Friday, August 3, 2012

Cometh the Hour Cometh the Money – Mentoring The Next Generation of Creativez

: Courtesy of a #CreativesMeetUp by @TheCreativez

The evolution of startup fever in Africa is fast upon us. And with the Internet leveling the playing field for entrepreneurs, at least in the way of resources, it's safe to say that we the entrepreneurial few have no excuse whatsoever in our endeavours to
make money, create jobs and build legacies. None that matter, and not in Kenya anyway. 

Why? Unless you've been living under a rock somewhere far far away, the intense hullabaloo on entrepreneurship will hardly have escaped you. It's in the Media everyday, on the Blogosphere every two seconds and - more relevant to this discussion - there have been myriad forums, conferences and meetups all over our celestial corporate sphere. Especially in Nairobi.

Seasoned thinkers and startup kings - the two, by the way, are not mutually exclusive - have poured in their opinions, intelligent and otherwise, on about every single aspect of starting [and running] a startup. There are business model generators accessible at the click of a button, inspirational videos with a futuristic blend of ideas, not to mention the very laudably celebrated TED Talks.

Nonetheless, an intelligent opinion - however brilliant - is still a guess. Mentor advice comes from so many corners to the young Kenyan entrepreneur, and should be considered mutually exclusive. There is, additionally, a wide array of agendas at play wherever mentorship is involved, ranging from innocent service to the obscenely manipulative...and everything in between.  

I read this post on econke titled Positive Role Models, the Endangered Species and found the following excerpt ridiculously appropriate, given the serendipitous nature of it's discovery:

Be a Role Model, Fill in the Void
I don’t care [about] your current standing in...society - the fame, money or even power.  [Nor] your awards, records broken or games won. 
If you are a lousy person, then you are a drag, shame, and curse on society. Your immediate family...your friends may subscribe to your antics...laugh at your behavior. [N]one of that, not even those trying to conceal your behaviour will change this fact. Period.
Bravo! Not only is it well said, but as any streetwise businessman will tell you, the amount of shafting currently ongoing in the nation's business scene dictates that you choose your partners, and mentors, with an almost supernatural degree of ingenuity. Much as there is a plethora of peddlers of the idea that "We’re all in this together – Mentoring The Next Generation", a good degree of that unified front is nothing but a front.

There are, however, a few genuine parties out there; A Few Good Men [and Women] whose dedication and business pedigree has been tried, tested, and over time found to be anything but wanting. One such forum is The Creativez (@thecreativez on Twitter). In my book, this far, they live up to their profile info on Twitter:

A community dedicated to building Africa's widest network of Creative Professionals. Follow us for news, events and more.

This Sunday at the *iHub_, I was dragged to what would be my second Creativez Meetup, having participated in the articultural forum's 1st quarterly Catchup earlier in the year. I was about to get an education that would last a lifetime.

Assembled was a panel of speakers whose combined TV broadcasting acumen and sales instincts appeared to telekinetically move the crowd to silence. No? Maybe just me then. Select members in the panel did, however, have an unrivaled sense of theater in their presentation, most notably Julian Macharia of Buni TV.


Julian Macharia
Esther Chiaka

Desmond Orjiako

George Kimani

Also among them was Michael Onyango, Vice Chairman of GOK's Creative Content Taskforce.

 Target your audience

The beginning of the forum focused on a discussion of local content, and the implications of the much publicized Digital Revolution in Kenyan TV. The concensus, however, seemed to be that more channels do not mean more viewership. Business opportunities will undoubtedly increase in TV, but as one of the panelists noted, Digital TV will not improve content; good producers/ writers/ filmmakers will have to do the walkaround and find out what their audience wants, then turn that into content.

From Quote Factory

Relevance engages; forget the technology

We need to tell more good stories, and tell them well. Julian noted that the most successful local shows have not necessarily been the best quality; they do, however, have everyday characters and storylines that Kenyans can relate to. The I-can-make-your-life-a-living-hell watchman (Papa Shirandula), the infuriating cop (Inspekta Mwala), the indomitable stay at home mother-in-law... Gulp.  

Content is a product 

Anyone who considers themselves a 'creative' tends to walk around with an air of 'loving my job' emblazoned on their forehead, convinced they are god’s gift to creativity. A creative's ego and their passion are two regions separated by a boundary about as volatile as that between Pwani and Kenya. Remember while you create, however, that your content is a product. You wouldn't create a soap nobody wants to use and still marvel at its beauty, now, would you? 

Collaborate; and accept oblivion

Michael noted that the creative industry is 'a thankless job', where coming to the fore and expecting to be credited for every effort often results in questionable intentions. At the end of the day, a good product will sell its creative team. Many creatives, including some I am personally acquainted with, will only work together when they assembled separately by the corporate equivalent of Big Sam; a situation that results in a good tonne of content produced without being marketed. In other words, zero work.  

Creative Content is a Business 

What we have in Creativity as Kenya's Film and TV Stakeholders, we lack in Business and Distribution know-how.The tendency to remain attached to our content comes in the way of turning our creativity into a viable commodity. The money, however, will not just come to you. You need to have something solid when the pitch is required. That way, cometh the hour...cometh the money.

Listen; it's a part of the creative skill set
I was going to add 'to your elders' in that subtitle, but I realize listening in itself is about as alien a concept as you may introduce to a creative. The fact, however, as was noted by Esther in the presence of her father and boss - Desmond - is that they’ve been talking to the very customers you may need to target. Since before you were born. And they have a right to have an opinion. And ignore yours. 

The crew assembled at the *iHub_ did not, however, ignore. Quite a tonic, I might add. I did get to interact with a couple of them; in fact, to echo Julian's sentiments, I 'threw my love out there and followed the girl who showed interest'. With some promising results, I might add.

Ideas worth listening to? 
  • Mike: Kenyan film is underrated because we are not positioning ourselves. We. Need. To. Up. Our game. Period. Quality is in Kenya; quantity is in Nigeria.
  • Julian: Kenyans are very selfish. And very aloof. You don't have to be on the landing page of the website for your talent to come through. 
  • George: Kenya has never told the MAUMAU story; we have not yet told the statues' stories. It's about time we looked back into our history.
  • Esther: You need to start somewhere. Do your time. And go back to school. Education, education, education!
  • Desmond: Mold the present to build a better future. You need to produce as much as you consume, complement each other instead of always competing.


So if indeed you do consider yourself a creative, turn up for one of these Creativez sessions. It may be the only step you need take before your career trajectory as a creative content producer/ marketer is permanently changed. For the better.

Lessons Learnt
  • Don't just land in the market with a product. Do the background work; ensure the content is necessary...and commercially viable.
  • Don't choose your money...or your customers.
  • Develop your strengths - don't chase the pot of gold and forget the journey.
  • A wide screen just makes a bad film twice as bad. - Samuel Goldwyn.
  • So get the work done. Put together something solid, a pilot Mr(s) Creative. Now.
Suggested reading

Biashara by Roomthinker
Startup lessons learned
The Startup Owner's Manual by Steve Blank
The Path of Warriors and Winners by Steve Blank 

Forget B-School, D-School Is Hot: 'Design Thinking' Concept Gains Traction as More Programs Offer the Problem-Solving Courses

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