"Businesses should learn how to re-invest quickly" — Kennedy Amos Jr, CEO The Konnect Brand

Kennedy Amos Jr

Kennedy Amos Junior is the CEO of The Konnect Brand. He is an adroit digital marketer. He is also an earth scientist and graphics designer. 

Kennedy in his interview with Biopreneur Nigeria provided insights into how his journey as an entrepreneur has been. He also spoke about how digital marketing can be harnessed for individual and business growth. 

Kennedy shared very profound lessons on digital marketing, branding, human resources management, and finances. Every entrepreneur regardless of industry will find this useful.

Read the interview below.

Queen Sarah: It's a pleasure to have you here, sir. Thanks for making yourself available for this interview with Biopreneur Nigeria. I trust you are doing very well this morning.

Can we meet you, sir?

Kennedy Amos Jr.: My name is Kennedy Amos Junior. I am the CEO of The Konnect brand. I am a graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU). I studied Geology. I am an earth scientist, digital marketer, and graphics designer. I have been designing graphics for the past seven years. In Konnect, we use digital marketing to help businesses connect to customers.

I am Niger Delta. I am from Rivers state. I live in Port Harcourt.

Queen Sarah: What was it like journeying into entrepreneurship? Was it easy? Was it a smooth ride?

Kennedy Amos Jr.: Starting out was pretty easy because I leveraged my social capital a lot at that point. I knew a lot of people and I think to an extent a lot of them trusted me. So it was easy getting the first set of people and it just became a network from there. In no time at all, we were able to get up to a hundred fifty or sixty on OAU campus alone at that point. The first day we launched was March 1st, 2019.  We put out an ad that we were advertising that same day and got a client. A few hours after, she got customers. We got our first review the same day we ran the first advertisement. 

So I think for me it was pretty easy and fun from the first day. I think it's not the same story a lot of people may have. But then, over time, the aspects of business that I did not know started to tell. Particularly, business administration and management. We had up to 160 people at the beginning and it increased to 300. There were issues that I did not know were there so those things started to tell over time and that's when I can say my entrepreneurship journey started becoming hard. 

Queen Sarah: Now that you are into digital marketing, what has been your experience? Has there ever been a time when you felt maybe you should just stop this or maybe this is just not for you?

Kennedy Amos Jr.: Digital marketing is a necessary field. Everybody is buying and selling now. It might sound complicated but digital marketing is still like a market online. The same way people are buying and selling in the regular market, that’s the same way we are doing it online. It’s just that we are using digital channels now. So it’s a necessary service. E-commerce is the way forward now. Almost everything you buy online, even if it's through WhatsApp, Instagram, or Jumia is digital marketing. So digital marketing is important and it has come to stay.

I don't think there has ever been a point I felt digital marketing was not for me because even before I started out, I saw that there is going to be a need for someone to link the customers and the people providing the products and services. If you really take a deep dive into the world of advertising and marketing, you will see how much of the world is tailored to advertising. The reason why sports, BB Naija and so many events make so much money is because of advertisers. That's what digital marketing entails and because that exists it’s never going to really stop. Because as long as people need to sell their products, they are going to need to market them to audiences to develop. So, there has never been a time I felt digital marketing is not for me. The only thing has been 'I want to get better at this. I want to rise to the top'. I've never doubted the fact that I should continue doing this. Maybe definitely change course and do things better, but not stop because it's never going to end. It's only going to get better. It's only going to get bigger.

Queen Sarah: Amazing! So I want to know what makes your brand unique in the digital marketing industry.

Kennedy Amos Jr.: Initially, what made us unique was we were first a campus social advertising agency. We were a group of students in different levels and departments coming together to pass across a single message.

So, initially, if we were publicizing something everybody will be able to reach out to the people within their class. And a large portion of the campus would be aware of whatever we were publicizing. That was what we did.

But now we are transitioning fully into a digital marketing organization. Although we've always been, we're taking more effort to be in the regular digital marketing services industry.

