While the media industry is struggling globally — more and more beloved publications are shutting down around the world — people like Benjamin Dada, Founder & CEO of Benjamindada.com, are defying the odds.
Ben built a tech blog off his personal brand and made it a leading, profitable media company despite not focusing on it full-time. So, we decided to speak to him to learn more about how he accomplished such an impressive feat.
Have you always wanted to be a tech journalist?
Not at all.
Yeah. Back in secondary school, I rarely got good grades in essay writing. So, a writing-related career path was the last thing that came to mind.
So what was the turning point?
Well, I developed a bit of an interest in writing before I left secondary school. I wanted the kind of attention the Head Boy was getting for having a personal blog.
Haha. What attention?
Everyone talked about him whenever he published new blog posts (mostly personal rants). Wanting some of that attention for myself, I developed an interest in writing. But I didn’t take this interest seriously until 2015.
What happened differently in 2015?
I landed an internship at Andela and was placed under the supervision of a boss who had a blog that was doing wonders for his personal brand. This motivated me to write my first article because I looked up to him and wanted to develop a reputable personal brand, too.
So when and how did you get into tech journalism?
I got into tech journalism in 2016, after I shared a topic idea with TechCity’s Editor-in-Chief, and she asked me to write it. After that first article, I became a regular writer for the blog, and in no time, I became a reputable tech blogger.
When did you know it was time to start your own tech blog?
I realised it was time to do my own thing after two years of writing for TechCity and going for a master’s program that further honed my research skills and expanded my network. Also, the market for tech journalism was hot.
But why did you name your blog after yourself?
I thought it was just going to be me [Laughs].
Interesting. So at what point did it begin to grow beyond you?
Because I had built a presence on Twitter, published on TechCity and written career content pieces on Medium, I had a small but devoted audience when I began Benjamindada.com.
But that audience didn’t grow until 2019, when I hired three writers to join the blog. These writers helped us generate record-breaking traffic and engagement with their articles, making me realise the blog had grown beyond me.
Did that popularity translate into money, though?
Yes. I ensured we secured the bag too.
And how did you do that?
I registered the blog as a company (BCSL) and positioned us as experts who tell companies’ stories in a way that helps them achieve their business goals. And so, we charged these companies a fee for a feature.
In 2018, this fee was as low as ₦15k, and today, it is as high as ₦300k. Also, investors indicated an interest in the company along the way.
Did you consider taking their money?
No. I didn’t (and still don’t) think it was time, as I’m not ready to give investors the effort they require founders to give their companies.
So your company is currently bootstrapped?
Yes. We run on our profit. I also fund certain aspects of the business with my personal fund.
How has funding it from your pocket worked for you?
My full-time jobs help me stay afloat. Also, when I first started the company officially, I planned to never hire more people than I can afford to pay out of my own pocket if we don’t make money at all. But it’s not gotten to that; we have a profitable clientele.
How do you combine your full-time job with managing the company?
I have a team lead who handles operations, while I focus solely on sourcing partnerships from my network so we can increase our revenue.
How did you build such a valuable network, though?
I apply a 360 degree approach to networking.
In what sense?
I build connections with those ahead of me (seniors, bosses, influential people), my peers, and those behind me (juniors, interns). I do this by attending events, sharing value online, and also reaching out via cold DMs.
This is what has served me to date and made it easy for me to make certain calls that help Benjamindada.com grow.
Do you plan to leave your full-time job to focus on Benjamindada.com?
What’s stopping you?
The blog cannot currently pay me my ideal salary. Also, I’d like us to build a tech product that can assist media businesses. Until then, I’ll keep working full-time roles to expand my network and reach.
What would you say to anyone trying to build a media business?
First, know your purpose. Why are you doing this? Having an answer to this question will help you stay grounded even during your most challenging times. Afterward, study the landscape and determine what type of media brand you want to build.
Do you want to be a TechCabal or a Communique? Then figure out how you intend to make money off that brand. More importantly, plan how you will sustain yourself pending the time the company scales.
To this end, you can consider working a full-time job or taking on side projects.