Dillion S. Phiri

Don’t Forget About Yourself

Welcome back to Afrika Design!

We begin the next leg of our journey in Zimbabwe. This will be our first episode under the Shifting Narratives program supported by the British Council and in partnership with Kampala Design Week. In this episode, we talk with Dillion who is a social sculptor and the founder of Creative Nestlings; a design community comprised of Afrikans from across the continent. We discuss community, self, and what can and needs to be done for creatives to thrive in Afrika. Join us as we unpack what it means to a build community and grow the self.

*For the best experience, please use a headset/earphones.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dillionsphiri

Music by: Ngalah Oreyo (@ngalah_oreyo) and Mercy Barno (@merc.b_)

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Dillion S. Phiri: Yeah, 

[00:00:01] Adrian (HOST): I'm, I've just started recording because you're talking about interesting things. This is like a perfect trailer for the episode. I was gonna say, why don't we do this then? Cause it, this story is really interesting. I can really resonate with the, kind of working on what you said about working on other people's careers and forgetting that you are a creative. 

[00:00:20] Yeah.

[00:00:21] And, and so why don't we try to cover that journey then of, of Creative Nestlings from, from where it was and you going on that...that two, three year journey and then back to where you are now and finding it. How about that? 

[00:00:33] Dillion S. Phiri: Ok. Yeah. No. Cool. So, do I introduce myself? 

[00:00:38] Adrian (HOST): Yeah. So, um, first of all, we, we usually have a icebreaker question.

[00:00:43] Um, what, does your name have any meaning or reason? 

[00:00:48] Yeah. So, my name is Dillion Sipho Phiri. So, Dillion is, uh, loyalty. So, it's a variation of like Dylan and Dillian and Dylon and all, but it just means loyalty basically. Uh, and then Sipho is, is a, is a Ndebele name cause I'm Zimbabwean. Um, so, so Sipho is... means gift. So, uh, so my mother named my me my brother, So I'm, I'm the gift.

[00:01:13] And my brother's Nkosi, he's God. So, it's a gift from God, with gifts of God, basically. And then Dillion is my father's name. He is Malawian. Well, he was Malawian and I dunno why he has that name, but yeah, it's kinda, yeah, that's what, it's what it all means basically. Yeah. 

[00:01:31] Love it. Nice. Wow. Thank you. That's a, it's a, it's always interesting to to hear.

[00:01:36] Yeah. There's always a reason or a story. Um, so. Yeah, we can, we can just go directly, I think into why don't you introduce yourself and then, and, and we can go into talking about the journey. 

[00:01:50] Dillion S. Phiri: Yeah. Okay. Uh, so my name's Dillion Sipho Phiri. Um, I'm a creative, uh, I'm a father first to 1 Dillion Nikiwe. I'm a creative, I'm an entrepreneur, advisor, coach, sometimes investor.

[00:02:07] Uh, but all around like a social sculpture, what I... super interested in as a individual is building infrastructure for everybody. Kinda, how can I say, to, to thrive. So,

the concept is called social sculpture, basically. Being able to build the environments for other people to be able to create in and thrive in and all that kinda.

[00:02:28] So that's my super interest. Um, that's my official title is Social Sculptor, Uh, right now. I'm the founder of Creative Nestlings, uh, which is a creative network, uh,

foundation and the platform democratizing how creatives access each other, access opportunity to access knowledge, uh, and access education. Then I'm also the entrepreneur and residence, uh, at a tech, um, program that invests in black-owned


[00:02:54] Uh, early stage, it's called 'I'm in', uh, which is part of IDF Capital, which is a bigger fund basically that invests across Africa. Yeah, that's who I am. Mm. 

[00:03:05] Adrian (HOST): Um, and, and how, how has this, um, how has, how has your upbringing influenced your creative process into where, where you've started Creative Nestlings? 

[00:03:18] Dillion S. Phiri: Yeah.

[00:03:19] I think my upbringing cause I'm, I'm, I'm a foreigner in South Africa right now. I was born in Zimbabwe. Uh, I'm half Malawian, half Zimbabwean already, so I was already a foreigner back in Zimbabwe already because of my father and stuff. So, my upbringing was very immigrant behavior basically. So, everything is important and always cover your back.

[00:03:40] Always make sure that you have the necessary skills just in case things change. So, my mom that kind of drilled that into us, that you gotta have a degree, you gotta have, um, skillset that you can leverage no matter where you are. So, she always kinda drilled that into us. That doesn't matter where you are today, physically, what you should do is always upscaling yourself and constantly.

[00:03:59] So, that kind of brought up myself as a creative, as an entrepreneur. My mom was a very creative person. My mom was maid for a very long time in South Africa. Um, but, but she was a creative, at the same time she was running a fashion design brand at the same time being a maid, uh, to some folks here in Cape Town and all that kinda stuff.

