Spotlight: Meet Dylan Hansen; The Brilliant Mind Behind Serallio
How does a man who doesn’t enjoy parties and being in the midst of many people, end up running one of the most exciting nightlife spots in the city of Accra? ‘’The idea was not what it is now. I wanted to create a space where a few friends and I could hang out and have a good time’’.
The idea of close circle of friends hanging out soon grew into large numbers- friends brought along their friends. And in 2017, Serallio was born. Serallio has become, within a year and few months, a shrine for people seeking to have exciting experiences.
The mastermind behind Serallio, Dylan Hansen, has always had a knack for entrepreneurship. In 2014, he, along with some friends began ‘#GetFamiliar’, a social media marketing company which hosted #FridayFriends-an award winning weekly event at the Silver Lounge, Accra Mall. But, he soon realized the business was unsustainable due to its lack of diversification into other ventures.
“We were making money but not so much at the end of the day. The venue wasn’t ours. That meant, all the drinks bought went to the owners. We made money from the gates. But again, half of those who patronized the place were friends we couldn’t charge on each occasion they patronized our event.”
That realization got Dylan to consider other options- majorly, securing an excellent venue. His plan was pitched to his partners. It was, however, was not acted upon. He decided to do it on his own. He began by scouting for a place at a good location- a search that took him a year. Dylan finally got a place in Osu, an area he has lived most of his life. (He is a proud Osu boy and won’t trade it for anywhere else).
Located at Papaye Down, Serallio is a simple place which could be missed by a first timer on a weekday thanks to its simple frontal. It’s however, easy to locate on Sundays because of the music that would be blasting from the place. Serallio is an open air space with a makeshift frontal and lush green grass covering a large portion of the ground. The other part of the ground has been converted into an eatery section.
“The idea for Serallio is to serve as a meeting ground for people to hangout over food and drinks whiles enjoying good music and conversations”.
”It took me a year to finally get the landlord to offer me the place. It had two old houses sitting on the land”, Dylan told me, pointing to the exact spot the houses stood, which now serve as the DJ booth. ‘I couldn’t initially raise the funds the landlord was asking.
But after a year, the landlord called me out of the blue and asked if I still wanted the space. I said yes and here we are today’. Although Dylan hadn’t raised the required amount for the grounds at that time, the landlord felt it a good idea for the space to be utilized than to sit idle.
As it is with Dylan, every move he makes is calculated. His initial idea was to convert the space into a lounge but soon realized that would take time. With an open space, he decided to start hosting parties, thus the birth of “Serallio Sunday”. The first edition of “Serallio Sunday” was held on April 2, 2017. The official launch was preceded by a pop-up party in December, 2016.
According to Dylan, Sunday was considered ideal ‘because there isn’t much activity to be done on Sunday after church’. As it is with most Ghanaians, Sundays are mostly rest days for many, thus an ideal day to unwind with friends. The idea for Serallio is to serve as a meeting ground for people to hangout over food and drinks whiles enjoying good music and conversations.
Like most start-ups, the few weeks following its opening didn’t go as expected. As Dylan recounts, the first night ended with debt on his books; something he considers part of running a new business.
‘Many friends came out and weren’t ready to spend money on drinks. We had to give out the stocked crates of drinks for free’, he disclosed with this ‘it’s a new business bug’ smirk across his chubby face.
Since ‘’Serallio Sunday’’ is about music, he recruited three of the city’s best DJs and an MC to provide the best music to clients. But first, he needed to explain his ideas to them. He believes in letting whoever comes on board to know exactly what his vision and plans are. ‘’That way, they’d be able to contribute meaningfully to whatever you are building”. With DJ K3V, Eff TheDJ and DJ Putin as DJs and Jonny Stone as MC, the jam was sorted out.
If there’s one thing Dylan is proud about, it’s the breakthroughs the DJs and Jonny are chalking. Jonny is now one of the sort after MCs in the city- he host a radio show on Y FM as well- and the DJs have branded themselves as professionals; playing at some of the biggest musical events across the city.
