Photograph — Wikipedia

A week into December, Lagos already buzzed with Christmas anticipation. Outside, carols mingled with the increased bustle of the city, reflecting the influx of holiday travellers drawn to the promise of a Detty December. Everyone was getting ready to wind down for the year; some, more excited than others. This includes the enthusiastic staff at Selar who gave a happy cheer when their CEO, Douglas Kendyson, told them they would be getting paid twice in November and December. But in Kendyson’s home office, the Christmas cheer was soon replaced with concern. He had just gotten wind of a software bug on Selar’s backend that needed attention. If he ever felt enthused about the season, it was being replaced by a gnawing sense of responsibility. He had to act fast. 

Working overtime is not new to Kendyson. He is the founder and CEO of Selar, an e-commerce platform that enables digital creators and entrepreneurs to sell their products online. He launched Selar in 2016, after noticing a gap in the market for non-registered businesses who wanted to sell their products. The platform is committed to empowering digital creators by offering them a user-friendly interface, secure payment processing, and a suite of features tailored to their needs. In 2022, Selar, which started as a mini project, recorded ₦2 billion in sales, serving over 40,000 creators and entrepreneurs across Africa. 

But before founding Selar, Kendyson worked as a software engineer, a product manager, and a consultant for various top tech companies. His most publicized role is being part of the Paystack team, where he worked as a customer success expert and software engineer for the Nigerian fintech startup. He believes all those experiences contribute to how he leads his team at Selar. “Those experiences inform some of the decisions I take now as a CEO. For one, I am now aware that if I’m asking people to work during the holiday, they are going to be paid for extra time,” Kendyson says. “That’s the least that I can do.” 

Douglas Kendyson

Christmas means different things to different people. But the one thing everyone tends to feel during this time of the year is love. Love for family, love for friends, and if you’ve got enough room, love for strangers. A survey by Geopoll shows that 73% of people say that Christmas is their favourite holiday because of the love they receive from others. And this act of gratitude can come in different expressions. Hence, Kendyson’s prompt to give his team 13th and 14th month salaries. “I hoped to do something nice for my team. They worked very hard and we did a lot of stuff this year. I thought what extra thing can we do to appreciate the hard work?” he says. Money seemed like a good answer. “Especially with the dollar just moving very recklessly and completely obliterating, the value for money,” he adds.

Selar doesn’t have a company Christmas culture yet. Last year, the team had a Christmas-themed lunch on a shoestring budget. It was a tight budget, but Kendyson remembers it being a lot more. The team had toasted to their triumphs and bonded over burnt chicken. This year, the team is geographically dispersed, with members scattered across Lagos, Abuja, Rwanda, and even Ibadan. “Having a Lagos team lunch didn’t just seem feasible or wise. There’s not a lot of our people here. And some people may be travelling. It made more sense to give that money to them,” he says.

Yet, as much as Kendyson values his work and team, he can’t wait to have a few days off. He envisions lazy mornings being tucked under his favourite duvet, the only deadlines being the whispers of the tide. No codes, no meetings, just endless dialogues from his favourite movies and lots of food. “I think that’s probably my favourite part now about being an adult on Christmas,” he says. “The relaxing feel, catching up on movie time, and eating food you probably didn’t cook.”

It’s a complete contrast to what his holiday was like growing up. Christmas used to mean bumpy rides across Nigeria to visit his dad, a banker who was constantly being transferred. “That used to be real nice,” he recalls lovingly. Kendyson hasn’t travelled in a very long time. “I think it( Christmas) just stopped being about fun at some point. Right now, I’m like the Grinch during Christmas,” he says jokingly. It isn’t that Kendyson hates Christmas. But somewhere between chasing startup dreams and building Selar, Christmas has become a tangled knot of responsibility and ambition. 

Regardless, he is proud of what he and his team have accomplished this year. This year, the company almost doubled its transactional revenue from last year, despite the economic uncertainty that disrupted many industries. Generally, the creative industry saw a surge of innovation and experimentation in response to the changing needs and preferences of consumers. This year more than ever, more people aimed to earn in a more stable currency. “We saw a rise in USD and GBP transactions. But then, whether it was the economic climate reflecting on the sector is just an assumption. Because if one is being honest, the year for the creative industry was not the best but it wasn’t the worst either,” Kendyson says. 

To wrap up the year, Selar has just launched a new product called Show Love. It’s an add-on feature that empowers creators, artists, and influencers to directly receive financial support from their passionate communities. “It’s going to be a great way for like creators, artists, influencers, content creators to just get support from their audience,” Kendyson says. “We’ve been looking for an opportunity to reach a bigger creator audience and we believe so far, this will be it and praying that it is. I’m looking forward to the product doing well,” he adds.  

The project required a lot of technical work, design, testing, and marketing. It meant constantly coordinating with the team of developers, designers, and customer support to deal with bugs, feedback, and deadlines. “I am grateful that we can afford to pay extra time,” says Kendyson. “Especially the support team. Usually, people would get two weeks to wind down. But the support team doesn’t. Luckily, we have a large support team, so that allows them to alternate.”

After a chaotic year, and an even more chaotic end of year, it’s no surprise Kendyson is opting for a clean December. It has been a long year, and he would just like to relax. “I might try to get some New Year resolutions down. It’s not my thing. But I see the merits. I’m hoping to try to put down some goals or a vision board of sorts. At least a few things that I’m excited to look forward to in the New Year,” he says. This Christmas might not be filled with concerts and feasts for Kendyson, but he is keen on making it a magical one.

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