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Talk about one of the best photo coordination in Nigeria and the name Sandra Chiwendu Ijoku-Henry comes to mind. She is the Director of the renowned creative platform Dranchi. She handles a whole lot more than photoshoots and event coordination. She manages the psyche, mentality and mood of every client before the photo shoot to ensure the best results. Her job includes the best pose, the accessory to match the mood and ensure the photography session is properly established. She has coordinated photo sessions for A-list artists such as D’Banj, Regina Daniel, Tonto Dikeh, Chaka Balogun and many more.


In this interview, she talks about her humble beginning and the journey so far, she also hinted about greater things and new things to expect from the stable of her brand, Dranchi


Can we meet you? Just tell us about your background and how growing up like; and were you born with a golden spoon or silver spoon?


My name is Sandra Chiwendu Ijoku-Henry. I was actually born with all the three spoons because I came from a wealthy home; but since my father died after my secondary school, I then began to work from the age of sixteen till date to train myself and my siblings. It was from there I got my first huge job; though I did a lot of modelling and ushering jobs while I was schooling at the University of Calabar. During my school days, I worked for Red Label as their salesperson when they came to Calabar, Indomie and MTN. I did all these jobs then.


One particular night, I was actually working on the Red Label when a friend of mine messaged me through the 2go app and I sent him pictures that I was actually working on, and he told me he was really impressed. It was from that moment, I got introduced to a company in Port Harcourt. That was how I got my first job. I went for the interview and the expatriates were impressed with my skills and I was employed as the company’s clerk.


I was earning a handsome salary from about 300 to 500. Doing the job, I noticed that people who were supposed to be cleaning the toilet clean were not actually doing their job. Can you imagine? A company like an oil company and it was from there, I started cleaning the toilet while I was also doing the clerk work. And they actually paid me for that services aside from my normal work because I was trying to make earn means to train my siblings. I didn’t last with the company because I had to go for my NYSC due to the fact that the former governor of Port Harcourt, Rotimi Amaechi said crop member needs to teach. That was what brought me to Abuja. So, I have to do my NYSC in Abuja.


How did Dranchi come to live?


Dranchi started in South Africa when my siblings and I went on a holiday. We went to Cape Town and we noticed how people were taking pictures but they loved the view and the serenity and everything. They were not really looking okay and not coordinated with their pose and all that. So, I thought of helping total strangers when taking pictures. I would tell them to pose like this or do like this. And they were really loving the pictures. Ever since then, I started pondering on what to do. It was from that moment, I understood that one needs to be intentional with your pictures and this is where Dranchi came to birth.


When I came back to Nigeria after my holiday, I was privileged to work with my mentor; Mrs Chaka Balogun, who was a senior adviser to the then Minister of Tourism and Culture; Mr Edem Duke. I was her personal assistant and also the personal assistant to the minister. So, when she is not around, I also attended to the minister. My first major event was the centenary city. That was between 2013 and 2014. I was the one that coordinated the ushers, the guests of the minister. After that, I worked with my mentor for facilitating Nigeria, who also taught me all the things I knew about event coordination and all that. I worked with her. And before then, former President Goodluck Jonathan had female cabinet ministers. So, what we did when we were launching this facilitating Nigeria was that we trained young kids from age 6 to 12 on how to represent the ministers. We did the coordination inside Aso Villa and the president was so impressed and the ministers. I did it alongside my boss, Mrs Balogun. After which, I realized that there was something in me that made everything work out.


What is the difference between an event coordinator and an event planner?


We make sure everything runs smoothly and we take the stress of our customers and clients. We make sure we work with the event planner to bring all the vendors to work. But our own major duty is to follow up on these vendors. Meanwhile, it is the event planner that will introduce the event to the coordinator. The event planners don’t usually come out to live because they have paid for the job. The event coordinator coordinates the event and ensures the clients enjoys the services. We give clients value for their money. So, this is what an event coordinator does. Inasmuch people try to confuse event coordinator and event planner, the honest truth is that they are not the same.


Do you think I need a coordinator to do a photo shoot; if yes, tell me why?


Some people don’t have an idea of what they want in their photo shoot. We also have a set of people who are idealistic. They know what they want for their shoot. But for people who are not certain, it is our job to help them put together their outfit and location.


We create a mood board that guides them from outfit, hair, makeup, accessories, and shoes and pose because I believe one has to be intentional when taking pictures. So, if you want to look like Naomi Campbell and Beyoncé, you have to look sophisticated in your photoshoot. We style you and coordinate you. We also follow up with the photographer to make sure he/she delivers a quality picture for you. We bridge the gap. Well, for those who have the idea of what they want but don’t know what to do; this is where we come in. We create a mood board with whatever theme they are looking for— be it vintage theme or normal theme.


Can you mention few of the client you have worked for?


For Photoshoot coordination, we have coordinated for Mrs Chaka Balogun and aside from that we have coordinated a lot of celebrities; like Dbanji, Tonto Dikeh, Regina Daniels, Ned Nwoko. We have also coordinated for non-celebrity and celebrity— even politicians and their wives.


How affordable are your services?


When it comes to that, I realized that people are sometimes scared because I have worked with people I had aforementioned. But what our brand is all about is that we work for everybody; both the high and the mighty. Even the market women can call us to coordinate her shoot. This is actually to make people happy. No matter your budget, we accommodate everybody. We are not just after the elite. We also say there is a room for you. This is what our brand is all about.


What has been your challenges since you started?  When did you start officially? And when did you make it professional?


I started officially 2013. Our challenges were numerous because people felt they didn’t need us. But at the middle of the event, it was then they would start calling. We always meet our clients’ demands. Our challenges have been like when clients see our work, they feel any ordinary person can do it. This has been a big challenge for us. But not everybody can do it. It is a niche that is really missing and we are the ones filling it up. So, people feel like they don’t need us. But they actually need us at the need of the day. Then, we have overcome this challenge by delivering excellent jobs and always try to leave a good footprint with our services and customers relationship because they always call us back. We always get referrals. We make sure we make you satisfied and give you value for your money.


How did you come about the name Dranchi?


(Laugh) It is a very funny name but it is unique. The ‘’Chi ‘’ stands for God because I put God first in whatever I do. I always say God should go before me while the ‘’ Dran’’ is from Sandra.


What would be your advice to young ones who look up to you or what to venture in your kind of business?


My advice for them is that they should commit whatever they are doing in God’s hand because whatever we are doing we should put it in God’s hand. The second one I will say is that never you give up even when it is going good, when it going bad, and when it is not working. Don’t give up. Continue and be consistent even when people talk down to you. Just know what you are doing. Look up to God and be hardworking; and let your yes be yes, and your no be no.


What is your words to your clients?


Thank you for supporting us when nobody really believes us or even understand what we are doing, but they saw the vision and kept coming back. We are forever grateful. We really appreciate them. We will continue to do better and improve in whatever we are doing. All we have to say is thank you and gratitude is forever our attitude.


What is your patting words for people who don’t understand what Dranchi does?


My patting words is for them to check our page. And don’t forget, always be intentional with your photo shoot or event.

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