[00:04:18] So, she always had that duality, but also she was always taking care of everybody else. So, I kind of took that from her that always cover everyone's back, uh, less yours, , which is not a good idea all the time. Uh, which something I've had to unlearn also is part of the process of, of me being Creative Nestlings, is that I kind of got caught in the cycle of building every infrastructure for everyone else. Whereas I am a creative myself and filmmaker particularly, I never made a single film up until 2019, but I went into the creative industry trying to make a film, I ended up building infrastructure and resources for everybody to kinda thrive. So, yeah. That's how I built... kind of influenced, uh, me building Creative Nestlings basically, and, and building a career for my, or building my career, uh, to some extent, yeah. I hope that answers the question. 

[00:05:08] Absolutely. Yeah. How did, uh, how did Creative Nestlings come to be then, and what is that infrastructure that you are, you're building? 

[00:05:20] So, the infrastructure currently.... Well, Creative Nestlings started off as, as, like I said, particularly selfish manner of me wanting to make a film.

[00:05:25] Oh, I wanted to study. I wanna make films. That's, that's my passion, that's my personal, uh, my, my personal journey, my personal thing that I wanted do was make movies. But then when I, when I, when I got into the creative industry, I realized actually to be a black creator in Cape Town is a tricky thing. Right. No one... there, there's no ecosystem.

[00:05:43] You don't know where to go. You don't even know what doors to knock, who's doing what, where they, where are the resources, where the opportunities, where the knowledge, even. Right. And then, and as you know, creative education is very expensive. And, and I'm a lazy person. After doing my degree, I didn't wanna do another degree.

[00:05:58] I wanted to make films. But then in, in that realization of, okay, wait, I, I can't really do, I can't make films, not cause I don't have the resources and the, and the, and

the team and the... flexibility. I kind of came up with the idea of let me be the community rather. Right. Luckily I had a good job then I was working as a, uh, a business coordinator at Cape Town Tourism.

[00:06:19] So, through that I got to meet a lot of people in the creative industry because tourism and creative kinda go hand in hand with a lot of tourists coming from around the world, like creative tourists that would come in and paint murals and exhibitions. So I would see, okay, wait. Oh, this is happening. But where all the black people. Were in South Africa, we're in Cape Town. Where is all the people of color in this space?

[00:06:39] We found that there was no one. So, that's when kind of idea came about to start documenting what's happening in the creative industry, Who's doing what, what are they up to? And then... then creativeness came about. The name came about the idea of.... so, creative is a creative record, but then nestlings is like, like young birds.

[00:06:57] So, we are a, a network of young African creators, basically. That's what kind of premise came about. And then we wanted to be the community that is, that is self, um, how can I say, self activated. Self... self-actualized, right? So, so, Even when, when I tried to create... kill creativeness in 2019 when I was like, I gave up on this, the community wouldn't let it die.

[00:07:19] They continued on their own. We actually grew more in terms of followers and, and the WhatsApp group that we had created and everything during the time when I was in a break from it because the community was self-actualizing across the continent because clearly communities are very important tool for creative.

[00:07:35] It's lonely out there. So, the community is very important. And particularly continent with the, with those resurgence of like, with resurgence of like internet and, and, and tools and monetization. There's a need for community and the best thing to do is...you go look for where the communities are and all that kinda stuff.

[00:07:51] What are they doing? How are they gathering? Um, and the internet makes it a bit easier and also it kind of makes everything kind of localized no matter where you are. So, that's, that's the cool thing about it. So, that's how it came about. Started off with talk sort of with, with the blog and then it became talks called Conversations and Creativity where we would bring in creatives to share their stories and journeys, right?

[00:08:10] One on one with an audience basically. So, the audience would grill them for like 30 min or an hour. So, how did you do this? How did you do that? How did you do that? How did you do that? That that really grew quite well. It's been across Southern

Africa, there has been people that have copied the talks across the entire continent.

[00:08:24] Even the mode of creating, people have copied it. And that's ok. I it like when people things that we do because then they do better in their own localized environment. Yeah. Then we started publishing books, uh, we started doing in your

conference. So, we started really growing. The premise is always build a community. And then once the community is kinda established and then start building, start doing research on the community, what are their needs?

[00:08:45] And then start building tools and resources and find the resources. Say, cool, the community needs a fund, for example, for creatives. And then we experimented out with J & B Whiskey by building an incubator called J & B High, where we funded, uh, creatives through a brand, which is a really not necessarily the most.... how can I say visible thing on the continent, brands don't like putting money into the hands of creatives directly on the continent.

[00:09:05] They rather be by an agency, via someone else but we managed it. We actually invested like in some really good ideas that, that are, are still alive today. Right? So, one of the biggest ideas that we invested was called Bathu, a sneaker brand. Bathu's like... in SA Africa right now, it's got about 30 something stores, right?