So I think what makes us unique now is our approach. We are focused heavily on the youth population because we believe and we know Nigeria has the largest population in the world. If you compare the ratio of the youth population in Nigeria, to the older population it is the highest. The median age in Nigeria is 18. So, we are focused on a lot of Youth because we know it's going to be a highly targeted demographic.

We are very creative. That's one of our selling points. We are reliable and trustworthy. We can only take in what we are sure we would deliver. We are not out to cheat or to take people's money and not deliver the service.

Our mission at Konnect is to ensure the growth and sustainability of businesses. So if taking your money is going to mean we are not going to be able to help your business to grow or to remain in business, then it's not what we care about. We want to ensure that your business is growing and it is sustainable. We’ve seen too many businesses spring up and then in one year or two years, they are dead. So if Konnect cannot deliver what your business needs, we will refer you without a second thought.

We are looking out for the customer in every possible way because we believe that serving the customer well is going to, in turn, serve us well. If we give them what they want, they will give us what we want. They can go and tell their friends about us. Then, we will get better and grow.

Queen Sarah:: We are in a world where so many people want to be independent of others. They just want to do things themselves and on their own. So I want to ask, do you think partnership is important in business? And if yes, how has it helped your brand?

Kennedy Amos Jr.: Partnership is so important. It is something I am coming to learn myself. That collaboration, especially at the top levels is very critical. Just to give an example recently I was just studying artists at the very top looking at Beyonce, Justin Bieber, Drake, and all these guys, they feature themselves so much.

For example, see the gap between Burna boy and Ed Sheeran. Years ago, you wouldn't have thought about Burna boy and Ed Sheeran singing together. With their style of music, Ed Sheeran sings about love. Burna boy sings about violence, Nigeria, and Africa. So, you wouldn’t think they would collaborate but they still did. Once you get to the top level, if you want to stay there, you need to mix audience. So collaboration is really important. I wouldn’t use the word partnership because partnership is a very defined thing. In Nigeria, we have Davido and we see that he features a lot of people and by featuring them he helps their brands to grow. He also gets some visibility as well. So it's really important.

For Konnect, a lot of people did not understand the relevance of collaboration or what it means for different parties. So I think we have benefited from partnerships or collaborations but not to a great extent yet. Most people that come to meet us for partnerships for their events usually offer to put our logo on their banners. We are already a media company. So, obviously, publicity is not what we are necessarily looking for. And sometimes, these are programs that already happen on our own campus, where we are already quite well-known. So it doesn't really add much value to us. And then, of course, they have reached out to many people, so it’s just one tiny logo they would put on a huge banner and that doesn't benefit us in any way.

So when we say partnerships now, like I was just giving an example, when Omah Lay and Justin Bieber come to sing a song together. They are leveraging their strengths and their audiences. They are also going to make more money that they can share. So there is money involved. They don’t just feature each other for fun.

I think in Nigeria a lot of partnerships are just one person benefiting way more than the other. It is not a mutually beneficial thing and if you're not careful, it can be very bad for your business. So I think we are still looking out for better Partnerships. We’ve not really had a lot of great ones but we’ve had some great ones with some brands.

We have some very good partnerships where some of our employees got benefits and freebies based on the relationship we had. So those were good ones but a lot of them just come and want to basically feed off you with not much value in return in our perspective.

Queen Sarah: Are there wrong notions people have about digital marketing and branding?

Kennedy Amos Jr.: Digital marketing is like a course. It is something to study and it has a lot of fields. Almost everything that involves selling online, email marketing, influencer marketing, mobile marketing, regular ads, and Google ads is digital marketing. So, if someone says they are a digital marketer, it could be that they are involved in a lot of things and it could also be that they specialize.

For example, a medical doctor could be an orthopedic doctor, a pediatrician, a gynecologist, or a general practitioner. So I think when it comes to digital marketing, it is important for people to know exactly what they are looking for. Digital marketing is a very broad field and understanding exactly what your business needs is very critical. 

Digital marketing is not just to run sponsored ads. Is your content already sorted out? Because running ads without good content is pointless. You're just spending money to attract people to come and see nonsense, which is not the best case. 

