Take Note - spotlight on creatives

TAKE NOTE – SHINING A SPOTLIGHT ON CREATIVES OF COLOUR

I spoke to a few creatives, wanting to shine a spotlight on them, their stories and their motivations. Learn why you should Take Note of these creative men and women.

Tola Okogwu

Tola Okogwu - author
Image from Tola Okogwu

Tola is a Children’s Author, Journalist and Natural Hair blogger based in Kent. Her successful ‘Daddy Do My Hair’ Children’s book series celebrates the relationship between a dad and his natural-haired daughter.


Hi Tola, what inspired your book series?

The book series were inspired by my daughter and my struggle to find children books which represented her and her world. There is a shocking lack of diversity in children’s books, especially featuring BAME characters. Only one percent, to be precise, of all books published in the UK in 2017. I’m a trained journalist and have been blogging about afro haircare for almost 10 years. When inspiration for the books struck, it was entirely natural that the narrative would be entered around Afro hair. Especially as it’s one of the hottest topics for black women.

Amazing! How did you go about getting PR and press coverage for your book series and also your services as a natural hair coach?

My experience as a blogger has made me keenly aware of the value of PR and marketing. I didn’t have a big marketing budget so paying for advertising was out of the question. I also didn’t have time to ‘do it myself’, so with the first book in the series, I reached out to a traditional book PR agency who specialise in working with self publishers. Using a mix of her PR contacts and my blogging contacts were were able to get a good mix of coverage. However, with the third book in the series, I decided to go with a black-owned PR agency, Ronke Lawal’s Ariatu PR as I felt I needed more focused strategy to hit my target demographic. It helps that as a writer I’m able to contribute to publications and write opinion pieces.

As well as being an author, a hair coach and journalist, you own your own publishing company. How important is professional branding to you and the many hats you wear?

Professional branding is everything, especially in my line of work. As a hair care coach and natural products advocate, it took me a long time to realise that people are more interested in me and my story than the products I am selling. It’s still very much a work in progress streamlining what my brand and messaging is but it is important to me that it be authentic.


The Classic Manny

The Classic Manny - YouTuber
Image from The Classic Manny

The Classic Manny – or Emmanuel Andrew – is a Men’s Style and Lifestyle YouTuber based in London. He created The Creative Con, which is a platform which shares opportunities for creatives.


Hi Manny! What inspired you to start The Creative Con platform?

The Creatives Con was actually inspired by an event that I had a year before our launch known as Black British YouTubers Brunch (BBYB). The event was a success even beyond my wildest imaginations. A lot of people, even those that weren’t YouTubers were asking for an event like BBYB. As a creative person, I’ve always enjoyed supporting people through social media, but I wanted to create a platform where I could do more than just the bare minimum. I wanted to create a platform that had the perfect balance of showcasing the popular faces as well as the fresh talent on the rise. That is the statement I wanted to make with my platform.

When you decided to start The Creative Con, alongside your thriving YouTube channel, how important was professional branding and marketing to you?

Professional branding is so vital and I think it is something that a lot of creatives overlook. Branding is one thing that we have made clear that we look for when it comes to featuring creatives on The Creatives Limelight, our talent spotlight. This is because if we share a creative or creative platform, we want our followers to easily find their content when they click on their page or website. People think branding is based on numbers or investing a lot money, which for the most part isn’t the case. Basic branding includes things like having the same social media handle everywhere, putting links to your work in your tweets or bio, shamelessly promoting your content on your social media pages, building a portfolio, just making it easier for people to discover and reach you and your work.

It is still early days for The Creative Con but what is the legacy you plan for the platform?

I want The Creatives Con to be known as the platform that cares about supporting creatives. It brings me so much joy to know that creatives already feel encouraged just by being acknowledged or appreciated on our social media. We also want to use our engagement, influence and knowledge to actually push creatives out of their comfort zones, guide and support them in any and every way that we possibly can. We have a few things coming that we hope will continue to do just that and beyond.


Pawlean

Pawlean - digital developer
Image from Pawlean

Pawlean – or Pauline Narvas – is a digital developer, content creator and public speaker. She has been coding since she was 8 years old and is currently working at EE in Digital Engineering.


Hi Pauline. What inspired you to start coding, especially at such a young age?

I love sharing this story. I used to play this online game and because I was eager to improve features on the game, I decided to learn how to build my own website. It took trial and error and countless hours stuck to my computer trying to understand and learn the basics of developing a website. Eventually, I built one where I uploaded some of my game drawings and plans. The whole process sparked something in me and over the years, I gradually built up my knowledge of web development. Now I’ve built several sites for myself, had a couple of developer jobs and even clients of my own… all from something that developed from a fun hobby!

And why do you think it is important for creatives particularly to learn how to code?

It doesn’t matter if you want to become a developer or not, I think learning how to code is such a vital skill in today’s world. I believe that coding strengthens creativity and switches on a different way of thinking that can really empower and inspire creatives with their craft. You don’t have to know it all but it’s good to know foundations to better your work. My knowledge of what is going on behind the scenes has definitely helped with my own creative work. For instance, I can build my own sites in a way that showcases my personal brand in the light I want, I’m in full control. It’s empowering!

You hold a degree in BSc (Hons) Biomedical Sciences with Employment Experience from my university, the University of Sheffield, how did you transition from an academic background into what you do now? Was it a large leap or did you have quite transferable skills?

I have to stress that I absolutely loved my degree! I think a lot of folks think that if you don’t go into the field you studied, you must’ve hated it but that’s not true at all. Although stressful at times, I left with knowledge about how we work which I use every single day in my journey to becoming a better me. The leap was overwhelming, I’m not going to lie! The day I decided that I wasn’t going to pursue a degree in the health field after planning it since I was 16 was absolutely terrifying. But as I started to plan this new path and progressed through, it got less and less overwhelming. I began to become more confident in the skills I was sharpening from being self-taught along with the new stuff I was taking in. Transitioning into the working world was difficult, but when you choose the right company, it can make it less anxiety-inducing. I feel like I’ve had a lot of support going into my role and team within Digital Engineering in EE which has helped a lot in the transition.

Peace&Love.

Paula Melissa xx

Paula Melissa is a digital content creator, portrait photographer and freelance journalist. Since starting a blog in 2012 and graduating from the University of Sheffield with a Journalism Studies with Employment Experience degree in 2019, Paula has gone on to create and grow her own dynamic digital media empire. She loves reading, eating and spending time with her dog, Rolfie.
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