[00:09:21] When we met him, he went and put a thousand... a thousand sneakers and we invested in him. So, that shows you the power of community, that once you have community, you can build resources and infrastructure around creative people and infrastructure is spaces, physical and online. Infrastructure is funding. Infrastructure is knowledge. Infrastructure is community.

[00:09:38] All those things are important for a creative person to thrive and for the creative economy to kinda establish itself basically. 

[00:09:44] Adrian (HOST): So, first of all, just going back to... you, you mentioned your immigrant upbringing and being a foreigner and in South Africa. What are some of the... things that you've experienced, um, and, and learned from, uh, having that, that experience of being an immigrant multiple times. What are some of the things that you've learned?

[00:10:10] Dillion S. Phiri: Being immigrant... I guess the challenges of course is that the resources that are available here, you, you don't necessarily have them also. Easy access to them. Like I struggle with things like for example, cause I'm a refugee in South Africa, travel is hard. Um, for me to travel, it's bit for process. So, I missed out on opportunities. Also, Creative Nestlings is big on the continent and there's many invitations around the world to come and speak about all of these different things.

[00:10:34] I can't go most of the time. So, it's a process. I always have sent someone else on my behalf as number one. Access to funding, access to finance is a big one. Personally, access to credit. I can't even get a car on what, Even, even if I have a job, my job, but I never have full-time contract is always very consulting agreement.

[00:10:51] So, that's the challenges. But I've had to, I've had to learn to make work with it and figure it out. And I think that's important. Figuring... also being an immigrant, you kind of have no choice but to make things work. So, I think that's the thing that you, you also, being an immigrant, you're very research oriented. Cause now you're looking for opportunities, you’re for things that fit you to what you need.

[00:11:09] You're making things... the little you have and trying to expand it and monetize quickly, uh, and as cleanly as possible. Those are some things I've learned. Also, being a migrant, you kinda now having to build communities of other migrants, but then also with locals also because now you're trying to create a safe zone for you.

[00:11:26] Uh, so I think that's important, but also cause now I have kids here that are South African, I have no choice but to make South Africa work also for them so I can longer think myself as a migrant only. I also think myself as a South African cause my kids are here, so I kind make things work here and that's super, super important for me now that where they are... their immediate environment is, has to function.

[00:11:47] It has to work. Yeah. Yeah. Mm-hmm. Yeah. 

[00:11:51] Adrian (HOST): Great, great. Um, and, and creative Nestlings then you, you started touching on some of the, uh, structures that you, you've put in place. What, what are the things that you are currently doing where people can engage with Creative Nestlings? 

[00:12:09] Dillion S. Phiri: Yeah, so I, I think with, with Creative Nestlings right now, we've had like, as I mentioned, we've had to restructure, right?

[00:12:17] Uh, and that, that restructuring has meant that we had to look at the business processes of Creative Nestlings. So, okay. Looking, Okay, cool. How, how have we, how have we kind of got this far? Cool. It's been through community, it's been through looking at different revenue streams, but then those revenue streams are not

necessarily built for sustainability.

[00:12:37] So, what we dance are cool. Now let's figure out how do you separate the two? So, cause everything was kinda, kinda starting to come together too much and it was overwhelming the, the infrastructure of Creative Nestlings. Right? So, now what we've done is that we're gonna relaunch as, as a Creative Nestlings foundation. So, all our talks, events, all those different projects now will fall under the, under, under that banner, right?

[00:12:56] So, all that community building will fall under that. So, that will fall under the foundation, and then what we're gonna do is, and then we're gonna launch a platform, a separate platform, which is gonna be the, the business side of creativeness and separate registration, separate everything, right? And then that business is gonna act as a platform for building community and all that kinda stuff, right?

[00:13:13] So, that's what we're doing. And then the foundation allows us to be able to raise money a bit easier operationally so that, so, so, so, so that, that allows us to be able to, or what do you call it, monetize a bit better, right? Sustain... sustainability and all that kind of stuff. Um, so, so that's why, that's how we restructuring.

[00:13:31] Yeah, in of Creative Nestlings. So, everything still remain same, but then now it's about how do we operationalize, how to build a team better, all that kind stuff. So, the platform will be a separate entity because we realize we try to build the entity... or the platform on top. So, that... you can't build a, you can't be a startup on top of a feel good, uh, functioning structure.

[00:13:49] You can't do that. You kinda have to separate the two. So, the start-up does its work and then the feel good stuff does its work basically. 

[00:13:58] Adrian (HOST): Great. 

[00:13:59] And so, what's the process that's led you? You've mentioned that you, you've kind of taken a step back over the last few years to, uh, rediscover your creativity and, and take a different perspective on Creative Nestlings.

