Born Tiwalola Olanubi Jnr, he is the CEO of Yaba, Lagos Mainland based creative digital agency, Dotts Media House, a full-service communications company focused mainly on PR/Digital Marketing, Branding, Activations/Tours and Management.
Founded in 2015, the tech company has grown to become unarguably the foremost social media marketing outfit in Nigeria and prides itself on the mandate to help established brands expand their reach and stay relevant in their various sectors.
Led by Tiwalola as the creative lead, the brand has since grown into a large pro-active team known popularly as ‘THE DMH TEAM’ with millions of followers on all its social media platforms combined.
As an individual with a keen understanding of the intricacies of social and digital media, Tiwalola was the first Blackberry Ambassador in Nigeria and was a nominee in the 2017 edition of the highly coveted The Future Awards Africa for his boisterous efforts in the Nigerian digital media space.
Tiwalola who cut his teeth as a Quantity Surveyor recently had a chat with Shittu Olusegun David where he shared his foray into PR and digital media and the struggles of a young entrepreneur based on the Lagos Mainland.
Why did you choose Social Media Marketing as a business considering your background in Quantity Surveying?
Tiwa: During my days at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) studying Quantity Surveying, I used to dress well and always part of anything that has to do with entertainment, while there, I realized that I was not passionate about Quantity Surveying but I enjoy things around promoting entertainment and events on campus. Before I knew it, I was moving towards the direction of media promotion. Luckily for me in my 300 level, Blackberry was coming to Nigeria and they were going to pick an ambassador, so I was part of the audition. After about five different types of interviews, I was picked as the first Blackberry ambassador in Nigeria. I was an ambassador for 3 years. This helped me to become a media professional and I decided to grow myself in social media skills. Immediately I graduated from school, I launched my media outfit Dotts Media.
What were the initial challenges to build a business around Social Media and how did you handle it?
Tiwa: Doing research in Nigeria is really difficult. One, because of the kind of restricted internet that we have, accessing training and courses online, these things are very important to your growth. When I wanted to start my own company, I was having a lot of problems doing research, who to intern under, and all sorts. There were not enough companies to intern under and internship is a big part of growing a company. It was a big challenge trying to convince big clients to give us their job even when they see that we are very good but because we are just starting and because of our own man track records, focusing on social media marketing meant we had to deal with only established companies.
How did you resolve the initial challenges?
Tiwa: Persistency helped a lot which goes to being an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, no matter the obstacle, you must make sure you keep going. For some of the clients we have worked with such as Pepsi, 9Mobile and others, it was initially difficult for them to give us jobs. Say, for example, we preach to them and they are scared that we can’t do this thing for a certain budget. So, what we do is doing a free sample for them to see our skills and through that, they know that we can do it. That then solves the problem. Also, mentorship is a major part of the growth, Adebola Williams the CEO Red Media is my mentor. He is very crucial to my growth as he is always advising and helping with ideas to grow.
At the time you ventured into this business, what was the mission you set to achieve? How has that mission evolved over the years?
Tiwa: Because I was passionate about media and I wanted to have a focus in the media industry, I had to focus on social media marketing, influencer marketing, campus activations and ad marketing that is connected to social media. I knew that I had a focus and our mission was to become number one social media marketing company in Nigeria and Africa and right now without us arguing about it, at least 80% of most campaigns trending on social media for the last three years has been done by Dotts Media. That has been our mission, to be the ‘good to go guys’ when it has to do with social media marketing and influencer management.
What will you do differently if you have the opportunity to start again?
Tiwa: The grace of God has been sufficient. Whenever I talked to people ahead of us, like the CEOs of other companies, anytime we are having a conversation they always repeat it that “we have grown so much in just three years” and I really don’t think that. If I or my team have done something wrong we wouldn’t have grown that fast. To be honest I don’t really plan a big company. I was just trying to have fun and enjoy social media and come up with strategies that can help companies promote and get results and while I was going on, I realised that this thing is getting me paid and I was just passionate about it. So I really don’t think there is something that I would do differently if I will start again.
What would you say was the most influential factor that contributed to your success?
Tiwa: What we do is really what has been able to make us move very fast. When you check the industry, you will not really see anybody that does this job like us. We started influencer marketing in Nigeria which is our core area and we are leading that space. We are the one that started it by coming up with the best strategies for influencers to run a campaign, so I think that was the edge. Like people always say, if you want to do something, do something unique, then you are going to move faster. We don’t have competitors like us so we get jobs outsourced to us even from agencies and some clients get the job and outsource it to us because they think that we are very good at it. So, having a core focus has helped us grown this fast.
Do you mean you don’t have competitors?
Tiwa: Right now, we have competitors but it’s very clear that we will deliver more than any other person. We are the leader in this sector.
Can you describe your greatest moment of success?
Tiwa: I think my greatest moment of success was when I was notified that I was nominated for The Futures Awards Africa 2017. Being nominated for The Future Awards is like winning from every others award to be honest. FOX has described the award as recognizing young Africans that are doing very well in their chosen industry. Getting that nomination for the price of Media enterprise has been the biggest achievement.
What is the biggest mistake you’ve made as an entrepreneur?
Tiwa: I will say not starting early. I think the best thing that can happen to any entrepreneur is to start chasing their dreams as early as possible, Also, I think another mistake too will be spending so much time on studying Quantity Surveying in the University when I ended up not practicing it. Although I will admit that studying the course has helped me deliver better in my business and it has been consequential in my dealings with clients.
What do you do during your challenging moments?
Tiwa: I pray, pray and pray. That’s it. Of course, work without prayer is like pouring water in a basket. So whenever I am faced with challenges with work or my clients, I go back to the drawing board with my team even if it takes us going back five or ten times till we get it right.
How is it like doing business on the Lagos Mainland compared to the island?
Tiwa: I really think for my kind of business in media, location does not really matter because we are always on the move a lot either doing activations in different states or doing event live updates in different parts of the city. However, my office is located on the Mainland and I wouldn’t pick anywhere better right now than the Mainland because the area is conducive for me. Quick access, less traffic, good light, proximity to our clients among others will make me pick the Mainland any time.
What is your advice to Lagos Mainland’s young aspiring entrepreneurs?
Tiwa: Like I said earlier, the best thing that can happen to any entrepreneur is to start chasing their dreams as early as possible. My advice is to start early as soon as that idea gets into your mind. You shouldn’t wait to start the execution.