Chine Ezekwesili: How my “side-hustle” became a Full-time Enterprise

Akanka design agency is a brand that started as a side-hustle, but metamorphosed into a real business. In less than 3 years of operations, Akanka has garnered different clientele from virtually all sectors of the economy by leveraging on social media, helping them build impactful and minimalist graphic designs. We interviewed Chine Ezekwesili, one of the co-founders and he shared experience in running the design agency:

 Tell us about yourself and the inspiration behind AKANKA:

I’m currently a student at Yale university studying Development Economics. Prior to coming back to school, I was an analyst focused on the Science and Technology Sector.

At what point did you decide to take the bold step into entrepreneurship, were you a Career-person?

 It was a transition. So I started Akanka as a one-person thing that was more of a side-hustle than anything else. As more people joined, we got busier and I realized I couldn’t continue it on the side anymore, so it became full time.


 Briefly describe your work-force or the Team behind AKANKA.

Two co-founders – my brother and I. He’s one of the best graphics designers I know and he’s the creative lead. We currently have an admin team of 5 people: three guys (including myself) and two ladies. We also have an ever increasing network of talented designers that handle projects.

How do you balance running a business and other personal responsibilities?

By having no life (laughs) just Kidding. But yeah, it’s difficult, especially since I’m currently studying for my Masters. I’ve learned to delegate responsibilities and understand that others are willing to help and are competent. I’ve even found some team mates are more competent than me in a lot of these tasks.

Describe the challenges you face regularly as a young entrepreneur in Nigeria and how you have been able to manage them?

For us, the major challenge we’ve faced is access to funding. There are a number of great projects we would love to start, but can’t at the moment. The way we tackle this issue is by working as a lean startup, investing proceeds back into the business and framing our projects as minimum viable projects. This system significantly minimizes our cost.


Tell us how you have harnessed social media in creating brand awareness for your business

Social media has been integral to our business model. As a design company, it’s a perfect match. We’ve used Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to showcase our designs and close to 95% of our clients are those that see our work on social media.

Since inception of your business how have you been able to increase your clientele-base overtime?

First, by creating top notch work and guaranteeing an awesome experience from the point of contact by the client to the delivery of the final design project. We’ve greatly benefited from referrals and have not had to spend a dime on marketing. However, as we’re constantly growing the team, we’ll be using social media ads to pull in clients.

What mantra do you live by that motivates you as an entrepreneur?

Make a product people love and create value.

Tell us about the future plans for your business & other plan you have.

The medium term goal is to take Akanka beyond the Nigerian market; to the international markets where margins are much higher. We have other side projects that will act as new revenue sources and potentially surpass Akanka itself. We also have plans to offer training to freelance designers.

What advice would you give to young budding entrepreneurs, and those who are very scared of leaving their 9-5 jobs to launch out their business idea?

First, ensure you have a viable business model. People must want to buy your product on a sustainable and ongoing basis. Your brilliant idea needs to actually work in reality. Second, if you’re looking to be cool and have flexible hours, forget startup life – it is brutal. Third, whatever you’re doing, make sure you’re so good people can’t ignore you.

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