[00:14:17] So, what's, what's that process been over the last few years and what was the... maybe you wanna touch on the reasoning as well, how you got to that point. 

[00:14:26] Dillion S. Phiri: Yeah, I mean in 2020, I think 2017, 2018, I got, I got really tired of... how can I say... just everything was working out for everybody else, right? And, but then I was not the one that was fine.

[00:14:39] Everyone else around me was okay. Financially, they were doing well. The resources we were providing, were doing well for everybody. You know what I mean? And then I realized, wait, I should, I forgotten about myself. You know, if something

happens to me today and my kids are gonna suffer. Right. But then also I have not found joy anymore.

[00:14:57] It was great being together, doing all those things, but what do I wanna do? So, what happen, like, in 2019 I said, Okay, I'm done. Uh, we're doing a project for, for, for, for, for, they were making a documentary, it was a research project. After that project like, I'm done. I don't wanna do anything more Creative Nestlings, I think Creative Nestlings should just die.

[00:15:16] That was my thinking at the time, Right? Because I'd done everything I wanted to do in Creative Nestlings. The 10 year plan we had, we've done everything I wanted to. It was great, but then at the same time, Okay, cool, but what does Dillion want to do? What does Dillion enjoy? Because everyone keeps talking about their passions and I wanna make films, right?

[00:15:31] So, through... might do a film, a documentary, which is available on our website. Um, and then I took a break from Creative Nestlings. It's still ran, the community side of things, social media platforms, and every, the WhatsApp group, they still ran because that's easy to kinda maintain it. Like it's, it's zero cost basically.

[00:15:49] Yeah. Uh, and then I was like, Let me, lemme focus on myself. And then Corona hit . Um, And then Corona hit and then in 2020 I, I was just figured trying, what do I wanna started writing films, I started writing, all that kind stuff. But then it was like, what do I wanna do as Dillion, personally? Lemme look at my career.

[00:16:07] What do I have to myself, like me as Dillion S. Phiri besides founding Creative Nestlings. Where is that? If you go to my LinkedIn, is he gonna say just create business and that's it, that's not good . You know what I mean? For me personally, Right. I

was like, Okay, let, let me, lemme reconfigure my life. And then last year I ended up going to, uh, curating f I looked for a job, I curated, I got a job creating festival at... festival went well. I was like that's not a site for... that's still creative industry too much. Uh, so I went back again to say, Cool, let me... write some films. And then I got offered a job at Vansa. I took the job as Managing Director at Vansa, but I didn't like the structure of theres, lemme leave that. So, it's not necessarily fulfilling. Um, and then this year... Vansa was this year also.

[00:16:54] And then doing the... I got offered another job, but uh, I'm in where I am now doing entrepreneur residence, which is helping entrepreneurs. It's slightly a bit different from the usual Creative Nestlings stuff cause it's very tech start-up world, Right. Which is still part of the creative industry, but it's very technology, very businessy, less feel good.

[00:17:11] Just more about impact. It's about also business, about making money and making things at work quickly ,now. All that kind stuff. So, helping the entrepreneurs build their businesses. This is, so this has been interesting two, three years of repurposing myself as an individual, right? So, I can be able to stand next to the people that I've been building for, but now I'm able to now also gain something as part of that process and, and, and able to stand with them and say, Cool. I also have a career. It's not just Creative Nestlings, even with films now, I've been writing films over the last two, three years. Now I'm starting to make those films in the process... I'm, I'm currently working, I'm trying to make a short film over the next two months, short film. 

[00:17:47] My first debut, short film, basically. I'm doing all of that stuff is part of the process, so I can also have that self fulfillment. It's great when someone else wins. You like, Oh, great, amazing. Oh, cool. What... whatever we're doing works but it's not necessarily the same when it's you winning. Right? When it's, when it's you having a sense of achievement, sense of ok cool, I've done something and I've finished it on my own. Always being the advisor, the, the, the, the eco-system builder is great, but it's not the most fulfilling journey, especially after so long.

[00:18:13] It's draining emotionally, it's draining financially, it's draining physically. Cause I've taken so many risks building for everybody else over the last, you know, 10 years, 10, 12 years. And, and the fruits of those I don't think I will experience and I'm okay with that. I hope my kids do, but I know everyone else is experiencing that.

[00:18:31] But hopefully the next generation will experience it somehow, someone else is... But I don't think I'll get those values. But I need to kinda cover myself and my basis. It's important for me to kinda have that, uh, opportunity, basically. So, that's where I'm at now where I'm trying to balance out the Creative Nestlings and the Dillion, you know?

[00:18:50] Individual, like individual and the company that I've started, but even the company itself, the foundation, I will no longer control. Uh, it'll control... we're gonna put out a job posting this month, uh, for a Managing Director. So, I won't control that anymore. The, the startup I'll control initially, cause I'm trying to build that to be a credible startup, right?

