What is the background to the company?
I started the business a little over seven years ago. It was built on a passion for creativity that I have always felt. The African education system does not teach entrepreneurship, it teaches you a trade. Growing up I was interested in art, and I could not fit myself honestly into being, for example, a doctor or a pilot. I knew that whatever I did, it would be through art. I was in the UK and when I returned to Zambia I opened this business with zero capital. I bought a camera, got started, and put in the time, effort, and strategy. Then people started buying into the idea. The business started off as a photography agency. I got a few deals with a few clients that bought into it, and the business started growing. It was hard to access finance then because we were seen as a high-risk business with no precedents. Hence I re-injected all the capital back into the company, meaning I could purchase more equipment. From that, the business naturally moved into video production. That made a great transition and we added value by doing it. We started to be hired by a number of agencies to do stuff for campaigns and suchlike. Then we decided to become an advertising and communications agency. As much as we are known for photography, our core business now is in advertising and communications. Photography and video production are just some of the products that we have under our umbrella. We do corporate campaigns, documentaries, television commercials, creative videos, and more. We have seen a huge niche develop in the film industry in this region, and we feel we are well placed. We have enough knowledge and expertise to give it a shot. That is where we are going—we will be making Zambian films for the global market.
Can you tell us about the film aspect of your business?
I have looked at how the film industry has helped the Nigerian economy transform itself. Looking at Zambia, I always feel fortunate to be here because it has not been exploited as much as possible, and this gives you breathing space as a business. Besides that, I never say we are “landlocked;" we are “land-linked." Being centrally positioned, I feel that it is actually a convergence point for our markets and it is easy for us to get to Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. I believe that because we have not been exploited, this is a chance to get an industry that will be particularly regional and we can come up with a product that is a global product. My approach to it is not to take baby steps, and that is why we have bought Hollywood-standard pro-equipment. We are ambitious, hence we are not thinking of small festivals or short films or gradual growth; we are thinking of coming up with blockbusters. The idea of procuring very expensive equipment is that we do not want our creations or our productions to be judged based on the format. We are comfortable that we will be judged based on our creative output. Besides the personal achievement, being a pioneer in the media industry makes you feel that you are setting a benchmark. This is always a factor in respect to being a businessperson in Africa. When people see a plane, they think there is no way a local person built that plane. However, all it takes is one local person to put something together and that creates a chain reaction. Then people tend to start believing in themselves.
How would you assess demand for advertising services in the Zambian market?
The demand is slowly changing. Now we have some capacity in Zambia and people have stopped importing a lot of advertising services and are contracting locals. Zambia is a young country to a certain extent, and we are in an education phase. In the past two or three years things have been moving extremely fast with social media helping to drive that pace of change.