Victor Fatanmi, also known as Fá, is a purpose-driven business leader. He currently leads the teams at FourthCanvas and Fullgap. FourthCanvas is a brand-centric design agency, while Fullgap is the operating system for ambitious builders. Outside work, he is an optimistic realist. He is a people person, he says, “It is never about technology. It is always about people, every other thing supports the growth of the people. I care a lot about people’s voices and them shining through, not cowering”. He is a Christian.
He is a native and Prince of Ira Ikeji-Ile in Osun state, though he was born in Osogbo. His interest in art began from his Dad’s library in the palace. He paid attention to a lot of visuals; covers of books, and illustrations in dictionaries and encyclopedias but didn’t know there was a career in design until he got to the University and saw that people got paid to design. His brother also ran a magazine where he paid people to design. He was self-taught, he learnt a lot from watching videos.
Victor attended Redeemers Kiddies School founded by his Mum. There was no private school in Ira Ikeji-Ile at the time, and his Mum did not trust the public school system. He eventually had to join a public school in primary 6 to write the common entrance exam because his mum’s school had not been accredited. At the Senior Secondary School Level, he attended Bishop Falope memorial school at Ipetu. He says, “That was one of the best things that happened to me. It was the first time that I was on my own because it was a boarding school. I learnt and picked up a lot of good and bad habits. I found myself there, I practised my Artwork more, and organized programs”. Victor studied Estate Management at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) but dropped out at some point to focus on his growing design business.
YellowLyfe Mag: What was the most unusual or coolest thing you picked up from boarding school?
Fá: Umm… I think writing and debating were cool things that I started doing in the boarding house. Eating Amala too because I didn’t like it growing up for some reason, but I was forced to eat it in the boarding house. At first, they were making Eba for me because I was the new kid but they couldn’t keep up with it. I fell in love with Amala myself and today, I like Amala more than Eba.
YellowLyfe Mag: What was growing up in the palace like?
Fá: Oh…ok, Nice question. Growing up in the palace sowed a seed of confidence in me. I don’t think you need to be a prince to be confident but I was an outspoken kid and being a prince made it even easier. We always sat in the front at events, so I had a sense of confidence and I was comfortable with leading. Also, my father was a jovial and friendly king and he had a great influence on me. Though he was criticized for being too friendly because people were not afraid of him, he was loved, and Love is more important than fear. So I lived in a position of power and honour but at the same time, I didn’t feel like I was better than other people because my dad didn’t do that, he didn’t talk down on people. So nobody talked down on me because I was a prince but I also never did that to people.
YellowLyfe Mag: Can you tell me a little bit more about Fullgap and FourthCanvas?
Fá: Ok, Nice! FourthCanvas started as a graphics design studio but is now a strategy-led design agency, that helps visionary business leaders to make their work mean more. We realized that we would make things beautiful, but it didn’t mean much because making things beautiful is just one part of the equation, there is a lot more. Sometimes, there are issues with the story that we are being asked to visualize and beautify. So we could have more impact if we were involved at an earlier stage of determination. So we come in as consultants, and partner with good businesses to create great brands. You can call us a therapist. Fullgap was inspired by FourthCanvas. We were trying to put structure to our work at FourthCanvas because we had many things to manage. Also, we saw how the people we were hiring struggled with structure and organization. Fullgap is like bringing structure to creativity. The world is shifting towards individuals and they are almost competing with agencies. Agencies still have their places but individuals are doing a lot, commanding high invoices and high projects but they are struggling with structure and Admin. This is the advantage that agencies have. The structure is the hardest and most boring part for individuals. So how can we use technology to make it easier? That is what Fullgap is, so we call it incorporating systems for ambitious freelancers. Fullgap helps you to be structured and organized.
YellowLyfe Mag: Have you ever worked a 9-5?
Fá: I have worked as an employee; a contractor and a part-time staff working twice a week at the jobs, but I have never had a full-time nine-to-five. I was either in school or running a business full-time. However, at Red Media Africa, I could call that a nine-to-five, because even on days when I didn’t go to the office, I was still working. So yes, I have done nine to five at Red Media, Seyi Olaniyan and I at some point were at Red together, but Red Media would be that nine to five. I also worked with Rele Gallery but it was as a contractor, but I got a monthly salary from Rele Gallery, so you can call that a nine to five.
YellowLyfe Mag: What was the turning points for you in your career?
