My Life After Uni

My Life After Uni: Daniel Ampofo, CEO & Creative Director of Ninety3 Studios

My Life After Uni shares life hacks from some of Ghana’s brightest business professionals on career success after University.

In this edition, we profile the exciting story of Daniel Ampofo, an intelligent entrepreneur, smart, focused and solution-oriented individual and innovator who is inspiring the youth across the continent with his unique story.

Daniel Ampofo is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Creative Director of Ninety3 Studios, Vice President for Hacklab Foundation, Founder and President of Dex Ghana, and also the manager at Chaskele. He is a Physics graduate from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). His exemplary and versatile personality is because he is of the firm belief one needs to explore to identify his or her interests. He explored the playing of musical instruments such as drums, keyboard, bass guitar, etc. He explored photography, coding, amongst many others. He is on a journey to transform up to 10 local businesses to global brands by 2030.

  • Current role: CEO & Creative Director of Ninety3 Studios
  • Location: Accra, Ghana
  • University Attended: Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology 
  • Program studied: Physics 
  • One word to describe his experience of Life after Uni: Exciting 

How will you briefly describe your university life and its impact on your life currently?

So I’ll just probably start from my first year and then to when I completed. University was a very interesting journey for me. I read physics because I wanted to make a quick career in design. It was a very interesting experience. I mean, I found it very thrilling that I would have to figure out a way of combining what I was studying which is physics and something like design. I always tell people that I will probably do physics again if I had to go back to school even though it’s a very difficult program and only because I think some of the things it taught me was discipline, critical thinking and analysis.

So it’s one of the things that has really contributed to me being creative. I mean a lot of creatives are not really analytical and critical because when you do a creative test you realise that for most creatives they are more on the creative side. But for me, the physics provided a very good blend between the two. As a self-taught person, it’s really given me a lot of discipline because to really be self-taught and to really excel as a self-taught creative, it requires a lot of discipline. 

So my university experience had a very huge impact on me even in terms of the kind of projects that I got to work on, the kind of circle of friends that I got to make; some of them have been what has fed into a lot of the projects I get to work on. Sometimes you are there and you receive a call from a very old mate of yours and they tell you that the company they are working for right now is looking for this and that so they want to see if you are up for it then they link me to some big project. 

And so it afforded me some good network, it afforded me some really good thinking ability and it afforded me a lot of time and opportunity to explore the talent and the gift that I have.

What influenced your choice of program studied in the university and is the choice still relevant in your career today?

Growing up, I have been so interested in computers right from  when I was a kid, I just love computers. I love the technology, I don’t know why but I was crazy about computers right from growing up and aside from the fact that I was very interested in computers, I was so much interested in how things worked as well. I always wanted to figure out the appearance of things, how things looked like. I am so excited when I see how things look; I really really like art. And so I needed to really figure out my journey and the part of my journey I wanted to really explore. 

I read science in senior high school because I knew that science was what was going to get me into computers. That was my thinking at that time. Right after S.H.S, I discovered that I will do very well as a creative or a designer after an encounter I had with a friend. And then at that point I couldn’t go back to change my course. Even in S.H.S at that time there  were a  couple of friends who used to do these creative stuff and I was all this while observing the work that they do. I was also really keen on programming in building things on computers and all of that. 

What I did was after S.H.S, I had to go to Uni. I decided to figure out a way that could still get me into doing something that is computer related. When I was applying I saw physics with computing and I looked at the modules and I realised that this was a space that I would like. I decided that I’ll apply for physics so that I can do physics with computing. In year one I think that was when I was really in the place where I wanted to expand on my creative abilities. While I was at home I was practicing but when I got to uni I realized that I needed to take it a step further. I started finding a common ground between computers and design. I always say for every person you have your exploratory stages where you explore and you will find out exactly where you want to be as you grow.

In general, when I got to 3rd year and specialised in physics with computing I focused more on the web application part. But at that time I was working on designs for people who were campaigning for events, for hall week celebrations, among others so I picked up. I channeled a lot of my energy into that area so along the line I decided that I was not going to code again.

How was your National Service days, what skills did you learn on the job?

