Daniel Emeka, 27, is the Creative Director and founding partner of the Surkreo Communications, a creative design company in Lagos. He tells TOBI AWORINDE about the dynamics of being a newcomer on the marketing landscape
How did your childhood shape your aspirations?
I grew up in a regular family with three siblings and my two parents. We were a very competitive bunch – my siblings and I. I am the last of them. One particular evening, when I was about four or five, I think my dad had just got back from a trip and we were all asked what we intended to be in the future. I was the last to answer. Engineering, law and accountancy were all taken; so, I said the next best thing should be medicine. I went for medicine.
How did you establish the company, Surkreo?
Back in 2011, I suspended my full-time employment and began freelancing because I had a lot of attention in the industry at that time. I had to create a brand that could create more value for the service I rendered. Surkreo got registered and has been alive since then.
What inspired the name of the company?
I strongly believe the style of my work was unique. Most times, people would ask me: “How did you do that?” And with my style of design being a little ‘surreal’, I combined it with creativity. I used ‘Sur’ to represent ‘surreal’; plus ‘kreo’, which is Greek for creativity.
What are some of the challenges that come with doing such a business in Nigeria?
First, it’s hard selling the idea of design to Nigerians as most businesses do not see the potential value it could add to their business. From experience, a lot of these firms tend to focus strictly on other forms of marketing. Having to convince these companies and sell your service to them is sometimes very difficult as you have to create a persuasive presentation that may cost a lot of money to produce, only to see it rejected. That can be very painful.
How did you arrive at your service portfolio?
We have had to focus more on design, web and digital forms of communication. The combination of these in this era of social media reliance, where people that are on the go constantly type 140 words on Twitter and record six-second videos on Vine, is geared towards lasting engagement. So, we build experiences that best introduce the brand to this new audience and transform them to customers
What are some of the common untruths associated with this sort of business?
There are a couple of them; but the one that affects young start-ups like mine is lack of trust. In other words, there are only few companies that give young agencies the chance of managing the pressure and delivering on projects given. We don’t allow such a stereotype to affect our morale and we take every job like it’s our first, surpassing expectations and recalling clients.
How has your business contributed to job creation?
We currently have a team of six professionals and engage freelancers when the project demands more hands and expertise.
How much effort goes into a typical job?
It depends, really; some briefs could end up being completed in hours; some might take days. But we always meet our deadlines.
What makes your brand any different from others?
We combine the practical understanding of the demand of our client’s market with the broadest possible imaginative scope. It is art plus business.
How do you deal with competition?
I respect but ignore competition. The best I do is to learn from their successes and failures, but I don’t allow any of that to get to me.
How important is mentoring to you?
It is very important, especially in this sort of industry as there are periods where you will definitely need some form of guidance.
Do you depend on networking?
I’m bad at networking. I am never comfortable around people I barely know but I just have to learn. I build leads on social media, which helps me get a little comfortable when I meet them personally.
How do you deal with difficult clients?
Like every relationship, there are setbacks and unavoidable hitches, but I learn to manage these issues and understand my clients’ needs, because the goal is to deliver on the job.
Does one need any professional training in a career as this?
Yes, there are the basics in each part of the marketing business that one has to undertake from business and strategy to writing, art and design. But what makes you stand out after learning these essentials is what you, as a person, add to it — your unique ability and talent.
How do you balance work and personal life?
That is a hard one. It is currently intertwined as 90 per cent of my effort as a person is growing professionally. I even use my fiancée as a model sometimes. So, it’s really hard balancing both. Maybe when there is more of sustainable structure in my business and I can afford to let go of a couple of responsibilities, then I’ll focus on balancing both, I guess.
What are the most important lessons you have learnt as an entrepreneur?
There are no failures, only lessons of how not to do things. I never allow disappointing meetings or lost pitches to affect my optimism for success. I keep on pushing and pushing hard, knowing that one day, one idea or one client will create that pedestal that I really need for sustainable success.
Have you ever experienced the fear of failure?
Yes, every time. But I don’t run away from it; I face it head-on, because failure, to me, is an illusion that blocks your view of success.
What projects have excited you the most, so far?
We have worked with a couple of well-known brands such as FirstBank, Sahara Group. But one project we really enjoyed working on was the Innovation Prize for Africa by the African Innovation Foundation and the Ministry of Finance. Aside from being the official brand and marketing agency for the event, we were inspired by the stories of life-touching innovation from Africans.
What is the ultimate goal for your brand?
We want to be a brand that companies can co-create with, offering a comprehensive approach of opportunities by uncovering stakeholders’ mental models, behaviours, and aligning their interests with effective, imaginative practical solutions in the areas of design, web and digital solutions.
What is your advice to anyone who wants to start out in this type of business?
On a serious note, design marketing is a business of passion, and the customer’s need comes first. If the money is in the forefront of your wish list, you might end up failing. So, focus on offering solutions and other expectations might just come.