Fá: To be honest, I think it was when Chude Jideonwo saw my work in 2014. So Joel Ogunsola is a mentee of Chude but he is a student that I had done a design for on campus. So Chude needed some designs, Joel got it done through me, for about four thousand naira. He sent it to his mentor who was like, “ I love this design, who did this by the way?”. He just showed me that email, I can’t forget. He said, “Look at my boss’ comment, once he is asking a question like this, he is interested in you”. They eventually called me and they gave me the Future Awards Africa 2014 to design and they paid 150k.
YellowLyfe Mag: Wow!
Fá: Yeah, from 4k flyer to 150k but I did design for like a month though. After that, they called me to join the media campaigns for President Buhari, which they were handling as a company. I made some good money on that as well. So I think I was given about 400 – 450k per month for doing the campaign, and there were still other bonuses and that was in January 2016. As a young person, just starting who just received 4k for a flier maybe three months before that time, that was a lot but my work was good. It was worth it and it was a good start for me. I have not looked back ever since, I have gone ahead to build agencies. Our agencies command 10s of millions in charges.
YellowLyfe Mag: What was that like for you?
Fá: Lol… You sound like you are very interested in the story and I like that. So let me bring you in a little bit. It was surreal. One minute, I was in a lodge at FUTA South gate, a rough setting, conversing with people in Lagos, and then a 400k deal hits me. After the call, I call Bolaji to share the news about it, like wow, this is real. Then I come to Lagos to do the work. I was sending half of the money to Akure to pay salaries and blowing the rest away in Lagos on things I could not tell my Mum about. However, it was like the first taste of freedom and I didn’t know how to use it. It was really good freedom from where I was coming from. I got a little allowance from home and made some money at school as well, but this was different and it felt good and real. Though I wasn’t completely surprised, I had seen and heard of people making bigger figures in design, so I knew mine would come. When it did, I was ready. The pay was worth the work. It was fun but it wasn’t fun at the same time. However, It was rewarding and inspiring, it also made me feel like, if I could do that at that stage, then I could do more.
YellowLyfe Mag: Is there something that you wish that you had done differently?
Fá: Well, I wish I saved money early, instead of wasting all that money at the strip club in Surulere. To be honest, I am still not good with savings, and money, but thanks to Bolaji who is very good with it, we have been able to build solid structures together. However, I am also better now, I wish I had learned sooner.
Sometimes, I wished I had stayed in school, not because I regret anything right now. I just think that I could have used it as a practice to combine different things. It would have helped build my muscle, I left school because I couldn’t combine both school and this. However, there’s no point because I have gone ahead to combine things and combined them well. I am currently running two companies. I was also leading at Mainstack a while ago. That makes three companies and I still have Learnergy that I co-lead which is more social initiative but it is a business as well. Lastly, I wish I learned more about myself earlier enough. So today, I pay attention to myself, I just finished yoga right before this call. I meditate and journal as part of my long list of what I do. I speak words of affirmation to myself, I think, I enjoy my company, though I’m very social and extroverted. But I spend time with myself, I think, and I wish maybe I read books that nudged me in that direction earlier.
YellowLyfe Mag: Can you describe your journey using five words?
Fá: Ah, interesting! Okay, let’s see;
- Newspapers, I learnt to write with Newspapers and I started cutting stuff.
- Glass, the first piece of art that was made by my brother was made with glass. It was made on a glass sheets in our compound. He drew my parents and framed it with the glass. Also because I would pick up glass bottles of wine and I’ll make trophies out of them for football competitions in my area.
- Books, definitely right from being a kid and even now as an adult.
- People, from my brother to Bolaji my partner to Onike. My Fiancée has helped me to nurture myself in meditation and stuff. That’s an influence that she has had on me.
- God. I’m very in tune with my spirituality.
YellowLyfe Mag: What are some of your favourite things to do?
Fá: I enjoy talking, either in an interview or in a space or just gisting with someone while having lunch. I also like asking questions, Reading, and Writing. I enjoy taking walks, working out, doing Push ups, yoga or being at the gym. I don’t work out to build a huge body though I just love the idea of being fit. I enjoy partying, but I can’t party more than once a week or in two weeks. I don’t have the energy for consistent partying. I love music, so if there are very good speakers, and there’s a good sound I love it, whether it is with Mocktails or Cocktails, either Soft or Hard. I also love dancing, though I wasn’t born with the talent, I had to learn it, that’s how much I care about it.
YellowLyfe Mag: What kind of songs do you listen to?
Fá: My best music in the world is Cold play, that music touches my soul. I also love Afrobeats. At the moment, my best song is Soweto by Victony. I also love Omah Lay and Burna Boy. I love old alternative songs like Beautiful Nubia. I love the Cavemen, even though I can’t hear anything that they are saying. My music taste is not limited. It does not have to be fast or mainstream-like for me, as long as it is good music and it touches my soul. I don’t care what the lyrics say, especially if the beat is good, it adds to it but the beat and the intentionality is something that gets to me a lot.
