The Spark Founder Spotlight With Oluwatofunmi Akinseye
Regardless of the deep level of underrepresentation, black founders have so much to show the world - This is why we are putting the spotlight on them!
In this edition of The Spark Founder Spotlight, Oluwatofunmi Akinseye is taking the center stage.
She is the founder and CEO of Savvy Media Africa. One of the black founders who are thriving regardless of limitations.
Let's dive into our conversation with Oluwatofunmi!
What's your story? Why did you start Savvy Media Africa?
Growing up, I was totally inspired by young people who were doing exceptional things.
They were doing things that were not only inspiring but also inspirational; they made me realize that it doesn’t really matter where you're coming from or what resources you have, as long as you have a goal and a purpose, every other thing will fall into place.
That got me thinking a lot and eventually led to the birth of my brand.
My vision was to create a platform where young people doing exceptional things could be celebrated.
This would not only encourage others but also create a link between them and their audience.
I finally decided to bring it to life by publishing a magazine that featured young people doing great things alongside celebrity stories.
The magazine has featured a host of celebrities in Nigeria like Patoranking, Yemi Alade, Seyi Shay, Kunle Afolayan, Mike Edwards, Annie Idibia, Maria Chike, Broda Shaggi, and more.
However, the vision got clearer over the years and evolved into a full media company with an online community and media-related services.
What experience is Savvy Media Africa looking to deliver to consumers?
Our goal is to create a community of young people that are both mentally and financially independent; To create opportunities where young people can express themselves, be informed, and be prepared for the future ahead.
We want to be able to produce high-quality content in various media formats that resonates with our young target audience.
We want to change the narrative around youth empowerment, we want more youths with skills, we want more youths with money, we want more youths with businesses, and we want more youths in leadership positions.
We believe all these can be achieved by giving them the right information, enabling access, and creating opportunities.
Towards achieving this, we have covered a lot of milestones, published 11 digital magazines on various themes that affect young people, trained 500-1000 youths in collaboration with partners such as Google, Facebook, Start Web Africa, etc., built a community of 100,000 youths who connect with us via our various digital channels.
For our media-related services, we provide a number of media services to help businesses and brands create a presence for themselves throughout the digital landscape.
We offer strategic communications, marketing, and digital advertising solutions that help you build and maintain your brand as you grow.
We're passionate about helping businesses of every size develop their unique voice, and we want to make sure that every customer has access to the right communications and marketing strategies for their needs.
Whether you're looking to rebrand or simply increase your online presence, we're here to help.
Do you have a team? If yes, how did you hire your first set of employees?
Yes, my first set of team members were all volunteers who believed in the dream at its very inception.
They were mostly friends and people who reached out to see all that was accomplished at that time.
Moving forward, it became pertinent that we hired professionals for more efficiency and effectiveness.
We hired a few hands particularly in the social media capacity, web writing, video edit, and content production; some were on per time basis, internships, as well as retainers.
How will you describe your leadership style?
When it comes to leadership styles, I have always preferred the participative style.
As a young leader, I learned very quickly that my ability to lead was directly tied to my ability to effectively communicate and collaborate with others.
As such, I have always strived to make sure that every time I am in a leadership role, I am actively working with my team to achieve our goal, not just issuing orders or making top-down decisions.
I believe this style of leadership is both effective and ethical.
Effective because if you want your team members to do their best work, they need to be involved in the process from beginning to end.
Ethical because you cannot expect something of someone if you are not willing to help them achieve it yourself.
What were your early-stage challenges and how did you tackle them?
I started my company to celebrate people and their talents. I wasn't really focused on the gains and wasn't fully aware of the demands that went into media.
As I launched fully into the media space, I realized how capital intensive it was and how much resources are essential in competing in the market.
We needed to carve a niche for the brand, to create content that would resonate with our target audience, to market this content for a larger reach, to grow our numbers across our various digital assets, to create hard-hitting campaigns, and to build a community.
All of these required that we hired capable hands, have a budget for marketing, as well as buy the equipment needed for content creation.
In the beginning, I was a one-woman show - doing everything myself, making all the decisions, being 100% responsible for every aspect of my business.