One thing I try to correct and I think it’s a Nigerian problem is that we want to market what is not yet great. Apple doesn't need to stress itself so much because apple has a crazy product, Apple doesn’t even run ads in Nigeria. Why are they selling iPhones every day? Although they don't even have a store in Nigeria. They don’t need to stress themselves so much because their product is good; it does exactly what they said it would. 

Sadly, in some cases, that's not the case with Nigeria. Nigerian case of what I ordered versus what I got is too common. People want to run ads or publicise or create content for something that is not yet great. Once you've created a worthy product that can do what you’ve promised it’s going to do, no problem. Hire a digital marketer. It will make their job easy because they know that they are not going to be lying when they are creating content.

Digital marketing can help your business but it is only when your business, your product, your service, or whatever you're offering is already sorted out.

If your house is not in order, you don't go outside and say 'everybody come and see my house' because if they come and see the house and they don't like it or it’s dirty and smelly, they would just come, see it and go but if your house is in order, when you invite people they are going to see your house as nice and they're going to stay.

Digital marketing is a tool to help you grow your customer base, attract more people, have an audience, and build a fan base. But digital marketing can only be effective if what you're selling works and does what it says it’s going to do. Nobody wants to go to the market to buy Egusi and buy periwinkle or something else. If I came for Egusi please give me Egusi. Don't shout that you have egusi and I come and you have something else. That’s the idea.

Queen Sarah: I know you help with business branding. So I want to know, which one do you think is more important- Personal branding or business branding?

Kennedy Amos Jr.: I think they are both important but it really depends. Of course, a business is going to do its business branding and a person is going to do personal branding. They are separate things. But I want to take it to another level. 

There are great examples of where personal branding can influence business branding and also business branding can influence personal branding as well. Let me give you a very wonderful example. Elon Musk has a very strong personal brand. His personal brand is stronger than his business's branding. But Elon Musk is the CEO and founder of SpaceX, Tesla, and Solar City. Now, he leverages his personal brand to boost his businesses. If Elon Musk leaves Tesla or SpaceX, their stock is going to plummet because people associate those businesses with him.

Elon Musk’s brand portrays him as a hard worker, he is very intelligent, he knows what he's doing, he is the entrepreneur of entrepreneurs, and all of us are looking up to him. Those qualities of his brand shine on his businesses which tells you his businesses are very smart, they know what they're doing, they're working really hard to deliver, they're trying to save the planet so on and so forth. So that is a very classic example of a person's brand influencing their business, and it's the same thing where we have people like 2Baba working for Oraimo. That’s a sort of, influencer marketing.

But the business can also help shine lights on an individual. An example is UBA and Tony Elumelu. UBA has a larger and well-known brand than Tony Elumelu. I'm sure a lot of people do not really know him so much. He is just recently coming into the spotlight but once you say, 'this is the CEO/Chairman of UBA', people say 'wow' and it immediately gives him a reputation. So once a business brand is good, it can easily spill over.

So personal branding and business branding can help. It just depends on how they are used but if you can align both of them- personal branding and business branding to influence each other, the growth is exponential. So even if the person leaves the business, the person can still have something to leverage for themselves.

Queen Sarah: Many people believe that when you talk about digital marketing, it is for those that are actually interested in upscaling their businesses. Do you think individuals can also leverage digital marketing for personal growth? 

Kennedy Amos Jr.: Yes, definitely and I think that is the best-case scenario especially when you're just starting out as a solopreneur. You might not necessarily have the funds or capital to hire a firm like Konnect to handle your digital marketing. So everybody is to an extent involved in digital marketing. Posting pictures of your products on your WhatsApp status and content on Instagram is digital marketing. So everybody should have an idea of digital marketing. There’s this book - To sell is human and that’s just the way of the world right now.

Every business person needs to have at least a fundamental knowledge of digital marketing to help their business because the fastest way you are going to sell is through digital marketing. There’s a limit to how much you can sell within your physical location. The internet gives you access to the entire world so why wouldn’t you want to leverage that huge audience.

