By The Ferzona Group
Five – That’s the number. And I am still totally amazed that I have been able to do this. 5+ total brands I have been able to build and develop in a total of just about 3 years – Incredible!
I started the Ferzona brand in about 2018 when I was at university with a very peculiar offering – Mobile Phone Repair service aimed exclusively at the student population. It gained a little traction with my circle of friends and just a little bit wider than that to include their friends as well. It wasn’t anything serious until I got sponsored by my university (Anglia Ruskin University) in 2019, to build a fully-fledged operating business after participating in their business idea competition twice – The Big Pitch. I was excited, surprised and delighted. Having just graduated, I had the time to focus on growing the business without any other major commitment. Immediately after starting, I faced a few issues, such as the shutdown of the Start-up Lab within my university that led me on a little journey supporting the #ARUInnovation campaign. Fast forward from 2019 to 2022, my business has morphed and changed shapes a few times; overcoming adversity, facing tough business decisions while trying to keep up with the times, establishing great positioning and deflect imminent competition.
Throughout these years, my business has gone through many phases and produced a few brands that a total of about 13,000+ people combined, at various stages have come to love and be familiar with: AfroFiesta, Ferzona Events, FerzonaBlog, CambridgeQTV, a character named “Veronica”, #CambridgeNextUp, TGIMCambridge, etc… It has been incredible!
This article is about the last few years in review, my HOTTEST takeaways (tips), and going forward, what 2022 holds for me and these brands.
When I started about 3 years ago, little did I know about what my entrepreneurial journey would entail. I had always anticipated “interesting” and “challenging” simply because I had a dogmatic desire to build a business around my passions/predilections and I was certain that much learning/unlearning would be heavily involved within the process.
I met my first business-related problem in late 2019 with an issue related to marketing the phone repair business. After some thought, I resorted to go with Events Marketing. I had enough knowledge and involvement within the industry to know it would work but limited practical experience to know I would need some help in getting it started. The idea was a no brainer; I would reach my intended audience on a wide scale while at the same time providing for them a form of desired value (entertainment). A huge win-win!
Right off the bat, I faced some very surprising roadblocks that I did not expect. I ended up having to ‘go-it-alone’ and figure it out myself. It wasn’t easy. There were many trials and errors, disappointments, low spirits, etc. but out of the whole saga, Ferzona On Events and AfroFiesta were born. We went on to hold a total of 4 events within various venues in Cambridge. Two of those turned out to be very successful and I was amazed. Mainly because I had to figure out how to do many of the processes entirely by myself and I wasn’t too sure that my methods were right. It however, turned out to be a major win; a nice smile to end the year and I was proud of it.
After the second successful AfroFiesta event, I set up this blog (Ferzona Blog) to document the PRACTICAL realities (emphasis on practical) of what it takes as a first-timer to set up a successful business. I wrote about how I had managed to set up Ferzona Events as a business; this was the first blog post. The response was insane; It had over 400 reads! A few people contacted me as commendation, some other readers sought business relationships. Things were going relatively smooth.
Twists, turns and surprises were always a part of the package and I knew this, but 2020/21 was just a whole different box of unfamiliar chocolates – the whole world came crashing down! #CovidPandemic. Everyone (from governments to schools to local corner shops) was left to figure out what they would have to do within the next day, talk less of planning for weeks or months in advance. With everyone dealing with rules that seemed to change by the hour and on a whim, chaos was the order of the day!
