AHDORA MBELU-DANIA: PASSION IS GREAT, BUT PURPOSE IS BETTER

Ahdora Mbelu-Dania is currently a Director at Trellis Group (@trellisgroupco). Trellis group is a group of companies in the brand development and experiential marketing space that has worked on several projects across various industries, with brands such as Microsoft, Google, Sterling Bank, Union Bank, Lagos State Government, Nokia, Diageo, Absolut.

Ahdora has a passion for innovation and a belief in the power of creativity to achieve extraordinary business results. She moved to Nigeria in 2008 and found that there were so many young Nigerians in the creative sector that were unable to harness their creativity and build sustainable brand/business structures – Trellis group bridges this gap.

In 2017, Adaora was mentioned in Entrepreneur Magazine’s “11 Africans that are changing the business landscape in Africa.”

She was also nominated in the “Entrepreneur Of The Year” and “Prize For Media Enterprise” Categories of the Future Awards Africa. She has been featured among Nigeria’s Under 40 CEO’s, and Top 30 Under 30.

Ahdora talks about finding passion, purpose, and creativity.

 How did your family background and rich cultural heritage prepare you for the success you experience today?

My family background provided a diversity of thought. My parents are from different racial and cultural backgrounds, and this provided an opportunity for me to understand diversity very early in life.

Hence, I keep a very open mind, and this allows me to forge relationships with people without bias for their backgrounds.

You seem to value creative thinking above traditional practice, has this always worked for you?

I actually value both creative thinking and traditional practice. I think both ideologies have their place in my life’s journey. The important thing is that I know how and when to apply either one to produce positive results.

Many people view creativity as rebellion and going against the norm. But I believe that everyone is born with some level of creativity, and thus there’s nothing to really rebel against.

We just need to harness this creativity to solve problems and produce great work. I try to stay away from the tag of “Creative” vs “Non-creative”.

At the very core, what is your company – Trellis all about?

As the name implies, Trellis is about providing a structure/framework that supports people to get their greatest work out to the world.

Trellis Group was created from the need to solve and bring light to the existing challenges faced in the African creative sector. We are a creative consultancy made up of a group of companies in the sectors of Brand development (Gr8an), Experiential Marketing (A2Creative) Talent Management, and Community Development (Socially Africa).

You definitely fit the idea of a superwoman. Do you face challenges as a creative strategist?

Being superwoman definitely comes with various challenges – even the superheroes in the movies have to fight people, and even their own emotional struggles.

I have my fair share of challenges, especially as I not only work on the client side but also manage operations.

I am continuously dealing with solving people’s problems, and that sometimes means fully immersing myself in understanding the problem first, before I try to solve.

How do you identify ideas that are competent and sustainable and those that are not?

There two things I usually consider when I’m presented with an idea. Does it solve an existing problem And can it progress without the creator? I think the best ideas are the ones that can grow without the person who developed the idea.

The world has got this entrepreneurship game all wrong. From my perspective, it isn’t about founders, as much as it is about solutions.

It isn’t about who did it, but rather that it was done. This is why as much as I respect investor pitches and all that good stuff, I also know that Purpose will always trump what everyone else thinks.

What do you look out for in ideas/projects that come to your agency for actualization?

With the projects we work on, we choose our clients as much as they choose us. Many times we focus on the people behind the projects.

We have been through the start-up phase where we’ve worked with people and projects that we didn’t necessarily have a heart for because it was profitable. However, we are now at a stage where we measure value very differently.

These days, we choose peace of mind over financial gain. I know it’s a bold statement to make, but it’s factual. I’m not as concerned about quantity, as I am about quality. Hence, a lot of our business is either return business or by referral.

How have you been able to juggle your demanding career and your role as a mother altogether?

I am still learning to juggle it all. I don’t have a perfect response to this question, especially because I really don’t believe strongly in “work-life” balance. At least, I don’t believe that it must be 50/50, and thus I don’t put pressure on myself or feel that I am falling short in my responsibilities.

I take each day at a time, and give as much as I possibly can, per time, with the understanding that to whom much is given, much is expected.

I mean, my family and friends believe that I am an amazing mother, and I know I am. However, I have read mommy blogs that just make me look like child’s play. But I have learned to abandon comparison, and just enjoy my mommy moments – they are mine.

Your dress style is fiercely distinct and bold. How come you decided to stick with the classy suit and tie look?

This wasn’t a conscious decision.  My father was a banker, and he wore a suit every day throughout my childhood.

He’s a very stylish man, and I remember him having socks that match every one of his ties. I think it seeped into my subconscious.

It’s really just comfortable for me. I wear a suit (no tie) or Kaftan for professional outings. However, on my dress down days (which are very often now), you’ll find me in a T-shirt, Jeans, and a Hat.

