Sometime late in 2013, I got a call from a multinational photography-gadget organization. The company was about to launch one of their latest picture-taking gadget and they needed someone to be an ambassador for the product. I asked them why they thought I was the best candidate for such a role and they told me I was number one on their list because of the mere fact that I organized a conference that brought together photography enthusiasts and professionals in Nigeria.
Although I tried not to show too much excitement over the phone, I reckoned within myself that this was the break I was looking for. This was going to go down as the singular deal that will help resolve my over-N5million NiPHEC debt. I was excited, I was elated, I was nervous.
The gentleman at the other end of the phone proceeded to explain what the organization expected of me should I accept the job. They would require that I take pictures with their latest camera equipment and do a few writeups after I’ve presented the pictures at a conference that would hold four weeks later. That meant that I had only 27 days to travel the country to take pictures that would represent each state of the federation. WoW. Talk of excitement meeting adventure.
“How much will it cost us,” the guy finally asked. Over the years, I have learnt not to be too quick to give (a client I know little about) a price over the phone. I threw the question back at him. “What is your company’s budget for this?” He stressed that the budget for marketing had been depleted and that they were stretching themselves thin on this particular project. STORY! I ‘ve heard that before. Last time I checked, they made over $1.5 billion in sales in 2012 alone. But when it comes to paying for what will be a stressful task, the marketing budget is in red. In that case my middle name is “Clinton”, I thought within myself.
I asked him to put everything in writing and send me a mail to make it official. He promised to call me within a few minutes regarding what they were willing to pay. Ok by me. I immediately went to Google to do a little study about the product that was about to be launched in Nigeria. Impressive features it had.
I subsequently did what I always do when confronted with giving a quotation for a task I have never done before: I called one of my mentors. I explained the entire scenario to her and told her how I was considering giving them a bill of about N4 million. “So they contacted you too,” my mentor kidded. Apparently they had contacted her before reaching out to me and the bill she gave them must have been beyond their budget. Hence, their need for an alternative ambassador. She would later advice me not to quote anything less than N3.5 million. She promised to get back to me with more suggestions. Eventually, I never heard from her or the company again till 2014.
Here’s what transpired. Apparently, she had put a call through to the same organization to renegotiate her deal with them. The company eventually settled for her and I would find out in the media. I put a call through to the gentleman that had called me only for him to tell me that the event was cancelled and that he had to travel urgently to South Africa to handle other matters. Yeah right, and I’m the cousin of Obama. 2 weeks later, the conference would eventually take place and the pictures taken by their Ambassador (my mentor) with the camera will be showcased. Why the guy lied to me is still a mystery to me till date.
I felt hurt. Perhaps if I had not called my mentor for advice, I could have nailed the job. But how could I have known that she was my “competitor” in the deal of the decade. I felt hurt. I felt betrayed by someone I trusted. Or perhaps, it was just business and not betrayal. Perhaps.
But then I thought about it all over again. Perhaps there’s one interesting thing to learn from this. Apparently, I must be doing something right in the eyes of a multinational photography organization to attract such attention. In the eyes of the organization, I was on the same pedestal with the one I considered a mentor. If this organization was keeping track of what I was doing, then other organizations must be “following” whatever it is that I’m doing. Consequently, I encouraged myself with the assurance that more of such deals will be coming my way.
And come my way they would eventually do. Approximately 3 months later, I would find myself in the office of yet another multinational organization. This time around, I wasn’t surprised. They gave me a breakdown of what they would require of me if I were to be signed up as one of their ambassadors. And then the “how much will it cost us?” issue came up. I told them I would get back to them within a few days.
I went online to research about the company only for me to realized that their 2012 worldwide sales figure was over $2.6 billion. WOW. This was definitely a BIGGER organization. Which mentor should I call for “advice” now. I definitely was not about to fall down in the same spot twice. I thought deeply and eventually knew in my heart who to call. I decided the best mentor to call for advice on giving a fair price (to a large-scale organization like that) should not be based in my country. I decided to call my United States renowned photographer friend and mentor, Michael Grecco.
The 25 minutes phone conversation I had with him was like attending a workshop on “How not to shoot yourself in the foot as a photography Ambassador”. Thank God I called him. As a Hassleblad Ambassador, he had (and still has) enough experience up his sleeves. I would eventually submit an 8-figures fee that would be close to what my international colleagues were being paid. Although the company never did get back to me, I believed with all my heart that I didn’t over price myself out of the deal. For whatever reason, the company is yet to secure an Ambassador for their photography-related products.
I’m 101% convinced that greater opportunities and ambassadorship deals still lay ahead of my destiny regardless of what has happened. Till then, I’ll keep doing what I think I do best to keep attracting such attention from photography multinational companies. One day, something will click.
Although what my mentor did hurt me, I decided to add it to my repertoire of experience. Infact, I even sent a gift to my mentor so I could tap into that grace of being considered worthy to represent an international photography organization.
If it was you that a mentor hurt in such a manner, what do you think you’ll do? Be honest now.
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