What irked me during this time was keeping my brands alive. Everyone knows that consistent value creation around ideals you stand for is exactly how you build a brand. The problem is this – the value my brands [AfroFiesta and Ferzona Events] was offering to the world – Strict AfroBeat parties to be held monthly for the students within Cambridge – was directly affected by the pandemic; I could not hold parties anymore. And at that time, I knew nothing about brand extension. Sitting back and doing nothing wasn’t an option either. I had to stay relevant within the pandemic – not just to maintain brand equity, but also to provide a platform to promote my business while events couldn’t be held. I tried a few successful stunts, such as the Ferzona – Quarantine Gym Challenge, which saw over 30 people participate in a purely social media-driven 30-day push-up challenge. But all of the stunts were short-lived. I always had to go back into thinking and executing the next stunt, and the next, before all of a sudden…
Boom!…. CambridgeQTV was born! It was a total off the cuff idea. Through social media and content creation, Cambridge Quarantine TV was created solely to poke fun at the strangeness of the pandemic. It turned out to be a brilliant idea and had significant momentum. A content combination of memes and funny video entertainment was curated and saw the account grow to about 2,500 in a very short period. The quirky Veronica character that “manned” the account seemed to have gotten the buzz going. The audience loved it, and positive relationships were built through this channel. It was incredible! I was loving it, the audience were loving it, and everyone was happy. I woke up every morning sourcing and sifting through a load of content while posting about 4 times a day to keep the channel going. I remember thinking to myself, ‘now I have a taste of what the guys in the media industry – news, TV, tabloids, etc. go through before the approval and release of content’… Interesting.
By this time, a few entities were already spawning out the business: Ferzona Events, AfroFiesta, QTV, #FerzonaFiLM, ‘Veronica’, Ferzona Blog, etc. Juggling all of these balls at once did get a bit messy, and was prone to spiralling a few times. I resorted to grouping them under a brand umbrella – The Ferzona Group to maintain coherence and keep one brand voice.
It was also around this time that the #ARUInnovation campaign was kicking off. The new VP Business and Law had agreed to spearhead a campaign for a coworking space within the Cambridge campus. His visions were big – a fully-fledged Incubation centre! To be honest, all I had wanted was to #BringBackTheLab because I knew that The Lab had played an excellent role in helping me set up my business at the very beginning of my start-up journey. However, anything was better than nothing. If the incubation centre project can come through, I will be able to conveniently work on my ideas and grow my business within its’ walls. Working with him, I took it upon myself to get the necessary student and alumni engagement crucial to get the project off the ground. Many things ensued: We had various meetings, a focus group was developed, blog posts were written – one by the VP himself and another gathering alumni opinion; a promotional and campaign-style video was produced, and a Facebook group was set up. All of these were done, to get the momentum for the project up and gather the necessary student support.
The campaign did see some positive feedback, and the work and momentum we had garnered did not go in vain. To follow how this journey is going ahead and at what point it is at, contact the Enterprise Innovation Student Liaison Officer within ARU – who you wouldn’t be surprised to know this is the same VP we have been talking about.
Sanity, it’s said, lasts but for a little while. Well, 2021 came with a little bit of sanity for the entire world. The pandemic-induced lockdown was gradually rolling away, and the time for events to come back was seemingly drawing very near. Announcements were made, excitement was everywhere, and I was getting ready to bounce back stronger with the Ferzona Events brand. If I did not tell you by now, all of the events business equity (value) I had been able to build – From the brands, to the relationships, to the deals that had been made was attached to one venue – Ballare. This venue was one of the biggest and greatest in the whole of Cambridge. I knew the managers, we had great working relationships, they understood my capability, and everything was smooth. However, during the pandemic, the almighty Ballare closed down! [I wrote an article about it] I still don’t know exactly why – whether it was because of the pandemic itself or landlord issues. It wasn’t too clear.
Well, it meant I had to go scramble up my pitch deck and pitch my event ideas to new venues that did not know what Ferzona/AfroFiesta means, nor had even heard the names. A recommendation can be everything, but nothing beats the experience of actually working together. It was a race for time; market competitions were already ringing bells and alarms were blaring. Will Ferzona – the brand many has come to love – will Ferzona be left behind in this comeback race, the race to host an event after almost 14 months of a lockdown? Cambridge is quite a small town. There is almost nothing that goes unnoticed, especially by its’ student population. Eventually, I had to ditch the AfroFiesta brand because of certain delivery complications. But thankfully, the Ferzona Events name lived on. Morphing into what many of you now know today as TGIM – Thank God it’s Monday. TGIM went on to have two successful events in 2021, at Ferzona Events new home – Revolution Cambridge. We were able to shoot an impressive video for the last event we held; it was especially exhilarating [View Here]. After all the hard work, we ended 2021 with another triumphant bang in the bag. I totally loved it!
