From Influencer to Entrepreneur: The Journey of 1Take Production
You might have come across some beautifully crafted TikTok videos explaining tech-related matters; most probably, if you take a look, it is from an account called 1Take production. Loline got the opportunity to interview the man behind (also in front of) those captivating videos.
Delve into our fascinating discussion as we unveil his creative process, his take on where one starts with photography, and how he built his well-known production company.
This ambitious young man who plans to spread content creation and technology throughout Ethiopia is named Yohannes Girma. Yohannes graduated from Jackson State University with a degree in Cinematography and Graphic Design. A cinematographer works closely with the director to bring a vision to life. They’re in charge of shaping the light and creating specific scenes. We asked how he ended up majoring in this field. “It was by trial and error. I got into civil engineering, then tried fluid mechanics, computer engineering, and computer science. However, none of them were for me.” Yohannes recalled. “Eventually, my sister suggested graphic design, and I immediately fell in love with it. Taking photos and creating content was always something within me, but I have never considered it a ‘professional’ career.”
"The appeal of the artistic environment is the process of breathing life into what only existed in the mind. I think that’s pretty cool."
After Yohannes completed his studies, it was time to look for a job. It was 2020, and COVID had struck the world and complicated things. Family and friends advised Yohannes to return to Ethiopia. “I took a leap of faith,” he said.
Yohannes had no intentions of becoming a content creator. "I began by honing my craft at a marketing agency. Before coming here (Ethiopia), I had sold most of my valuables to buy a camera. But I started working from 9 to 5 in the office, and my cameras were collecting dust at home. Eventually, I decided to put them to good use.
The first couple of videos I did on TikTok blew up. That gave me the incentive to keep going. I never thought the step I took two years ago would lead me to my own production company.” Yohannes continued. “It was going to be a cooking channel, vlogging my dinner, and all that. My first video was me preparing a marmalade sandwich.”
Yohannes has lived abroad for over half of his life. It was not simple to adjust back here and start a business. But he claims it taught him patience and diligence that only strengthened him.
Loline asked how he transitioned from content creation to entrepreneurship. “I had people with strong vision around me who advised me to take my talent further. I was also fortunate enough to get the attention of influential people to partner with,” he said. Yohannes also stated that the work he did as an employee and a freelancer helped him build 1Take’s brand. “I was able to partner with Addis Alemayehu, the founder and CEO of 251 Communications, 1Take’s sister company. I managed to get funding as well. Coupled with Addis’s mentorship, 1Take was able to step foot into the industry.”
Yohannes told Loline about the story behind the company name. “I was discussing brand names with my sister, and the novelty of my brand and how it relates to my character. Whenever I take pictures, I have this feeling that if you set up the lighting, the placement, and a good amount of preparation, you know you’re getting that perfect photo with one shot. You tend to re-shoot as a professional practice, but you know you'll utilize the first take.”
“There are a lot of hoops you need to jump through to start a company in Ethiopia. The process took me about three months, but it was something that could be done online in an hour elsewhere. The influencer content creation business is relatively new in Ethiopia, so every aspect of the job was challenging. The lack of briefs from prospect companies was also a hurdle.” Yohannes said when mentioning the challenges he faced establishing 1Take Productions.
“I consider myself an introvert behind the camera, but running a business pushes you into the spotlight. You’re now the person responsible for bringing in clients, solving employee discrepancies, and a lot more. It was certainly a learning curve. Interacting with people was also a challenge on my part. It may look natural as I post content, but deep down, there’s a bit of anxiety. But you get used to being uncomfortable; that’s the only way you’ll grow.” Yohannes added.
Yohannes shared the biggest lesson he has learned from his entrepreneurial experience, which is the importance of a business plan including the description of the company, brand identity, purpose, and vision. “You need a rate on which the financial model will be based. Depending on the client, you also need to practice some level of flexibility with your rate. You learn these things as you go.”
Yohannes’s answer to the question of what makes 1Take different from other production companies in Ethiopia was, “1Take grew on social media. We understand how to push a client’s content and work with the algorithm.”
Most photographers have a “bucket shot,” a list of places they want to take pictures of. So Loline asked what Yohannes's were. “The seven wonders of the world.” he replied, “ I want to travel and take a picture of each one.” Yohannes also mentioned the best piece of photography he’s ever taken, the Milky Way, taken in the middle of nowhere without light pollution in San Francisco. He is also most proud of his “Skyline of Addis'' photo.
Yohannes feels that good photographers have basic lighting abilities and knowledge of composition. His main influence is Peter Mckinnon and his works in landscape/product photography.
Numerous people are interested in photography, but most do not know how to take their first step into the industry.
“YouTube.” was Yohannes’s concise advice to those people. “YouTube has all the tutorials one needs to start photography. It has ample resources to build knowledge. The next step is practicing, and this is where it gets tricky because what worked for me might not necessarily work for everyone. But the common ground is to get a camera and start shooting. You do not need to have production-related gigs; you can buy your first camera while working at your day job. You can even rent your camera and do some gigs. You can then capitalize off of that and invest the money back. Once you buy your first camera, you have started your first company. You’ll do more production gigs, build a portfolio, and get your name out there. You can not just sit and wait until you get a camera or production gig. You have to go out and do what needs to be done to achieve your goal.” Yohannes advised.
There are numerous playlists on 1Take’s YouTube channel, which will serve as a stepping stone for anyone wishing to kick start their journey as a photographer.
The creative process
“Photography is my venting and coping mechanism. Photography is therapeutic and food for the soul. I am glad my work is my passion.”
Yohanes’s first step in his creative process is creating a storyboard of the kind of photo he’s going to take. The next step is to take care of location, weather, timing, and transportation details. He then puts his shot list into action, freezing time to capture a moment.
Loline asked Yohannes for advice on content creation in Ethiopia.
“When it comes to content creation, the best advice may be from Nike, ‘just do it.’ It is not difficult to develop content. I have the cameras for good production quality, but it is the substance that builds the audience. “ Yohannes also mentioned his Mother, who recently started her content creation journey on TikTok with over 1k followers and 50k views on a video. “All she can use is her phone to make these videos. You just need the drive.” Yohannes emphasized.
In 5 Years
“I want 1Take to be formidable.'' Yohannes envisioned. The objective of 1Take’s recent launch is to make technology and content available in different Ethiopian languages. “We want to create brand awareness. 1Take has preceded my name, and that was my goal. Now we want to reach across Ethiopia and provide content on technology or any other sector.” Yohannes concluded.