“Konis Henok is an ambitious, extremely driven and all round outspoken young entrepreneur and creative professional. Born and raised in Windhoek’s Katutura, he prides himself in being a changemaker, one that is determined to empower his community and the world at large.”
He is the Creative Director of Kassi Media Group, an agency of creatives which specialises in photography, videography, design and social media. The agency, which has been around for over 5 years, employs 3 full-time staff and a number of freelancers on a contractual basis.
I was born in March 1998 in Windhoek to Salome, a street vendor at the time, and Haggai, a driver by profession. I have 5 siblings and I’m my father’s first born son. My parents split up when I was 6 years old. My father and I moved around a lot between 2004 and 2007 and finally settled in Goreagab. My parents split didn’t quite affect me until later in my teens. I always had big dreams growing up in Goreagab. As a child, I was always curious about how things worked, reading almost everything I came across. I was always learning. It was that curiosity that drove me to becoming a creative entrepreneur at the age of 17 due to the vast knowledge and access to information I possessed.
My teenage years were heavily influenced by crime, both positive and negative. I remember being one of the brightest learners at school, and yet also being a tyrant in the ‘hood. My dad worked all the time to provide, sometimes all 7 days of the week. He was mostly never home so I spent a lot of time with “friends” in the streets. Hardest thing for me was coming into a new neighborhood and trying to make friends, only to be bullied and looked down on. It didn’t stop me though because I learned very early on how to stand up for myself. That value in itself helped me make new friends within three weeks.
I had a few good criminals as friends too because they taught us how to survive on the streets. Although I never really engaged in crime at first, I was intrigued by the survival tactics I had learned, because I managed to keep myself out of trouble and danger most times. I would leverage people into getting what I want simply because I knew people they feared. And when I did do crime, I would steal money from vendors, or cellphones and laptops from well off university students. It quickly escalated to fraud because the money was good and it was what we called “an easy score.” I did all that and more by age 16.
Despite all these things happening, I still managed to keep a low profile at home and at school. Buying only the things that my dad wouldn’t notice, and I went to school every day. Even when I bought food, I’d use one of my uncles or elder cousins as an alibi. I managed to get away with it until one time…
I was arrested at 16, woke up to my 17th birthday in a cell actually. Everyone closest to me knew nothing until this point.
Although only having spent a weekend there, that was one of the very few experiences that led to me changing my life and starting my first legitimate business, a clothing brand called Kassi Authentic Clothing. I paid my dues though, through a 6 weeks life skills program which was ordered by the court.
When I completed the program, I started buying and selling. I would buy tech appliances and gadgets for resale, mostly phones and laptops. There were times when it went great, but often very slow. It was during a class assignment when we were asked to draft a marketing plan for a business that the clothing brand idea came to me. I asked my cousin, Imms, if he’d like to partner with me and he was stoked at the idea. We worked on the design and material and we launched in December 2015. We haven’t looked back since.
The brand is a manifestation of what it means to be a true product of the streets, hence the name “Kassi”, which originates from the Afrikaans word “lokasie” which means location. It represents the sense of community and togetherness that we have as people from Katutura.
Despite the will to succeed, growing the brand was not easy. Our product was superior compared to other local clothing brands in terms of quality, so it cost us a lot of money to produce it. Ours were custom-made, and designs were printed with precise specifications. We used flock material to print which was very expensive at the time. We were making a loss for the first 6 months because of the strict emphasis on the quality. Eventually, our suppliers began to discount us and later dropped the price of flock because we increased the demand for it. More brands started to use it and this was in itself a big deal for us. We went from selling items at a loss to selling out every other week.
We grew the brand to the point where we were forced to buy our own printing equipment and open up a shop. We didn’t get the shop but we secured the equipment and this lowered our cost of production by a huge margin. We even started printing for other brands and businesses.
I ventured into media in 2017, starting with photography. The first camera I used was a Canon 1200D, and it belonged to a friend of a friend. I learned basic photography skills and used it for about 8 months before it was stolen. My cousin, seeing my improved skillset, sacrificed his NSFAF refund to buy me a camera for business to go on. We bought a second hand Nikon D3200 from a pawn shop for N$6000. I was more than determined to make it in media now.
Things really didn’t pick up for me until I met Luis Munana in July that year. I was working with Christian Nangolo on a charity day event when Luis’s name came up. I told Christian I had a project that I wanted to launch and he gave me Luis’s number. I called him and we had a meeting. He wasn’t really interested in my idea, but he was impressed with the way I handled myself and suggested that I follow him around for a few days to get a better understanding of the industry and his work. I was beyond excited at this point.
He was working on launching his animated show, Waka Waka Moo, at the time, and we began working together. He invited me to Windhoek Fashion Week that same year and that’s where I expanded my network with people from different backgrounds and helped me shape the Kassi brand persona. It was also where I met Martin Amushendje, who I consider my mentor. He taught me the inner workings of a camera, photo styles, composition, and settings. I adopted my early portrait photography style from him.
We also worked on Luis’s lifestyle TV show Voigush Africa in 2018, where I got my first taste of production experience. We were on set for the better part of two months. I was assigned as camera operator no 3, as well as research for social media. We worked closely with Martin who was the director of photography. I was juggling school and my dream at this time, having enrolled for an IT certification at WVTC.
Although I was doing great at building a brand, I was nowhere near to calling it a business. I needed to think bigger. I was going to venture into the corporate environment. I needed to be ready and well-equipped. I needed to learn from people doing more than me. And I did just that.
I ventured into the world of social media marketing during the pandemic, with a B2B approach, specialising in photography and design. I partnered up with XT Creations and Blind Agency who take care of my branding and design needs. With Blind, I learned and applied everything important to not only grow, but also scale a brand.
I ended up interning at RFC in late 2020 providing them with photography services because they didn’t have a photographer on the team. During my time there I worked closely with Carlos Gurirab, Managing Partner of Gweri Vintage, on Corporate photography clients. I had met Carlos at Windhoek Fashion Week in 2017, but we never had the opportunity to work together until 2021. 3 months into the internship I started enjoying the fruits of my labour. We were doing jobs for top corporates like Standard Bank, OutSurance, Hollard Namibia, MultiChoice and others.
From Solopreneur to Entrepreneur
I became a reliable photographer to many lifestyle influencers and industry elites, having repeatedly shot for KP Illest, Skrypt, Chelsi Shikongo, Odile, Leathermein, Luis Munana, Collin Benjamin, Pombili Shilongo, Twinfluencers and many others. The editing work became cumbersome and I needed help.
I decided to make my agency public and hire a few people to help me run it successfully. This is when KMG Digital came to life, an agency for agencies, to help with everything content and social media. I first hired a retoucher who doubles as a shooter, so that even when I’m out creating, there’s someone in studio editing. Eventually I hired two more people as the workload grew.
I faced many challenges when establishing myself, with the main stereotype was always being about my age. Being a young professional means that people don’t trust you as much because of a lack of experience and you always have to prove yourself.
There are many barriers to entry in the media space, but the most prevalent being the price of gear and equipment. I’ve had to work ridiculously long hours. I’ve spent a lot of time away from my family. I’ve made countless sacrifices that not many people are willing to do. I’ve invested a lot of time and money into myself and the business. Was it all worth it? Definitely.
Over the years we’ve grown into one of the best media agencies to work with in Namibia, having worked with top companies like Standard Bank, Powercom and MultiChoice.
It has always been about positive influence and building for impact. That’s the mantra I live by. Looking back at the harsh reality of growing up poor, it’s only right that I change my circumstances for the betterment of myself, my family and society as a whole.