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Life & Work with Airam Dato-on

Today we’d like to introduce you to Airam Dato-on.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
2009 – I attended Rollins College. I was a Studio Art and Art History major. This is where my creativity really bloom. College was a creative playground for me. My focus was screen printing, graphic design and sculpture. 2011 – Study Abroad in Hong Kong. Opened my eyes to more culture and the experience made me want to move to Hong Kong, and I made that my goal. 2013 – I graduated from Rollins and moved to Hong Kong, where I would live for six years.

2013 -2016 I worked for non-profits in Hong Kong, mentoring and coaching university students to help them reach their personal and career goals. I also did branding design and social media management for those non-profits. 2016 – 2019 I worked for another non-profit, and my main project was to rebrand the whole organization. This is where everything really boomed for me. I rebranded the organization from the ground up. Understanding their mission and vision and adding it to every aspect of the place. Their mission and vision are carried through the social media strategy, website, video production, designs, photography. Since doing this project, my storytelling skills and photography skills leveled up. I was hired to do an engagement shoot for a friend because they saw a lot of life in the staff photos I took for the non-profit. From there, my photography career started. So now I am a full suite brand designer because I gained another skill. 2019 – moved back to Orlando with 0 networks and jobs. I worked hard for the first two months and living off of savings to network and find jobs. I started to work for Ecospears and Rollins part-time, doing print design and social media work for them while also doing photography gigs here and there.

2020 – COVID hit. I just left my job at Ecospears. All the momentum I made networking for my photography hustle suddenly had to stop. And one day during the lockdown, I had an idea to help encourage people to help local businesses. I created the Orlando Takeout Bingo. https://www.orlandosentinel.com/coronavirus/os-ne-coronavirus-artist-inspires-restaurant-spending-takeout-bingo-20200325-3vvornu4bva4zg5o33rcj7qtm4-story.html Because of this, my network grew. Taglish restaurant hired me to be their social media director through PPP. I helped them grow their social media from 2.5k to 7k in six months! I also freed up time for the Director, Chef Michael Collantes, to work on his business instead of in it. Being a part of the team and freeing up time, Taglish became Taglish Collective Restaurant group and I became their Creative Director. Since October, we have opened two restaurants, Soseki and Perla’s Pizza, where I did the full branding and social media strategy. All the while, I was creating educational photography content on Instagram and TikTok and I saw major growth because of it. IG I went from 2.5k – 25 k in 5 months. Tiktok I grew my account from 1k – 80k in 5 months. My goal is to inspire people and help them build a community around them, especially during a pandemic. I flourished in times when it seems impossible, but the determination to make a difference created a wave that I never expected would happen.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It hasn’t been smooth. When I first moved back to Orlando, I struggled to find a job and clients. My network was limited and I had 0 leads for 2-3 months. I lived off of a small amount of savings that my wife and I had leftover from our move.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I specialize in brand storytelling. I go from the foundational story of the overall brand into how it translates into the logo, photography, into social media storytelling and strategy. Right now, I am known for my photography and photography education. Once people get to know me, they see more and more of my storytelling and branding work. I tell a story from the way I educate, the way I post, the way I write captions. The foundation of everything is storytelling. People connect with stories, and I want that to be the core of everything that I do. I am most proud of the branding work that I did for Soseki. I did the brand experience design. I designed the logo, menus, signage, photography style, video style, social media marketing and strategy – all the way to the customer experience inside the restaurant and how they go from outside the space into the lobby, the hallway, into the sushi bar. I made sure the lighting is set up in the sushi bar is optimized for diners to experience the food, see the chefs, and take photos of the food. I think what sets me apart is that I am able to adapt and think on my feet. I think that comes from me moving around the world and the experiences I have had. Traveling and living in different cultures forced me to adapt quickly.

How can people work with you, collaborate with you or support you?
I am always looking for interns for a new agency I just started https://www.instagram.com/eightysix.media/. If they are ready to learn about branding, photography, social media, graphic design, or they have a business background, I would love to connect. If people what to get photos done, they can contact me through https://www.instagram.com/airamdphoto/

Pricing:

  • Photos starting at $275
  • Branding starting at $3500
  • Social Media Management starting at $500
  • Brand Consulting starting at $750

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Airam Dato-on

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