024 – This Dude Went From Being a Rap Artiste, to a Successful Web and App Design Specialist, with John Sandiford
John AM Sandiford is based in the Netherlands. He is a certified Web and App Designer with an extensive knowledge in User Interface and User Experience Design and Social Marketing Strategies. In 2010 he founded the company Antonio Media. He has been elected by World Trade Center Eindhoven Netherlands as the Young Professional of the year in 2016.Peak Performers, John shares his journey from a #rap artiste to an entrepreneur #TheEntrepYou today! Click To Tweet
If you could choose your age forever, what age would you choose and why?
I wouldn’t choose and age. I love every age of life. It’s all a different part of the journey. There are so many things that happen at every stage. I would think that being stuck at one age may turn out to be more of a curse than a blessing.
Did you always know that you wanted to become an entrepreneur?
I always knew that I wanted to do something special, to do something more than average. For a while I thought that it was something in the entertainment industry and eventually that shifted into what I’m doing now. What I’m doing now is slowly taking on an additional life of its own, heading into new territories while still sticking to the core.
Was there a point that you ventured out into the music industry?
Yes, I spent quite some years there. It all started with just loving music from a very young age. That grew into loving it even more as I got into high school. I started writing my first lyrics when I was about 13 years old in Dominica when I was based in the Caribbean between Guadeloupe, Martinique, Dominica and that career moved on simultaneously with me going to school.
From high school to college I working on my music and doing things in the music industry. That brought me up to my climactic moment, in 2009 when I performed on BET’s 106 & Park in New York City performing the song called Break Your Back (Nemesis). That was the highlight of my music career.
Born on St. Maarten, I was one of the first artistes from the island to also perform original music on BET and to have made music videos back in 2005-2006 that was also on television in Europe and the Caribbean and having original music on iTunes. Actually then, I was already busy with entrepreneurship because I had a record label. It got a bit more serious from 2005 onwards. I was still in college although I was contemplating to drop out and to pursue music.
During my pursuit of music is when I came across certain things within the industry that I didn’t’ like. That made me question if the quest that I was on was the one to fulfill my life’s purpose. I’m allergic to fake people and I met a bit too many of them within the industry (I also met some real ones). As I started analzying those that I met at a younger age and started looking at their personal life, there was just different signs that led me to believe that maybe I should try my hand at something else and that I could always come back to music if I choose to. The love for music will never go. I still listen to music religiously every day. I work with music constantly so there will always be a time when I could reconnect but on different terms.
Fast track to 2010 when you decided to start Antonio Media, how did that happen?
You could say it started in 2008 maybe a bit before that. I started a study in Information Technology and then I switched after about a year to ICT media Design which is a mix of design, communication and ICT because I could then create my own album covers, websites and flyers since I was young and couldn’t pay anyone to do it but I wanted to have the most awesome stuff so I thought why not go to school and learn to do it. In 2008 when I started my first internship I realized I actually had some skills and people are willing to pay good money for them because of the types of assignment I was getting from my boss at that moment. That gave me the confidence, I could actually venture out and do more stuff for other people.
In 2010 I was completing my final internship. I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree. I looked around my City as to what jobs were available but there was nothing appealing to me. I always wanted to be my own boss. Then I decided I would go for it and started the company in 2010.
What is your Unique Selling Proposition?
We think about the complete user experience as in customers, people that use your products. We design websites and Apps. When you’re thinking about the complete experience, it goes beyond the colours and fonts. You really have to take the business goals of your clients in mind and fully understand the journey that their customers will go through and you design around that to match what their customers are looking.
What’s the worse challenge you’ve faced as an entrepreneur?
Creating enough cash flow. When you’re doing something that you love, something that you’re passionate about, you could easily spend more time than was budgeted for working on the thing that you’re working. It doesn’t matter to you because you love doing what you’re doing. It is difficult to figure out how do you price that creative work versus what people are used to paying and also the type of clients that you’re providing those services to. Figuring out that balance of where you could continue to work on passionate projects and make enough cash flow to sustain yourself, that was one of the most difficult things of figuring out where that balance point is.
