He might be currently heading up one of the UK’s most exciting youth media brands, have an office in the uber-hip Container City and street-smart dress sense that would rival Tinie Tempah (he later tells us Dropout filmed Tinie behind the scenes of his World tour dates), but from the second you meet Obi Oburota you can literally feel the positivity radiating from him. A born entrepreneur with a clear vision, his Dropout brand provides daily cultural sustenance to an ‘Adulteen’ audience via online magazine and TV platforms.
As he leans back on his chair and stretches himself out like a six-foot-tall cat-that-got-the-cream, I ask him ‘,what gets you out of bed in the morning..?’ ‘, The feeling and thought that I could potentially change my life forever depending on how I utilise this day,’ purrs the reply ‘, It may be one email. One phone call. I guess that belief that anything is possible. I have this quote on the wall of my office that reads 'Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen' and that’s something I guess I feel really strongly about. Good thoughts. Positive energy. Always.’
As we chit-chat I enquire as to how Dropout came about… ‘, I was in the second year of my Business Management degree at University and was required to do a placement within industry. I had set up a cleaning company in the first year, which I wanted to focus on in this sandwich year. Fortunately for me, the University agreed that if I could provide proof that it was a working company and I could keep them in the loop with things, I would be able to use this as my sandwich year job. I was making pretty decent money. After seven or so months I started getting letters from Inland Revenue for things that were pretty over my head. University didn't teach me about those types of things! Or at least they hadn't yet… Anyway, after discussions it made sense to quit whilst I was ahead and I managed to sell the company. I made around 9k. I had this idea of setting up a magazine for students that creates the whole ‘varsity/college campus culture’ that’s in the States. When I had this money I knew that was what I had to do. Music has always been my first love (with football!) so it was a no brainer. It initially was supposed to be a physical music and entertainment magazine distributed around all campuses, but I changed it to a digital format, brought on board a web developer who o thought was capable and the journey began. It went pretty crazy at that point. Big lows and some vindicating highs. But that’s another story...’
What's a typical day for you?
Obi Oburota: Wake up at 7.30am. Check emails and get some work done from my bed for around 30 mins. Go running in the park. Get back. Go on emails again. Get in the shower. Head to the office around 10.30am. If there are no meetings or interviews scheduled its work, work, work until around 7pm. Then I head home and continue to work till around 9pm. Chill out either for the entire evening (if the missus is there) or I’ll pick my laptop back up for around 1am and try and get busy, then I’ll nod off for 3/3.30am...
Who is your audience? And what attracts them to Dropout?
Obi Oburota: I think our audience consists fundamentally of people interested in music, but may not have the time to open ten tabs and look for new music. They pretty much want to go to one place every day and get their fix. We do a good job of providing that. The genre unspecific element has helped incredibly too. It took a good few years for that to make sense to the industry as it was so focused on genres and audiences, but I’ve always believed we listen to different types of music at different times, for different reasons, so you cannot exclusively target a certain type of person.
What are your biggest challenges?
Obi Oburota: I guess some of the biggest challenges come at the point of requiring external assistance, as it’s at that point that you then rely on another person’s ability to deliver. Which can be an amazing advantage or a detrimental. I guess judgement is incredibly important. As one of the most important lesson you usually learn is that you cannot do it all yourself as the journey progresses... It’s been a constant challenge trying to punch above my weight in terms of everything that I’ve done with the different dimensions of Dropout. Clearly I can't compete financially with other 'funded' media platforms or entertainment companies, so it forces you to think quicker. In a more agile and pragmatic way. You have to constantly ensure you’re maintaining momentum, mentally. Thinking of new ideas, honing your skills. Become a sponge to your environment.
Growing up in the era of blogs and internet TV, was a 'traditional' media format ever something that you wanted to do?
Obi Oburota: There’s something amazing about traditional formats. Although clearly the rigidity of their structure has caused problems that I don't think they can come back from. But there is still something amazing about knowing at this time of the day a person is going to sit in their front room and watch this program that fits perfectly into their routine. The sofa TV watcher is generally different to this new world who watch things via a laptop. But it’s still an audience I wanted to engage with. My parents don't know how to subscribe to a YouTube channel! (He laughs) Saying this. This internet is one of the greatest creations. Its reach and accessibility is amazing. That was the only way in. It’s all linear here. Levelled out. We can fight a fair fight. Art wins.
What have you've learnt on your journey so far?
Obi Oburota The importance of not being afraid to work. I'm a firm believer in 'work'. Working at your craft. Working towards your dream. Whatever works means to you? Your ability to 'work' is what you control. For that reason, we have no excuses. So much of our lives and decisions are controlled or pre-determined. But no one can stop you once that bedroom door is closed. Or that office door is locked. You can zone out. It’s important to capitalise on this. Hard work pays. I believe in this. If it doesn't, at least you get to see that 'failure' doesn't kill you.
What does the future hold?
Obi Oburota Realizing my creative potential. Creating something disruptive for all the right reason. I've just connected with a friend of mine on a new company that will sit in the music, entertainment and lifestyle space. It’s something I’ve been working towards for the past five years and came to fruition pretty randomly and organically as it possibly could. The Company is called 'GO!' The intention is to do exactly that. (He beams proudly – and paradoxically I nod and glance at the time.)
As a final question, I have to ask: Do you feel like a 'Dropout' at all these days...?
He smiles ‘, Now more than ever. A Dropout is someone that finds their 'difference' in being themselves. Not to go all spiritual, but my feeling towards what 'Dropout' means to me is the closest form of finding yourself. Not trying to conform, whilst also not trying to be different for the sake of it. Enjoying the journey and not being afraid to listen to your gut. From musical tastes, and fashion, to your perspective on the world. Finding your truth. Believing in your ‘cool'. The digital site has been my way in. I hope my journey ahead continues to clarify and show examples of exactly what this mantra means…’
I bid goodbye to Obi: the confident king of the underachievers.