It's really important that everybody understands how they can leverage it. It will definitely help your business and you really can't do any harm unless you're not doing what you said you will do. Then digital marketing and publicizing can backfire because people will see that you're not doing what you said you would and then you'd become a trend on Twitter and your business might shut down.

Queen Sarah: You said everyone can leverage digital marketing for their personal growth and even for their business so I want to know, what do you think makes a good digital marketer? 

Kennedy Amos Jr.: Like I said earlier, Digital Marketing is a very broad field and what all the forms of digital marketing have in common is basically understanding the customer. Whether it's e-mail marketing or influencer marketing or mobile, an understanding of the customer is very critical and I think your intentions matter a lot. Digital marketing is just essentially connecting someone having a product or service to someone that would buy. So you want to be able to know who needs what you have to sell. 

A good Digital Marketer understands the audience, understands the customers, and knows exactly who he or she is targeting so that his effort is not wasted. Someone can want to sell female shoes and bags that are worth like 40, 50, or 60 thousand, and then they are going to market it to secondary school students or people in their early twenties that are still in university. You know that most of the people in that demographic can not purchase products of 60k at once. They have to really save for it. How many of those that are even working can afford it? So, a good digital marketer needs to understand their audience.

After understanding the audience, communicating is the next. The question now is what form of content is going to hit these people. For corporate people, e-mails work a lot because they basically open email all day. If you're targeting people in a bank, you know email marketing is going to be really good. For the younger generation, if you want to sell small products, Tik Tok and Instagram will be great. They spend a lot of time there. Millennials or late Gen Z, they love Twitter a lot. If you go to Twitter and write a lot, they are going to relate to it, engage and you can make sales. It all entails understanding the customers and then being able to engage them. I think those two basically cover digital marketing. Knowing who you're talking to and reaching out to them with the appropriate content.

Then you can talk of the skill of copywriting but this still falls under the aspect of communication.

If someone can define their audience and then know how to communicate effectively what they are trying persuasively, that is going to lead to sales, I think that person is a very good digital marketer.

Queen Sarah: Speaking about The Konnect brand, I know you're on about 8 campuses and you have a team of about 150 people or more. So I want to know, what has been your experience leading a large number of people and how do you do so effectively?

Kennedy Amos Jr.: To update you, we've strolled down, or we're no longer functioning on that campus level again because really, most of us that started Konnect are no longer undergraduate students so that system with work in different campuses is no longer functional. Even our numbers have reduced. We've let a lot of people go over the period so we're less than 50 now. So I wanted to update you.

About leading a large number of people, you know I mentioned quite earlier in one of the early questions that at the beginning it was fun and we were growing rapidly. But over time some skill sets we did not have as leaders of the organization started to show that we do not know how to handle this large number of people appropriately. We had people across the South West and North West so we were a large number of people. 

One major thing that was really a problem was the fact that we are remote workers. So essentially, at Konnect we were over 300 representatives across 8 different campuses. To date, I have still not met up to 100 of those people physically. We were up to 200 for almost 2 years and till now, I haven't met up to 100 of the entire workforce of Konnect. 

Remote work wasn't something that was flying around then. It was COVID that made remote work popular. We were just on a Whatsapp group and you know how Whatsapp groups can get very rowdy if it's really full and active. As I told you earlier it was a network itself. A lot of people were just coming in and bringing in their friends. People were working and getting the job done but of course, some crazy people will pop up. It led to a lot of issues. 

One major issue was our screening process wasn't very strong and it led to some unsavoury characters coming in. As the saying, one bad apple will spoil the rest. Discipline was hard because it was online. As I said, I didn't know a lot of them. I didn't meet a lot of them physically, so a lot of people could say what they couldn't say to people in real life to people online. If you know somebody is in a level higher than yours, there should be a level of respect you'll accord that person. But because we were all online, and it was just a phone number or a name, it didn't really flow like that. There was no hierarchy or management. 

Most of us were between 16-23 at that time. A lot of group issues popped up that led to us firing some people, cautioning some, suspending some, and so on and so forth. So a lot of Human resources management issues came up but we've gotten a handle on that now. We've learnt and we can better handle it, but I do not think I'm going to scale up to that large number of people anymore. It's a lot and with Nigeria's situation now, it's not the best. I think that was the experience.