[00:19:08] To really make it amazing and really make a good startup and then find someone else to run it also, because I don't necessarily see myself in that space anymore as much. I'm just building the foundation. The foundation has been laid now, now someone else must come and take over so I can, I can make the things I wanna make.

[00:19:21] I wanna make movies. I wanna get rich and make movies. That's about it. . Yeah. Mm-hmm. . 

[00:19:26] Adrian (HOST): Mm-hmm. , That's, Yeah. It's only, I, I feel you with what you're saying. I'm sure a lot of people can resonate. The people who, um, are creatives and go into building platforms, go into working with, with broader communities, it's always important to come back and assess so you don't forget your value as a creative. And so, maybe even you don't question yourself or other people don't question you as a creative. Um, I, I have that feeling as well as running Nairobi Design Week, but some people don't realize I'm a designer. Um, so it's, that's also, uh, you know, as a designer, I went into running a design festival.

[00:20:09] Uh, As a festival director. So, those are skills you have to put up. So, what are, what are some of the skills or things, things as you're doing... let's say you're starting again, if you were to start again for, um, what, what are some of the things that you'd recommend for people to, to watch out for? Especially being a creative, going into going into business, trying to run something bigger than just a solo thing.

[00:20:36] Dillion S. Phiri: Yeah. I don't know, I guess notes from my journey. Uh, I always say to people like the phrase... everything that could go wrong did go wrong. That's how you summarize Creative Nestlings, in the last... 10, whatever, 11 years of inception, basically, right? Everything that was supposed to go wrong did. We went bankrupt, lost things.

[00:20:58] I got divorced in the process, was not necessarily the best present Dad. Was, you know, you know, depressed at some point. Was homeless at some point. Uh, Won some awards, won some big contracts, lost some big contract. Do the travel, people won. People got rich out of it. All the things happened. So, the good and the bad become a balance.

[00:21:20] So, I think I, I honestly like, my, my thing was, what are you willing to lose? What, what, what is possible? What, what could you possibly lose as far in the process? Make a list of that and, and you'll see it's gonna, you know, once you're more aware, it'll hit you less hard, right? So, now I know ok, cool, here's what it takes for me...

[00:21:40] here's... based on sustainability, what that takes. Right. Here's what's important to me now. I think if I'd known a bit earlier, maybe I'd have made some, some different decisions, but I don't regret anything because I think uh, all those experience

kind of shape who I am now, right? And, and they shape everybody around me.

[00:21:57] And that's kind of gotten to that point where people are finding value in that experience. Uh, and, and, and they're taking that as notes, not necessarily advice. I don't, I don't, I don't believe in advice. I believe in notes from someone else's journey. Right? Uh, yeah. And I think, yeah. The, the some of, oh, one thing I suck at is money.

[00:22:18] So, I think one thing, one skill I wish I had earlier on, which I still don't have now, is better money management . I think I wish I, I had taken that course at school when they offered it, you know, when I was in university cause I take degrees or, but why would I need to take, why would I need finance in a tech degree?

[00:22:35] But I realized, I said, no, you do need finance in, in your life as, as a whole basically. And I think that's super, super important. Um, Yeah, I think, yeah, I guess those are some of things. Yeah. That's about it. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. 

[00:22:51] Adrian (HOST): Yeah. Financial management as a creative. I also didn't take economics or business studies at school, any, uh, when it was offered I took other subjects like history and design, um, yeah. , um, which is, yeah. But so, uh, any creatives out there listening, if you can take the opportunity to get educated a bit on finances, if you can work with an accountant, then even better. 

[00:23:19] Dillion S. Phiri: Yeah. Yeah. I would say make accountant friends, make lawyer friends, keep them around.

[00:23:24] Adrian (HOST): Exactly. Accountant and lawyer, those two are very important for a company. Yes. Yeah, for 

[00:23:31] Dillion S. Phiri: sure. Yeah. 

[00:23:33] Adrian (HOST): Um, what are, what are then some of those, those difficult areas that... where you felt it's, I don't feel this is coming back, and then what's brought you to, what, what's made you bring it back? What's, what's made you make a comeback and giving you the perseverance?

[00:23:54] Dillion S. Phiri: Yeah, oof... I think I realized, you know, the, the more... the creative industry is, is one of the like biggest, like, you know, um, it's, it's, it's kinda easy barrier to entry, right? For young creatives. Right. Um, and, and I think seeing young creatives struggle with the same struggle that I faced and my peers faced kind of saddens me, right?

[00:24:15] Because some of the things can be mitigated by building community and sharing knowledge and sharing insights and sharing resources, right? So, I think that's what makes me keep coming back to it, and then also seeing people who will succeed. Seeing people win based on the note you gave them or based on the connection you gave them.

