Artwell Nwaila – Founder of SA Creatives

[quote style=”boxed”]I always say that being brilliant at only one thing is a career death-sentence. It encourages comfort zones and being complacent. I suggest always learning a new skill.[/quote]

Artwell is a creative professional with a solid passion for all things digital. He studied fine arts at the University of Johannesburg, and has been fortunate to have worked as a designer at some of South Africa’s leading publishing companies, doing so led him to where his is now. He currently works as a digital creative communications manager for a leading media monitoring company. He is also the founder of SA Creatives, an online platform that promotes Southern African creatives. The young and very popular platform gives creatives the opportunity to tell their stories.

Artwell believes that the new-age lead creative, is one who understands the principles of branding, marketing and communication. This creative will not receive briefs, but will be part of the process of actually creating the brief. Marketing and creative production teams will no longer be disjointed by a piece of paper (the brief).

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on a photography project called The Hillbrow Movement. It’s a collection of photography images from a very busy part of Johannesburg. The idea is to capture the fast-paced life of Hillbrow through blurry motion images. I’m planning to exhibit the work next year when I’ve finished the collection. I am also about to launch MyCreate with some awesome creatives. The project is so top secret that we talk about it in whispers. I’m also working on several partnership projects via SA Creatives and other organisations.

Where did the idea for SA Creatives come from?

South Africa is rich with creative cultures and subcultures of which we are extremely proud. I found there are plenty of creative showcasing platforms that are extremely inspirational. But when it comes to getting content from local creative thought leaders, tutorials, interest pieces and creative news, we had to look to our European and American counterparts. was created specifically to close that gap. We wanted to give creatives more than eye candy. Our payoff line is, “Promoting Creatives.” We also work as a link between the potential client and the creative. We offer a free platform that allows creatives to promote their services and creative businesses (Find-a-Creative). We encourage artists to contribute, share and expose themselves. Over the past year, the platform has grown in ways I would have never imagined. I sometimes have to pinch myself when I see the small team I have working hard to put this awesome product together.

What does your typical day look like?

I wake up at 5:00 a.m., go through my emails and post the day’s stories that have been edited the night before. I then shower and leave for work at 7:00 for my “9 to 5” (yes, I have a day job as a digital communications manager). At lunch I skim through press releases and publish relevant material. I get home at 5:00, write content for the next day, and edit content from the writers for days to come until 11:00 p.m. I then spend 30 minutes checking how the team has progressed with the day’s social media communication. After that, I get some sleep. Then it happens all over again. On weekends I completely detach from the website. Rest is an important part of creativity.

How do you bring ideas to life?

It happens in the shower and the few minutes before I fall asleep. If I force ideas out, the results are just lame. My ideas come to me durine quite weird times. I get my best ideas when I’m driving. It’s important for me to have a notebook and/or my phone on me at all times so I can jot down my thoughts.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I’m excited about people sharing ideas. Today is all about being innovative and being a thought leader. TEDx is the perfect example of this. People are hungry to share and teach. This is a broad trend, but an awesome one nonetheless.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I was a cashier at a leading grocery store when I was in high school. The pay was low, the store was always busy, and I’m sure my bosses were raised on Mars without any human interaction. This is the only job I can honestly say I learned nothing from.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would have loved to have started much earlier with the knowledge I have now.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I always say that being brilliant at only one thing is a career death-sentence. It encourages comfort zones and being complacent. I suggest always learning a new skill. In fact, I have a little hobby where I try learning something new every month. If I don’t like it, I move on. Try it.

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

My biggest weakness is my assumption that everyone means good; this has caused me a lot of issues. I now research the people I deal with, and I step cautiously. I think if you understand that potential business does not equal potential friendship, you will have less issues than many people do.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I’ve been thinking about creating a platform for unseen work. Creatives will often pitch work to clients that doesn’t get approved. That work, which can be quite brilliant, may never see the light of day. What’s nice about this idea is that the readers can see the mock up creative ideas, compare it to the clients chosen final product and vote which is better. People will also be able to see the process. The platform will also help professionals find that profitable line between creative brilliance and achieving the client’s goals effectively. It’s still a rough idea. If anyone polishes it out, let me know.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I’d make internet access free throughout Africa. Unfortunately, information is still a luxury in some parts of Africa, even with the high mobile growth rate. Knowledge will change the world.

Tell us a secret.

I hate PowerPoint and Corel Draw. There, I said it.

What are your three favourite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

  1. StumbleUpon. You are able to find other creative communities you would have never dreamed of coming across.
  2. Alltop. I love this platform for two reasons: it drives plenty of traffic to my site and it gives me good content ideas.
  3. Twitter, because it’s cool and I’m a cool guy.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I suggest everyone reads outside of their trades. If you are reading a book and learning something new from it, it’s a good book.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

  1. @thesacreatives, because that’s my site!
  2. @zakesmda. Although he doesn’t tweet much, he is an inspiring writer from a generation of hard-working, passionate people.
  3. @hubspot covers everything and anything you need to know about the digital world.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

This weekend I watched the Hangover again. The wolf pack speech always cracks me up.

Who is your hero?

Right now my hero is a famous South African photographer, Alf Khumalo. He is famous for documenting apartheid times and Nelson Mandela in his early days. He is my hero because even at an old age, he still carries his camera everywhere he goes. I hope my passion stays with me as I age.

What advice would you give new creative graduates?

Think digital, even if you are entering a field that is not online. (Yes, I’m talking to fine artists too). Employers are looking for tech-savvy creatives; if you are a graphic designer, they want you to know some HTML and CSS.

Also make sure your portfolio emphasizes your digital-savviness. A print portfolio is outdated. A PDF portfolio is okay, but an online portfolio is king. Just make sure you don’t make a stagnant website; be sure to link to your social media and to a blog showcasing your latest work. Make your online portfolio proof of all the awesome skills you have. Having said all that, I also advise you to please clean up your social media accounts; your drunken photos at the park won’t get you far.


Artwell Nwaila on Twitter: @artwelln
SA Creatives on Twitter: @thesacreatives
SA Creatives on Facebook:
SA Creatives’ website: