“I am passionate about using visual representations to redefine personal branding, and invested in showing the journey of African tech brands to the world.”Ijeoma Amagwula
We have heard of people leaving their jobs to turn their passion into a business. However, it’s only sometimes you find people abandoning multiple opportunities to focus on one business. After all, no business offers a guarantee of success at the beginning. However, Ijeoma Amagwula, our courageous creative on this episode of The Big Showcase, took her destiny in her hands and never looked back.
Ijeoma Amagwula is the founder and creative lead at Ijeworks Media, a multimedia company that tells visual stories. As a student at the University of Lagos, she picked up photography in 2016 as a hobby but stepped fully into the industry in 2020 after quitting her job as a human resource personnel.
Ijeoma Amagwula also stopped her clothing and logistics businesses to run a full-time photography business. She has since worked with major brands such as Google, Pepsi, Techcrunch, and Lagos Business School. In 2022, two years after making her bold move, Ijeoma Amagwula won the Eloy Photographer of the Year award following multiple nominations in previous years under the same brand.
Read on to learn more about this audacious queen who creates timeless visuals and knows how to ride power bikes but hates fried plantain.
Taking the Risk of Entrepreneurship
The human resource (HR) field is lucrative, and as a trained HR professional, Ijeoma Amagwula could be currently climbing the ladder of the HR industry in Nigeria. However, she decided that she wanted to leave her mark on the photography and storytelling industry. Ijeoma shares with us why she chose photography over her HR career.
“I find photography intriguing because I get to tell and document people’s stories with my camera. Due to my passion for photography, I knew that I wanted to do something other than a typical 9-5 as a career path. Moreso, I had done 9-5 for a year but didn’t feel fulfilled. I knew there was something more for me in Media and Photography, and I pursued it.”
When asked to define her professional niche, Ijeoma Amagwula says she is a Tech and Brand Photographer, primarily focusing on personal branding for persons and brands. She throws more light on what that means in context:
“People are approached and addressed by how they look at first contact. Whether we look confident or shabby in our visuals determines how people will address us when they finally see us. This is why I am passionate about using visual representations to redefine personal branding. For brands, I am invested in showing the journey of African tech brands to the world and embellishing how they are perceived.”
While she is no Jack of all trades, Ijeoma Amagwula is a master of some skills, including transferable ones from her time as an HR professional. But more importantly, she admits that her HR education and a brief stint in the industry have influenced some areas of her photography and branding business.
“No knowledge is wasted, and my HR skills have definitely benefited my business. For example, I have used my knowledge of HR to build the best workplace for my employees. From our seamless hiring process to our work culture and interactions with potential employees, you can tell that hired candidates will achieve their career goals during their time with us. I dare say that our work culture at Ijeworks is one of the best in the world, and we keep implementing measures to innovate and improve it. I also apply my HR learning to my relationship with my employees, which goes a long way to foster a healthy work environment.”
Promoting Women-inclusion in Entrepreneurship and the Photography Space
Photography isn’t precisely the highest-paying profession in the world, and like any other profession, it has its ups and downs. However, Ijeoma Amagwula, in her good-natured yet confident manner, declares that:
“Just like everything we do in life, there are challenges, and I have learned to take them one after the other.”
It is one thing to be a business owner weathering the storm of the entrepreneurial world, but it is another thing to excel as a businesswoman in a male-dominated industry. Ijeoma Amagwula gives us an insight into what it means to be doing a job supposedly meant for men.
“I can’t give a specific ratio of the number of men to women in the photography sector because I don’t have updated statistics. Nevertheless, I will say most people refer to photography as a ‘man’s job’ for several reasons. First, photography sometimes can be physically demanding — meaning you must carry heavy equipment around, which is one of the many reasons women shy away from it.”
Ijeoma Amagwula is clearly working daily to break this bias through Ijeworks. In addition, she highlights other ways she’s encouraging more women to embrace equity and take bold steps in the photography industry and entrepreneurship.
“I have gone through the phase of thinking that I’m not fit for photography because of the manual labour involved. I understand better the importance of reinforcing women to be more involved in the space. This understanding is why I have done mentorships, conferences, and classes for women in business to encourage and proffer solutions for them. Also, I will be starting a Women in Business Program soon. So look out for that.”
You read that last bit, so if you’re a woman in business or about to start one, who better to teach you than a fellow woman who has been through the process before you?
Superpowers, Inspiration and Landing Major Clients
Ijeoma Amagwula isn’t just a fantastic photographer or branding professional, she is also a talented cinematographer, and some of her cinematography works can be found on Ijeworks. However, her superpower is a more simplistic approach that many professionals overlook — maintaining long-lasting professional relationships. In a service-based business, that is gold.
“My work as a photographer is service-based; hence I almost always have to see the end user. With all my clients, I work on making our relationship more friendly because I genuinely care for them outside of using our services. My relationship with some of my oldest and most loyal customers reflects this customer-centric approach. I am glad to have been part of the journey of several people over the years. It is always heartwarming and uplifting to look back at some old pictures and see my company’s logo. The continued growth inspires me to do better.”
Still speaking on inspiration, Ijeoma Amagwula shares the factors that consistently drive her delivery of excellent visuals for individuals and brands through Ijeworks.
“Travels majorly inspire my creative process. I am also driven by my love for God and people. Furthermore, I’m driven by my intense desire to improve my skill.”
Undoubtedly, these combined factors and her track record as a people-person play a vital role in helping Ijeoma Amagwula land big brands like Pepsi and Google.
“Most of our work at Ijeworks comes through referrals from clients, family, friends and lovers of the brand. We also keep implementing marketing and branding strategies to boost our visibility and establish a positive perception in the industry.”
Ijeoma’s response further cements the idea that excellent customer service and referrals are vital for running a service-based business.
Essential Tips for Photographers
Ijeoma Amagwula is not immune to the occasional lack of inspiration, but as a businesswoman, she has her way of delivering masterpieces despite such hindrances.
“When I experience a mental block during my creative process, I get tempted to procrastinate, but I also know when to stop. If I have a deadline, there’s no number of excuses I can give to factor in my mental block because I should have taken preventive measures. This is why I advise photographers to take out time to rest and do what they love outside of photography. This way, they can reduce mental blocks.”
Ijeoma Amagwula is so invested in every area of her work that it does not matter whether she is handling commissioned work or a personal project. Instead, she says,
“Although most of my commissioned projects come from my previous personal work, I take every commissioned work as my personal project simply because I always leave a part of my art in the commissioned work. In addition, I am released from the pressure of the outcome of personal projects. Hence I get to freestyle.”
Ijeoma Amagwula has, in little words, dropped some gems for budding photographers, especially women, and we’ll leave you with this piece of advice from her: