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Generation Now: Michael Cunningham – The Creative

by Lou-Ann Jordan Nov 19, 2018

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Generation Now: Global, Bold and Expressive

Interview with Michael Cunningham – The Creative

A notable characteristic of those belonging to Generation Y and Z is their astonishing lack of conventionalism.  This unnerving ability to step outside the bound of traditions occurs in various areas of their lives.

Both generations live on their terms—and their careers are one such area in which they’ve been known to carve out new paths.  They are experts at monetising their skills and talents. In Gen Y Upstarts, author Donna Fenn notes that millennials view entrepreneurship as a way of life.   This ability to leverage their talents is attributed to the high-value millennials place on professional achievement.  More so than other generations, they seek out the fulfilment of doing what they are passionate about.

In this instalment of Generation Now, Yello met up with the incredibly talented Michael Cunningham.  Michael, in true Gen Y form, has been able to discover not only his career path but more importantly his passion.  Marrying the fanciful and the practical the 23-year-old gets to do what he’s passionate about while earning an income. Here he shares his experiences with Yello:

What sparked your interest in your videography and web design?

I never saw myself taking an interest in web design until recently. Videography—I dabbled in creating videos for entertainment from a young age, but I never imagined that it would become a passion of mine that would bloom into something so much more.

The first video that I uploaded to YouTube was an unboxing video of my sister’s Nintendo DSi. At the time I was 12 years old, and I had watched an unhealthy amount of YouTube videos on unboxings and tech reviews, and I thought to myself, I can do the same! So, I borrowed my dad’s camera and had my sister record me unboxing her DSi.

For me, at the time it was exciting to put up something that I had created on the internet for the whole world to see. I enjoyed it so much I made another one for a PS3 video game. The videos that followed were part of a short film series my friend, Oludare Marcelle, and I filmed.  These lead to motivational vlogs which I began uploading in January 2018.

My interest in web design came from the business side of things. I figured that I could make money designing professional websites for people who didn’t have the knowledge or time to do it themselves.

What inspired the name, Unorthodox Media?

Choosing the name, Unorthodox Media, was quite easy. I heard the definition of the word “unorthodox” which is contrary to what is usual, traditional, or accepted. It just clicked!  I figured it fit my personality and the vision I had for the company.

I aim to create content for my clients that stands out and leaves a mark across all digital platforms. Whether it be a promotional video for a new clothing line or a funky website design, there must be a ‘wow’ factor that differentiates my work from the rest—revealing its originality.

What services do Unorthodox Media offer and who is the target clientele?

Unorthodox Media offers services in videography/video marketing and website design. I help entrepreneurs, business owners and content creators to grow their brand with web design, video production and video marketing.

In the future, I want to offer online courses in video production to educate the “average Joe” in creating video content on their own. Our clientele so far has generally been NGOs and small start-ups. I want Unorthodox Media to appeal to more start-up companies and corporate professionals who desire to take their business to all digital platforms in a big way.

Can you briefly describe the journey from your initial interest to what Unorthodox Media is today?

Believe it or not, my initial interest was music production. I’m a big music enthusiast. I’m quite good at producing music. My parents bought me my first Yamaha™ keyboard in 2005. Then, in 2014, I bought an audio interface, a high-quality microphone and a pair of headphones. I started making beats with a friend.  We got to produce an entire track for an artist, from which we made money.

Unorthodox Media would’ve been a music production company until I realised that I preferred music production as a hobby. Over time, my passion for videography grew, and I decided that Unorthodox Media would inspire people through video instead, and help other entrepreneurs and professionals to scale their business through video marketing.

Of course, it meant I had to assert my presence on every digital platform.  Initially, I thought to get someone to create a professional website for Unorthodox Media. However, I did some research and realised that I could learn to do it myself, so I did. I received really good feedback, and that inspired me to start making websites for other people. I decided I could add web design to my repertoire.

Unorthodox Media then became a video production and web design company. I still love music production, and I may consider producing music for others as an option, but for now, I make music for myself in my home studio.

