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Olivia on Making Room in a (Seemingly) Crowded Market

Posted on May 31, 2016

“I don’t operate the same way as other startups in Kenya do. Incubators have mushroomed all over, providing space for startups to engage with one another, as well as engage with investors. This is a good thing, but I prefer silence. I prefer to work in spaces that are peaceful and quiet, where I hear birds chirping in the background.”

Olivia Mengich is the founder of Ivertise Africa, a stock photography company whose soul is embedded in African visuals, and showcasing the rich cultural blend of the continent. It depicts the African narrative for what it truly is. The idea of the enterprise began after a personal experience of not being able to find relevant and realistic African footage.
“I used to work in the marketing department of one of Kenya’s leading banks. One day when tasked to find a picture of an African farmer, I kept seeing the same visual all over again: it was that of a tea farmer with a broad smile, standing (seemingly happy) against the harsh African sun.” Perplexed by the lack of imagery that truly reflected the people and the lifestyle of the continent, Olivia left the financial cushion of a traditional job – in banking – to pursue the enterprise; and address the problem.  ”I found that being employed was time consuming against pursuing the idea. I couldn’t do both at the same time. There wasn’t enough time.”
Starting the business venture wasn’t easy, she’d mentioned. Having started the enterprise in 2014, and only truly kicking off now, in 2016, the past years of experience gave her the opportunity to research the market. Two factors emerged: the first relating to market competition, the second to the potential growth strategy of the business.
In market competition, several business models had been implemented. Working with image contributors from across the spectrum was the more prevalent one, over a company capturing and using its own footage. This is due to the opportunity of opening the platform to a diverse pull of content. “Image creatives in the East of Africa tend to be risk averse. There was a fear from Kenyan photographers that they’re footage would be stolen online.” To address this concern, Olivia provided a high commission model as an incentive. The company offers 50% commission on 100 plus image stock, 40% on less. It sees itself as an avenue for copyright owners to license their content through them. “We spent time with contributors to bring together a win-win solution.”
In growth strategy, Olivia was the first to reckon that she had not been the first mover in the market of stock photography. With already established brands existing in the market (such as Shutterstock) she’d have to focus on her niche market to have an impact in the sector. “Brands wanting to compete on the continent are increasingly coming to the knowledge of the importance of local content.” Sophiacom was one of the first corporates to take advantage of this. They are known for using local content to communicate and engage with the local market – using (for example in Kenya) the good side of our tribalism to confirm that they understand our needs and wants as consumers.”
It is on this hope that Olivia’s brand has the potential to grow. The more engaged brands are and become with the African audience, the more demand they will see for their stock.
“African visuals are important, not just for my company – but in general for the African narrative.” It is necessary that we tell our own stories from within – reflecting the true nature of our diverse cultures, lifestyles and environments. “This is not just for this generation,” she adds, “but also for the one to come.”