My Business Story

Against All Odds, Entrepreneur Turns Hobby Into Thriving Business

After a spell of resistance, entrepreneur finds his first client in the family and turns his camera into a valuable business asset

Professional photography is a threatened occupation. Or isn’t it? In an age when computers, smartphones and image-enhancing apps appear to have made commercial photography redundant, one young man has decided to dig deeper and carve a niche for himself.

Recalling how he got into photography, Henry Oji said, “I think photography found me. Growing up, I’ve always loved art  but I was never allowed to explore  it because mum said artists don’t make much.  Sometime in 2011, I got a camera for leisure and fun purposes and that fun has metamorphosed into what it is today.”

What buying a camera for fun metamorphosed into is Big H Studios, a commercial photo studio Henry registered in 2012, while still at his day job until 2016. 

Of course, dumping white-collar job for professional photography would always be a hard sell to a family, which had already made it clear that Henry did not belong to the creative industry.

Business brief:
Business started 2012

He narrated how his family received his decision: “Coming from a corporate sector and going into the creative sector was never going to be easy. How do you explain to your folks that you want to leave a steady stream of income and start taking pictures? You’ll hardly find any Nigerian parent who would welcome such news, but today I’m grateful for all the support I get from my family. It wasn’t always so but they didn’t also kill my dream even though they had the power to do so.”

Support from family didn’t come early. It means that Henry didn’t have the liberty to formally learn the trade he was passionate about, and that slowed down his progress. 

He recalled: “The major challenge I’ve faced is not going to school to study photography or art. I would have avoided some mistakes, but I don’t regret because I’ve learnt from them and it has formed the photographer that I am today. I’ve also spent a lot of time on self-training – online videos and classes to make up for not having a formal education in photography.”

Ironically, Henry’s first client turned out to be his sister. Even at that, he didn’t request full payment for the service he rendered. But it was a good omen, considering the fact that Abuja doesn’t appear to be a place where photography could flourish as a sustainable business.

Henry was optimistic when asked how he was keeping busy and profitable in a capital city renowned more for politics than for creativity: “Abuja is a budding market. Everything is growing and blossoming at its own pace. A lot has changed in the industry since we started. Professionals used to be brought in from Lagos and other places to do jobs here because no one takes the creative space in Abuja seriously, but I like to think that the best time to pitch your tent in any sector is when it’s not recognized. That way you grow with it and form a strong base there. A lot of my colleagues are doing great things here.”

Professionals used to be brought in from Lagos and other places to do jobs here because no one takes the creative space in Abuja seriously, but I like to think that the best time to pitch your tent in any sector is when it’s not recognized.

A 2006 graduate of International Business from the East London University, England, Henry knows a thing or two about sustaining a budding business. But there was one key thing he didn’t know about commercial photography before delving into it. “Surprises and challenges come with the job and I’ve learnt valuable lessons and become better with them. However, one notable surprise is that I didn’t know how capital-intensive this field of photography was,” he told us.

How then did he overcome the challenge? “I went into photography when I had a 9-5 job. I only went into it full-time two years ago, so I used the proceeds from my day job to fund some of my equipment purchase. My mum owed me at the time and the moment she paid I put it all back into my business. My family has equally helped immeasurably.”

Although the King’s College alumnus has never taken a bank facility because, according to him, it kills business if one doesn’t have a proper repayment strategy in place. Henry is open to some sort of sponsorship for the next phase of his expansion.

Looking to the future, he said, “We moved into our own space two years ago,we are looking to expand and explore other value chains in the creative sector  like printing, training and equipment rental. We currently operate a photography school, which helps in grooming the next generation of photographers in Abuja. We plan on reaching a wider range of people with these services in the nearest future.”