[00:24:31] I think that that kind of keeps you persevering, but they're also willing to experiment. I remember when we're trying to make a book, uh, for Creative Nestlings, people were like, Wow, you wanna make a book. No one's gonna that book. No one's gonna care about the book. Everyone's digital right now. No one reads anymore.

[00:24:46] Uh, I'm like, Okay, we'll see. You know? And then we, we made our books. Our books always sell out whenever we print them. You know, and then also our books and then people are like, Oh, I don't, I dunno, any 60 creatives on the continent. I'm like, Oh,

just buy our book. It's got 60 creatives in it. Now you can never complain and say you don't know, you know,

[00:25:03] So, so, so those little small interventions in in between are super, super important for me. 

[00:25:09] Adrian (HOST): Yeah, tell me more about that book then, and what was the key to, To it being success In what... in your perceived success, what made it successful? And how do you make a print product these days, successful? 

[00:25:27] Dillion S. Phiri: Was, was the book. Yeah. You said? Yeah. Yeah. It's, it's called what it takes. Uh, so it's a book series that we developed that, that idea was, I'm, I'm, I'm a big monocle, uh, fan and then make some of the most amazing books right in, in, in an amazing magazine, but they never focus on Africa, which suck... sucks, but what can you do?

[00:25:48] Um, you know, that's the market and all that kind of stuff. But then I realized through Monocle that books are still important. They're still an archive that is super, super important. So, the idea was ok cool. What if we went around, so all the creatives that have spoken in our talks, How do you repurpose them and bring them back to the fold and also, but then it create a permanent, um, catalog of who they, here's who, here's who, who, here's who came through Creative Nestlings, uh, talk series, for example, or community.

[00:26:15] So, let's just interview them. One question. So, what is their advice on entrepreneurship as a creative. Advice on, you know, community and failure? All That kinda stuff. That's the idea of the book. 60 Creatives, one question. Uh, and then it's

literally one, one photograph, and then a quote, and that's it. Nothing more, nothing less.

[00:26:33] And it's a simple book. And what makes print successful now is that always build community first, right? So always, always, always build community first. And then you sell, sell, then sell to that community book as a byproduct, right? But then also

that com... the community gets featured in the books. So, now they're most likely to buy them cause their peers, they're in them, their peers are in them, uh, and then other people now that are looking to access that community, access through that book.

[00:27:01] Right. So that's, that's a good referee generation. I think community is always important for book publishing right now. And then also one thing, um, I'm good at researching. So, I, I did a law of research around paper and I iterated, so there's been two versions of the book. There's been a soft cover book, right? Which was version one.

[00:27:16] Then now there's a hardcover book, which is gonna... we're gonna reprint before the end of the year. Because we wanna re-issue, cause people want the book right before we do volume two. So, so, also knowing where the printers are, negotiating tech, talking to them... actually fun enough, Africa is still good at printing. Wejust don't have a lot of print shops.

[00:27:33] It's about knowing where they are and negotiating with them. I noticed they are areas in regions where there's still specialties that are not dead. So, print is still alive in Durban, for example, for printing. Cause they print for big industries, but they're still okay printing for us, even the small quantities.

[00:27:50] Actually, it might end up being cheaper than soft. It's actually cheaper than soft cover print to print hard cover, right? That, that's all done through research and iteration. And so I'm, I'm a tech person, so I iterate. I iterate. There's always versioning, versioning, versioning. And I, I apply that across the creative process.

[00:28:05] So, I think that's what makes us... a good book. And also avoid distributors as much as possible and book shops, cause they tend to take a big cut. So, if you're looking to, to, to, to, to price a book the way you want and do it the way you want, it's

easier when it self-distribute. Cause now you have your community.

[00:28:21] Um, but then when, when you go the book shops and everything, you you're gonna lose some money in the process. You get bigger, rich, yes. But then there are tens by not decided .... So, it also depends why you're doing the book for. That's all I would say. Yeah. 

[00:28:37] Adrian (HOST): Well, congrats. It's, um, and where can people find it to preorder it and find out more about the book and creative nestlings?

[00:28:48] Dillion S. Phiri: So, the book... is the book part of Creative Nestlings? Yes. It's, it's part of Creative Nestlings. Yeah. So it's, it's gonna be on our website, uh, once we have the, the print, the coffees available, we're hoping for October. Um, and then we're gonna do another version of volume two, uh, next year, early next year. But the old, the old book, which came out in 2018, gonna be reissued again now in October on our website.

[00:29:13] Yeah. Which, I dunno why it's down, right? Yeah. 

[00:29:17] Adrian (HOST): Okay, great. Uh, what, what's the website or we use... you'll send. Yeah, you can... tell us the website and then, uh, yeah, we'll add it onto the description for the podcast. 