It was a lot of fun though. Knowing that it started from just two people, and it scaled up to 300 people and all of us are basically working. It was quite beautiful to see. A lot of people that started with us in 2019 are still with us today. We're more than work colleagues now, we're friends and family. The beautiful thing is that a lot of people that joined, even though they are not with Konnect anymore, they are still connected. I don't think it's possible to measure the actual impact of  Konnect because a lot of people have met each other and went to start their own thing because of the relationship they had within the company. It's quite beautiful.

Queen Sarah: That's quite an experience. Moving on, what do you consider your greatest lesson as an entrepreneur?

Kennedy Amos Jr.: Hmm... I have so many lessons. I don't think I can avoid saying these two because they are so big. 

One is to watch who you hire. Take extra care and effort to interview and screen people that are going to come into your organization. Those first couple of hires are the most important and they are going to set the tone for the organization moving forward. If you make mistakes with those hires it is going to affect your business. So you want to get competent people. People that are morally and intellectually sound; not necessarily on the same level as you. They should be in the same line as you, thinking in the same direction as you. 

For Konnect, some people came in and they did not understand we are a company. They felt it was just a Whatsapp group like we were just there to catch fun or whatever. So you want to ensure that people that are coming in know exactly what they are getting themselves into. You want to have an idea of their work ethic, you want them to have an idea of what exactly they are getting themselves into, you want to have an idea of what exactly they are contributing to your organization so that they don't just come in and then, they are negatives. You're paying them and then, they are not doing what they are supposed to do. If you find people like that the best thing is to let go of them as quickly as possible. Keeping them around is just going to cause your organisation to suffer in the long term. 

Secondly, businesses should learn how to invest quickly. It's good to have another source of income or have a largely safe business. Once you start out a business, your best bet is to invest your revenue or your profits back into the business as quickly as possible. Using almost everything to pay people is going to cost you. You won't have any cash left for R & D (research and development) and you won't have cash left for other projects. So it's important that as a business starts out and is making money, the business should re-invest it as quickly as possible. I learnt that from MrBeast Youtuber.

Queen Sarah: For someone seeking to start a business, what do you think should be the motivation -money or the need to solve a problem?

Kennedy Amos Jr.: Both of them of course.

See, this is Nigeria, we're not like America that just wants to create something for fun or for passion. Yeah! Passion is there. Some of us are passionate about the stuff we're doing, but Nigeria is a poor country right now. We're hungry. Most people or most businesses here now did not start out with 'Oh! I like people. I just want to solve their problem'. 

It is 'God I need money. Help me to do this so I'll not suffer. I need cash somehow. My friends are selling cloth, let me sell cloth. These ones are doing make-up, let me do makeup, digital marketing,  Amazon...' 

Everybody is just rolling around trying to find where they'll "chook" their head so they'll have money to eat. 

In Nigeria, we're surviving. Most businesses started out of survival. So as much as I would like to say passion, most Nigerian are not doing business because of passion. Most people are looking for money to eat. It's a good motivator. Both of them are good motivators; to be able to solve people's problems, and then make money to eat. But you shouldn't let your love or desire for money trump the real deal. 

The reality is your business exists to solve people's problems. It's a mindset issue that most Nigerian businesses have and it's what's killing us. It is also why I think we cannot function on a global scale yet, because for most Nigerians it's more like the business is a way for them to take money from people. It's not a matter of if they can deliver. That's why we have what I ordered versus what I got issues a lot. 

That's why I stated one of our core values is to ensure we're giving you what you want. If we cannot give you, it's better we don't take your money than to say we can give you and then disappoint you. It's painful for me. As much as we want to make money, make a profit and solve our own problems, we want your needs to come first. 

