The CEO and co-founder of FORT, Shukri Toefy, a creative production company present in five African countries, speaks about a ‘youth board’ and why failure has never been an option for him.
- What are your plans for promoting youth development in Africa?
They are our future target market that will consume our content. [The stance] is so important for us that we started a youth board [with people] in their early 20s and we can ask them what is cool. [We ask them] is Snapchat still cool and are they still on Instagram? Because as we get older [as a way] to future-proof our company, we need to have our ear to the ground to know what young people are talking about. As the CEO of a creative agency, I have quarterly meetings with my youth board in which I speak to them to find out what are they wearing, where are they going and what is cool and not cool anymore, so that I can be better resourced to implement that with my clients and the rest of the people. It is a cool way of future-proofing who we are and what we do.
- What was your biggest risk?
It was starting our network across Africa. I think we put a lot of money in opening our offices in Kenya and Nigeria. If we count the flights, legal structures etc. it would be an estimate of R2 million ($136,000) to R3 million ($204,000).
- What has been your greatest challenge in the industry?
Our greatest challenge right now is that when we are in recessionary times, [so usually] marketing and communications is the first thing that is to be cut. Secondly, independently, African companies don’t have the financial backing that some of these globally-owned agencies have. So they don’t have the ability to go out and scale up [on production] like they could.
- Who is the most influential person you have worked with?
The Oxford facilitator I met in June…gave me a different perspective on life and I came back with so many tools on how to see the world and view things. He calmed me down.
- Your views on mentorship…
I have had the benefit of having coffee or breakfast with highly successful people and I think that is one of the most valuable things you could have as an entrepreneur, to actually have people that you could bounce off ideas with. That you could learn from them and their mistakes and they could guide you.
- Your biggest fear…
I am not fearful of failing because I don’t think failure is an option. I just don’t see it. It is not constructed for me…You can’t beat me. Today you might beat me and tomorrow it will be me [on top of things] because I see it as all part of my journey.
- What would you say to your 16-year-old self?
Slow down and enjoy the ride because it goes so quickly. I was in a hurry to try and take advantage of every opportunity that I had. [As a young person] you have that militancy in you to say ‘you need to take every opportunity that comes your way’. I think that is why I am here but you later realize that it is all part of the journey and there is no such thing as failure. It is about failing forward and it is about failing often. And it is about seeing it as a much bigger journey rather than your day-to-day failures.