Four years ago, Shaban Bizimana didn’t know he would turn out to be a successful digital artist and creative entrepreneur. It all started when he was helping a friend market their business.
The friend, he said, was good at drawing while still at high school.
A twenty-four year old said his friend was talented and he didn’t want his talent to go at waste, so he approached him and suggested marketing his work.
“We started moving around showing people and companies his work. The market was encouraging and within no time, we started getting commissions, eventually we created a social media account, which I would say was like a stepping stone for me,” he said.
He said it’s through such social media engagements that they started getting attention from different people, who also started recognizing their illustrations.
Things were moving on smoothly to the point they started securing deals by doing portrait commissions.
In 2014, Bizimana and his friend found an opportunity in the book industry market, where the illustrations were used for children storybooks.
During the same year, they were getting 80 percent of book illustrations commissions in Rwanda, and this attracted other upcoming illustrators who wanted to join them to just get the experience.
After his university studies in 2017, he realized and mastered one important a principle that buyers and consumers need diversity and choice.
“With the number of illustrators who wanted to join us, I saw an opportunity to create jobs, impact many more and also help businesses multitude choice,” he said.
And this is how Bizimana, who also has a bachelor degree in marketing, came up with his own Gravity Studios in 2017.
Gravity studio is the first multi-disciplined creative agency in Rwanda that links digital artist freelancers to businesses.
“Freelancing is a new phenomenon that businesses are embracing since they want diversity in their content,” he said.
Back then, he said a freelancer would master his craft and wait for clients to give them a commission. As an agency, they help freelancer promote their work to a wide audience and give them time to master their craft as well.
Since freelancers are not familiar with finance, bookkeeping and management, gravity studio as an agency help take care of all the invoice billing and taxation for them.
“We have more leverage in applying for tenders and opportunity to find the big contract. We also find an opportunity for them in terms of training to help them develop their skills,” he added.
The primary the goal, Bizimana said is to secure jobs and promote digital artists. The team offers consultancy to businesses to find the right digital freelancer for their project.
Gravity Studios is a B2B and B2C, where the two are forms of commercial transactions.
B2C is a reference for business-to-consumer which is a process for selling products directly to consumers; whereas B2B is a reference for business-to-business, which is a process for selling products or services to other businesses.
“My services range from Illustration and animation. Illustration includes many categories from Children Book to digital portraits while animation includes marketing videos, 3D presentation, and Cartoons,” he said.
Early this year, gravity studios were among the 10 winners of Westerwelle start-up Haus Entrepreneurship Program, 2019 in Kigali organized by Westerwelle Foundation.
The program provides assistance to start-ups operating in Rwanda, by offering access to quality infrastructure and tailor-made workshops to help them establish and grow their businesses.
On top of this, the studio secured more than 50 books commissions from publishers for their illustrators.
Last year, he managed to secure places as illustrators at the Ministry of Education to produce content for student’s textbook.
Although people have started embracing illustrator’s artwork, Bizimana said Rwandan creative industry is still in its early stage compared to developed countries.
“This is one of the biggest setbacks because here, the value (monetary) an illustration is given is almost 10 times lower compared to other countries,” he said.
For such reasons, he said they try to create a win-win situation for illustrators to be able to live on their talent and make a decent income.
Another challenge is that they lack secondary data for the Rwandan creative industry, which is hard for a start-up while doing market research to understand customer behavior and purchasing power to know how to set price.
Bizimana advises young entrepreneurs to always go for their dreams and passion.
“Sometime it is hard and tiresome but if you love what you do, you always find the courage to do that extra mile toward your goal, with this we are fighting mentality of being job seekers to actually be job creators,” he advised.
He added that learning and acquire knowledge is not only limited to classrooms as one can learn from day to day interactions.