We know Ahdora as a woman with many hobbies, one of which is horse riding. We’d love to hear all about it?

The Lagos city grind is intense, and horse riding is my way of tuning out from the hustle and bustle to relax my mind. For the few hours that I’m on a horse, I do not check on my phone or emails. It allows me to breathe, and while I’m riding, I often get clarity on some ideas or projects.

It is also a way of spending time with my Husband – we both get on our horses and ride off.

What do you say to young creative people who want to turn their passion into reality?

Passion is great, but the purpose is better. There’s a misconception that Purpose is about our “Why” alone. But the purpose isn’t just about “Why are we doing this”.

It is also about “Who will benefit”. When you understand that this journey is really about the solution, you’ll express yourself more confidently.

Be open to collaboration – if you don’t care about who gets the credit, you are more likely to do many amazing things. Finally, be Patient – Time is a great storyteller.

How have you been able to deal with multiple business ventures including your social projects in Socially Africa?

Socially Africa is a full embodiment of who I am. In fact, I run the for-profit side of my business, as a way to fund Socially Africa.

In the past 2 years, we have accomplished so much with the organization, with initiatives and projects funded primarily by Trellis, with support from friends and family donations.

With all the platforms that I deal with, there is an underlying philosophy that runs through them. So, as much as it sometimes seems as though I am doing too much, it’s actually one big circle with a thread of purpose running through it.

Recently you launched your first single, tell us about your singing career.

I don’t know if I can call it a singing career. I’ve always written poetry, and been a fan of conscious music – I’m intrigued at how the lyrics and intensity of a song can consciously influence people.

On a spiritual side, I’ve always likened myself to Joseph the Dreamer, as we share similar qualities and journeys.

Last year, I started reading closely about David’s transition from Shepherd boy to King, and how he wrote love songs to God through what we now know as the Psalms.

It’s very powerful. I ran away from music for a long time because I was worried about what my clients would think, and how people would perceive Lumina (The Rapper) versus Adaora (The Creative Industrialist).

Self-awareness is a beautiful thing  I’m now high up on Maslows Heirarchy of needs. I’ve hit Self Actualization, so I’m out here swag surfing as a “Rapper-preneur”. (I should copyright this tag).

Purpose is something you emphasize on. How did you discover your purpose?

I have always been interested in helping people become the best versions of themselves, and get their greatest work out to the world. I was always told that people were using me as a stepping stone and then abandoning ship once they were elevated.

At some point, it bothered me and it was very frustrating until I realized that it was a gift. Many people are searching for purpose, without realizing that it’s staring them in the face, but they’re too afraid to accept what it is. They think it’s too glaring, and they want it to be tough to find.

My purpose is simple, I am a Bright Light, and I shine on other people. Simple.

Your hair looks moisturized and beautiful always! What’s the secret?

The secret is…. wait for it… Water! I get this question a lot, but really I think my hair texture is as a result of my mixed heritage. I don’t have any regimen or specific preference for products.

However, I am sure that my hair would grow better if I considered product – I just don’t know how, and yes, I’ve watched YouTube tutorials.

By FAVOUR ONUKOGU

Source: She Leads Africa

Durban filmmakers, get your funding here

DURBAN – The Durban Film Office funding programme will be offering financial support to two Durban film projects worth R250 000 each.

The eThekwini Municipality Durban Film Office’s Development Fund aims to support intermediate and experienced producers based in Durban who need to develop feature fiction or documentary for both local and international markets.
The other programme, the Micro-Budget film programme aims to support local upcoming filmmakers and boost the production of local content in order to encourage the local film industry.
The Micro-Budget film programme offers R150 000 for the production of a feature-length film. The programme is aimed at emerging filmmakers with fiction feature projects and it runs for 12 months with the intent of producing four micro-budget films.
Aspiring filmmakers who are interested in the programme can still apply for the programme. Applications close on June 29th but there are criteria that have to be met in order for you to be eligible for this programme.
This is the criteria:
Development Fund Programme Micro-budget Film Programme
The project mist be capable of being developed
as a feature length film
The project must be capable of being developed
as a feature-length film
The fictional film must be minimum of 90 minutes
or the documentary must be a minimum of 60
minutes.
The fictional film must be minimum of 90 minutes
or the documentary must be a minimum of 60
minutes.
At least 50% of the key creative team must fall
within
the definition of historically disadvantaged individuals
as defined in the South African constitution.
At least 50% of the key creative team must fall within
the definition of historically disadvantaged individuals
as defined in the South African constitution.
CV/company profile which shows that you have experience
as a writer, director, or producer.
Principal photography must be located within the
eThekwini Municipality.
A producer with at least one completed comparative project A project that with a minimum total production budget
of R150 000.
Applicants may submit only one project per funding
cycle.
Previous grant awardees must wait two cycles
before applying for new development funds
For more information contact the Durban Film Office.
Source: IOL

Meet the female ‘artpreneur’ making a splash online

Buying a piece of art has long been considered an investment, of time as well as money, requiring visits to galleries and trips to auction houses.

