The Covid-19 pandemic has especially been difficult for young Kenyan entrepreneurs. It, however, also provided opportunities for creators and innovators to thrive.
Among them is Lord Luigi, real name Luigi Sanya. He is a self-taught 3D animator behind Crunchtime Animations.
Luigi has worked with several local and international brands, on his own and as part of a leading Nairobi-based animation company.
Only four short years ago, he was grappling with uncertainty after being forced to drop out of college due to financial constraints.
Luigi told Business Today that he was unable to carry on with his pursuit of a Computer Science degree at Moi University midway into his third year, having failed to raise the fees.
“After the end of the semester in December 2016 I went home, I remember there was a (lecturers’) strike. I couldn’t raise the fees and didn’t know when I could get the money.
“I later went back and deferred. They gave me a letter which has a date when they expect you to be back but even by then, I didn’t have the money,” he revealed.
Having long been passionate about art and drawing, Luigi had began a little side-hustle creating digital art in his first year of campus.
He would create cartoon images of various individuals, a popular request in 2014 from students who wanted to spruce up their social media profiles. Soon, Luigi noticed that several clients were asking if he could ‘make the cartoons move’.
This drove him to search for online tutorials on simple animation techniques, marking the start of his journey as an animator.
After his last semester in third year, he found himself with time on his hands as lecturers went on strike for months. Even when they ended it, he still did not have fees to go back to school.
The time spent at home was used by Luigi to refine and improve his animation skills, practicing on his sister’s laptop.
“I installed Blendr as it was the only 3D animation software that could run on my sister’s laptop. I didn’t have a machine of my own to use,” he disclosed.
Luigi posted his work on Instagram among other social media platforms as he practiced, slowly catching the attention of various people from Kenya and beyond. Among those who interacted with his work were fellow animators and animation students.
He also started making money from his craft, securing small-time commissions from clients who saw his work on social media.
As his skills improved, Luigi reinvested his earnings into getting even better and began using more advanced software and hardware.
“I used the money I made to buy animation hardware and I also signed up for some paid courses on advanced topics, covering more than what you can get with the free tutorials,” he stated.
In 2018, Luigi was contacted by the CEO of a leading Nairobi-based animation studio which has contracts with leading Kenyan brands including telecommunication giants, banks and more.
Initially, Luigi freelanced for the firm before being brought on board full-time after six months. He got to work on various big projects for major corporate clients, exposing him to the big leagues.
As he revealed, however, the demands of the job soon got to him as he desired to pursue his personal creative projects.
“I resigned in December 2019 because I wanted more freedom to do my own thing. Initially I continued freelancing for them but by early 2020 we parted ways completely as I wanted to take on other projects,” he stated.
On his own, Luigi started Crunchtime Animations and continued to grow his presence and share his work on social media.
He latched onto various trends such as Femi One’s Utawezana wave, developing eye-catching animations of the singer and Tik Tok star Azziad Nasenya. His animation of popular personalities such as rapper Noti Flow drove a surge in interest on his pages.
His work continued to attract various local and international clients who have kept him afloat during the pandemic.
Luigi revealed, however, that a majority of their work was coming from international clients. There has been a marked increase in global consumption of video content during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Many of his clients found his work on different social media platforms which he uses to promote his skills.
“I’ve made my portfolio easily accessible so if someone is interested they can quickly see what we’ve done before. A lot of our clients in this period have been from outside Kenya, because the animation space is more developed but also because there seems to be a lot of demand for animated video in this time.
“At the moment, for example, we’re working on an international commission for a film,” he stated.