Damola: Turning Worn-Out Pieces To Masterpieces
DAMOLA Badejo’s economic empowerment and creative development is best understood from the lyrics of the 1986 advert song for Coca Cola: “I am the future of the world, I am the hope of my nation, I am tomorrow’s people, I am the new inspiration, and we’ve got a song to sing to you, we’ve got a message to bring to you, we’ve got a dream for you and for me and tomorrow (tomorrow) .If we all can agree, there’ll be sweet harmony, tomorrow, tomorrow, and we all will be there….”
With these words, Damola shaped her future as far back as when she was around the age of five. Inspired to make the best out of life, she would always stand up, place her hand on her chest and recite like ABC, the lyrics of the jingle any time it is being played.
Born on January 31, 1981 in Lagos, she had her primary and secondary education in Lagos after which she set her mind on pursuing a career in the creative industry. But her father wanted her to study Accounting. She eventually gained admission to a university in London to study Accounting but as destiny would have it, the embassy denied her visa. That was sad news to her father but it was the beginning of living on the right path for Damola.
She got admitted into the University of Lagos to study Psychology and emerged the department’s best graduating student of the 2002 set. She later obtained Master’s Degree in Marketing from University of Glamorgan, United Kingdom in 2007 where she also graduated as the best student.
Since she wanted to make impact in the creative industry, Damola joined Bates Cosse, a Lagos-based advertising agency in 2005. “I had fun creating memorable and award-winning ads while working at Bates Cosse but I left in 2010 to build my own brand. I started out with a bag company called 28 The Bag Company.
“On the international scene, I was invited by the New Jersey Fashion Week twice because of the bags which I designed but over here in Nigeria at that time, I was battling with what we call ‘Country of Origin’ effect. But that did not get me down as I was (and I am still) determined to create world-class brands from Nigeria,” she reminisced.
Regretting the attitude of Nigerians towards made-in- Nigeria goods, Damola said: “I don’t want to produce abroad and bring them to Nigeria. That would have solved the two major challenges we had and would even have been more affordable, but you know Nigerians, they won’t always appreciate made-in-Nigeria goods.”
Not satisfied with the success of the bag company, she launched Crossroads IMC Nigeria and Blue Frog Creations Limited. While Crossroads IMC specialises in consulting for brands, advertising agencies and companies, Blue Frog Creations was launched as an art-oriented business to cater for the less privileged, particularly children and juveniles. The focus is to create soft toys called Babu made from donated second-hand socks, investing and re-investing at least 50 to 100 per cent of the profits into social change, economic empowerment and creative development.
“Our intentions are quite simple: turn waste to wealth, worn-out pieces to masterpieces; turn nonsense to sense, lost cause to social cause and change the way people respond and give to the poor. Of course, we are having a lot of fun encouraging creativity, love, sharing, and up cycling too. For some children in distressed situations like wars, getting a Babu from someone is like saying, ‘I may not be walking in your shoes right now, but I will give you my pair of socks to make it better it for you.’”, she said.
One may wonder the extent to which second-hand socks can go to finance a child’s education or meet other needs, but for Damola collecting the socks and creating value out of them is the real business. Currently gunning for the socks of global icons, what Damola does is to create value and importance on the toys made from the socks, depending on whose socks it is.
She then puts a price tag around it and again gets people from across the world into the gallery where the toys are displayed. Using her talents and skills to help people live better lives, she loves to play and believes that the world should play some more and spin like a carousel, “even if it spins on its axis already. Nothing equals the feeling of seeing a cheerful child and a gainfully employed person,” she stressed.
Her undying passion propelled her to launch the Blue Frog Academy (BFA), an art school for children from age three to 17. She said the academy was dedicated to discovering, nurturing and channelling young people’s creative energies into arts, design, and inventions. “We created an atmosphere where over a period of time, young people can find themselves through their talents, knowledge, skills and abilities. We focus on animation; game art, design and programming; graphic design; illustration and painting; origami, surface pattern designs; arts appreciation, interior designs, lighting and photography.
“We believe that all children deserve a happy childhood characterized by nutritious food, safe drinking water, good health, quality education and more room to play. Thus, through people’s simple consumer choices of buying our products and services, we would be ensuring what we call ‘The Triple Effect’: Empowering the persons making the soft toys through the work of heart social movement, encouraging more children to play, and solving specific social problems through our ‘built-in cost donation’ model.”
With more than 10 years experience in the creative industry in Nigeria, Damola has managed brands which include Interswitch, Cowbell, UBA, Wema Bank, ARM, UAC – Nandos and Safe Blood For Nigeria Foundation to mention but a few. What makes her particularly happy is that most of the campaigns she created with her teams eventually turned out as award-winning campaigns.
Earlier this year, she also launched a platform called ‘The Pon.’ An art-oriented business owned by Blue Frog Creations, the platform is focused on promoting a result-oriented culture across a community of people who understand their worth through their daily work contribution. The objective of the platform is to resolve the challenges young and visionary Nigerian entrepreneurs face in securing offices.
Her greatest regret is the fact that Nigeria doesn’t have a brand that is studied abroad in the area of brand management. “For instance, if you go to London Business School, you will hear about Marks and Spencer and other different brands from across the world, but you will not hear one that comes from Nigeria. This does not go down well with me because we can’t all be in this industry for years and not have a brand that can be studied in a school like London Business School.
“For me, brand management is life, hence, it means serving the customer well. We have a market of about 170 million people. If we focus on our products, we can reach the country and move borders,” she averred.