But technology is changing the way we interact with, buy, and sell art. And artists are adapting their creative processes to suit a changing landscape.

“There’s never been a better time to be an artist in the world,” says Ashley Longshore.

The US artist’s paintings can be found hanging in the homes of Hollywood celebrities such as Salma Hayek, Penelope Cruz and Blake Lively.

“Art school teaches you that galleries are where you have to be. Galleries told me that I would never make it so I started to think; how could I build my own empire?” she says.

Ashley started using social media – Facebook, Instagram and others – to showcase her art and attract new buyers. Selling direct cuts out the middleman and puts artists back in control, she says.

Ms Longshore says her dream "is a world full of wealthy artists"

“When you buy through a gallery you’re investing 50% in the middle man – it screws up the pricing of art. I want artists to see themselves as entrepreneurs – ‘artpreneurs’ – who have control over what they’re putting out,” she says.

It’s a strategy that has worked well. She has sold multiple works online, including one for $50,000 (£35,000). Paying subscribers get access to limited-edition works as well.

Online art sales are growing worldwide. Online sales reached an estimated $3.75bn in 2016, up 15% from 2015. This represents an 8.4% share of the overall art market, up from 7.4% the year before, according to the 2017 report on the online art market from insurers Hiscox.

In contrast, global auction sales fell 19% over the same period.

Iain Barratt, owner of the Catto Gallery in London, recognises that an online presence is important, but is sceptical that social media is the answer to increased sales.

“A lot of social media is just noise. Our artists are on Instagram but they’re followed by other artists most of the time, not clients,” he says.

“We’ve had a few indirect sales on social media, but nothing to speak of really.”

Traditional auction house Christie's says buyers are spending more online

His gallery typically sells works for £5,000-20,000, and Mr Barratt believes that the more expensive the painting the more reluctant customers are to buy online.

“Above a certain price people want to come in and see the art. On a computer, it just doesn’t come across the same way. You want to find out more about it,” he says.

“Seeing a piece of art in the flesh – nothing quite beats it.”

For the auction house Christie’s, which was founded 250 years ago, embracing new technology has been an interesting journey.

“We test and learn with online all the time,” says chief marketing officer Marc Sands.

“At the beginning we thought no-one would spend a lot online. Five years ago the average sale online was $2,300, now it’s just under $8,000.”

In 2017, a third of Christie’s new buyers came via the web and online sales totalled £56m, up 12% on the year before.

The company now runs 80 to 100 online-only auctions a year, but Mr Sands points out that not all types of art sell well online.

Old masters, paintings created before about 1800, have an older buying demographic “so that market doesn’t lend itself well to being sold online”, he says.

Does he see online-only art platforms, such as Artsy and Artfinder, as a threat?

“They’re a little bit of competition,” he says. “Their user base is a bit cooler. They’re the new kids on the block so they’re quite interesting to work with.”

Christie’s has recently worked with Artsy on some online auctions, and Mr Sands thinks such collaborations will become more common.

Artists sell their art direct on marketplaces such as Artsy

“We want elements of their audience and they need the supply of art. This sort of model could be the future,” he says.

Artsy co-founder Sebastian Cwilich certainly thinks the traditional model of selling art at galleries and auction houses is changing.

“The notion that you can open a location to sell your art and hope that the right people just walk through the door is almost quaint,” he says.

“Every industry is leveraging technology to run their business better. We need to embrace new technology. Consumers are much more comfortable buying online, so why not art?”

Having a good online and social media presence certainly allows galleries, auction houses and artists to access a wider customer base and to connect with new buyers.

But for emerging artists like Emily Ursa, it can feel difficult to get noticed.

Artist Emily Ursa says "it's hard to stand out" on social media

“Social media is an amazing platform for so many,” she says, “but you have to beware because you’re one of thousands and thousands.

“Things lose their value on social media and become very throwaway, so it’s hard to stand out.”

At a gallery exhibition customers can see the work that’s gone in to a painting up close, she says.

“It gives it a sense of importance… it’s a whole experience, it changes the value of the work.”

To artists who say online platforms are the future, Catto Gallery’s Iain Barratt has a rather bleak response: “Good luck to you. Where will you be in 30 years time? We’ve had a 20-year relationship with some of our artists here.”

But from her studio in California, Ashley Longshore has little time for that sort of opinion.

“With a gallery you never know who your clients are. I’m creating something tangible – I’m a business person, I want to create money from it. Why wouldn’t I use every single avenue I can?

“My dream is a world full of wealthy artists.”

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