To live his dream, a young banker and graduate of Public Administration from Babcock University, Isaiah Gbenayon Ogun, jettisoned his banking job to take up his passion – photography – a skill he honed as a banker. In this interview with Mary Ekah, Ogun who is the Chief Executive Officer of Euclase Photography, says he derives more satisfaction taking pictures
At what point did you take up Photography as a profession?
I started my career with Cross and Churchill group where I worked as a business development officer. I Joined Diamond Bank Plc. in 2011 where I worked in the International Operations Unit of the bank as a Trade Customer Service Representative and as a Reconciliation and Monitoring Officer. In my struggle to live my belief, ‘’be what you want to be’’, I quit my banking job to take up photography, a skill I had been nurturing while working as my first business.
Why did you leave banking for photography?
Although banking was good, however, my love for photography grew and I chased it to a point where it became evident that I needed to take a huge career risk/switch. As a banker, my lifestyle had to be patterned alongside my job. As a photographer, my job is in consistence with my natural lifestyle.
Did you get any formal business training before you left your paid employment?
I did not get any formal business training per say though I had completed some short business programmes while I was working. Most of the trainings came from the short banking experience. Even though I did more of self-learning, my curiosity led me to take up tutorials at the prestigious London School of Photography (LSP). I am a member of the renowned photo club (The Photographer’s Gallery London), a student member of the British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP), a member of the Professional Photographer of America (PPA). So far, I have completed a few photography assignments in different states in Nigeria, the United Arab Emirates and different parts of the United Kingdom.
What aspect of photography do you focus on?
My major interest is corporate and wedding photography. Sometimes, I do more. I have attended various business programmes and seminars such as Business Communication and Etiquette, Poise Nigeria Limited (trained and certified by the Protocol School of Washington) and Customer Service Excellence (Customer Centricity, Nigeria). In just a few years, I have transformed my weekend hobby into a full-time career, creating demand for my unique, high-end corporate and wedding photography. I wish to bring fresh professionalism to the field of photography in Nigeria and Africa at large.
What do you think about the Nigerian creative industry?
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, clothe maker etc. The creative industry has been immensely tapped into as it has provided succour to huge unemployment challenge in this nation. The idea of “white collar jobs or nothing” is becoming obsolete as such you now get to see a BSc or MSc holder become a clothe maker, hair expert, (Tricologist), Videographer etc. At the end of theday itis all about the perception and the business culture the creative mind builds around his work. In terms of reward, in line with international best practices, I feel Nigerian creativeminds are still relatively underpriced. 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 creatives have bills to pay and are also entitled to the good life. However, those who value great jobs pay appropriately.
What is your educational background like?
I studied Public Administration. I graduated from Babcock University in 2009. I completed the NYSC in 2010.
While growing up, what profession did interest you initially?
Growing up, I wanted to be a Lawyer. However, providence charted a different course.
When you established your company, you named it Euclase Limited. What informed the choice of such name?
Euclase is a type of crystal actually (precious stone). It could have been Ruby or Diamond Photography. Euclase is usually unheard of which is in sync with the business value we are trying to sell: rare quality.
How many employees do you have?
Presently, I have two direct employees and eight indirect employees.
In what ways do you think government can support SMEs?
Importantly, the best support government can give is providing the 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.
What would be your advice for youths that want to leave paid employment to start their businesses?
Before you leave a paid employment, you have to first of all 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 lives; I will make more money doing my own thing.
I will get the freedom I need, that following your passion is always the best or that 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 you are going to have your customers and even your boss shred you sometimes in a humiliating manner. You might not actually make more money from 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’’. People have found true value and meaning to their lives 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 delay or even becomes more difficult than I imagined, and 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.
How did you get funds to start your company?
Well, from the first day I joined the bank. I presumed every salary was my last. Not because there was a lay-off threat but because I had a plan I needed to stay committed to. My first camera (600D) was but with a lease. Asides that, a chunk of my monthly income was going into the account of my photography equipment vendor. When I needed anything, I just went there, got what I needed and they deducted it from my cash credit with them. So it was basically strategic savings.
How profitable has it been?
Well, photography can be profitable especially when people value your work and it even gets more profitable with time as experience and skill increase. Just like any other business, there are highs and lows. However, I do not regret the career shift I have made so far. Improvement can only be incremental.