This was a necessity at first - I had to keep my costs down and be able to do everything myself so that I could continue operating even when funding was low. '
But as time passed and I grew more confident, I realized that this wasn't sustainable in the long term.
You can't do it all yourself no matter what anyone tells you.
You need other people's help to grow your business because there's only so much you can do alone.
It's important to remember that there are many different kinds of intelligence out there, and it's worth taking advantage of them!
I started to develop other parts of the business that could yield immediate returns, such as offering PR services, media coverage for events, and influencer marketing for brands, the returns from this was then put into hiring good hands and increasing marketing efforts for the online community.
What does success mean to you and what does success look like for Savvy Media Africa?
Success is on the horizon at Savvy Media Africa!
That's because we're not just a media company that thrives on clicks - we're an organization that cares deeply about our community and what it means to be a young person in Nigeria.
That's why we've been working hard to create content that helps young people thrive, whether it's through the music and entertainment, skill development, health and sexual education, pieces we publish, or the youth-focused initiatives and partnerships we work with.
We started out small, but we aim to grow beyond Nigeria and build a global community of young people who can share experiences, learn from each other, and make their voices heard.
Because when you have access to information, resources, and a supportive community of like-minded individuals, there's nothing you can't achieve!
And that's exactly why Savvy Media Africa is so excited to be launching new programs in the near future.
We will be providing youth from all walks of life with opportunities to learn from each other, develop skills they can bring into the workplace, and expand their reach.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Our biggest challenge will be funding, but I'm confident that we'll find a way.
I believe that the only way to tell stories effectively is through the lens of young people.
We've seen it across industries and in every country: When you let young people tell their own stories, and address issues pivotal to their psychological, emotional, and financial growth, the audience can't help but listen.
We want to continue this trend.
We want to connect with a broad audience and address the issues most vital to them - from educational inequity, to access to healthcare for young people with mental illness, sexual abuse, job creation, etc.
We know that if we speak from experience and use different media formats as a medium for storytelling, we can make an impact that lasts far beyond this moment in history.
What's your biggest win so far?
From successfully publishing 11 editions of a youth magazine that has gained wide popularity in the media space, to attracting huge partnerships with companies like Google and Facebook, it feels like we've been non-stop. And we've loved every minute of it.
I didn't get to do this alone, though. Our amazing team is the real reason we've been able to accomplish so much in such a short time.
Over the past year, we've had the privilege of working with some incredible clients, spanning the telecommunications, banking, film industry, and other youth-focused platforms. We're so grateful for the opportunity to work with them, and we can't wait to see what comes next!
It's been a fun ride!
We've got a lot coming up on our roadmap, and we're excited to see where we go next.
Thanks so much to all of you who've been with us on this journey, you're the reason we're able to keep going!
Which of the resources on The Spark excites you the most and why?
The masterclass is one of its kind.
It gives you the opportunity to interact with veterans and learn valuable secrets to business success and growth across various industries.
I am in awe of the caliber of speakers at this masterclass, with a very subtle way of engaging and delivering their message, leaving me with a lot of takeaways from all the sessions.
The 30 minutes one on one session with industry leaders is one commendable and rare opportunity I find amazing and grateful to have been part of it.
The icing on the cake was being able to meet people who share similar values and aspirations.
What other resource(es) should The Spark curate to enable maximum growth of your startup?
I am looking to explore the grant part on the platform, it is one that really interests me and I’m sure a lot of startups too, a more robust plan for this will go a long way.
What advice will you give other start-ups?
When I started, I was scared. I didn't know if anyone would like my ideas. I didn't know if it would work. I didn't know if I could make a living from my passion.
I mean, people were telling me all the time that it wouldn't work, and that made me doubt myself.
But then, I realized - no one knows your dreams better than you do. And the only way to get anywhere is to keep going.
So here are my tips for startups;
1) Tell your story at every given opportunity.
2) Be visible in all your communities.
3) Find a support system you can count on even when things aren't going well.
4) Expand your business ideas — don’t be stuck on just one part of the business because there's always more to learn.
5) Take care of yourself!
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