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SociaLiga at 5 – Sit-down with Founders

It’s our 5th anniversary!! To celebrate our anniversary, we have loads of exciting things and giveaways planned for our SociaLiga community so stay glued to our social media pages and website this week! To kick-start the week though we thought it best to start from the beginning! We sat down with the some of the brains behind SociaLiga, Dimeji and Caxton, to discuss everything from how it all started to their goals and ambitions for the brand!

So did you guys know each other before SociaLiga began? 

Dimeji

I didn’t know the guys personally before it all started. We were all reps of different teams that participated in another football tournament and so we were on the same WhatsApp group. We became friends when we decided to start the SociaLiga

Caxton

I’ve known Ope for a long time. We met in JSS 1 (ISL) in Secondary school and I met Dimeji during the formation of The SociaLiga.

How did it all start? Did you just wake up one morning and think “Maybe I should start an amateur football league and social event” 

Dimeji

SociaLiga was initially inspired by us being side-lined from another football tournament. What had happened was at the time, all the teams were prepping for another tournament but then the management of their event started to bring up some rules that we weren’t on-board with and started introducing new teams to replace us. So I just hit up Ope and said: “Look, we’ve been training. Our teams already have fans. Let’s pick a venue and play a quick tournament so all our efforts aren’t wasted and let’s do it properly”. That was how the SociaLiga was formed.  P.S. I came up with the name.

Caxton

Yeah exactly. The aim at the time was to improve on what other similar leagues in the past were doing and make ours more inclusive.

What were the initial challenges you had to deal with?

Dimeji

The initial challenge for us was finance. When we wrote the blueprint of what we wanted to achieve, it was clear it was going to cost a lot of money. We had ideas about a bunch of stuff we wanted at the event from photo booths to bouncing castles for kids but we were starting out of nothing. We didn’t have sponsors so that first event was funded out of pocket! And the event was free of charge! Our strategy was to prove to the public that we could deliver a quality experience and then when next we come up with another event, people would be willing to pay.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the journey so far?

Caxton

I think it was having everyone buy into the same idea or direction and being able to meet up with the expectations we had created. SociaLiga has a standard and the public is demanding so five years of making sure we only improve has been a challenge. But it’s been a rewarding challenge.

How was it? Working as a team at the beginning? 

Dimeji

Yeah, this was interesting. There were the good times where we worked together but there was also a lot of times where we fought because things weren’t always going our way. It wasn’t because we didn’t like each other, we just had different perspectives so we would have to take our time and find a middle ground.

Caxton

To put it simply, out teamwork has been essential to all our successes

Do you remember how the first event went? We’re you excited/worried? 

Dimeji

At the first event, I was excited and nervous at the same time. When you have a big event, you try to gauge your success or failure from the reaction of the public from social media and it was super mixed. Some people were like “oh this is going to flop” and some were like “I can’t wait to be there”. Another interesting thing, we had the audacity to set the date of our event on the same day as the other tournament! I was nervous at first but during the event and seeing the reactions after “How they had a blast. How they wish it lasted longer” We were like yes. We had succeeded.

How has your vision for SociaLiga changed over the years? How has SociaLiga evolved?

Caxton

Well, the vision has been the same since inception from my perspective and that is being the foremost organiser of sporting and social events in the country. I guess what has majorly changed is how we achieve that vision.

Dimeji

Yeah, I don’t think the vision has changed. We’ve just had to add so many other things that are not football like the SociaLympics and Vendor showcases. We’ve created an ecosystem for small businesses that don’t have stores but need access to lots of young people. We’ve also had to be constantly creative with customer engagement so people understand that every SociaLiga event is unique.

What has been the biggest milestone for SociaLiga so far?

Caxton

I think being 5 years old is. Not many start-ups outside the tech space have been able to achieve this.

Dimeji

Yeah, I agree completely. Our biggest milestone is standing the test of time. There are so many football tournaments that started before us and even after us that have faded away. For me, it’s building a sustainable product.

What advice would you give for anyone who wants to start up something and have the longevity your brand has had over the years? 

Caxton

Never let the negativity of others affect your dreams. Listen to what people have to say, both good and bad, and pick which applies to you.

Dimeji

Exactly. Just do you and know it is going to be very tough. It is going to be a while before it makes sense.

It’s been 5 amazing years for you guys and the team. I bet that’s a lot of memories. Do you have a favourite memory? 

Dimeji

My favourite memory has to be the fact that my football team Knights FC won the first event. That’s etched in SociaLiga history forever. Also, the fact that I was appointed the very first C.E.O, that’s a fond memory for me.

Caxton

For me, I think it’s more of the mistakes made that keep coming to mind and how we have learnt from them. The SociaLiga is in the business of making amazing memories and experiences.

If you had a chance to go back in time, back to that day when you decided to start this journey. Would you change something? 

Caxton

Yes, I’d go back in time again and start another 5 years earlier

Dimeji

Same. I wish we started sooner because the truth is that we were the engine that made the previous league successful so I think starting at least one year earlier would have had its advantages.

We know that these 5 years is just the beginning. What do you think it will be 5 years from now when it celebrates its 10th anniversary?

Dimeji

I think the SociaLiga is going to become a full-on sporting franchise and a pipeline for talent from Nigeria to the rest of the world. What we’ve discovered is that Nigeria is blessed with sporting talent and they just need to be a platform that gives these people to show their talent.  One thing is clear though, we’re not stopping.

Caxton

Well, hopefully, I’d be enjoying my retirement and no longer MD. But I think in 5 years’ time, we should have a SociaLiga event in every state in Nigeria and a couple of international competitions in other parts of West Africa. That’s what we have on the drawing board

What’s your ultimate goal for the brand? What do you want the first word that comes to people’s mind, when they hear “SociaLiga” to be? 

Dimeji

When people hear SociaLiga, they hear fun. Creativity. Good vibes. I’m sure at our next event people will be looking forward to A Better Time (laughs)

Caxton

Well, it won’t be just one word, I expect it to be more like a feeling. The kind you get when a public holiday is coming or when unwrapping a new phone or driving a new car. The ultimate goal is to have something for everyone. At our events, you are never alone. There are no barriers. For each and every one of us The SociaLiga represents something different but one thing we will always agree on is that it is and will always be More Than a Game

 

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