We’ve with us Oriahi Ofuzim Anderson, CEO and founder of Zimylink Brand Managers, a brand management firm that provides branding solutions for SMEs and Startups. This young change-agent was nominated for the Future awards Prize in Education for his measurable impact in advancing education through a website which he developed and founded (www.YimuCentral.com) and his volunteer services to his community.
It’s great to have you on our platform today. Could you please introduce yourself and tell us about what you do?
Thank you for this opportunity. My name is Oriahi Ofuzim Anderson. I’m a brand consultant and I am also the CEO and founder of Zimylink Brand Managers – a brand management firm that provides branding solutions for SMEs and Startups especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.
How was growing up like for you? As a child were you exposed to any entrepreneurial influences?
Since childhood, I have had a natural flair for art- I can draw, paint and sculpt. These abilities influenced me entrepreneurially as I later discovered I could make money from it. I started by drawing portraits for people and charging them between N100 to N200. This brought me a lot of recognition especially in my secondary school and I got permission from the school authority to start the first Art club in the school.
After graduating from secondary school, I got admitted into the University of Benin to study Computer Engineering. There I started a youth empowerment magazine called “Klassique Magazine” in my 1st year. It was the success of the magazine that earned me the endorsement of the former Minister of Information and Communication, Late Professor Dora Akunyili, and I got the rare opportunity to work with the ministry on the rebranding Nigeria project during my IT. This was my first real experience with branding as I worked with some of the best brand strategists from around the world. After the project, I proceeded to Ilorin, Kwara State, for my NYSC service year during which I organized a youth empowerment programme for youths in the state. I got some of my colleagues and we trained over 170 youths, some of who were visually and hearing impaired. At the time, the NYSC scheme hadn’t started its Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurial Development Programme and I was nominated for the Future awards Prize in Education for this. After my NYSC I cofounded a production company called House5 Productions and coproduced my first feature movie “Misfit” which screened in major cinemas in Nigeria and was also screened at the Nollywood Film Festival in Paris, France. Misfit is a psychological thriller that addressed the issue of Violence against Women. Then I founded Yimucentral – an online magazine that was created to address the decline in the reading culture of youths in Nigeria using cartoon illustrations – and Zimylink, a brand management firm that provides branding solutions for SMEs and Startups especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Tell us about your company, Zimylink. Give us insight into why and when you started it.
The concept of branding is often misunderstood to mean only designs or printing. But branding is much more than that because in reality it is ‘new skool’ marketing!
Over the years, I discovered that most companies fail to communicate who they really are and what they truly stand for. This affects how their customers perceive them which affects their sales and popularity.
So, 4 years ago I started Zimylink Brand Managers as a brand management firm that helps small and medium sized businesses as well as individuals develop and manage their brand. A brand is an experience that’s embedded in the mind of every person who has ever come in contact with you, your company, staff and your product and service. So we help them create that experience and communicate it through every customer touch point with their company. We reach out to both their internal customers – their stakeholders and employees – and their external customers as well, you and I.
Do you really believe that entrepreneurs should build their business around what they naturally love to do?
Yes, but not entirely. It’s like studying a course you naturally have talent for. It makes the work easier. A lot of the big corporations that exist today have visionary founders that built their businesses around what they naturally loved to do – the likes of Zuckerberg for Facebook, Beats by DrDre and so on. But the downside to this is that, something you naturally like to do is more or less a hobby and there is tendency to commoditize it and not take it too seriously. This can be very detrimental to growing a business.
In your kind of business, how do you source for clients? What exactly do you do to market your products/services?
At Zimylink, our strategy is to allow our work speak for us. Which is to say that whatever we do, no matter how little we are paid, we do it to the best of our ability. We do not do things shabbily and we treat each client with the same regard. If our clients believe in us, they would evangelize our services for us. The best form of marketing is still word of mouth, especially in this social media era where 140 characters say it all. And we encourage our clients for their loyalty by offering them a commission whenever they recommend others to us to. It is a more organic form of marketing.
