Bolu Bello -CEO of Musta


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If you’re asking how to turn your side hustle into a real business, then ideally you will have already identified a product or service that has proved itself to be profitable.

Once upon a time, side hustles were just for people who were struggling to make ends meet from their main jobs. Now, a lot of us have side hustles; from students to professors, from creatives to corporates. Why?

Well for most it’s because life is getting more expensive, so we need more streams of income. But for others, life is becoming more stressful, and so doing something that they are passionate about is a great stress release from their every day routines. Whatever the case may be, when you do decide to make the transition from side hustle to real business, it’s essential that you do it properly.

Bolu Bello -CEO of Musta
Bolu Bello – Image by Paula Melissa Photography

My name is Bolu Bello, and I am the Director of MUSTA Talent Management, a company that provides management services for upcoming creatives and artists. For me, about a month into my LLB Law and Criminology degree, I just knew that I wasn’t going to be a practising lawyer.

I could not begin to recount my story of how MUSTA came to be without attributing it to the time I spent as the President of the African- Caribbean Society (ACS) at my University. That experience changed me so much as a person, in terms of how I saw myself, and how I valued my individualised assets and capabilities.

At the time, I was having a discussion with a friend who was complaining about how they would perform at events, and then not receive the payment they were promised. One thing led to another, but the confidence that I had gained in myself, meant that when this my friend asked me to manage them, I said yes straight away.

Now, I knew absolutely nothing about management. All I knew was that this person must have had as much faith in me as I had in myself- and that was enough for me. Thus, MUSTA Talent Management was born – unofficially – in July 2017. Fast-forward to July 2018, I had successfully completed my undergraduate degree and was now a graduate.

So, I had to ask myself just what was next for me. Having weighed up the options in front of me, I very quickly came to the conclusion that talent management was what I was clearly passionate about, and so I made the decision to pursue it.

When wanting to become ‘legit’ as it were, one must first ask ‘if’ and ‘why’ the shift is necessary. Bolu Bello

Then one must consider whether this is a sustainable decision. If you are satisfied and convinced that this is the way for you to go, then you should then consider taking the following steps.

STEP ONE: Register

When it comes to registering, majority of people know that a company has to be registered with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) via Companies House. However, a lot of people are unaware that someone who is self-employed is required to register as a sole trader. You must be thinking, what is the difference?

Consider this analogy:

When you shop in a Tesco store, you are buying your products from Tesco. You are not buying those products from Sue on the till who is administering the transaction. This is because Sue is merely an employee of the Tesco Company. On the other hand, if Franc sold you new tyres for your car and was the direct owner of those products, then you would have bought the tyres directly from Franc since he does not have a company that he operates under. Therefore, he is sole-trader.

The biggest difference, however, remains in terms of legal liability. If you are a sole-trader then should the business cave in, the financial liability is on you as an individual. For a company, if the business caves in then there is limited liability for individual persons.

Howbeit, there are a lot of common misconceptions regarding registering:

  1. The terms ‘business’ and ‘company’ are not synonymous- you do not have to have a “company” to have a trading business.
  2. You can be both employed and self-employed.
  3. Even if you are the Director or Founder of a company, you are still considered an employee.
  4. Being a sole-trader doesn’t mean you can’t hire other people to help you do your work.

For tax and accounting purposes, it is essential that you choose the right option for you. You can read more about this here:

STEP TWO: Brand Development

Some people like to do this before registering, but I personally recommend doing it after, just because the route that you take (i.e. sole trader or limited company) will ultimately affect the way in which you put together and develop your brand’s essence.

I decided that I wanted to set up a company, and so more than anything, what my company stood for became of upmost importance to me. Now, this was something that I didn’t understand quite how to navigate, so I did what most people do and ignored it, instead turning my attention to the visual side of the brand. I actually recall like yesterday, that I put out a tweet asking if anyone could help me construct my website copy.

Thankfully for me, I was responded to by a gentleman called Ola (‘@Dimejilpaye’ on Twitter) who as a branding strategist, basically told me that website copy was the least of my worries, in that accurate website copy couldn’t be produced if I didn’t have a clear brand vision.

And so, we began the process of answering questions e.g. what I wanted the brand to achieve, who the target audience was and what the brand colours should be. It was a very extensive and thorough process, which often meant long phone calls. However, it was worth it, because I now have everything about the MUSTA brand, clearly in a brand guide.

At the time it didn’t even occur to me how much the brand vision is linked to the brand’s visual identity. In my mind I just wanted my logo to look aesthetically-pleasing, I didn’t realise that the brand logo actually sends a subconscious underlying message about the brand itself. With Ola’s help, we were able to come up with a logo that not only looks good but has an intrinsically deeper meaning. I would advise taking the time to intentionally do this process of brand development- it will save you a lot of money further down the line.

STEP THREE: Website + Social Media

Step three is all about going digital. We live in a world where people are now more connected than ever (we have the internet the thank for that), and as it goes, people are more trusting of brands that have an online presence. So as a brand, you have to learn to take advantage of this.

Currently, I am in the process of having my website developed by the MXMI Group (‘@MXMIGROUP’ on Twitter). Ola’s carefully put together brand guide meant that it was easy to communicate my expectations to my developer in terms of quality, standard, messaging and the colour scheme. I look forward to launching the website really soon!

Another important aspect of the digital side of things, is the use of social media for both engagement and marketing purposes.

A few months ago, I was blessed enough to come across a social media management agency that I have since fallen in love with (‘Love It, Like It, Share It’ on Facebook), who are actively in the process of putting out some great brand content for MUSTA. Again, they were able to understand the message, the tone, and the desired impact, all because of the detailed brand guide.

With these three steps you can’t go wrong, and from there you should develop and grow further. The process has been a long one, and it has often seemed like an uphill battle at times, but what has kept me strong and motivated is knowing that my service is of value and so I’m desperate for the whole world to know that. I was so privileged to have met the right people along the way, who have been informed and been instrumental for the brand that I have today.

I am extremely optimistic for the future of my brand now that everything is falling into place. But, if you are struggling and need some more personalised advice, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with me- I would love to hear from you.

Follow Bolu on Twitter: @bolu_bello


Connect with MUSTA too!

Facebook: MUSTA

Twitter: @withmusta

Instagram: @withmusta

Peace & Love.

Paula Melissa xx

Bolu is the Director of Musta Talent Management, a company who offer a management service for all types of creatives. In addition to this, Bolu also provides consultations, email management, feedback and reviews for a variety of clients. In her spare time Bolu is quite the restaurant connoisseur who enjoys city breaks and amateur photography.
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