Focusing on what you have and getting that spot on is the first necessary step. Don’t get too caught up on what’s going on outside, or elsewhere — that breeds inconsistency in decision making. Once one has regrouped and gained confidence in what they do, doing what they do, is all they should do, nothing less nothing more.
13. Know Your Worth
Art and creative processes need no compromise, I believe a creator should be able to understand first, themselves and secondly, their work, in order to appropriately value themselves. The same can be said for any product or service. Its in the artists/creators best interest to never settle and know their worth. Always remember diplomacy is for the politicians and suits. I believe that you do not have to compromise your art, you simply have to find the right audience.
14. Always Run The Numbers
There are a lot of maths classes that I try find applicable use in my adult life but fail miserably. Trigonometry, algebra, pythgorus therum just to name a few. However the one repeated sentiment thats instilled in me is double-checking my working out. This carried into my teenage and adult life, I was fortunate enough to start managing my own finances from a young age, this enabled me to not only learn but as importantly fail young. My personal financial habits have trickled into my business habits — and while in the start-up phase of your founding journey while finances are scarce, these two will have to go hand-in-hand & will likely reflect one another.
Double checking and having external observation can be beneficial in evaluating the CBA (cost-benefit analysis) of every investment decision. The numbers are not merely financial but also analytical. Understanding the relevant data metrics (research) that justify decisions such as budget allocation is key.
15. Stay in Motion
You will have good days, you will have bad days, you will feel great you will feel sad always remember that with all these things, this too shall pass.
Take life’s moments as they come, embrace them and once gone, move from them. To be trapped in one moment — is to stagnant, do not move hurriedly for that is never a simple task, do not move too slowly for you may miss out, find your pace and stay in motion.
16. Lose Well-Win Big
You’ll lose more than you win, but when you win make sure you win big. JS Mill says it brilliantly “success discloses faults and infirmities which failure might have concealed from observation”
17. Take The Lead, Guide & Innovate
The natural thinking one may have, is to ask the customer (client) what they want and look to them for ways to innovate — this can be true in some industries.
However in the creative one and one’s that demand innovation! The same cannot be said to be true. Henry Ford once said “if I had asked customers what they want, they would have said a faster horse!” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.
Think about the inherent nature of creative content, did anyone ever ask for Spiderman, Drake or PewDew Pie
No but many people appreciate, support and purchase their porducts.
Creating timelines for all tasks is key. This makes sure tasks are exectued timely. While starting-up, timelines may not be a part of one’s thinking. However once you are operating, producing your product or offering your service, time becomes too valuable.
Projects have start dates & end dates. Programs have start dates!
This is a very basic yet vital lesson, with all things in life the concept of time must accompany said thing. Whether deadlines in school, or tax deadlines, whether countdowns in sports games or calendars. The concept of time enables for one to firstly plan their process/project and secondly measure their progress.
In the creative field, time can be easily swayed as this unimportant concept, this notion of ‘going with flows’. I personally advice that one be cautious with such notions, after-all without discipline in any area in life — life can gets dangerously unpredictable.
19. Mentors & Managers
My earlier point regarding the role of the founder comes to mind once again, the founder cannot oversee all aspects of the business and must b e given the space and room to do what it is he, she and/or they do that is the core of the business.
“There is room enough for everyone to play their role on this stage called life.” A spirited sentiment from my Senga (God-mother)
Mentors are needed regardless of what it is you do. No one has all the answers and no one man is an island, finding a mentor that you are comfortable with and accountable to is vital. These individuals (you can have more than one) are like a parent is to a child, they are your lighthouse in the middle of the ocean — a guide. Mentors assist with the human-side of founding.
Managers assist in the operational aspects of founding. There will come a time, when you will not be able to monitor and manage every aspect of your company, thus having managers in place to oversee projects, complete tasks and supervise efficiency. These are individuals that must be qualified for they will be the bridge between ideas and realities, they are of utmost importance and thus must be treated accordingly.
With managers and mentors, the business will begin to morph and your company’s story will start to make sense
20. Enjoy The Process
From my experience, enjoying the process allows for you to trust the process. I doubt it is easy to enjoy what you do not trust.