Within one year, Serallio has, via ‘’Serallio Sundays’’, offered its platform to many of today’s young and exciting artists to bond with and earn new fans. This guest features has over the period become an iconic segment in the Serallio vault. The success however didn’t happen overnight. Dylan told me how awful the first performance was.
The first featured artist was Kayso, a producer and artist. ‘’Guess how many people were in attendance?’ He rhetorically posed the question amidst a chuckle. ‘Four people. Four!’, he counted his fingers as he repeated the number.
Music is just one segment in the offering vault of Serallio. Dylan and his team-which include Jonny Stone, Eddy, Desmond aka Spyda, Omni The Hommie, DJ K3V, Eff, Putin, DJ Endowed and Gideon Kutsi-had provided other interesting events like open air movie screenings to clients. According to Dylan, they had to scale back when others began saturating the market with what they were doing with movies. Aside the movie screening, Serallio has been hosting Comedy Bar and other events occasionally.
Like the astute entrepreneur he is, Dylan knows when to pull back from the services he offers his clients before it becomes a ‘common thing’. He is a man of exclusivity and the saturation of any of his business ideas means providing new experience to his clients- food services.
“Most people simply copy or replicate what they see others do. They see it thriving and think a generic plan is all that it takes”
When I asked him what were the major challenges young entrepreneurs face in Ghana, he pointed to lack of finance and education in entrepreneurship. ‘It wasn’t until I started this business that I realized how tough it is financially’, he confessed. ‘You don’t recoup your money in the short term and that’s a huge disincentive’’.
The reason many startups fold few months after opening hinges on lack of education in chosen business area. From his observations, ‘most people simply copy or replicate what they see others do’. Elaborating further, Dylan stated that, some people don’t take time to understand the fundamental pillars of that successful enterprise. ‘They see it thriving and think a generic plan is all that it takes’; citing their open air movie screening as an example.
Despite the success it has chalked within one year, the open air nature of Serallio, coupled with the long hours of partying – 12 hours – and loudness of music has received complaints from people in the neighborhood. The outcome of these complaints are numerous visits to the premises by officials of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly.
‘I’ve had to deal with a lot of them – city authorities – due to complaints from neighbors over noise’, he confirms. ‘Some even come when the party is going on’, he indicated. He recalled a day when four heavily built men came threatening to shut down the place.
Acknowledging the inconvenience the noise sometimes causes his neighbors, he also thinks it’s overly exaggerated. Dylan wonders if the many pubs within his operational enclave, blasting music at higher decibels compared to the measured noise from Serallio also get complaints filed against the business operators.
This point notwithstanding, Dylan is putting measures to control the noise levels. Currently, a wall is being built around the property. Also, there’s a plan to procure new set of speakers that would not cause too much noise to his neighbors.
In 2018, Serallio plans to roll out some interesting events, including an entrepreneurial fair. This is geared towards offering start-up and entrepreneurs the opportunity to showcase their products and/or services to the public. ‘We are not only going to host them (entrepreneurs). We are going to do more than that’, he says without divulging much information. Also, the grounds would be opened to people to host their private events.
Ask Dylan what he cherishes about Serallio, he’d be quick to point to how he and his team are helping people to de-stress each week. He told me about a middle aged man (probably in his early to his mid-40s) who comes a couple of weeks to have fun. ‘This guy would, after a few drinks, go topless and jam. He thanks us each time for helping his destressing process. And we won’t see him again for a couple of weeks’.
There are those who come to Serallio to enjoy the music, especially the warmup sets by the DJs, before the actual party begin around 9 PM. The warmups, which begins at 6 PM, are when the DJs- K3V, Eff The DJ and DJ Putin- play songs that aren’t your typical mainstream records. He cites a lady who comes to listen to these songs, leaving when the crowd start to build up.
Serallio has run for one year and has since grown into one of the ‘shrines’ of nightlife in the city; providing the right vibe which merges business, pleasure with building relationship among people. And that has been the mission of Serallio and Dylan’s idea for venturing into this kind of business.
This article was first written in 2017 and as such, has been edited to reflect the current state of affairs at Serallio. The famed ‘Serallio Sunday” has not been running for a while now. Dylan and his crew have been hosting pop-up events in place of Serllio Sundays. Never miss any of their events.