By Agatha Emeadi
Adebusoye Ayokunle Solomon aka Klala caught the vision of photography and cinematography early and sustained it through social strategy, innovations, wisdom and the grace of God.
In this interview, Adebusoye, the brain behind Klala Films and Photography Academy International, said he’s glad to give back to the society, as he recently trained and equipped 30 Nigerian youths free of charge. Here are excerpts:
How did the journey start before it became what it is today?
I am from Ondo West Local Government Area of Ondo State. I graduated from Ekiti State University where I studied Accounting, and I did my National Youth Service in Adamawa State as a teacher. Three months after my service, I got my first job with Aviation Logistics for Virgin Atlantic as a Customer Liaison Officer. We were trained on document fraud and other activities within the international airport. After two years, I resigned and joined Virgin Nigeria as a national flag career. After two and a half years, I resigned to study photography at London School of Photography. I returned to Nigeria to start my business, and here we are today.
So, what happened next?
While I was working with the airlines, it gave me the opportunity to travel wide; and I bought my first equipment through hard savings. Then, I began to unleash all that was stored in me. At the same airlines, the moment the last flight took off, I joined the American online cinematography class for six months. So, I was trained as a photographer and cinematographer. In 2006, I got my first visa to the United Kingdom and bought my first camera, Canon 7D. We were about five people that owned that kind of camera in Nigeria. That was how the studio picked up.
How did you break into the market and stay on top?
As a fresher, nobody believed in me. So, I raised money to shoot a musical video, and that was my unique selling point, and a bird in the hand. I took it round to show people that I am a photographer, cinematographer and filmmaker who can shoot musical videos as well. Then in 2007, I got a deal that fetched me N200,000 and I used the money to purchase a well-configured laptop, because I needed it badly for editing. Later, I shot a couple of musical videos for Nigerian artistes and started editing videos as well.
How did photography come into the picture?
Way back in secondary school, my cousin wanted to have a birthday party, and I was meant to be the Master of Ceremony (MC) and photographer but I had no camera. I banked on someone who failed me. So, I used the money meant for my JAMB form to buy Fuji films thinking I would recoup it, but could not. My father, who believed so much in education, discovered what I did and was bitter and almost disowned me. He gave me the slaps of my life, saying ‘you mean you spent the money meant for your education on camera; do you want to become a photographer?’ I apologised and he bought me another JAMB form, which got me into University of Ado Ekiti.
However, I started taking pictures from year 1, but by 300 Level, I had contested for the position of Social Director and lost. In my 400 Level, I won the post unopposed and started organising shows like JAMBites Night, Miss Campus, Award Nights and the first ever Most Beautiful Girl in Ekiti State, which was sponsored by Coca Cola. That was how the idea and interest in photography started.
How did Klala become a brand name?
My being a social person has affected my life seriously. Students knew and addressed me as Klala. It’s the same name everybody called me including my late father. When I set up my business, I did not look for any name; I maintained the one I was known with.
What was the turning point for you?
The turning point came because I am a strategist. From day one, I worked on meeting up with my customers that need my services. I penned down what to do with my clients, and it worked for me. Again, I tried to pen down how I would get to the top, so I studied the industry and the clients; and I chose my kind of photography and how it would appear. I know that clients who need photographers would also need cinematographers. Since I had the two trainings, I put them together knowing that both works together, and it really worked in my business strategy.
Could you talk about Klala Academy that graduated freely trained students?
As a businessman, I mapped out a strategy and prayed God to help me. I refused to shoot, but rather be in the office to edit. I got guys and trained them effectively on shooting while I edit. The division of labour gave the business a professional touch and people saw me as a game-changer, because my concepts, ideas and services looked different. I started getting training requests not minding our cost over the years. But because it is our 11th anniversary, I wanted to train 11 people for free but 130 applied. I cut the number down to 180, and 33 people showed up on the interview date. I took all and trained them for six months. Today, I am happy that I have touched lives and given back to the society, while also reducing unemployment. I did not just train, I also equipped them to become strategists, and start up their own businesses with tools. And now, they have a lot in their portfolios.