My Pivot Journal is a Ventures Africa weekly series documenting people’s career transitions from one industry to another, especially to tech.
Evans Akanno is a household name in Africa’s creative space. And he is steadily becoming a force in the global creative space. But before this multi-talented tech creative had his name listed in Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 Class of Achievers in Technology, he had fun mixing chemicals in science class. Here is Evans Akanno’s pivot journal.
How it started
I was a huge nerd in my early years, with a keenness for science, one that was unparalleled in my school. From math to chemistry, I loved learning about the world of science and experimenting with various elements and compounds. So of course, I studied industrial chemistry for my first degree.
I discovered graphic design and branding while reading through magazines and ads for top brands, and I was instantly hooked. I was still in school then. I learnt some basic things about graphic design, but I didn’t do much with my new interest until later. After graduating, I started looking for jobs related to my degree. I got an internship at NNPC. But as Steve Jobs famously said, “the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” This simple quote inspired me to create a career out of my interest in design. So, while I searched for jobs related to my degree, I improved my graphic design skills.
I started by watching tutorials and studying portfolios of other designers. I would read articles, books, and magazines about design, software, and marketing. I still do this to date. I’m an avid learner, and I always have to study market trends and consumer behavior while I build digital products. As a self-taught designer, I improved by breaking down every creative piece I came across into their basic components to uncover the craft behind them.
In 2012, I started freelancing. I took jobs to create logos and social media designs. I created designs for people who wanted to update their display pictures on Blackberry messenger and charge as little as #400 per design. Some clients paid via airtime. After a while of freelancing and honing my skills, I founded the Evans Akanno creative agency. I wanted to help more startups and small businesses increase their online presence by designing their brand identities, websites, and ad materials. That same year, I got my first 9 to 5 job. I joined the rocket internet team to build jumia.com. I started working on the team as a graphic designer, creating the logo and brand materials, but I soon moved up to the role of brand/marketing designer. After my stint with Jumia, I got a job at konga.com as a creative strategist. There, I got to design digital campaigns to drive conversions across various marketing channels. Two years after these experiences, I rebranded the Evans Akanno creative agency and renamed it Cregital (creative-digital) in 2015.
But I have to admit there were challenges. First, when I started my agency, I had limited access to capital. Also, it wasn’t easy to build the right team. I had to be resilient because of the ever-changing market trends. I just kept learning, expanding my knowledge and skills. I believe that staying open to new ideas and technologies is one of the most important traits for any successful professional. Ultimately, my passion for creative design and technology has made my career transitions effortless.
How it’s going
I have been a digital entrepreneur for over ten years. I use my skills in branding, web design, user experience, and interface design to help businesses create products that make a difference. Basically, I make digital products that are beautiful and easy to use. My design approach is often minimalism, simplicity and accessibility. A typical workday for me involves collaborating with designers and developers to form lean product teams, and guiding businesses from concept to launch while adhering to my design philosophy. We spend a lot of time reviewing the products and websites we are building for clients and having spontaneous brainstorming sessions.
It has been a bittersweet but rewarding journey. From building Cregital, an award-winning digital agency to building Disha.ng a link-in-bio tool, acquired by Flutterwave, my creative work has been recognized by organizations like Google, AWWWARDS, and the future awards Africa. Cregital was also awarded the best web development company for three consecutive years at the Nigerian technology awards. In 2019, I was honored to be part of the Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 Class of Achievers in Technology. In 2021, I moved to the USA to study entrepreneurship and innovation. That is when I started researching about no-code platforms. That is what led me to build my latest venture, Vzy a no-code platform that allows people create their own beautiful websites. It has been an incredible journey, and I am looking forward to the future with great anticipation.
Stay focused on the goal but remain flexible with the journey. Life often has other plans.