“When Life Gets Tough, Smile & Make A Video” – The Poor Orphan Boy Who Went From Rock Bottom To Rockstar In A Flash
Isaac Oboth lost both his parents when he was just 7. He had to fend for himself from the age of 16 after his sole provider lost his job. He paid for his high school education by selling rock buns and DVD photo albums. He thought himself to make videos after a high school prom incident and he has since become a global sensation with his productions.
Twenty-nine-year-old Ugandan, Isaac Oboth, is the Founder and CEO of Media 256 Ltd; one of the fastest-growing film and television production companies in East Africa. If it looks like the African continent is bursting at the seams with the emergence of a flurry of young entrepreneurial talent, you should probably thank persons like Isaac.
By the time he turned 26, he had scooped coveted award after coveted award and established himself as one of the continent’s hottest prospects. And what makes his story even more interesting is the fact that he had been dealt rutabagas so early in life, but somehow emerged with cherries.
Isaac Oboth lost both his parents when he was just seven years old. And so, he had a very early introduction to the hard life. But perhaps the misfortune helped him develop the uncommon tenacity and fortitude that has seen him make it this far.
The untimely demise of both his parents meant that Isaac had only an older brother, Ivan, to look to for the provision of his needs. And the older brother didn’t fail, accepting the baton that had been shoved into his unprepared hands and running the race solo. Ivan worked so hard to provide for his younger brother but as there is only so much one man can do, his efforts were never going to be enough.
When Isaac was 16 and still attending school, yet another setback struck. This time, though, it wasn’t about lives being lost, thankfully. His older brother, Ivan, had been laid off and without a job, things were going to get a lot harder for the duo. As things stood, Isaac could no longer be cared for by his sole provider and he would have to fend for himself.
But it seems, like his brother after their parents died, Isaac too was ready to step up, and that’s because he took up the role of fending for himself quite well. Determined to see himself through high school, he started to make and sell rock cakes. The proceeds from the small business went into financing his secondary school education. Then, he delved into other small businesses like selling photo DVD albums and hawking drinks at rugby games.
Perhaps the best call he ever made was to see himself complete high school after all, as an encounter he had during high school prom was going to have a significant bearing on his life’s journey.
High school prom was just around the corner and preparations were in full gear. Most people were fussing over clothes and awards, but Isaac was trying to figure how to immortalise this very special day in his life, especially as he had fulfilled his dream of, at least, finishing high school.
Making an alumni photo album seemed like a great way to freeze the moment and transform it into some sort of memorabilia. But he didn’t have the funds to produce a quality photo album — printing costs were over the roof. So, he decided to settle for one that he could afford — a digital album. As he didn’t have the skills to get the job done, he got someone to photograph and edit.
When he finally got the finished work, he was dismayed by the botched job that the contractor had done. Editing was blurry and the photography was of very poor quality, it looked like his investment had gone down the drain because he didn’t think anybody would pay for such a half-baked job.
But he was wrong. His fears proved uncalled for. Despite the terrible finish, the album became quite popular and sold out in a matter of days. Isaac was astonished. It was interesting to think of how well people would appreciate top quality work if they were so happy with one that, to him, was basically thrash. That thought led him to a decision to acquire multimedia skills.
In the months that followed, Isaac spent countless hours learning about filming and editing by watching videos at a local internet café. He rented equipment, and after tirelessly promoting his material and searching for work, he managed to land a contract to produce a short film for the Ethiopian Commodities Exchange. The film was a success, and Isaac earned enough money to buy his own equipment. And just like that, Media 256 had been born.
Within a couple of years, the business grew by leaps and bounds. At one point, he offered his services for free to Coca Cola who were so impressed with his work that they signed him up for future productions. Isaac has since gone on to produce great work for the likes of the African Leadership Academy, USAID, UNDP and the Mara Foundation.
One of the company’s most high-profile projects is a ten-part series titled Discover Uganda which aired in multiple African countries before gathering so much acclaim that it was picked up by The Africa Channel, a US cable channel.
Today, Media 256 is a profitable, fully-fledged business, grossing annual revenue of over USD 100 K and boasting a team of no less than 7 full-time employees amongst whom are videographers and editors, as well as support staff.
And the Ugandan entrepreneur appears to be gunning for yet more glory with Media 256. Isaac’s achievements were recognised by Forbes in 2016 when he was named one of 30 most promising African entrepreneurs under the age of 30. He has also bagged the prestigious Anzisha Prize, which recognises the very best of Africa’s best young talents.