In this article, we share the guiding principles that have helped international Artist, Dotun Popoola reinvent himself from a humble beginning and become a successful and one of the most creative personalities in Nigeria.
Let’s get to meet you, Sir, tell us about your background?
My name is Dotun Popoola, I was born and raised in Lagos State from a humble family I was raised in a troubled neighborhood where it took you would have to work extra hard and have the right guidance to be on the right path in life. I schooled in Auchi polytechnic and then to Obafemi Awolowo University where I made the best student
What was the key driving force that inspired you to become an Artist?
Art is a language that I have always understood from childhood. I have used it to communicate so many values to the world. Being an artist has also afforded me an opportunity to inspire people and live a life that is fulfilling.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to developing your talent and how did you overcome them?
I have always been hardworking and a firm believer in my abilities. Initially, my parents expected me to study to become a professional like a doctor, engineer, etc as they were highly respected professionals in society. But over the years, I have been able to stay focused on my talent and make the best of the opportunity the profession has created for me.
Who are the people that mentored you into your current business?
I got trained and mentored by Mr. John Lopez. He is a cowboy in the United States of America. He technically changed my thinking pattern. He was able to instill humility in me despite one’s achievements. One of his advice then was for me to make my life the bible people can read and a ladder people can climb to achieve their goals. These in turn have inspired me to mentor younger people and be the light in their lives.
To what extent has the global media changed discourses and impacted on national arts, language, culture, and identity of the Nigerian people?
The global media has almost affected everything, especially our culture. It has both positive and negative effects on almost everything. I would rather pay attention to the positives. I for example would not have been to get lots of international recognition without the help of the global media. It has enabled me to display and exhibit my works, culture, and heritage to different parts of the world. We can also argue that people, especially children are also influenced negatively by some copied values from other countries. Global Media has really helped visual arts in Africa to get promoted to the peak. We now experience African arts being exhibited and appreciated all around the world. In summary, I would say the positives are more than the negatives.
How do you market your business, and which tactics have been most successful?
Before embarking on my kind of branding and packaging, I made a decision to not just be involved in art for the fun of it, but to take it as a profession. It is logical that when you take yourself seriously, the whole world will take you seriously too. I classify my works as premium luxury and it is for carved for a definite market. So as a professional, I have a preference for the place where I showcase my work. I am attracted to standardized galleries and museums where my works are managed and taken care of. This orientation has allowed me to create a different kind of packaging and content for my brand. I have positioned my brand and carved a niche for myself as a major Scrap artist in Africa. For you to have a successful marketing strategy you have to be intentional in the way the market perceives you.
Can you describe/outline your typical day? How do you balance the demands of entrepreneurship and family life?
We all have different scripts to life. When I wake every morning, I do my morning devotions then go straight to my social media. I get to respond to all my messages between 4 am and 6 am. By 7 am, you would find me in the studio. I spend the whole day at the studio keeping my hands busy. If we are not creating, we are innovating and doing lots and lots of research. It is a routine that I have conditioned myself to work and I ensure I achieve a lot before I close by 7 pm. I also take time to rest on weekends and some days. I intentionally create time for my family to ensure there are no gaps in my professional and private life.
How do you define success? Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful Artist?
People have different definitions of success. Some define success by the number of exhibitions they have, some by the number of collectors that have their works, and some by the kind and amount of material things they are able to acquire. For me, my definition of success is to see people happy when they see my work. I have done exhibitions and my works are in some high collector’s gallery. But I would say success is when the next person sees your work and they are inspired and are joyful and hopeful.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business? What piece of advice would you give to college graduates who want to become entrepreneurs?
My biggest moment was when I did my show in Qatar, it was beautiful, it was the biggest experience that I have ever had. The response, the people that attended, the connections I made and the revenue made. It was my biggest moment because as an African artist when you start up, you would always have this fear of not being able to sell your brand and works internationally. I have also had numerous career moments in the past three years. My last exhibition show was just after the pandemic and it was sold out with more than 3000 people ranging from celebrities and other high net worth people in the society. I have a lot of young people that follow me and are inspired by what they see me do. If you want to excel in this profession, you have to love what you are doing. You have to learn to make your passion your profession so that people would also take you seriously. Young guys need to set principles that lead to excellence. For example, before you visit my studio, there is a standard procedure for it as it’s a place where we innovate and create and not a mere playground.
What would you say are the top skills needed to be a successful Artist? What key activities would you recommend artists invest their time in?
I would share my 4 Cs of being successful. The least of it is being creative as it’s a natural ability expected from all artists. The next is to get the right contact. This means that if you are creative and you are deliberate about showcasing your works on all media and communication channels, you would have more contacts. Even the least and most remote of professions these days are even online.
Your contacts will grow when you always have enough creative and contemporary content to share with people. This incidentally is the third point. Your content stands you out in the world of an artist. Finally, I would say you have to be consistent in the profession. You don’t have to work only when you feel like it, as you won’t get paid for doing anything.
There is no fast road to success as all the roads from the east to the west, north and south all connect to hard work and discipline.
What should your fans expect from you in the nearest future?
The future is so clear and bright without spelling it out. For people that have followed me in the last three years, you would notice that I evolve myself. In the next future, I plan to make my brand a global one. So, in the Arts and Entertainment space, I want when you mention Dotun it would be like mentioning Wizkid, Tuface, Burna boy, and Davido in the Music and Entertainment space.