How did you figure it out?
I’ll have to give a bit more context as to how the business grew. I started at home about 8 months in the spare bed room at home. At that point, nothing was really growing. The one thing I can recommend, if there is some place that you can go out and network with other business people, there is where you’ll learn the most. It wasn’t until I moved to an area inn Eindhoven when I started to work at a Flex Desk in a space of about 25 other creative professionals when I started to learn and understand how to balance what you ask for versus what you deliver, etc. Also. I learnt in that period to collaborate more with others. I started to figure out that I needed to specialize in Web and App Design versus making logo, flyers and posters. In the beginning, I was making anything that people were willing to pay me to make.
I remember going to one of the first networking events, when they asked me what I did and I explained, the lady looked at me and said you’re doing too much, you need to specialize and I thought to myself, how dare she say that? I can do all these things. At some point, I came to accept that while you can do it partially, you’ll never be able to be great at it. You’ll never be great at everything, at some point you’ll have to figure out what you’re really great at and then you put all your chips in that section and move forward with that. You can always add additional things to your plate but you should really be focusing on things that you’re really good at. The stuff that you can do but aren’t really great at, make sure you find someone who is great at that and outsource it to them, collaborate – that’s how you make great things happen. That’s what I learnt in the early years at the co-working space I was at.
What are some of the high points in your journey?
Here in the region, one of the first big projects that I worked on was for Rockwool Benelux (the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg). That project became so successful within the company that we also did something similar within the company for Rockwool GLOBAL where we redesigned their career the career page within their website where everyone gets hired and you see all the applications passed through. It taught me a lot; it was one of the first projects where we outsourced every element that wasn’t our responsibility.
I focused on the website design; there was someone that focused on the videos; someone that focused copy writing, a bit of animation went into that and managing all that together to ensure we delivered an awesome project to the client. This was one of those first good experiences to learn how to do things on that scale for big corporate clients.
We went to do stuff for ASML – that company is kind of like the guy behind the guy. They build the machines that produce the chips that go into your phones, laptops, iPads, etc. They have about 10 or 12 clients in the world and they are the clients that you want to have like Intel and Samsung. We also did awesome stuff for Honeywell Emaya – (Europe, Middle East and Africa). That took me doing workshops in boardrooms in Paris, to launch setting up the launch in the Czech Republic.
In 2016 I was awarded the World Trade Centre Eindhoven Young Professional of the Year Award which was a special moment, it was actually towards the end of 2015 that I received the award. 2015 was a very busy year for me and my company as well. It was also the year when I hired the first additional employee outside of me. Before that point, I always collaborated with Freelancers and other companies so I built a network of over 25 Specialists that I would work on projects with but internally I didn’t have anyone else in the company doing the core and the daily activities. That grew from the first hire to we are now at about 6 of us.
Final piece of branding advice that we need to hold to?
In 2017, it’s very important for you to understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. Look for Simon Sinek’s the Golden Cirlce and make sure you apply that messaging to your own brand to understand why you do what you do. Furthermore, I would implore you to research design thinking and what exactly that means. It’s all about having empathy for your customers and knowing what they are looking for and making sure that you provide that to them. You need to have more dialogue with your customers. Social media is a good way to do that.
Content is king. Whatever you’re doing, make sure you’re creating good content to show to the world what you’re about. It can be as simple as documenting elements of the journey. You need to step out of that comfort zone if you’re in that zone and move outwards into the epic space. Really focus and do research on how to create good content because it will make all the difference in how people perceive you and link into the product/service that you’re trying to sell.
- Whatever you’re doing, make sure you’re creating god content to show to the world what you’re about.
- You’ll never be great at everything, at some point you’ll have to figure out what you’re really great at and then you put all your chips in that section and move forward with that.
- It is very important for you to understand why you’re doing what you’re doing.
RESOURCE TO PEAK YOUR PERFORMANCE