By Ayo Alonge
Ademola Akintoye started his company, AI Multimedia Academy with almost nothing but with so much passion and today, he makes bold to say that multimedia business is very lucrative particularly if the government can rise to the occasion by supporting the IT sector. His skill acquisition centre, stationed in Lagos, has trained several hundreds of youths in multimedia endeavours like animation, web design, cinematography and video editing.
The seasoned entrepreneur, in this interview, calls on the teeming unemployed youths to embrace the business, as he provides guidance and support tips on how everyone interested can start up. He also shares his success story as an entrepreneur.
When did you incorporate your business?
This is an offshoot of our parent company in America. We started as a business support company offering IT support services. Later, we discovered that there was a gap in skill acquisition that has to be bridged and that was how we started to train people.
How many youths have you trained so far?
We have trained close to 400 youths in the past five years and a lot of them are still coming to us. We feel that in no distant time, we need the youths to take up challenges in filming and animation. For example, animation is an area that is still very fresh and we need youths to fill in the area.
What’s the potential in multimedia that can be tapped by youths of today?
There is a lot we cannot even overemphasize. In animation alone, so many skilled labour can be developed and that is a pathway to the development of our country. Most of our films don’t have the cinema quality and that is the gap we are poised to bridge. We also have other aspects like visuals specialization, Web design and digital marketing. It is an expensive training when it comes to multimedia.
Let’s talk about you. What motivated you to start on your own?
It is inbuilt for me to be an entrepreneur today. When I finished my youth service in 1999, I worked with a Canadian before I realized I needed to start on my own. I am especially fascinated by animation and cinematography. I went for some direct training and I also wanted to affect my immediate environment. Most of our universities don’t offer specialized courses in these areas. People come out of the university without technical skills. When you train with us, you can marry your certificate with technical skills. So, the real motivation for me was love for multimedia and my desire to help the youth to be self sustaining and skilled in multimedia.
I am thinking you probably couldn’t get a white-collar job and that was what led you to starting on your own…
I actually resigned from my white-collar job. I was not satisfied with working for people. I saw that my desire and passion was multimedia. It wasn’t that I was chasing white-collar jobs. I had one.
How much of satisfaction are you deriving from multimedia business?
I can tell you that this is life for me and I cannot do something else. I am thinking of taking it to the next level. In other climes, you see government granting huge loans to investors and entrepreneurs like us, but that is not the case here, so we have to work at our own pace to achieve growth and development. I derive satisfaction in what I do, irrespective of the militating challenges in our immediate environment.
What do the youths of today need to know about this entrepreneurial endeavour and how can they start on their own?
It is about having the drive. They have to be ready to sacrifice a lot and discover themselves. Start working towards achieving your dreams and get a place you can acquire the skill. It is all about their dedication, interest and love for what they want to do. Essentially, they need to develop interest.
Passion and interest could be there for people but they may not have the financial means. What can be done in that regard?
Fine, we have been doing something about that. We assist the youth through promotions. Some can even pay in installments.
How about people who can’t afford the cost of training to be a multimedia expert?
As I have said, it covers a lot of sectors. You have to find your niche. For example, with animation you can work with TV houses, architectural ventures, interior design outfits, and film houses and also with advertising agencies. It is highly profitable but it depends on your niche. There are so many areas you can venture into. Multimedia is a growing sector and that is why the opportunities are wide. One area that people don’t really look into today is documentaries in cinematography. Someone may also go into video biography, which is still very virgin.
After acquiring the skills, the point of starting up may require huge capital. What’s your say on that?
You don’t need huge capital to start a multimedia enterprise. In some cases, you can be freelancing when you are done with the training. It’s cinematography that is capital intensive. You can start by being a freelancer with film houses or broadcasting corporations. It is not in all the courses that you need huge capital to start. For animation, what you need to start with is your laptop.
Is there a possibility government can organize such skill acquisition programme on a large scale for interested people?
Definitely and we are looking into partnering with the government. We need the support of government to also provide soft loans for entrepreneurs to procure more equipment and employ more people. Our office still needs more hands. Government can always help in that direction. We can also partner with corporate bodies to train more youths.
In the area of entrepreneurial development and skill acquisition, what is government not getting right?
Our curricular are the issue. They’re not well defined. It is the curriculum that builds people from school and we soon realize that most of our youths lack technical skills to apply when they graduate. Such people need to come to us for retraining. That’s where government needs to partner with a school like ours. Ideally, graduates should start producing by themselves but this is not the case in our system.
What is worth taking as a lesson from your success story?
It’s my dedication and passion for what I am doing. At the beginning, it was difficult for me. I started as a one-man soldier and it was telling on my health but I never gave up. My faith and hope that we were going to be successful led me this far, even though there are other grounds to cover.
Can you ever be caught doing something else?
I don’t think so. Even if I have to, it would be secondary to what I am doing now. I have so much passion for multimedia academy and my dream is to have an academy equivalent to New York Film Academy where people can do Masters, Bsc and diploma courses. I hold that in high esteem. So, I don’t see myself quitting the business.
What are your regrets as an entrepreneur?
One of my regrets is misplaced trust. You trust some people in business and they betray your trust in them. That was a big a lesson when we started up. Another regret is lack of funds in spite of our efforts to take people out of the streets. That means if we have more funds, we will take more people off the streets.