Bella Victor, CEO & Founder, Socialander Digital Agency
Bella Victor, who is currently aged 25, began his entrepreneurial journey at the age of 19 when he participated and won the Unilever Idea Trophy competition as an undergraduate, which sparked an interest to solve business problems in him. This entrepreneurial awakening led him to join a leading consulting firm (KPMG) upon graduation, where he was professionally nurtured in management consulting and given the foundation he needed to toe the path of digital marketing consultancy.
L-R Pamela Whiley, Yaw Nsarkoh, Former MD Unilever Nigeria and Bella Victor, winner, Unilever Ideatrophy Business Case 2015
“It was a great experience for me being at KPMG; seeing how they made their world-class service company work from the inside helped me pick key insights about structuring a company, guiding me till date. I quickly learned that you can’t build or scale this type of business without a solid structure. So, KPMG expanded my idea of how big an efficiently run business could become,” Bella said.
His venture into digital marketing and advertising came as a surprise to many people within his circle who had expectations of him to grow through the ranks and become one of the firm’s top consultants within 20 years or even less. They were met with a rather brief management consulting stint and his new plans for the future.
Bella Victor at KPMG Nigeria 2017
“Management Consulting had been around for centuries but digital marketing was still finding its footing in the global market while I was at KPMG. I always like to be number one and observing the consulting industry, it was clear that I may have to spend more than 20 years to be among the best or the top experts in the industry. This was not what I wanted and I saw an opportunity to do more in the newly emerging digital marketing space. Hence, I used my experience and knowledge gained to pursue the dream that keeps me awake.”
His dreams pushed him to work as a pro-bono digital marketer for a few family and friends as an undergrad. Fortunately, one of his mentors was impressed by the excellent results he achieved and became his first client.
“I started Socialander not long after I left KPMG, but the skillset the business is built on began paying while I was still volunteering to manage the personal social media profiles of mentors and some close senior friends. The catch was that most of them had high social repute offline, but little or no social media presence. After managing their social handles for a short while, they gained traction and were impressed by the results, and one of them then offered to pay me for my work. That was how I got my first paying digital marketing client,” said Bella.
According to Bella, his business relationship with his mentor waxed stronger as the results kept coming, and he (his mentor) soon advised him to build a business around his digital skills as they are highly sought after. Bella didn’t hesitate to take this piece of advice and registered the Socialander Digital Agency as a business. From there on, recommendations from his mentor poured in and kept the business afloat while improving Bella’s skills.
“Although I started alone, I brought in two close friends who were skilled in graphics design and content development to help grow the business. I set up the company mainly to solve the problems of people and businesses across Africa using digital skills and the right tools to drive growth. I noticed that most people are unaware of the untapped opportunities that lie in digital advertising and marketing and I decided to show it to them. It wasn’t about making money for me, I could do that as a freelancer or as an independent marketing consultant but I knew that I wanted to reach more African businesses to drive continental economic growth,” Bella Victor shared.
The passion of this young man is visible even to the blind. However, it is common for African business owners to face some challenges that are rather uncommon in comparison with their European or North American counterparts. Sometimes the lack of an enabling environment deters young entrepreneurs from continuing their entrepreneurial journey, especially when they have a team and founder as young as Bella Victor and his team, given the priority the environment gives to the aged.
“Being young and running a company in Nigeria is one of the biggest challenges we face at Socialander. In our growth journey, people often try to judge us by our age and looks not mainly by our capabilities or organizational efficiency. Sometimes, at meetings with senior executives of companies, we are welcomed with long faces and in some cases, a clear statement that they cannot work with us because they believe that we are too young to handle their project. One way we tackled this, in the beginning, was by relying on the same strategy I started with, doing an extreme amount of pro-bono jobs which quickly became the proof of competence most business leaders needed to approve of us and give their nods. These days, we have a body of work that proves our capability and our youthfulness is now an advantage sought after by businesses who get to work with us,” Victor revealed.
Despite the age stigma from some potential clients, Victor has not relented in hiring more youths. His agency which started as a one-man business and then a three-man team has now grown to a company with twenty full-time staff members, with skills that cut across key areas within the digital marketing industry. With an average age of 24 years, one might even begin to wonder if this young founder is aiming to build a ‘forever young business’.
“I would say that hiring young people is partly intentional and partly unintentional because we just seem to be closer to young talents that are digital creatives with the right skills. We do hope to keep our agency young, not just in age but in creative thinking because that is the core of all that we do; and that is why we are so different from many other agencies. I often say that I have the best team because regardless of what most people may think about young people, the crop of youths I work with are as creative and committed as can be. This enables us to deliver projects beyond our client’s expectations and causes the company to enjoy repeat businesses and countless referrals. Our youth is our superpower and although our flesh may age, we don’t plan to let our minds grow old,” said Bella.
Talking about project delivery and business impact, Bella shared that Socialander has worked on and assisted over 265 businesses since its inception, just about 3 years ago. This is no small feat even for digital agencies that have been in the industry longer than Socialander. We pressed further to understand how, and Bella was happy to talk about how his company has helped this staggering number of businesses in such a short time.
Bella explained that: “This has a lot to do with our brand goal as a company. At Socialander, we are more concerned about helping more businesses go digital, the money comes second. This is why we have been able to reach so many businesses and help them grow. If we had set a certain high payment requirement for businesses in need of our services, we wouldn’t have been able to work with 265 businesses toward their growth.”
He continued, saying: “We took things up a notch in supporting businesses across Nigeria when we unveiled our program “Socialander SME Launchpad” where we anchor a project that opens our expertise to 20 small and medium-sized businesses in the country per time, helping them with strategies and insights that help grow their businesses with or without our direct assistance in execution.”
The numbers show this strategy to be working, and observing the company’s founder, it is clear that he is no small dreamer, neither is he shy of chasing the goals that will make those dreams real, and executing them. This shone more as he disclosed some of the plans he has in store with Socialander Digital Agency.
“Sometime in 2018, I shared the aspirations I had for Socialander but as a business exponentially develops, one will begin to observe that some milestones are too little so you set even higher ones. This has been our case because as I said earlier, our goal is to help as many businesses in Africa go digital, irrespective of their budget or where they currently are. This for us means growing the African economy.”
He went on to say that; “I now understand that we need to look beyond what we already do, and where we are right now. Hence, Socialander Digital Agency is already working on more collaborations that will have us drive business growth for the digital future of Africa. In addition to the many business-enhancing partnerships that we will leverage to build the Africa we want, we are now working on digital products that will become extensions of who we are and satisfy the African business community in the best way or as we like to say, “The African Way.”