What aspect of your background or education has been the most helpful to your experience as an entrepreneur?
I am a Computer Engineer. And since I naturally like art, it helps me to translate my ideas and designs in a digital domain where it is easier to manipulate them. I am more into the software aspect of computer engineering which means that I also know how to program. All of which accounts for my knowledge and skill in providing several branding solutions for clients.
What were the two major challenges you faced when you were starting off Zimylink?
The two major challenges I faced were staffing and the ignorance of branding.
There are many aspects of our work at Zimylink some of which include; Copywriting, PR, Advertising, Websites Development, Graphics Designing and Strategy. I didn’t have access to a lot of resources during startup so getting the right personnel to carry out these tasks was a major challenge.
Also most people did not know much about branding and didn’t value paying a premium for it. People would call in and ask for a website or a logo and when you tell them about the need to first build their brand they would decline.
And how did you to overcome those challenges?
We organized a training program for fresh graduates and NYSC leavers. During the training period, we paid them a commission on every project that they worked on for the company. We assess them on a variety of criteria that are in line with the Zimylink Culture before employing them full-time.
As for the ignorance of branding, we publish articles and white papers to help demystify its concept to SMEs and startups. We do a lot of reading and research to explore new ways of relating with businesses all over.
What do you consider your greatest achievement so far?
Our greatest achievement is seeing brands develop each day under our umbrella. The numbers are increasing significantly. SMEs are the mainstay of any economy. They play significant roles in driving gross domestic product (GDP) growth and sustaining employment. So when one SME gets it right with their brand through our services, our publications, our seminars and trainings, it is an achievement for us. And there’s nothing greater than this for us.
How do you personally define success?
Success is not a destination, it is a journey. If you are journeying to a place, each minute or hour you spend takes you farther from where you started. Success is when you look back at yesterday and see that today you have advanced mentally, spiritually, physically, emotionally, financially or in whatever area of your life that defines who you are or what you stand for. Success is growth. The day you stop growing, you stop succeeding.
What does your average work day consists of?
It’s either I’m working on a client’s project, writing a publication, brief, case study or reading. We have a principle at Zimylink to read one chapter each day. It’s like what I said about success, if we cannot learn something new each day, we cannot say we are succeeding.
Research more. Read more and be more patient. We live in a time that is information rich and time poor. The face of the modern day customer is changing. They are more informed and their attention spans are shorter. You need to be prepared and put in a lot of effort into building a sustainable relationship with them.
What are your core competences and focus at Zimylink?
Our core competences sum up the word “IDEAS” – which stands for Innovative, Diligent, Enthusiastic, Attentive and Skilled. What gives us joy isn’t the money we are paid for the services we render but the “WOW” effect our clients experience when they see their ideas coming to life. That is what fuels our passion. Everyone has an idea. No matter how small or big. Our focus at Zimylink is bringing them to life.
What advice would you give a new company looking to build its brand?
Build your brand from inside out and not the other way around. Your brand is the soul of your business and your customer is at the core. That is to say that it is the total emotional experience a customer has with your company and its product or service.
Do not see your brand as a collection of isolated activities such as your logo, website, slogan, corporate identity system and so on. They only represent your brand. Instead should see their brand as a holistic experience for your customers, one built in to all the important places the customer defines as reflections of their business and what it stands for. In short, it’s about looking through the window as a customer, rather than looking out as a business owner.
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that logos, advertising campaigns, mission statements, colours and the like aren’t important. They can be vital parts of the brand experience your customers have. They can be vital parts of the brand experience your customers have. At the same time, it is important to notice that your customers get to determine what’s important and what isn’t. Put customers first and work on how to develop the best relationship, then you can go to town on creating your brand impact with all the tools available, from logos to colour schemes. The trouble is, most new businesses work the wrong way round, focusing first on designing symbols or corporate identities before understanding their place in the whole brand scheme.
That is why at Zimylink, we start off the branding process with market research and analysis where we get to study the customers, trends, competitors among other things.