Now that’s the interesting part of this whole thing. Well, for me I actually did my national service with my own company which is Ninety3 Studios. When I got to the final year I had heard that now you can actually do your service with a private company in the private sector. So whilst I was filling the form I filled the form to work in the private sector. And at the time Ninety3 Studios was a fully registered company and so at that point, I decided that I was going to do my NSS with my company because for me I had made a promise to myself that I wasn’t going to work for anybody ever again after I had worked for a company after S.H.S.

It is not a bad thing to work for people but for me I had made it my mindset that  I was never going to work for anybody, I was never going to try out for any agency and it wasn’t because I thought agencies were bad but for me, I wanted to have a raw experience. A lot of people want to go and have experience in working in agencies and that is also cool. I wanted to deal with clients directly, learn things on my own, make my own deductions, and make my own observations and conclusions. Even though learning from people’s experience is good, sometimes, they will define the experience in their own way and it might limit how you think, so for me I wanted to experience things for myself and I didn’t care how long it was going to take for me to learn certain things, I wanted to go through that process of learning things and figuring things out for myself.

So my NSS journey was pretty interesting one because I got to work for myself and I got to practice and build what I wanted to build. Working with Ninety3 Studious has actually afforded me the opportunity to work with so many different people. I have worked with agencies, companies, businesses, and individuals on lots of projects. So since uni for the past 8 to 9 years I have been work for Ninety3 studios and for as long as I can remember I haven’t worked for any company at all.

How did you transition into the work world after school?

My transition into the work world wasn’t much of a hassle because right from when we were in school my partner and I used to come to Accra to do business with our clients and then go back. Traveling between Kumasi and Accra had become an easy thing. We were coming to do shoots and designs for our clients. One of our very first big branding projects we did was for Hon. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah when he was working with West Brownstone Capital when he was organizing his conference. Even with that one we were in school so we had to come from Kumasi to Accra and I remember we were late for our first meeting because our bus delayed us.

Transitioning after school was not difficult at all because it was already something that we had been doing from when we were in school so it wasn’t a big deal. The difference was that this time round I was channeling 100% of my energy into it rather than splitting it between school work. So for me the transitioning was really smooth and it was not difficult at all.

What are the skills and tools you think matters the most in this current work life?

For me I’m passionate about a number of things; design technology and art. So those are the verticals that I channel my energy into. I met Foster, the President of Hacklab who was also a student back in KNUST, who was also able to make something huge out of a hackathon into a global tech organisation.

Dex Ghana also started with the core aim of being able to bring designers together to help them acquire skills that they need for the industry and that was what led to our atmosphere event and the podcast with Gyankroma Akufo-Addo, Director of the Creative Arts Council. So when you pick Hacklab and Dex Ghana, the goal is to equip and help people in schools to be ready for the market.

This leads me to your question. For me, it boils down to the fundamental principle that everything stems from and that is discipline. I have always been a firm believer that when you are disciplined every single thing that you want to do you can do it. Because for me I read physics and so how did I learn about design, brands strategy, marketing or any of the other things? It was through discipline. Discipline is part of attitude; we need to be very disciplined to be able to learn things on our own and for me that is the starting point for any single person at all.

The second thing is the circles that you find yourself in. Circles i.e the kind of people you surround yourself with, are extremely important for me. Because people that you surround yourself with has a very huge impact on your thought process, how you execute things, among others. Me in particular, someone who didn’t go to design school, I surrounded myself with people who were in the design department because I needed to learn what they are learning aside all the things that I was learning on the internet. So the kind of people that you surround yourself with forms a very important part of where you go to.

And the last thing I would probably say in addition to some of the skills that I think that you should acquire is good communication; you need to know how to talk. I think that communication, that is being able to talk to people is a very integral part of what we do as human beings.  So I think discipline, a very good circle and knowing how to talk because I have always believed that for every single person your breakthrough is probably just a phone call away, it’s a matter of knowing which people to call. So whoever you meet if you are able to really communicate and express yourself very well to the person it opens a lot of doors for you.

What advice do you have for students/fresh graduates about life after university?

What I will say is that life after university actually starts in the university, it doesn’t start after university. Once you are in university, there are some things that you need to know and do while you are there which will translate into what you are going to do after. While you are in the university make sure you get the degree, it might not be the best degree but get the degree! Even though you are passionate about something it doesn’t mean don’t get the degree. For me I still came back to take my books to learn despite everything that I was chasing, and I graduated with a good degree.