YellowLyfe Mag: What are some of the principles that guide you?
Fá: Well, the first one is;
- Joy over pleasure. I want to find happiness in long lasting things. I don’t want to have pleasure in the moment and then hurt happiness in the long term.
- I believe very strongly in potential. I see things not just as they are, but as what they could become, that’s potential. Everything has the potential to grow, so you cannot write anything off.
- Openness matters to me, because the world changes fast. I feel like it is important that people are open, because there will be so much change in the next five years than there has been in the last 100 years. It is the absolute worst time to be rigid or conservative. You need to constantly accept that the entire framework on which your life is built and as you have believed can completely go obsolete. You need to be that open.
- Lastly, everything without is controlled from within. So Prayer, Meditation, Positive words, thoughts and Affirmations are very important. Spending time with yourself is important as well, because I believe that the inside controls the outside.
YellowLyfe Mag: What are some of the challenges one is likely to face in Tech and Branding?
Fá: The tendency to flow with trends can be a challenge. If you are not careful, you might get too accustomed to it. Following a trend is not a problem but you must be able to remind yourself that some people started this trend, you can be a trend starter as well. Over-obsessing about technology or function, while forgetting emotions is also a big challenge in both the Tech and Branding spaces. As a designer, I have found that skill, the product and the problem you are solving are important. However, it is never only about those things. It is important to have skill but networking and relationship building is equally as important. The world is not as logical as it seems. So the idea that everything is logical and just about function and not emotions is a big fallacy. I think it is one pitfall that people can fall into in my field.
YellowLyfe Mag: So what’s the best advice you ever got?
Fá: I think I’ve got so much good advice, but the one I think would be most useful for readers of this interview is when I had a mentor then, Pastor Sam Neye. I said to him, “I design and write as well, which career path should I choose? Should I go and become a writer or designer?” He said, “You don’t have to choose anyone. Whichever one you choose as your primary career, the other will also play a role. So if you choose a design, you will use your writing skills to explain your designs and portfolio, and you will have the best case studies. If you go ahead and write, you will design your book covers and illustrations by yourself, making your readers enjoy it more. So they’re both connected”. He didn’t tell me which one to choose, but he made me realize that I’ll never have to drop anyone per se and that is exactly what happened. In the earlier stages of FourthCanvas, I wrote our case studies. I wrote stories and medium articles about our work as well. So our proposals and emails were well written. I enjoyed writing and it became a joy for me in design. I’ve written my Autobiography, several articles, and threads. Though, I’m not a professional writer I am still a writer. If you like many things, that’s fine. Whichever one you are doing per time, those other things will still be useful for you.
YellowLyfe Mag: So what should we expect from you in the future?
Fá: Nice. With Fullgap, expect a global company that will be just as big as Google and an excellent product /brand that will shatter every possible ceiling for an African or a Nigerian. The world expects us to build products just for Africa but not for long. We are starting from Africa but we are building a product for the world. There is nothing that stops us as Nigerians from building products that can compete globally. We will not be limited, we will keep improving, we will not stop impacting in people’s lives and our slogan “All of the Power to the Creative Ones” will take on materiality. We will continue to empower young people and continue to build a product that people can use globally to unlock more value for themselves, their clients, and the economy. So, expect a limitless journey for this Tech startup. At FourthCanvas, expect a company that also goes on to be a part of the top 10 agencies in the world that gets right up in that conversation. Many designers will work on the biggest projects and earn their biggest cheques through us and they will go on to do even bigger things. Students from FourthCanvas will consult with some of your favourite bigger brands like Spotify, Apple, and the Premier League. Again, the only examples of the companies you have seen are the European and American companies. So expect this company from Akure, from Lagos to break those barriers. For me, expect me to continue to evolve.
YellowLyfe Mag: My last question, what is your favourite quote?
Fá: My favourite quote is from me actually and it is a quote that I have been meditating upon daily, which is, “Above this mind, beyond this body”. It is not completely original though, it was based on some things I have heard and learnt. There is a guy, Sadhguru, a yoga teacher, who meditates to, “ I am not this mind, I am not this body”. So I started reflecting on that, so when I say I’m not this mind, I am not this body, I have to remind myself, what am I then? So I re-framed the quote to incorporate what I am. That’s how it made more sense for me. So I’m reminding myself that I am that thing that is above this mind, I am that thing that is beyond this body. It is a reflective statement for me. It reminds me to pick up the scriptures and read because God’s word is beyond my mind, beyond what I know or have formed.