Kwirkly is two.
Well, I should rephrase that. Kwirkly as a creative agency is 2 today. Its origin, about a year before, was from an ideas bank where I shared ideas that I conjure daily. Having gotten some interesting feedback, I opened it to the public to allow others to submit their ideas. But I had to cope with some drags, especially from people who worried about copyright issues and those who couldn't make a sense of a crowd-sourced ideas bank. It was about the only experience that demonstrated to me how protective, sometimes fiercely, people are about their ideas.
The ideas bank drew me into lengthy discussions about the direction it should take and if the sometimes-cynical Naija audience is ready for it. The major question was always what I intended to do with the submitted ideas. I was clear in my intention but, again, most people got feisty about their ideas.
After then, Kwirkly became what it is now. I'm not sure if it's still a wayward idea begging to metamorphose. But in two years, it has taken a form of a nagging girlfriend, and for my team members, I believe, it's been like a wayward whore - sometimes annoying, ever-mischievous, demanding attention more than it deserved and sometimes becomes clueless about the attention it gets.
It's been one heck of an incredible experience. It feels like a weird crash course. There are multiple variables to deal with, most of them differing in degrees of uncertainties. It's a creative business. It's a creative business in Nigeria. That’s jarring enough. When you now combine the mediocrity of the land with the demands to survive notwithstanding and with your own naïveté or your team's, you suddenly find humility in your supposed intelligence. Nigeria suddenly takes a different meaning, deeper than you ever knew; business sometimes takes an intimidating turn than you ever imagined; relationships, both causal and cordial, are tested and testy. And you, being the visionary, the ideas man, the founder, the owner, or whatever title you choose to stoke your ego, is faced with a different existence far from what you ever dreamed. Dealing with uncertainties becomes your only game of survival. And you must master it.
You must master it and you can't do it alone. How Team Kwirkly was form is an interesting narrative in itself, even if I have to say it myself. I rehearsed speeches in front of my mirror before I contacted each of them. It was a necessary step, or so I imagined. You're going to involve people who are very likely perfectly ok with their lives with an idea that will pull stones from their bones. If you don't have some kind of divine backup, or even if you do, you'd still better invest in the art of persuasion. Mine took a form of selling a vision, promising creative work and operations as never experienced before, a team synergy that will embarrass Siamese twins, amongst others. Oh, including some that are best considered reckless fantasies. At the centre of these was an emotion that must not betray the promises. And surprisingly, or as providence wanted it, they got the bug too and the journey began. We are talking 2 years already.
The period has seen some of the craziest, stupidest, and utterly funny episodes I've ever experienced, from the mundane to the serious. More than once, some clients have only shown interest in us and before they even send their briefs, my co-founder and I quickly imagined what it might be about and we launch into a concepting session. We never worried about how ridiculous it was or the time expended should prospective clients change their minds. Maybe it speaks about our passion or dedication to work or we should just be embarrassed by it. Even more ridiculous or shall I say exciting, is when we go all-out with a full campaign when a client only wanted a piece from a bouquet we are serving. It feels like building a whole house, complete with terraces, upstairs, downstairs, backyard, front-yard, swimming pools, garages when the client wanted just a friggin' kitchen.
But one crazy lesson for me, which I humbly admit I learnt the hard way, is never to underestimate the boyfriends or girlfriends, of your team members. It turns out they're the unofficial members of your team, wielding as much power that can make or mar the progress of your business. Again, I learnt this shit the hard way. I've been turned into the enemy of a relationship just because an "official" team member divides his time between Kwirkly and his relationship. And Chris is the cause (and curse). "We could be having the time of our lives if that fool didn't have this stupid Kwirkly idea. Can't you see? You don't even have my time again. Mornings, afternoons, late-nights, Kwirkly, Kwirkly, Kwirkly! You guys are faggots! Fools. You must choose between me and Kwirkly!" (ps: Dear Reader, this is the mildest I can share amongst many insults that we were called and which my person was confronted with). But no shaking, we moved on. There's always a way to revert to these things in the future.
Like most young businesses, beginnings are replete with drama. And o'boy, we still have drama. But let's talk about fun. The only lady in our team - I believe she's the best digital content marketer in the world (this might as well be a paid announcement, lol) in her usual how-did-I-end-up-with-crazy-guys mode, likes to remind me not to cuss when we are going for a meeting. Gosh knows, against my best restraint, I've not been faithful. At a pitch presentation, I got so excited that the fucks escape from my mouth. I'd thought I was going to hear some motherly scolding. It turns out the client express their fondness for the team, especially our carefreeness. You see, I'm taking credit for the cuss. (I know I know I know it's bad. I'm working on curbing it).
I remember how we scream in the middle of the nights when concepting. We will throw ideas at each other and weirdly, we would know we haven't gotten it. But when someone throws the ultimate idea, we just launch turn into this frenzy of screams and sports-like ritual of celebration. Maybe a good idea, like good music, makes you lose yourself when it hits you.
Concepting gives me a lot of joy and the most annoyance. When you have my type of co-founder - who will surely attack me after this, you'll need extra muscle for brainstorming sessions. Dude and I fight as though we mean each other. I'm at one corner utilizing my best missiles to convince him about the merit of an idea, he's at another end killing the idea with the best anti-missiles. We trade roles like this, until, sometimes, emotions get in the way and we slam laptops on each other's faces. Then we will wait for the first person to wave a white flag, which is usually me but not without some sarcasms and Yoruba-worded insults. Here's the thing: said co-founder is currently in New York and engages with me like I'm a New Yorker too. I still remind him that he has suddenly forgotten how we used to endure the oddities of Lagos while building this business and when conceptualizing. He hasn't realized that conceptualizing in the company of Starbucks and super-fast wifi is different from conceptualizing with garri and with wifi best named after snail. Yes, you need a partner that disagrees with you sometimes but not one comfortably disagreeing from America.
In ways I can't fully explain, I appreciate the experience, so far. As mentioned, it's simply a crash course on many things: how to lead, how not to lead, how to display equanimity in the face of tension, how not to lose yourself, how to deal with cantankerous clients, how to manage sweet clients, how to get media attention, how not to get bloated by media attention, how to manage people, how to manage their lovers too, how to keep your private life private, how to ensure private misfortune doesn't spill into the business, how to not say the truth but not lie, how not to be a jerk, how to be funny even when you don't intend to, how to chart the Naija entrepreneurial terrain, how not to hate Nigeria, how not to love Nigeria too much, how to settle fights with partners, how to ignore their worst eccentricities, how to eat pizza when there's money, how to live on Indomie when there isn't plenty money, how not to hurt clients, how to laugh at them behind their backs, how to negotiate, how not to negotiate, how to look cool, how to be uncool, and not the least, how to wear suit and look serious against your mischievous wish.
Sometimes I've had to deal with requests that totally ask me to leave Kwirkly behind. Come and be our creative director, come let's be partners on another business, we can pay you more than you've ever earned, don't you want to leave Lagos?, etc. But Gosh knows I'm still having fun on this side of town.
I owe so many people for this journey. Listing them all will make this post longer than it is already.
Here’s to Creativity.
Yours in Kwirkly.