“The Journey of a Thousand Miles Starts with a Step”: An Interview with Olalekan Saliu. By Amelia Stuttard.

Working in office situation

I sat down – metaphorically speaking in light of COVID-19 measures – with Olalekan Saliu, director of the digital agency Branxel, to discuss all you need to know about the up-and-coming company – we discuss Branxel’s purpose, the difficulties of building a company, and (for the hopeful entrepreneurs) stick around for advice on starting a business of your own.
Before we begin, I thought it important to clarify just where the name ‘Branxel’ comes from to get an understanding of just what they are all about. “The name comes from the combination of ‘branding’ and ‘pixels”, explains Olalekan, “Bran’ from ‘branding’ and ‘xel’ from ‘pixel”.
To get the ball rolling, we should ask, ‘what is Branxel?’ for those that may not already know. Olalekan answers, “Branxel, ‘The Design Milieu’ is a UK based creative branding and media house consisting of a tight-knit group of strategists, creative thinkers, digital innovators, designers, and developers.” For those that are unaware of what this means, Olalekan continues to explain that “the idea was to create a platform that helps people build brands.’ Additionally, when posed with the question of brand image and what he wishes his company to be known for, Ola said that it was most important that Branxel is known for the incredible services it offers – “Everyone has a brand and Branxel offers a way to help showcase this.”
Olalekan Saliu is only twenty-four years of age and a full-time university student: it should be greatly acknowledged that with his young age, alongside maintaining a university degree and through this difficult time following the pandemic, it is not easy to adopt the task of running a business on top of it all. For this reason, I asked Olalekan, ‘What is the most difficult part of building your independent brand?’ Surprisingly, his age nor situational circumstances were his main concern. He admitted simply, “The most difficult part would be finding the courage to start.” I can imagine that plenty of new business owners also suffer from doubts of success and tend to question the practicality of taking such a risk. With this in mind, I wanted to know how Olalekan overcomes the difficult periods. “Stay focused on the goal,” he says. “Even though sometimes things may not go according to plan, knowing what the goal is and staying focused on it, it will help you to keep going during the hard times.”
An interesting detail to know about Branxel is that the company was originally formed in Nigeria by Olalekan’s sister – I mention this as consumers must recognise the company’s roots and its position as a small Black-owned business. Branxel showcases a range of portraits appreciating Black culture on their Instagram (@Branxelm) whether it be through Olalekan Saliu’s art or the recognition of other artists. I asked Olalekan to explain his reasoning for this and this was his response: “Black culture or achievements aren’t celebrated or showcased enough, be it in the media or just in general. Representation is important and showcasing Black pride, breaks down the stereotypes people have against us.” History proves that it is no secret that large corporations are predominantly owned and maintained by white people, usually of a stable financial upbringing and access to high-level education. Unfortunately, we are yet to see a fair level of representation in the business world, particularly regarding race and financial stability. I asked Olalekan, ‘Can you tell us from your experience why it is important to acknowledge and appreciate Black-owned businesses in a way that is incomparable to those that are not?’ He replied, “It is important to acknowledge and appreciate Black-owned businesses because we don’t get enough attention or support. By supporting Black businesses, you are helping someone keep the light on for another month or pay the bills for this month.” It is not enough to simply to be a consumer of Black businesses – a crucial detail to supporting Black-owned businesses is to recognise the unequal opportunities they have suffered from and have an active voice in ensuring those opportunities are not gone amiss for future generations – a way you can do this is through promotion and reviews of purchases that could encourage other potential customers.
Starting a business is a difficult process regardless of opportunities: you will find some responsibilities and hardships that might not have even crossed your mind until you are face to face with them. Olalekan uses his passion and drives to overcome these difficulties but it can be difficult to always have such a positive outlook when there is so much at stake. And so, I asked Olalekan if he had any advice for those of you hoping to start your own business, especially those with fewer academic, social or economic opportunities. “My advice for anyone looking to start a business will be to just start. The journey of a thousand miles starts with a step. Once you start, every other thing will fall into place.’
Whatever the inspiration for building your own business, there will always be hope for success. Success could mean something different to each entrepreneur. Perhaps it might be money, fame, or a sense of purpose – whatever the reason – an honest businessman will use that success to not just benefit themselves but also those for which they stand for. So, my final question for Olalekan, the face behind Branxel, is, ‘What does success mean for you?’ He responds, “Success to me means being able to accomplish what you set your mind to. It means knowing you won’t always have good experiences but still doing what you love. With my success, I will be able to help as many people as possible in my community.”