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Young Leader of the Week: Sunkanmi Ola (Founder, Syracuse Digital)

Posted by Admin | 4 years ago | Filed Under Entrepreneurship

Sunkanmi is a result oriented, open minded & highly confident digital enthusiast. A tactical leader, team builder with the ability to attract and secure key team players, he has been actively involved in 2 successful startups so far.


After finishing university in 2012, Sunkanmi Ola founded a digital advertising agency when he saw a gap in the market. During the venture’s early days Ola kept close contact with a mentor who gave him leads on when companies where taking pitches from advertising agencies to market their brands. Today, Sunkanmi is the founder, CEO and chief digital strategist for his registered company, Syracuse Digital, which helps brands translate their marketing activities online.


His most recent startup currently handles the entirety of the digital marketing activities of a prominent Telco in the West Africa. He has proven success in motivating clients to invest in groundbreaking digital approaches, creating digital firsts for the brands he has handled in the process. His specialties include Integrated Digital Marketing, Strategy Planning, Digital operations & Business Development.


Sunkanmi speaks to YBLN about his journey and experiences as a young entrepreneur. 


Please tell us about yourself and what you do?

My name is Sunkanmi Ola, and I am a tech entrepreneur. I started a digital marketing agency six years ago called Syracuse digital. Syracuse digital handles digital marketing, branding and promotions for brands and businesses. We are an award-winning agency and have worked for big and small brands across Africa. About two years ago, I also rolled out a startup called Hirefreehands - a freelance service workplace where enterprises and entrepreneurs can hire pre-verified top-quality freelancers at affordable prices. Hirefreehands offers quality control and project management assistance to ensure value for work and money.



Where was the idea of your business derived from?

The idea was derived from opportunity. Around 2010, social media marketing and digital marketing was unexplored in Nigeria. Back then, I and a group of like-minded people who had an interest in digital marketing were learning through online resources and studying agencies from other countries and we found out that there was an opportunity for this locally in Nigeria.



What challenges did you face as a startup?

There were points where we did not have an office at the time where we were starting and we had to creatively find ways around solving problems. You needed to be able to prove to clients that you could provide value even when it did not reflect in your outlook. We’ve gone through the regular challenges every small growing business face in Nigeria: Power outage, High running cost, you can’t really compete financially with bigger agencies. For us, one of our challenges was our inability to get the best hands in the industry so we trained ourselves, for a long time what we did was to take a fresh entrant and teach the person over a long period. By doing this, we were able to infuse the DNA of the agency into the person until the person became a professional. We’ve made mistakes, championed highly successful campaigns, lost clients and acquired International brands. Business is a learning curve



What is your greatest entrepreneurial achievement?

I have had a couple of success points but being listed on Forbes Africa 30 under 30 is so far my biggest recognition.



Can you talk us through your recipe for building an effective team to achieve great results?

Syracuse is just one large team, we don’t follow the structure of work subordinacy. It’s a kind of team where an intern can have a meeting with the CEO discussing ideas. We believe this break down the walls in the general office setting and allow ideas to flow more creatively. This also allows us to establish relationships where we can easily learn from one another. There is still going to be someone superior or someone with more experience but at the end of the day, it is a flat structure. Everybody is accessible and this builds a strong bond among team members. We all learn from each other and also get involved in each other’s work. While this might sound counterproductive, the result is that it allows for an understanding as well as creates an avenue to see things from different perspectives. Work experience is not a necessary hiring requirement. What is needed is the zeal and interest to learn. We’re friends outside of work and are passionately committed to our work so much that team members come in during the weekends and public holidays at their own free will to work on pending tasks. Our team members are also allowed to work from home on selected days for an effective work-life balance. This has proven to be effective in increasing the productivity levels of our team members.


Who and what inspires you?

I like winning. I like to succeed. I like to over-impress. I strive for perfection with the back knowledge that perfection is unachievable. What this means is that there is always a better way to do things and this keeps me working to be better every time. I enjoy victories, I enjoy seeing clients satisfied as it gives me satisfaction as well.


Who inspires me?

I have a couple of mentors who I look to for inspiration. Personally, My Uncle, Mr. Solanke who is also in the advertising industry- has been an inspiration to me all along, right from when I started until now, my dad as well has shown me the best ways to doing businesses.


In terms of founders, I look to Brian Chesky, founder of Airbnb. I like his business model.  I like his backstory and what his company stands for today. I aspire to be on that level. It’s a blend of everything.



Top 3 inspirational books you’ve ever read? 

I think my number one would be the art of thinking clearly by Rolf Dobelli. My second is Good to Great by James Collins and the third is You only have to be right once by Randall Lane.


What are the top three websites/ Blog you can’t imagine your day without?



Ted App for Ted Talks


What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

There’s no “best advice”. I have received so many good advice which has helped me at different points in my entrepreneurial journey.



If you had one piece of advice for someone just starting a business in Nigeria, what will it be?


Two things. First, do your homework. When I say do your homework, I mean getting delusions out of the way to avoid getting carried away by the idea of doing something rather than actually doing it. Have a plan, but understand that your plan won’t always go the way you’ve laid it out.  Be ready for changes along the way, be ready for a lot of disappointments and be ready to be consistent. Understand that the fact that things are not working the way they should means there is something for you to do. You have to be able to quickly come up with solutions when problems arise. An entrepreneur is a problem solver, so you need to face your problems head-on and when starting, you need to have this at the back of your mind: you are going to face a lot of challenges, face one problem at a time, try not to get overwhelmed and channel your inner will to pull through.







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