Eddie Oliech, a budding professional photographer and videographer, has successfully turned his passion into a business. He is currently in his senior year at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, pursuing a degree in mass communication and majoring in broadcast.
How did you land into photography as your passion?
Photography has always been my passion since childhood. I’d watch my big brother, who is also practicing the same, travel to beautiful places and take magnificent pictures. He was also well known for it and this made me look up to him. The fact that I could also travel to those beautiful places, take splendid pictures and be famous for it, made me delirious. I knew this is what I wanted.
What convinced you that you can actually turn photography into a business while in school?
I recall a time we were given an assignment- to go out and take pictures within the school compound. I found a couple of friends relaxing at the school park and requested to take pictures of them. After seeing the pictures, my friends strongly advocated I start my own production company. This is when it hit me that I could actually make money from it.
So how did you take the first step towards making it a business?
I have a friend whose cousin had a camera he wasn’t actively using. He borrowed it and we decided to partner up and test the waters. I was to be the photographer while he was to be the editor. His name is Sammy Alomba. We started off by taking pictures of our friends at a small fee. In August 2018, we decided to brand ourselves as EA productions. You can find us on Instagram @eaproductionske, twitter @eaproductionske and YouTube @eaproductionske. We didn’t get our first big gig till November 2018. A friend invited us to a graduation after party to cover the event as the photographers. We stayed at the event for about 2 days documenting it. The money was really good, compared to what we were making earlier. This now set pace to the start of our journey as professional photographers for hire.
Considering you are a student, how do you juggle between school and business?
It’s all about proper planning and time management. I mostly schedule my photoshoots when I don’t have a class. I can compromise with my client we schedule at a different time when it clashes with my class hours. However, it doesn’t always work this way, some clients won’t have it any other way so I have to skip class. It is tempting because I don’t want to lose the money and anyway, I can recover the lost lesson by borrowing notes later. Haha.
How did you roll out your plan of capital acquisition and covering the expenses incurred?
As I mentioned earlier, my friend’s cousin lent us the camera for free. This was such a financial relief on our side, because purchasing a camera is very expensive. We mostly incur expenses like transport and purchasing items needed by our clients during a photoshoot -like those birthday balloons. We inject some of our profits back to the business to cover these expenses and sometimes our pocket money if we have to.
What marketing strategies do you have in place?
We mostly market through our friends. They share our pictures on their social media platforms and also refer us to their friends. We also have our social media platforms, that’s how we are able to reach a bigger audience.
How do you beat competition?
There are so many photographers in our school area but what makes us stand out, is the quality services we provide. We ensure that our pictures are of quality and the client’s needs are met to the latter. We also plan on getting better equipment to expand and better our services. It’s always my joy to see a client satisfied, so I do my level best. This also helps in retaining customers and getting more referrals. It’s another marketing strategy.
How has your growth been like since you started, and what do you attribute it to?
Since we started, that is about a year ago, our growth has been tremendous. I remember at first, we would charge clients 50/- per picture but then we noticed that this wasn’t much profitable, plus we’d consume a lot of time for small pay. Take for example, a client would request 4 pictures and we’d spend several hours shooting for only 200/-. So instead, we started charging 1500/- per hour. Our friends have been of great help in our growth. It is through their referrals and connections that we are able to land some of our big clients. We also do a ton of research on how to better our services. We are also where we are because of God’s favor on us. We put God first in everything we do.
What challenges and risks do you face?
Getting new equipment is very expensive and you will find that other photographers have better equipment than you, so they will outshine you and be a tough competition. Other photographers put very low charges, hence some clients would prefer them over you. Friends can sometimes expect you to give them photoshoots at extremely low prices and that’s bad business. Other times, a client can cancel the shoot at the last minute after you have already cleared your schedule and even spent your transport. At times, a client who lives far may request a photo shoot session at night, so travelling with the photoshoot equipment at night can be a bit risky.
What motivates you?
When I look back from where I started and where I am now, I have made great progress hence it’s a great motivating factor. I have very supportive parents. My mum being my biggest supporter, with her constant assurance of always keeping me in her thoughts and prayers. This always gets me through the rough days. My friends too encourage and support me every step of the way. I strongly believe in myself and will stop at nothing till I reach my goals. Also the fact that other upcoming photographers in school approach me for guidance, motivates me to do better and be a good example to others.
What is your vision?
I want my production company to grow and expand. Plans are underway to open a production studio this coming August. This will enable us take studio photos as we currently aren’t doing any. We already have potential investors who are willing to help us. Aside from photography, I started doing videography. I can say photography has paved way for me to venture into videography since they are almost similar. Recently, we’ve shot a music video with upcoming music artists from JKUAT, something I’m eager to show to the world. It will be debuted on our YouTube page soon. I hope to work with big clients and one day be on TV as one of the best producers.
Three key lessons you have learnt so far as an entrepreneur
Family and friends can go a long way in supporting you and helping you grow. On the flip side, they can also be your downfall if you are not careful.
Know your worth, this will prevent you from stooping below your actual value.
The experience you get every day is very important for your growth.
Your thoughts on employment
I don’t dream of ever working a 9-5. If I am to work, it will be for a short while and the reason will be to get more experience, form connections and strong networks or to get capital to further finance my business.
What are the highlights in your business journey so far?
A friend hooked me up with a gig to be the videographer at a big school event known as JKUAT TechExpo9. it was a huge moment for me as felt like a taste of what I plan on doing in future. There was also an event by Pharmaceuticals Society of Kenya in which I was again chosen to cover the event. This has been the biggest moment for me so far. Doing what I love in the presence of big names like Kiraitu Murungi and CS Secily Kariuki feels amazing. It’s a milestone for me and I really look forward to more of such moments in future.