Oluwadamilola Banji-Alabi is the founder of Atlas Creative Consultancy, a digital agency dedicated to providing web solutions to a wide spectrum of corporate needs. Atlas Creative Consultancy has its major services as – web development, graphics designing and app development.
Damilola is also the Chief Technology Officer of Econova Energy Solutions, a startup dedicated to the acceleration of clean power in Nigeria. He is a graduate of electrical and electronic engineering from the University of Bath in the UK. He holds a masters degree from Southampton University. His first experience with web development was developing a website for one of his father’s companies when he came down to Nigeria for his compulsory one year NYSC.
In this exclusive interview, he opened up on how the idea of Atlas Creative Consultancy came about; the challenge of doing business in Nigeria; plans for Atlas Creative Consultancy in the next five years; some of the misconceptions people have about graphic designing and web development and combining work at Atlas Creative Consultancy and Econova Energy.
VUN: So, talk about your background and how you got into the business of running Atlas Creative Consultancy.
Damilola: Let’s see. Where to begin? I studied electrical and electronic engineering for my bachelor’s degree in the University of Bath in the U.K. And electrical power engineering for my master’s degree at Southampton University. I returned to Nigeria for NYSC. At the time, my plan was to return abroad after my service year. However, I started doing a lot of research into web design after my dad tasked me to develop a website for one of his companies. I enjoyed the experience and decided to improve my skills. Before long, I got an opportunity to design another website for one of my dad’s friends. So, I started designing websites as a freelancer. After some time doing this; I decided to get more people involved and increase the services I could offer. My interaction with a lot of websites in Nigeria made me realise that a lot of the websites Nigerian companies had, needed updating and redesign. And, that there was a gap in the market with regards to cost and the requisite quality. It seemed to me that it was either really cheap with poor quality or really expensive. The people who wanted better, but didn’t have millions of naira to invest were left out. Atlas Creative Consultancy was meant to bridge that gap.
VUN: In very simple terms, what does Atlas Creative Consultancy do?
Damilola: Atlas Creative Consultancy is a digital agency dedicated to providing web solutions to a wide spectrum of corporate needs. Our main services are web development, graphic design, app development.
VUN: Considering the services you offer, how do you market your business?
Damilola: We market on many fronts. We are on relevant social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Also, we advertise on Google using Adwords. We also engage business developers and pay them per conversion. And, we get a lot of referrals as well. Our designs market themselves.
VUN: Personally, I have noticed that the price offering of brands who offer similar services as Atlas Creative Consultancy varies much. How do you decide the of price your services?
Damilola: Yes, there is a large variety. As with any industry; there will be companies that operate at either the low, medium or high end. Our goal is to bring high-end quality at a cheaper rate than that of the current high-end digital solution companies.
VUN: Talk about the challenges you face and how you cope with the challenges?
Damilola: Wow, right. Where to begin? One of the issues we were warned about early on by other business owners is, customers not paying either at all or on time. In reaction to this, we devised a payment scheme, whereby, we took a significant deposit upfront in an attempt to mitigate that. It helped. But, surprisingly, not to the degree we expected. We still have had clients pay late or just completely default on payment after certain milestones were accomplished. As you can imagine, this makes it difficult to budget and plan, if we don’t get income in when we expect. Over time, we have gotten much better at mitigating this. But, it remains one of our main issues and we continue to review our procedures with the goal of eventually eliminating this problem.
VUN: One of the things I have heard graphics designers complain about is, that people always say things to undermine their efforts while haggling for a better price. I personally have had to ask a Web designer what’s so big about his job that he’d charge so much.
Damilola: Yes that can sometimes be an issue. I have been in a meeting, where, I was repeatedly told that what we are doing is not difficult and anyone can do it among other things. I am not surprised. I have been told the same on multiple occasions.
VUN: What other misconceptions do people have about the services you offer at Atlas Creative Consultancy and what can be done to change their mindsets?
Damilola: I come across several misconceptions. The most common ones being, either that it’s not that difficult to do or it’s not worth investing much money into. Usually, I tell them that it’s part of their brands. That, it’s the image of their business. A lot of times, it’s one of the early impressions your potential clients will have of you. It has to reflect the quality of your vision. And for me to give you that quality, it’s gonna take a lot of work and time and there are costs associated with that. I also talk to people about their business goals and their budget. Then, try to see what I can deliver with that budget.
VUN: What is your creative process like? How does the idea come about and how do you convince your clients that the ideas you have can work for them?
Damilola: Usually, we talk to the client first. Try and get as much feedback from them as possible. So we can get as close to their vision as possible. Then, based on that information, we go back and discuss the best and most efficient way of talking to them. In terms of convincing the clients, usually, we present why we think a concept should be done in a certain way and then have a discussion with the client. Find out if they are happy for us to proceed with the concept. Perhaps, they have issues or wish to add suggestions to the approach. Once we reach a conclusion that the client is satisfied with, we execute it.
VUN: You also work as a CTO at Econova Energy, how do you combine that with the work you do at Atlas Creative Consultancy?
Damilola: It’s tough. I just do my best to be as organised as possible. I detail my deliverables for Atlas and Econova. Usually, in one-week chunks and give it my best to deliver on them. Sometimes, I have to suddenly update and make drastic changes. But, I always try to make sure I create a new schedule with these updates, before I start working again. I also try to approach deliverables one at a time as much as I can. So, I don’t get too overwhelmed with work.
VUN: Goals for Atlas Creative Consultancy for the next five years.
Damilola: It’s increasingly likely that we’ll go towards becoming a tech solutions company whereby we develop bespoke digital products for companies, government institutions, develop and monetise our digital products. By the end of the next five years, my goal is for Atlas Creative Consultancy to become a tech giant in Nigeria and to expand our services into West Africa.
VUN: Advice to other young entrepreneurs in Nigeria.
Damilola: Being an entrepreneur is a very difficult thing and doing it in Nigeria even more so. You have to really believe in yourself and in what product and/or service you are providing. You have to develop a very thick skin. Because, there will be a lot of people telling you that you are crazy if they can’t see your vision. So, you are going to have to really be able to endure that. You also, have to be willing to try new things and make changes to your approach; maintaining an open, humble mind with a desire to learn. You’ll most likely have failures and mistakes along the way. But, you have to take it on the chin, learn from them, and grow.