Meet Ndidi Obioha, The Hardworking Serial Entrepreneur

Meet Ndidi Obioha, The Hardworking Serial Entrepreneur

Ndidi Obioha exudes style, class, panache and all of these she has infused in the numerous ventures she is involved in (she has her hands spread acros

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Ndidi Obioha exudes style, class, panache and all of these she has infused in the numerous ventures she is involved in (she has her hands spread across the beauty, fashion, bridal, events, décor and lately, the food industry), including the décor of her corporate headquarters where this interview took place. The building stands out among the array of buildings in the Lekki Phase 1 axis where it is located. While many would prefer to adorn themselves and their clothings with jewels, Ndidi Obioha took it a step further by having the exterior of the entire edifice covered in flashy, ostentatious stones/jewelry, such that it constantly sparkles day and night. The interior of the building is also not left out. Though not entirely covered in precious stones, there is however a huge dose of it in every room including her bathroom. The entire place drips of ‘blings’. A foremost lifestyle entrepreneur, Ndidi Obioha is no doubt a seasoned professional with several awards to prove so. Particularly with her events planning venture which has helped her gain a lot of traction, she stands out from the pack as she is not your average run off the mill event planner. Ndidi Obioha conceptualizes, organises, defines, plans, manages and co-ordinates every single event she is involved in. In a chat with the Editorial/Lifestyle director, Nkarenyi Ukonu, she talks about some of the things that drives her in business and about her most recent venture.

First let’s start with your building. What did you have in mind ‘blinging’ out the entire building?
Everyone knows me for my ‘blings’. It is actually an inspiration I got from my many trips around the world. I remember seeing the interior of a building all ‘blinged’ out and I instantly knew it was what I wanted to do but rather than just the interior I did up the exterior. ‘Blings’ bring me so much joy and ‘blinging’ out the building was my own way of trying to make people understand that ‘blings’ can be used in a very sassy manner. I like to be different; I like to do things differently because I see life different.  I like to show how creative and crazy my imagination can get.

How long was it in the works?
I used to be in Dolphin Estate but I began getting frustrated because there, I couldn’t do as much showcasing as I would have loved to and you know, with the clothing business, if you are unable to showcase what you have, it doesn’t make sense. With the clothing business, you should be more dependent on walk-in customers than from referrals for the business to be able to grow and sustain itself. Dolphin was okay for my events business but not what I dreamt of doing and when I finally found the kind of place I needed, it took just two and a half months to put this together. It is a one stop shop where you can get everything you want; get your outfit, get your hair done, your makeup done, get your accessories and jewelries, enter your car and just go and attend your event. There is also a lifestyle shop where you can get things you can give out as gifts. The event thing is also here as well.

What is the feeling like seeing your dreams as you envisioned it happen?
Well, I like the excitement I see in people when they come in here and see all that I have done. I am overwhelmed at the excitement I see in them and it gladdens my heart and it encourages me to try to replicate this same look around town. There is really nothing like this in town. I have since come to realize that the way you present things totally remains in the mind of people. So by the grace of God, the next step will be to recreate this very look, not necessarily owning the entire business like I own here. It is basically just giving the people the look and feel of what I have done her and owning the rights to the look. They would be like mini malls.

Are we talking real estate here?
Well let’s just say something is cooking definitely but I am not letting the cat out of the bag just yet in that regard.

Your events business is one venture that has made you gain some traction and become one of the most sought after event planners in the country. Which of the many events you have handled would you say stands out the most and why?
My most challenging events to me are the ones that stand out. There was one we did that was planned in less than 24 hours and it was in Enugu State. The client only confirmed our go ahead on a Thursday at about 11 am and the event was for Friday at 10am. Now being able to pull off that event even at short notice is what makes it stand out. As long as you have the guests, a venue and the money, you can comfortably go to sleep and leave us to handle the rest. Another one was the All Progressive Congress (APC) convention of 2015, the one where President Muhammadu Buhari was adopted as the APC candidate. We were notified two weeks to the event. You can imagine what it is like handling politicians and almost 10,000 delegates, it was crazy but we set a record with the event. You know each time there is a political party convention, it takes about four days before it comes to an end. I worked with the Minister of Solid Minerals, Kayode Fayemi on the project and I told him my aim was to end the convention in one day. He of course laughed it off, saying it was impossible but the convention ended in one and a half days. It was a well organized and transparent convention. It was very challenging but it was a huge success and I was told a big thank you. There is no event that we do that the client hasn’t told me thank you and that for me is more fulfilling than the money I get paid.