Special Shout to Karim, to Jamie, Una, to DJ Special Edd, MCI, Mallana, Mixdat Squad, Omkar, and to a whole host of other peoples that I have worked together closely with throughout these years….and to Ciera and the entire team at the Ruskin Journal as well, they did us a huge favour, and I will always remember that. It has been an honour and a serious pleasure working with everyone, and I won’t forget it!
Here is an overview of these last few years and what I think 2022 holds in stock for me and these awesome Ferzona brands:
2019/2020 – These were the years that got me started with everything. Adrenaline, emotions and energy were at an all-time high. Confidence was definitely not lacking, and I pressed ahead with full force.
2020/2021 – These years, were the ones that really beat me into it. They were absolutely the peak of the last three years. How many things could I take on? How well could I handle business operations through unpleasant situations? i.e. the pandemic; and how resilient could I be in the face of adversity? Most of the Ferzona brands were built within these two years. It was also during these years that the #ARUInnovation project kicked off. From QTV to #CambridgeNextUp to Campaign Support… many things were operating simultaneously during this time. Physically, intellectually and creativity wise… These years really pushed my limits and gently built my resilience.
2022 – January 1st… You wouldn’t believe it! I still did not know what my plans were, going into the new year – I did not have a clear way forward. I had many options that had developed in front of me, with each of them having many advantages (and disadvantages) that all felt very good, whichever I chose. I froze up and faced a classic example of over-analysing. This happened for many months before January 1st 2022. I did end up, eventually, choosing one of these options. And it will kind of (maybe fundamentally) change business operations going forward (at least for a while) … I am not too sure yet, let’s see what happens.
All the Ferzona Brands: AfroFiesta, Ferzona Events, Ferzona Blog, CambridgeQTV, Veronica (The Character), Ferzona FiLM, The Ferzona Group, CambridgeNextUp, Thank God It’s Monday (TGIM)
Special Mention – The Ferzona Himself brand came up when I realised the brand (Ferzona) kind of needed a figure for public relations. Ultimately, people buy from people; the brand needed a face.
“Sometimes you make the right decision. Sometimes you make the decision right” – Phillip C. McGraw.
I feel this year, is going to be all about learning the sweet art of practical patience – taking a step back to take two steps forward. The last few years have taught me a lot about myself and how willing I am to at least try bigly in developing ideas I have when my passions are involved.
I thought I would, but I kind of don’t mind the intermission. We (The Ferzona Group) have got so many entities floating around and so many directions we could go. It is now time to consolidate and go back to the roots of where everything started – the desire to build something valuable and long-lasting coupled with a strong appetite for learning.
I’ve had the opportunity for the better part of 2 years to experiment and dig deeper than the surface of where my passions lie – I think I know them quite well now. This year will be focused on consolidating, reflecting through these years, identifying recurring themes and setting a goal. Developing a strategy to reach that goal will also be key.
Many thanks to Anglia Ruskin University, friends and family and everyone else for putting up with me throughout these years. It has been a JOURNEY! And I don’t regret it.
My next posts will contain the BEST (I’ll try) the best practical and applicable lessons I have learned throughout the last few years, what we will be doing once the short intermission is over, and some flashback (exposé) stories that happened in 2021, 2019 and the beginning of 2018…Stay Tuned!
Thank you for reading.
I am so glad that I’m back to writing. (Boy, did this piece take me a while!) I better get the habit back up to speed.
The Ferzona Group.
Contact Me Here;
I build Brands, Businesses and I am passionate about Enterprise Education…