The second thing I would say is that you need to explore. It is very important to me because discovery comes out of exploration and I believe you need to  explore; try out things, do things and keep exploring till you get to the point where you find something that you like and then find a way of making people pay you for the things you love. For me I have done so many things in my exploratory stages; I played musical instruments, I played the keyboard, drums, bass guitar, now the only one I can play is the keyboard but I explored all the instruments. I also explored photography, a friend and I worked on a project for unicef on their year of lights, I worked on designs, explored app development, I did coding and I came to videography. In S.H.S I did drama, I was part of the debate club and I was also in the choreography group at church till I ran away (he laughs). This is to tell you that you need to explore so you can find yourself and that is what university is for.

You need to also learn the things that are two or three steps ahead of you. By this I mean you are probably going to leave the university to either work with a company or start your own business which means that you need to start learning about all of those things before you get out, don’t wait till you are getting out of the university before you learn all of these things. Just because we were in uni did not mean we were paying attention to just clients that were in the university. In as much as we were doing the hall week designs and the conferences that were happening on campus we were still targeting clients that were outside of the university and then it got to the point where we were not even working with anybody else on campus but we were working with external businesses. I happened to be lucky by the Grace of God so I was able to figure out where I wanted to be and the journey I wanted to take so everything seemed easier for me but a lot of people need to explore and then they will find what they are good at.

I have already said it earlier but a good circle of friends is important. For me when you look through my circle of influence it is very obvious that I will become very successful and I dare to say that because I am in the space where I am surrounded by people who have a certain way of thinking, taking approach and so on thus I believe that it also makes a really good impact on what you do.

The very last thing I will add to these points is to make sure you have fun. It is probably one of the only things that I didn’t really do in uni because I was very serious with everything. I find that you should make time for yourself and do the things that you really love to do. Now I can say I do have lots of fun, I play video games and once in a while I dare myself to travel.

What are some of the top brands you’ve worked with?

At Ninety3 one of our core goals is to be able to take about 10 brands global by 2030.  It’s a very audacious goal but it’s what we believe in. I’m mostly excited about the small brands that I am working with rather than the big brands. However, we have big brands that we have worked with. We have done some work for Data Bank, Stanbic Bank, Azmera restaurant, Nyonyo foods, we are working with ECOM West Africa,

We’ve worked with some small brands as well, like I said I like to talk about the small brands. Perbi Cubs is one of my favorite brands right now, we are working with Trenor laundry, Royal Greenfields Farm, Africa Leadership Initiative West Africa (ALIWA), among many others. Hon Kojo Oppong Nkrumah is a very huge brand that we’ve worked with over the years, we worked on his campaign video design work for him.

How do you feel about the kind of impact you are making?

It’s a very good journey and for me I am very happy about it and I’m always happy when I have to talk about it because I think that there are lots of people out there who take inspiration from some of us. For us, we want to develop Ninety3 Studios into a creative agency that is not just based in Ghana but will probably be having branches or partnered agencies out there across the world. I am so proud of this journey, I am proud of the people I have been on the journey with Foster, Chris, my Dex team, Edijosh, it’s a long list even my younger brother who is following closely.  

Recently, I started my personal design blog and a lot of people who came to read it kind of hit me up and say Charley this is something I totally relate with and so they are excited to have someone like me talk about and experience as well. It gives them a certain assurance that it means that they are not the only ones that this has happened to and so they have a certain kind of hope that it can only get better.

These days I am not shy or sad to talk about my story or my journey. I am always super excited to share and for me I feel like everybody has to also put their story out there but for me I am always happy to do that.

Who will you like to hear their story about life after university?

Poetic Prince 

About Ninety3 Studio

From a hostel room in KNUST, they were able to start Ninety3 Studios as a graphic design team in 2015 and have now grown into a marketing agency specialized in using unique digital strategies to launch, translate and achieve business goals.

With Ninety3 Studios, they believe in building brand and consumer relationships through effective branding, graphic design, and advertising. They are committed to making people fall in love with the brand they manage.

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