[00:29:27] Dillion S. Phiri: Okay, so it's creativenestlings.com. So, creativenestlings.com. Yeah.

[00:29:33] Adrian (HOST): Nice, and Creative Nestlings on Instagram and Twitter as well?

[00:29:38] Dillion S. Phiri: Yes. Yes. And TikTok now, we're trying the young man's game.

[00:29:46] Adrian (HOST): Great. Have you, have you got other, other stories? Anything else that you'd really like to share with, uh, you know, as part of this episode? 

[00:29:58] Dillion S. Phiri: I don't know. I dunno. I guess I, I guess any question that... yeah, from your side, what is it, What, what is it like to be a creative in Nairobi right now? Yeah.

[00:30:13] Adrian (HOST): It's exciting. I think there's a lot of, um, a lot of people coming through, you know, Um, we've got a new generation of creative talent coming through now.

[00:30:23] Some of the people who were students during the first Nairobi Design Week in 2015 are now creative directors and, and marketing managers and, and so on. They're leading agencies and working at IDEO as senior designers, ideo.org and, and so on. So, um, it's now the next generation is also taking things into their own hands.

[00:30:50] You know, people are being independent. There are a lot of... trying to run creative businesses and doing that the new way in terms of, you know, offering fashion shoots to people for their Instagram feed, um, that sort of stuff. Uh, a lot of people doing digital arts. I've heard artists here really tell me that um, digital, having a

computer or having a, a phone. I've seen people do animations or just beautiful sketches on phones, you know, and start there and then build up. You know, by printing postcards that drawn on their phone. So, the digital part is really enabling people to show, to show their work across the world and to create things that put them on an equal footing because anyone can download Blender.

[00:31:40] Um, and on the physical side, people discovering, uh, a lot of indigenous knowledge. We we're really excited by, by indigenous materials and ways of working. Um, and so, yeah, I think, I think that's it. I think there's a challenge with access to

foreign markets and other markets in Nairobi not being as big South Africa or Lagos or so on.

[00:32:07] Um, so... I guess that's, yeah, that's a part of the challenge that a lot of the people are trying to solve as well. 

[00:32:15] Dillion S. Phiri: Yeah, no, definitely. I mean, yeah, I guess it's the same across the board, you know, across the entire continent that the creatives that the younger generation is really doing amazing work. But then access to market is still a big challenge.

[00:32:28] But there are... been there and we, when our generation, when we started out, you. Now, now kids can make money quickly on, uh, off just posting, you know, content on TikTok and Instagram and, and you know, grow followers quickly and generate revenue and monetize and all that kinda stuff. But I'm noticing that access to market still, like, once you kind of get here, there's a ceiling, you know, the next big part is, is, is a challenge.

[00:32:51] You know what I mean? So I think, I mean, it's exciting. I believe it's exciting now cause I think the things that were different for us are a bit easier for them. Um, so it makes for, for, for better ecosystem, and I think it's our gen... our generations responsibility now to start investing back into the thing into the creative industry, right.

[00:33:09] Uh, and building infrastructure. I'm not debating someone, talking to someone the other day about how in, in Johannesburg, Braamfontein is known as the creative center, but I'm like, what's our generation doing to make sure that we own the, the, the land and buildings in that space of the conjunctions coming up, when they're looking at Braamfontein, they can say, Okay, cool.

[00:33:27] That's how far you can take it. Right? So, I, I think that's, that's, that's like the, the potential across that as, as, as clear that I found some sort of success. It's our job to reinvest back into things that we successful at. Uh, into the infrastructure and, and, and, and building funds. I, I was talking to my team earlier on around, I wanna build a $1 million fund for creatives next year, right?

[00:33:50] And just go crazy. Just funding across creatives, right? I don't necessarily looking for immediate ROI. I'm just looking for one potential unicorn. But in the process, how many experiments can happen? Right. And I think that's important. That's kinda

mindset when you start thinking about is generation that has kinda been here for a very long time in the creative industry.

[00:34:08] Right. And and I think across the board you were seeing the same thing, the same challenges. Space is an issue. Funding's an issue. Infrastructure's an issue. Knowledge. Knowledge till today... knowledge is still a niche, which is so sad to me that with all this platforms like Masterclass, skill share, it's hard to find a good platform for African creatives teaching you about being a photographer in the immediate region, which something we're working on in Creative Nestlings. Our platform is to have an eLearning, you know, component of our, of our, of our tech platform is... we're like example, you are an industrial designer and you've been game for a very long time. Imagine you teaching class, but then teaching class in a localized environment, right. In your immediate environment.

