Symon Maina’s innovative entrepreneurial journey started with a “completely nuts” dare to jump off a building when he was 16.
“My love for the comic character, Superman, was well known in school so my classmate dared me to jump off the third floor of a building like Superman! People started cheering! He said I should tape the incident as proof and show it to them after the school holidays. I was stressed!”
Fortunately, wisdom prevailed and he did not jump.
“I was no coward but I was not stupid either. Of course jumping off the balcony was completely nuts. I would end up with broken limbs at best. I bluffed my way out of that conversation but my mind started imagining of ways I could take the dare.”
When he got home, Symon went straight to the family’s desktop computer. He Googled about how one could fly without getting hurt and stumbled on a visual effect tutorial. He excitedly downloaded the adobe after-effects software.
However, he realised that he needed a green screen. A brilliant idea struck his mind. He boarded a matatu to Muthurwa market where he purchased three huge plain green sheets. He hung them on one side of his bedroom wall as a backdrop for the green screen.
“I was all set now to provide “evidence” of my heroic leap from the third floor balcony. I simply mounted the camcorder to record myself as I stood against the green sheets. After that, I downloaded stock footages of clouds.
Then I edited the video using SuperSpeed after- effects. It turned out amazing. Unfortunately, I could not carry my “concrete proof” to school, it was not allowed.
Funny how I did not think of school rules as my way out of the dare.”
Needed to make money
After high school, Symon realised that he needed to make some money and fend for himself like a man. Having been in boarding school from when he was eight years up to the time he turned 18, Symon, 22, had become accustomed to some level of independence. Asking for money from his parents every now and then did not augur well with him. One day, he came across a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) tutorial online of a girl who was making handbags from her worn out jeans.
Out of curiosity, Symon decided to try and make a backpack from some of his old discarded jeans. He was on a roll and added a twist of Ankara from a piece of African print fabric he found lying about. The bag was so beautiful; people would stop him on the way to inquire where he had purchased it .That is when it downed on him that his broke days were surely coming to an end.
He spent a few days with a tailor friend and quickly learnt how to stitch fabrics together. He then teamed up with his friend Chris Ng’anga who owned a sewing machine and was awaiting admission into a school of fashion and design. His friend Peter Gichuki offered to do free photoshoots of the bags and sales skyrocketed. It was short-lived though as Chris had to start college. Symon made around Sh40, 000 from the sales and purchased his first laptop.
In June 2015, Symon joined Shang Tao Media Arts to study 3D animation. It felt natural for him, given his bedroom had a studio of sorts and he was always watching animation tutorials.
Two years later, in June this year, alongside four friends, he started Extrude Productions which does graphical design of advertisements and publicity materials. Since its inception, they have done various gigs including online adverts for different corporates as well as lyrical videos for musicians. Per gig, they make anything from Sh.50, 000 to Sh150, 000 depending on the project’s complexity. They have been working in partnership with other production companies such as Cairu production pending their registration but they recently got registered.
“We have encountered a few challenges. For example, there’s the cost of shooting as per Kenya Filming Commission requirements which increases our cost of production. Agencies have also dominated the market and companies are hesitant to engage start-ups like us. This however pushes us to maximise on quality production.
We may not compete favourably with the duration some of these agencies have been operational, but you cannot argue with quality. It speaks for itself.”
Optimism and hard work
Optimism and hard work is the fuel that drives the life of this young creative mind. He is inspired by his neighbour who is the founder of Sapama.com, who begun as a start- up but is now a force to reckon with.
His dream job? He would like to be the chief test driver for Lamborghini, a position currently held by Valentino Balboni.
He would use his skill in computer generated imagery to express recommendations after the test drive.
Read More: Daily Nation