Is Unorthodox Media developing in the way you imagined?

Unorthodox Media has developed into more than I envisioned! Initially, my dream for Unorthodox Media was solely to be a video production company. In the past few months, from its conception to becoming an officially registered company, I’ve had the privilege of filming videos for internationally known volunteer-oriented organisations.  Also, I’ve done promotional videos for local charities, and assisted in the development of logos for local non-profit organisations.  I’ve also designed and created custom social media graphics for up and coming clothing lines here in Trinidad and Tobago. It has been a blessing to work with new clients each bringing different opportunities to Unorthodox Media.

What has been the most impacting lesson you’ve learnt since you started Unorthodox Media?

Time is valuable! It may sound cliché, but you really can’t get time back. At first, I didn’t fully appreciate the value of time and made the mistake of working more hours than I should have on a project. Now, I understand that time has more value than money and that time management is crucial for any entrepreneur.

In a service-oriented industry such as videography and web design, there are great demands on your time. Editing footage, photos and creating web pages can take hours.  And, it’s easy to get lost in your craft to the extent where your earnings don’t compensate for the extra hours put into the job. Now I’ve learnt now to charge based on the time and effort I put into my work while ensuring that my quality is up to par.

Starting a business can seem daunting if one focuses on acquiring start-up capital, etc.  What was your approach?

Tell me about it! The cost of the equipment, just to dip my foot into the waters, was shocking! The camera and lights alone summed up to roughly $10,000.00 TT. As a university student on a budget or a young entrepreneur the challenges that present themselves, especially the financial ones can cause anyone to stumble and give up.

But, interestingly, I never made money an obstacle to prevent me from achieving my goals. My approach was to determine what was necessary and what would allow me to get back the biggest ROI.

I decided that I would apply for a loan at my credit union and purchased all the equipment and gear that I required to start filming. Now, that was not one of my better decisions!  Fortunately, my parents had saved up some money for my college fund, which I used to pay it back.

I believe the best way to make capital is to start small. Explore your skills and see how you can make money from them. Teaching mathematics was a skill that I realised I had and so I teach CSEC Math to be able to afford video gear. One thing I would suggest to anyone who embarks on the entrepreneur journey and believes that money is an obstacle is to save and find different avenues to make money doing just about anything.

What advice would you give to someone who has a dream to become an entrepreneur?

A quote from Elizabeth Gilbert that has stuck with me is: “Done is better than good.” If you’re like me, a perfectionist, you tend to focus on how you can make something completely perfect, without flaws. Be careful, this will consume your time, and you’ll become a procrastinator who talks and never gets any work done.

If you’re on the path to becoming an entrepreneur I would strongly recommend you find a mentor in your field that has experienced success.  Learn from them. Be creative. Be true to yourself. Trust in God. Easy recipe, right?

Who or what inspires you and why?

I have many sources of inspiration. I’ve encountered so many persons who have been instrumental in my life. Majority of those people are musicians. I love music. I particularly love musicians who produce their music. Artists like Jon Bellion, Shakka and Kanye, have inspired me to stretch my imagination. Their dedication and passion for music could make anyone want to start making music.

In the video production and business world individuals like Peter McKinnon, Matti Haapoja, Curtis Judd and Scott McKenna—all YouTube videographers.  Also, I have to make mention of my best friend, Joshua Richards. He started his own clothing company, NOVA Cloth and has been doing extremely well. His passion and hard work have truly motivated me to continue excelling in my craft and business.

Ultimately, what do you hope to accomplish with Unorthodox Media?

My goal for Unorthodox Media presently is to help 100 business owner and entrepreneurs scale their business through media whether it be web design, video production or any other creative medium.

My biggest dream for Unorthodox Media is to eventually grow to a scale where I can invest in a large studio to accommodate various creatives. I want to create a haven and creative home for all creatives, something similar to YouTube spaces. For now, I will be satisfied if I can achieve my goal of 100 people though.

To learn more about Michael and his work, visit Unorthodox Media