Our Icon this week is Akara Ogheneworo, a top Nigerian wedding photographer. I had the opportunity to see him at work and no doubt he is passionate about his job. In this interview with Toyin Komolafe, he talks about entrepreneurship and how young people can follow their passion.
Can you tell us about yourself?
Akara Ogheneworo is a young man with an intelligently creative mind. I am interested in areas that stimulate the mind and emotions. I am a Wedding Photographer. I like to see myself as a musician as well as I can play the piano and I am learning how to play the saxophone. I have a little knowledge on how to play the guitar, the drums and the bass and while I might not be a guru, I can stand in.
My background is in the sciences with a B.sc in Microbiology, but knowing that I wanted to be in business I got a Master's Degree in Business Administration.
I had a stint in banking, oil and gas and technology where I believed I learnt how to build an organization and brand it, marketing and human resource management.
I am interested in the beauty of love and nature and those are the two main things I try to capture in my photography.
I love to read and I love to think. Two main things that have developed my photography so much. I also love anything technology and if I was not here I would probably be in technology.
Did you study photography in school?
Formally, No I did not. But education does not have to be in a school. As stated above my backgrounds where totally different from where I am right now. However when I decided to become a photographer, I realized that to be professional I had to understand the field and speak the language.
I read up everything there was to read about the field I had chosen and trained myself using materials on the internet, blogs and websites. One of the most important resource was a website that features all the best photographers in world who teach others the secrets of photography via live stream of classes.
So did I study photography in a school? Yes I did. Not your conventional four walled school but a school never the less and that education still continues daily.
For you, is photography a passion or did you venture into it when you couldn’t gain a satisfactory employment?
When I decided to become a photographer, I was working for Nigeria's best bank. I had earned two promotions within two financial years. So it was not a matter of financial hardship or of a lack of satisfactory employment. I was very well gainfully employed. But life was more than an employment to me. It was clear to me that I must make my mark and express myself and not tie my living down to making money alone.
So, it was pure passion. An understanding of who I am and what would bring me satisfaction. I knew I was not cut out for a tie, suit and fancy shoes. I was creative at heart and was focused on expressing that creativity without restraint. Photography was one of the ways I chose to do that.
What is your staff capacity base?
We have 5 carefully selected photographers and 2 admin staff who help to execute the strategy and mission we have.
What challenges come with running a photography business in this country?
Power! Very crucial to the photography business because our business is all about seeing light and using it. A photographers light need constant power in the studio as they are very expensive and fluctuations from power sources can destroy these equipment. This coupled with over billing due to poor metering is a huge challenge.
Another issue is the lack of a beautiful environment to use for location shoots in our cities. We are still developing and the beauty of cities like Dubai aid their photographers. We do not have such an advantage in Nigeria.
The dirt you have all over our cities is another challenge. The dust we raise from walking and driving on sandy roads cause a haze between a photographers camera and his subjects, reducing the contrast of his photographs.
Security must be on top of this list. You cannot carry your equipment to certain places that you would get beautiful pictures from for fear of being assaulted or robbed of your valuables.
The lack of friendliness and corruption in Nigeria is a huge problem that limits a photographer. When you walk into a location you want to use outside this country, you are encouraged to take pictures. People smile at you and offer all the help you need to take pictures in their shops, hotels, etc. In Nigeria, security men as you, How far? Wetin you go drop? The staff of those places tell you, Sorry, Photography is not allowed here. Only few hotels would allow you use their locations to do pictures without paying an arm and a leg.
There are a lot of challenges that cannot be listed here.
What challenges did you face initially and how did you overcome them?
There was the challenge of capital to start. I had to save seriously to buy my initial equipment as they are not cheap. The next was support from relatives. My partner was the only one who supported me through making this decision and sticking to it.
A key challenge was the knowledge of how to run a business. It is not a readily available knowledge. Entrepreneurship is still an anathema because people prefer to earn salaries than to venture out.
When growing up, I didn’t see a lot of rich photographers. People think photography is a lazy/ poor man’s business, what is your reaction?
I will smile only and say nothing on this. Funny thing is most of these rich people cannot afford to pay for a professional photographer.
What three things should start ups learn when venturing into photography?
How to raise capital and save, how to brand a business and how to relate with people.
What important lessons have you learnt running your business?
I have learnt that networking is key to success. I have realized nothing is impossible. If you can see it In your mind's eye you can achieve it.
What segment of people does your business cater for?
To everyone who falls in love and who can afford to pay for our wedding photography services. Because we are first wedding photographers.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
From the love I see between two individuals. From the environment around me. From the works of other great wedding photographers I look at and from the movies I see and the books I read.
What will you say is the unique selling point for Akara Ogheneworo Photography?
Our ability to recognize love between two people and draw it out. Our ability to capture that love in print for generations yet unborn and our unrelenting desire to deliver uncompromised quality.
No doubt the social media has become a major tool for promoting businesses, how have you been able to utilise this for your business?
Greatly! I owe the rise of my brand to the use of social media. It generates a huge chunk of the revenue I earn and much of the clients I have originated from advertising on social media.
What equipment do you presently have an eye on as a photographer and why?
I have my eye on a lot of equipment from lenses to cameras to certain accessories that naming here will make no meaning to the lay person.
Where do you see your business in another five years?
Solidly ensconced as one of the leading wedding brands in Africa. Recognized undoubtedly as one of the top 5 wedding photographer outfits in Nigeria
What advice do you have for start-ups?
Think big. Plan Big! Work Big! Be passionate about what you have chosen to do. When you feel like giving up realize that you are almost there.
Are you an entrepreneur or do you know an entrepreneur whose work is worth celebrating on this page?
Then feel free to send a mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
You could be our next Icon