[00:34:48] And then creatives in Kenya can know a lot more about being industry. Industrial designer in the immediate environment. Yes. With the global appeal, of course, but then at least the context is a bit different. It's nuanced to to to, to your locality and on continent and then the world, not the thing where we are always

inheriting from Europe.

[00:35:07] Or the guy tells you, Oh, I started off, you know, on Amazon, or I started off on this, on that, but we don't have access to the same platform and distribution points. We don't have access, same information and knowledge and infrastructure. So, localization is super, super important, which some we, we try to cover through knowledge via creative business platform and stuff.

[00:35:25] Yeah. 

[00:35:26] Adrian (HOST): Yeah, for sure. And it's, it's something that we touch on a lot because, um, you know, I've worked with products that have been, I've, I've come across products in a Kenyan supermarket that I was working on in the UK five years before, you know. Um, so it, it's understanding what we have locally that we can utilize, that we can learn from, both in skill sets and, and materials and resources.

[00:35:54] And then, sometimes it scales beyond just the local level and, and it can be useful. Maybe it's some, a type of plant or something. Right. And then, um, sometimes maybe it just stays local as a useful local solution for sure. Yeah. Yeah, that's something I came across. Um, work, working in water and sanitation as a human-centered designer.

[00:36:17] That's how I... yeah. Came to Kenya. Um, yeah, so we, we realized that we couldn't replicate, You can't copy and paste a solution from, from Central Kenya to Western Kenya or from Kenya to Ghana or the other way around. 

[00:36:33] Dillion S. Phiri: So, yeah. Yeah. Cause I think those lessons I say well documented, you know, we see a lot of lessons from around the world and I think it's time to set really making that knowledge available and easily accessible.

[00:36:44] Right. For, for, for everybody else around us. Right. So, so we're building better. You know, we need to start building better for, for better quality of life on the continent. Because right now it's like we, we we're trying to import a better quality of life , and that's very, very dangerous. I think we're seeing that across all industries around the world, and I think the creative industry is a good place to be because then we can experiment and iterate and really use insights and then even design, like you mentioned, to really develop the next generation of solutions and stuff. 

[00:37:15] Adrian (HOST): Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. Nice. That's a perfect, perfect tie-up, I think. So.... thanks so much. Um, where can people find you? How should people interact with you? Where, where can they find you online and how can they support? And, and work with you?

[00:37:36] Dillion S. Phiri: So, I guess for Creative Nestlings, it's Creative Nestlings across all channels. It's... search creative nestlings, um, Uh, and then for me, it's Dillion S. Phiri across all channels. And then for I'm in, It's I'm In, uh, Accelerate across all channels. Yeah. But if they go to, to any of my, like my, my, my personal Instagram, they can find everything I'm working on, all that kinda stuff in Twitter.

[00:37:58] Uh, but yeah, they can connect, share ideas, they can join our...we have a WhatsApp group for creatives across Africa if they wanna join it. Uh, the link, I'll share the link with you. Uh, they can join that link and stuff. It's full of creatives across the entire continent, basically, uh, that are doing amazing stuff, and it's, it's more for a channel where we should share opportunities that are in the creative industries, basically.

[00:38:20] Yeah. 

[00:38:23] Adrian (HOST): Perfect. We'll add that to the episode description so people can join the group. Yeah. Awesome. 

[00:38:31] Dillion S. Phiri: Thank you so much, yeah.

[00:38:32] Adrian (HOST): Thank you so much. Um, hope we can do this again. Hope, uh, I'm, Are you in Cape Town? 

[00:38:39] Dillion S. Phiri: Johannesburg? 

[00:38:40] Adrian (HOST): Jo... you're in? Yeah, in Johannesburg. I'm gonna be in Cape Town in, um, in less, in a month, actually in three weeks.

[00:38:48] I'm gonna be in Cape Town for the Decon festival. 

[00:38:51] Dillion S. Phiri: Yeah, Im Cape Town. Ok. Yeah, I, I'm in Cape Town, uh, one week a month. So, probably bump into each other anyway. 

[00:38:59] Adrian (HOST): Okay. 

[00:39:00] Yeah. 11th to the 21st. I'll be in Cape Town and then back to Nairobi. Yeah, I'll let you know cause we might do some talks, uh, in Cape Town next month, but I'll let you know.

[00:39:10] Yeah, perfect. 

[00:39:11] Awesome. 

[00:39:13] Dillion S. Phiri: Thank you so much. 

[00:39:14] Adrian (HOST): Thanks so much and enjoy the rest of your day and I'll catch you soon. 

[00:39:19] Dillion S. Phiri: All right. Cheers.

Episode Credits

Produced by Nairobi Design Week

Hosts: Naitiemu and Adrian Jankowiak

Editor: David King'ori

Shorts & Artwork: Felix Owaga

Music: Ngalah Oreyo (@ngalah_oreyo) and Mercy Barno (@merc.b_)

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