The journey so far: Frederik Obasi, MD, Colour Me Digital

Frederik Obasi

Frederik Obasi is the co-founder and MD of Colour Me Digital, an African sports and entertainment marketing agency that has worked with notable Nigerian football players including Alex Iwobi, Ola Aina, Ademola Lookman; and brands including LG Electronics and DStv. Obasi is also the founder of Nigerian marketing agency Hypebuzz.

1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.

In the earliest stages of my entrepreneurial journey some of the toughest issues I faced were around cashflow and billables. Different business models have different payment cycles and although your company may be profitable on paper, it’s your cash in the bank that keeps the lights on in the office, ensures employees are paid on time and allows you to execute on growth and marketing plans every month.

Through bad experiences I quickly identified that a robust understanding of finance is essential to business success. Through taking courses, asking questions, financial planning and surrounding myself with the correct consultants and experts I’ve been able to overcome such challenges.

 2. Which business achievement are you most proud of?

I’m proud of being able to transition from a venture-funded company to a self-funded business, where I put our customers, employees and partners at the centre of the business – and not the next fundraiser, growth metrics or an investor’s perspective.

Often when you raise money during the early stages of a business, before having a proven market or business model, you can get sucked into focusing on everything else but the things that really matter. Putting up your own money and taking all the risks allows you to be prudent, flexible and creative.

 3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.

I believe my greatest weakness changes as the businesses evolve and a new level creates new challenges, which then requires new skills.

Currently, I have been travelling a lot for work, this means I don’t get to spend as much time as I’d want to day to day with my team and, sometimes, clients. To prevent this from having a negative impact, I have invested in productivity tools and apps to create feedback loops, as well as being more organised and deliberate in communicating at all times.

 4. Which popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?

Almost all advice depends on interpretation, agenda, time, location and so many other factors outside of an entrepreneur’s control. All conventional business wisdom may be false depending on the situation.

The general theme of rushing, speed and being fast in entrepreneurship is one I don’t entirely agree with. I think there’s something special about taking your time and crafting your company like a piece of artwork. Although in some scenarios, speed can be important, I truly believe that great and impactful businesses that stand the test of time are built by entrepreneurial artists rather than “shrewd businessmen” who take every decision at blistering speed.

5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you got started?

I wish I knew more about the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people and having a good support network. When I was younger I never really thought about hiring the right people, finding mentors and building relationships within my field and beyond. I thought I could do it all alone.

With more experience I’ve learned the importance of attracting and finding the right people to build a vision, for advice and just to have cool people who support me and who I can support too. Recruiting talent and finding the best people is a process that should start well before you find a gap that needs to be filled. The people you work and build with are essential to an entrepreneur’s success.

 6. Name a business opportunity you would still like to pursue.

Poverty alleviation. Life optimisation using tracking data, science and analytics to find a route that enables people to get out of poverty. The decisions made by people who have been able to succeed from a life of extreme poverty would be tracked and analysed at a large scale to see what patterns can be extracted and applied to others in the same situation.

This will help with allocation of aid and ensure charity work focuses on alleviating poverty entirely, it will also help build better countries, communities and people.

I’m not sure of the business model, however, if it worked it would be immensely valuable considering the amount of impoverished people in communities that are economically inactive, not just in Africa, but around the world.

The journey so far’ series is edited by Wilhelmina Maboja, with copy editing by Xolisa Phillip, and content production by Justin Probyn and Nelly Murungi.