Interview with Christopher Gwom - Creative Tracks Ambassador

Meet the founder of Nigeria based KRISTYLE MEDIA.
Christopher Gwom is Creative Tracks Ambassador and Contact Point for North-Central Region of Nigeria. His organisation KRISTYLE MEDIA is based in the highly talented city of Jos, the capital of Plateau State, which is the ‘showbiz capital’ of the North-Central States. The region is crawling with thousands of highly talented individuals who have limited exposure to online markets and international opportunities. KRISTYLE MEDIA is a Communication for Development Agency, which seeks to provide the structural and intellectual capacity building to foster creative expression, by talented citizens and young activist. They are committed to organizing and transforming the grassroots creative industry, using an innovative product development and marketing approach in order to open-up new demographic territories and alternative niches, that will boost the income level of talented individuals and foster the growth of their creative enterprises.
We asked Christopher to kindly tell us more about his work, the creative movers and shakers in Nigeria and the value of platforms supporting creative entrepreuenurship!

How did Kristyle Media begin?
I was 19 when we founded the Promotional Talent Club (PTC) in 1995 and that was how I got involved in community development and show business. For fourteen years we ran the biggest annual music festival in Plateau state, Nigeria tagged “Jos Talent Sunsplash”. Many great talents were discovered and nurtured but unfortunately, most of these talented young artists could not make a living out of their creativity despite the quality of their music and artistry.
That was why in 2007 ‘Kristyle Records And Promotions Company’ was registered as an independent record label and consultancy outfit. Aiming to provide a business platform for talented individuals to profit from their creative abilities, we operated mainly as artist managers, events promoters and consultants for various corporate and individual clients.
We had a ‘dry spell’ in 2010 and shut down our operations for two and a half years. Then in 2013 we restructured the company into KRISTYLE MEDIA a social enterprise to cater for our entrepreneurial and media approach to the development issues affecting our communities.
How did your background / life experiences influence you to start supporting and transforming the grassroots creative industry in Nigeria?
From my experience, as a co-founder of the Promotional Talent Club (PTC) at a tender age, and as a pioneer member of Reggae Club International (ReCI), Youth Promotion Club (YPC) and Performing Musicians Employers Association (PMAN) on The Plateau, I have learned to approach Youth Development from an ‘Art-and-Culture’ perspective.
Being an artist, entrepreneur and development practitioner, I have worked with talented individuals and creative entrepreneurs from various disciplines. But I still see a lot of them struggling with the same issues we decried twenty years ago. Many have had to relocate to Lagos in order to ‘make it’, where most of them got exploited, used and dumped by unscrupulous individuals posing as promoters, ‘marketers’ or record labels. Today investors’ have lost confidence in the industry due to low returns in investment, while the artists are frustrated, confused and demoralized.
Having studied mass communication at the University of Jos and worked as a volunteer, staff or consultant to several local and international NGOs, I have gained considerable experience across disciplines. Although as an artist I am also affected by these problems, as a development practitioner I have taken the time to investigate the root causes of our predicament. Hence as an entrepreneur I am positioning myself to proffer the practical and sustainable solutions that will enable us to surmount these challenges, fulfil our artistic careers and succeed in our creative ventures.
What do you see as the main challenges for creative entrepreneurs and young activists in Nigeria?
The main challenges facing creative entrepreneurs and young activists in Nigeria include;
Low Business Acumen: This is evident by the general incompetence in the area of career development, business development and financial management within the sub-sector. There are many super-talented and hyper-creative individuals here that are ‘not-in-business’, because they don’t seem to have any ideas on how to transform their talents into business, or ideas into products and services that people will pay for. Thus many have resigned to the erroneous belief in ‘spiritual forces’ working against them.
Lack Of Organization: Nigerians tend to place very little value on infrastructures or systems. This is evident in the general collapse of our institutions and the gross dilapidation of public and private establishments across the country. Due to this negative attitude, creative individuals and young activists are yet to grasp the importance of corporate governance and the strategic roles of associations and unions within the creative industry. Everyone is going solo, everyone is competing against everyone, and everyone is blaming the government for neglecting the largely unorganized sub-sector.
Knowledge Deficiency: Most talented people tend to shy away from ‘education’ including general reading, research, seminars, etc. Despite the availability of the internet, satellite TV and mobile telecommunication, most creative entrepreneurs here seem oblivious of the means and methods (industry best practices, business models) that can generate income streams for them. While some pretend to know, others simply want be creative and let someone else do the business part on their behalf.
Poor Funding: Due to the three reasons I mentioned above, most creative entrepreneurs are unable to raise funds to finance their projects. The paltry intervention by government some years ago was mismanaged, leading to widespread disenchantment among advocacy groups. The private sector on the other hand will not finance any venture that has no corporate governance systems in place or at least a properly documented business plan that clearly demonstrates the capacity to generate reasonable returns on investment.
It is sad to see many creative individuals these days are solely dependent on goodwill donations and handouts from well-meaning individuals, despite the availability of the digital market place at our fingertips.
What kind of services are you offering for structural and intellectual capacity building to foster creative expression?
KRISTYLE MEDIA is a small organization that works with its network of clients and partners to provide the following services through outsourcing and co-opting;
Consultancy Services: Business Documentation, Legal and Administrative Blueprints, Career Advice, Business Ideas / Incubation, Projects design / Implementation and Marketing Services.
Capacity Building Services: Training, Mentorship, Resource Materials, Tool Kits, Peer Review, Networking, Advocacy Campaigns, Mass Media/Mobilisation Programs, ‘Literacy Programs’ (Media Literacy, Internet Literacy, Financial Literacy and Civic Education) and Community Intervention Projects.
Agency Services: Artist and Events Management, Career Advisory, Joint Venture Liaison, Exchange Facilitator.
Can you share an example of one of your clients who is doing inspiring things?
Vou Vanessa Chenbap is the founder of Community Partners for the Vulnerable And Excluded (COPAVE) and also the initiator of the Genesis NEXT.
Vou is an artist and creative entrepreneur that has enjoyed the career advisory services of KRISTYLE MEDIA and has been able to create a rich network and platform for young people to share their experiences and inspire one another.
Her group G-NEXT is the most active group in the KRISTYLE MEDIA Network and we are working to replicate similar platforms across the region. The group holds a monthly event tagged “Thank God It’s Friday” (TGIF)
The group have also held several award programs and produced two annual magazines; “The Mentor” and “The Legend” to commemorate with high-flying achievers both at home and in the Diaspora. The next CLASS AWARDS comes up on Sunday 24th December 2017 in Lagos, Nigeria.

