For Isaiah Gbenayon Ogun, founder of Euclase Photography, in a time of recession such as being experience in Nigeria, passion has often and continues to pave the way for survival.
You had a thriving job in the bad, but you gave it up for photography. What inspired your decision?
For the records, I started my career with Cross & Churchill group where I worked as a business development officer before joining Diamond Bank Plc in 2011, as a Trade Customer Service representative in the International Operations (Trade Services) Unit and later a Reconciliation and Monitoring officer. The struggle to live my belief…be what you want to be, made me quit my banking job to take up photography, a skill I had been nurturing while working.
Although banking was good, my love for photography grew and I pursued it to a point where it became evident that I needed to take a huge career risk and switch. As a banker, my lifestyle was patterned alongside my job, but as a photographer, my job correlates with my natural lifestyle. Even though I did more of self-learning, my curiosity led me to take tutorials at the London School of Photography (LSP). By God’s grace, I’m a member of some of the renowned photo clubs in the world including The Photographers Gallery London; British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP), and Professional Photographers of America (PPA).
What is your take on Nigerian creative industry? Would you agree that practitioners in the industry are getting their dues in terms of recognition and financial reward?
The Nigerian creative industry in recent time has developed tremendously contrary to what used to be. These days, it is relatively pleasing to the ear to hear someone call him/herself a photographer, a makeup artist, and fashion designer. The creative industry has been immensely tapped into as it has provided succour to huge unemployment challenge in this country. The idea of ‘white collar job or nothing’ is becoming obsolete as we now see B.Sc. or M.Sc. holders become dressmakers, hair experts (tricologist), and videographers.
At the end of the day, it is all about the perception and business culture the individual build around his work. In terms of reward, in line with international best practice, I feel Nigerian creative professionals are still relatively under-priced. The creative industry is huge value and in general commerce, for every value brought to the market place there is a charge, but here a lot of people still find it easy to ask for free service forgetting that the professionals have bills to pay and are also entitled to the good life. However, those who value great jobs pay appropriately.
Euclase Photography, what informed that choice of name and what does it mean to the clients?
Euclase is a type of crystal (actually a precious stone). It could have been ruby or diamond photography, but Euclase is unheard of which is in sync with the business value we are trying to sell: rare quality.
How many direct and indirect employees do you have?
Presently, I have two direct employees and 8 indirect employees.
In what ways do you think government can support Nigerian start-ups and Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs)?
Importantly, the best support government can give is enabling environment. Let there be uninterrupted power supply, affordable housing, and reasonable SMEs credit facility. The bank of Industry (BOI) I think is doing a great job in this regard.
In respect to start up, how did you get funds to start your company?
From the first day, I joined the bank, I presumed every salary was my last. This is not because there was a lay-off threat but I had a plan and I needed to stay committed to it. My first camera was bought with a lease. Then a chunk of my monthly income was going into the account of my photography equipment’s vendor. When I needed anything, I just go there, get what I need and they deducted it from my cash credit with them. So it was basically a strategic saving.
What is your advice for other youths looking to leave the comfort of a paid employment in pursuit of their passion and starting a business?
Before you leave a paid employment, you have to first articulate your thoughts as to why you want to leave. Some people leave their paid employment for various reasons such as: not willing to have a boss control their life; I will make more money doing my own thing; I will get the freedom I need. Following your passion is always the best and paid employment is ‘corporate slavery’. If your reasons to ditch your current job evolve strictly around these, I say to you, have a rethink because even when you run your own business you are going to have your customers (who somehow are your boss) shred you (sometimes in a humiliating manner).
Again, you might not actually make more money at the beginning. Also, the mentality that you now have freedom doing your own thing is a mirage because the thought of waking up in the morning to remember you do not have a fixed pay day can be very disturbing which is not a ‘freedom’ feeling per say. Following your passion is not always the best, especially when you have a family and a lot of dependents and also paid employment is not ‘corporate slavery’ because people have found true value and meaning to their life working for organisations.
The first question you need to ask yourself no matter how optimistic you are is: if my success expectations in this new venture delays or even becomes more difficult than I imagined, do I have enough courage and drive to chase my dreams? That being said, you need to have a resignation plan and stay committed to it. You must find a way to chase your dreams while working without rubbing your employer off his work time. Above all, chase your dreams to the point where it becomes necessary to take the huge career risk.
Growing up, what profession did interest you?
Growing up, I wanted to be a lawyer, however, providence chatted a different course in my life.
This piece was first published in The Guardian and written by MARGARET MWANTOK.