Sadly, it's not the same with a lot of Nigerian businesses. For most businesses, once they take your money, their attitude toward you changes. Whatever you want is not their problem anymore. Someone that was replying to your DM energetically will just stop answering you. Someone that was smiling at you when they sold their product to you would be frowning now, maybe because you came to return the product because it's not what you wanted. Some even pretend they don't know who you are. Most people just start businesses in Nigeria to try to get money to fend for themselves. However, there's a need to create a balance between them. Over time passion for the business can arrive.

People need to understand that they need to solve people's problems if they are going to get rich. Jesus said, 'he who among you who want to be the greatest have to serve the others'. To rise as a business, you have to serve people. Apple, Microsoft, and Google are serving how many billion people? They are serving and are trying to serve the best way they can. Because they do that, people keep coming back to them. That's why they are making so much money. 

If all your customers are coming and you're treating them horribly, they are not going to come back and in a few years, your business will be dead. Make your customers happy while taking their money.

Queen Sarah: Speaking about you, if you were not a digital marketer, what would you rather be?

Kennedy Amos Jr.: I'm not just a digital marketer. I'm a Geologist, but like I said, I'm more into advertising now, so the oil and gas industry, shell and all is not necessarily my focus at this point in time. However, Geology is something I really have a lot of passion for and it's something I'm still going to develop in the future because I really love the Earth. I'm an Earth Scientist, so I love understanding the Earth's processes. I love space. I'm interested in the Universe, so Geology is still a huge part of my life. I think beyond that, there's nothing else. I was fortunate to land in what I'm very interested in. If I'm not doing these, I don't think there's any other thing I'm going to do. Well, maybe if I didn't read Geology, I'd have read Economics. Like I said, I'm interested in business a lot. Maybe I'll just be an Economist; understanding the way national economies work.

Queen Sarah: It's been an amazing session with you. Lastly, what advice do you have for aspiring and budding entrepreneurs?

Kennedy Amos Jr.: Okay. I think I've already stated that. As much as you're a Nigerian and hunger is disturbing you, try to have a good plan. Also, understand that customers need to come first. If you serve them well, they'll serve you well. If you solve their problem, they'll give you their money without any reservation. People are looking for who will solve problems and Nigeria is full of a lot of problems. So if you solve the problem you want to address well, you'll get what you want. 

Have a plan, a solid plan. Know where you're going. What is your vision? What are you aiming to do? It could change along the way but it's good to have a plan. He who fails to plan plans to fail. So it's important that you have a solid plan.

Moving forward, get people. We already talked about collaboration and partnership. You cannot do everything yourself, at least if you want to grow a scalable business. So it's important that you find people you trust. It's important that you find capable people. Don't be emotional and sentimental about it. Find people that are trustworthy, competent, and reliable. 

Pray to God. Don't live out God. God has all the wisdom in the world. Get God involved early. Let your business be to His Glory. Pray and ask for inspiration. 

Read a lot of books on business. If you can read as many books before you start, that's the best thing.

Then find a mentor or someone that has gone before you, that can give you wisdom. They've already overcome these challenges, so by leveraging them, you'll get to skip some of these issues and just move forward. Instead of struggling to figure it out by yourself, they will help you overcome that challenge quickly. 

Manage your money well (accounting). Know how to keep good track of your cash flow. Know what's going in and what's going out. It'll save you a lot of distress in the future.

Then develop yourself. Never stop developing yourself. Keep working hard. Keep improving. Never get complacent. Remove the arrival mentality. Find ways to keep getting better, continuous improvement, and continuous innovation. 

Keep a part of your budget for R&D. Even if you're cooking, how can I make my egusi better? How can I make Jollof rice sweeter? How can I package it well? That's what keeps businesses going on. 

For example, Apple and Samsung, keep making improvements year after year so that they don't get redundant. That's the mentality we should have. There are ways you can make the process better and faster and more efficient, so we should always be on the lookout for that. 

Believe in yourself. God is with you and you'll be fine.

I think that covers all the advice I have for budding entrepreneurs.

Queen Sarah: Thank you so much, sir. It's a great honour to have you here. I really enjoyed this session. Thanks for dishing great value.

Kennedy Amos Jr.: You're very welcome. Alright, I'm honored. 

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