Exclusive Interview: Olabanke Banjo, Creative Director, Cyrus45 Factory

Olabanke Banjo - Creative Director, Cyrus45 Factory

Olabanke’s efficiency in identifying new opportunities and profuse interest in arts and crafts, led her to found Cyrus45 Factory, a fast-growing recycling company that transforms used vehicle tyres into functional furniture and beautiful works of art. In this interview with Africa-OnTheRise, we learn more about this brilliant creative professional who is passionate about media, arts and craft.

Olabanke Banjo - Cyrus45, Creative Director
Olabanke Banjo – Cyrus45, Creative Director
  1. Before Cyrus45 Factory, you had worked as a Columnist, Media Executive and Digital Specialist, tell us about yourself and your journey so far?
  • I am a creative and arts enthusiast, born in the 90s to a family of 3 children. I have a Bachelor’s degree in French language from the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University, which makes me bi-lingual. My keen interest in literature and writing led to the birth of my poetry blog, The Livid Ink in 2012 and I later further pursued my writing prowess by working as a content writer and social media manager with companies such as iGrooveRadio, Olisa.tv, TopNaija and Thomas O. Women Network.
  1. As a young entrepreneur leading a promising business in Nigeria, what are your thoughts about how Africa can leverage its large youth population to achieve a peaceful, prosperous and integrated Africa?
  • Our society needs to identify the strengths of millennials (generation Y/Z), which I am a part of. The youth of this generation are more socially, visually and technologically inclined. If African youth are given the opportunity and platforms to express themselves, they are able to provide solutions to many of the problems present in this region by leveraging modern technologies available to them.
  1. According to the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, Rwanda ranks 1st in Africa and 4th globally, and also ranks number one (1) in the world in female participation in legislature and leadership. How do you imagine this result can be replicated in other African countries? How can women empowerment programmes be leveraged to achieve this goal?
  • The importance of the girl child cannot be overemphasized. Sadly, in some regions in this part of Africa, patriarchy is still actively being practiced, leaving the female ratio unequipped to fulfil their dreams. I don’t believe the solution is having more women empowerment programmes, we have countless already. I believe what is needed are programmes targeted at sensitizing the male population on the value of a girl child so their mindsets are reconditioned and they can in turn pass these values and insights to their sons.
  1. You are also a Digital Specialist for a leading Advertising Agency in Nigeria, how has this influenced your thoughts about digital media being a viable economic opportunity for the African continent?
  • Digital media is driving the advertising industry in our world today, with reach across continents. Companies around the world have shifted their major focus from traditional forms of ads to digital media because of its effectiveness in reaching more people across the globe and also flexibility in the way digital media can be utilized. African Countries like South Africa and Nigeria have become hot-spots for Tech Companies to invest in due to the number of youths growing skills in the Tech world. This is a clear indication that there are significant opportunities in the digital media for African youths and the economy in general.
Olabanke Banjo at work
Olabanke Banjo at work
  1. Cyrus45 Factory focuses on not only recycling but also producing bespoke and ultra-modern furniture and products for the art savvy Nigerian, how do you hope to work with other recycling initiatives and start-ups to build a sustainable model that not only serves your business, but also the environment?
  • For us at Cyrus45 factory, we believe that in order to achieve a sustainable model in recycling and green living in our community, we must first educate ourselves on the reason why we need to recycle as well as the benefits that come with it. A paradigm shift from our business as usual attitude i.e if it is not affecting me now then it’s not my business. It can only be sustainable when we work together, this is why we look to partner with other organizations that share our values and goals. Every tyre we have up cycled was taken off the street, this is what we call our “value creation – waste reduction” principle. This serves our business of creating artsy and functional furniture for the art savvy Nigerian as well as cleaning up the environment. As the mindset of our people change towards a greener environment, it eventually becomes a culture and thus creates a healthy environment that encourages any one to start up a business in recycling.
Cyrus45 Centre Table - Yellow
Cyrus45 Centre Table – Yellow
  1. What are some of the peculiar challenges that you encounter in your work, and how are you able to overcome them?
  • Like every other startup, the first few months are always challenging. For Cyrus45, production has been the main challenge. There are a lot of equipment and resources needed for seamless production. I actually shut down the business in May this year last year for about two months to restructure and re-strategize because of this challenge. However, after having a retreat, I was able to cross some hurdles but frankly there is still a lot of resources we need to run smoothly.
Cyrus45 Dining Set
Cyrus45 Dining Set
  1. Across the continent of Africa and beyond, there are passionate young people who are frustrated by the existing systems in their different nations. What would you say is the best way to galvanize youth effort across the continent to change the African narrative, especially as regards leadership and governance?
  • I wouldn’t say best but I would say a practical way is to avail these passionate youth the opportunity to take up top leadership positions. We need innovative ideas to move Africa forward which I believe the youth are key drivers. Youth are not the future leaders of tomorrow, they are the leaders of Now!
  1. A lot continues to be said about the rise of Africa, the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative it is called. Do you agree that Africa is indeed rising? If so, what are the changing realities, scenarios and events that inform your conviction that Africa is indeed a continent on the rise?
  • Africa is rising and fast too. Africa presently has the highest growth rate in the beer market than any other region. This statistic is owed to the growing GDP, urbanization and rising population of working class. This indicates a growth in purchasing power and Foreign Companies are fighting to own a good stand in this growing African market. Africans are also breaking grounds internationally in different industries, case in point, Nigerian Bobsled team who became the first African team to qualify for the 2018 Olympics.
  1. In line with your journey so far as an employee and now business owner, what advice from your experience so far would you like to share?
  • As someone who is an entrepreneur and also a white collar worker, my advice to anyone is first know who you are. I remember dabbling in several businesses over the years in a bid to find a place where I belong. But after I ran a SWOT analysis on myself, I found a balance. Self-identification is the first stepping in discovering what your dreams are and following them ardently. If you know who you are, your values and goals, you will develop a tunnel vision and focus on fulfilling your dreams; regardless of circumstances.
Cyrus45 Mirror
Cyrus45 Mirror
  1. What should Africa look forward to from you soon? What is the next big thing you are working on right now?
  • Africa should expect new range of products from Cyrus45, we are working on expanding this year. Our main goal is to change the general perception of Made in Nigeria products, contribute to a cleaner, greener environment and also be named one of the game-changers in the creative industry.

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