Tell us about your ‘Africa Art Exchange’ initiative?
AFRICA ART EXCHANGE is a unique showbiz development initiative of KRISTYLE MEDIA in the city of Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria. The objective of the ‘exchange’ is to mobilize talented individuals and creative entrepreneurs to form the biggest Creative Hub in the North-Central Region of Nigeria, through cross-disciplinary joint ventures and group enterprises.
Using microeconomic and cooperative business models, we plan to facilitate strategic partnerships and create innovative joint-ventures, so as to guarantee sustainable income streams for creative individuals and firms at a minimal risk level. This will enable the participants in the ‘hub’ to generate ‘equity capital’ and mobilize the resources required to propel their creative enterprises and succeed in their various careers.
Basically our role involves linking service providers with clients who are trying to mobilise ‘resources’ for a viable project from interested parties that are willing to share both the risks and the returns on investment. We will also provide them with operational support because Africa Art Exchange will be the primary outlet for marketing and delivering our Consultancy, Capacity Building and Agency services.

What for you is the importance of networking platforms like the creative hub you are developing and Creative Tracks platform?
I see platforms like Africa Art Exchange and the Creative Tracks as the next paradigm in entrepreneurship because of their potential to facilitate knowledge transfer, generate cooperative businesses and attract crowd funding.
This to me is what the world is looking for in the global village and the digital marketplace. This is the foundation of the new ‘indie-conglomerates’ that will lead the economies of the future.
Such platforms if well utilized will go a long way in reducing unemployment, promoting inter-racial cohesion, strengthening the voice of young activists and improving grassroots economies.
As an ambassador, how do you intend to contribute and provide support to the Creative Tracks community?
As an ambassador, I will be able to increase the online visibility of Creative Tracks and also boost the level of participation by our local artist and creative entrepreneurs. I will be able to provide timely information on the platform about the events and opportunities across the North Central Region of Nigeria. I will also try to facilitate exchange visits between groups and individuals within the Creative Tracks community their counterparts here in Nigeria. I am also confident that my role as an ambassador will enable me to generate business opportunities for members of the Creative Tracks community.
Do you have any new projects coming up you would like to share?
1. Creative Leaders Summit 2018 (details coming soon)
2. The Jos Carnival 2018 is around the corner packed with the following interesting events;
Beauty Pageant – January 28th 2018
Unveiling Ceremony – February 6th 2018
Culinary Festival / Traditional Fashion Show – February 10th 2018
Guided Tour – March 10th
Children’s Festival – March 17th
Long Distance Race / Cycling – March 24th
Carnival Village – March 24th – April 8th
Mountaineering Expedition – March 31st
Mini Polo Tournament – March 31st
Music Fiesta – March 31st
Bikers’ Road Show – April 2nd
Carnival Street Parade – April 3rd
All these events are open to foreign participants and The State Government is willing to provide incentives for any groups that wish to come and participate from other countries.
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