Being most sought after means you do high profile events. Do you do low profile ones too?
Off course we work according to your budget. I am very affordable but really it isn’t all about money because there has to be a chemistry between me and the client before I take a job. The client should be willing to allow my creativity to flow without hindering it in any way. It is very important that a client should be able to trust me enough to deliver as well as laying the cards on the table. If a client is not ready to allow me do my job, then I am not ready to take on the job. Because if anything goes wrong at the event, the event planner is always to blame. Again it is always good you have other streams of income so you don’t make it a do or die affair, that way you are able to retain your dignity. There are some event jobs I do pro bono.  It will surprise you to know that I do pro bono as well. I want to be able to add value to my company as an entity, such that when people think of events, they think about one.

Is there an event rule book that you live by?
I have a contract form with the clients but I don’t always enforce it so as not appear too rigid but with vendors, it is non negotiable. I have certain vendors I use that I can vouch for but if the clients insists on his or her vendors, then it becomes necessary to pull out the contract form in case anything goes wrong.

A year ago, you started a television programme on events. What inspired you to start it?
Because there are quite a handful of non-professionals in the events industry. When the industry is full of non-professionals, they will gradually take the industry to the doom era. Some come into the industry because of the money, some because they think the industry is booming. It is also an avenue to educate those interested in coming into the industry, to know what to expect and understand some of the skills they need to acquire. It is a first of its kind reality TV show in Nigeria titled ‘The Event Pros’. The show was conceptualized to expose and review everything that makes event planning flawless and stylish. Basically the behind the scene efforts. It is an infotainment kind of show about the event industry; the madness, the tension, and the entire craziness that go on when putting together an event. People often wonder what event planners really do. They think beautiful arrangements are effortless and as such do not think an events planner is necessary in the scheme of things but they are a major aspect of a well organized event.

Would you say the events planning business stands you out from all your other businesses?
That is difficult to tell because people know me for different things. However most people don’t know that I do one on one styling even though I run a style clinic.

Does Ndidi Obioha have any formal training as a stylist?
No. Everything I do is all about innate skills which I develop.

Having won several awards as a stylish person, how would you really describe your style?
Style doesn’t have to be expensive. At the end of the day , it is about how you marry everything in your ensemble together, it is a total package. So for me, I possess my style, I own it. My style is elegant, glam. I don’t make an extra effort to look good. I always say to women that when they have crossed a certain age, they should invest in good body shapers to give you that clean look. A wrong undergarment can ruin a very good outfit, they are the canvas on which a good dress hangs.

Your most recent business venture is to say the least, off the grid from what you have been doing. Why food business?
Well this isn’t my first time venturing into the food business. I remember when I finished secondary school at 16, I got my dad to loan me 300 naira to start business. I bought flour and made some pastries which I supplied to supermarkets around. I made a huge loss but I was happy doing it especially because I was getting paid for what I was doing. For me, it is about meeting the needs of the masses with ‘Royal Food’. Everyone likes good food, pastry to be precise. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford well baked bread from high end bakeries which is why ‘Agege bread’ still thrives because it is very cheap. My mission is to make nutritious pastries, bread baked in environments with top notch hygiene and make it as affordable as possible for the masses and even corporate organisations. So we have started off with bread, chin chin, cakes and eventually, we will delve into water as well.

How do you manage all of these businesses without one of them suffering?
I enjoy what I do and I am passionate about them all so they keep me going. For some reason, God just helps me such that none of what I do suffers. Call me a serial entrepreneur if you will. I have been in business like forever. I remember telling my father that I wanted him to stop paying my school fees by the time I attain 21 years. I have always had the drive for business and ironically, not from any of my parents. I like to think it and do it. This is me living my dreams. When I see a gap, I try to fill in that gap. All that I do is intertwined but where I stand out is that I bring a lot of style and panache in what I do. I started out selling clothes while in the university. I left that for banking, left banking to set up a hair salon which gave birth to the event business. I then revived the clothing business and that gave birth to the bridal business which has now given birth to the lifestyle business.

Any challenges?
In every business, there are of course challenges. Human resources is top on the list. It is a tad bit difficult getting the right people who would share your vision, mission and objective. I do on the job training and I am continuously trying to imbibe into my staff, my own standards. With event planning, the challenges is basically about depending on different vendors to implement your vision, the concept, on how you want the event to turn out. Some of the vendors do not pay attention to details and would therefore try to suck you into their mediocrity. But I am usually firm and put my foot down to insist on certain things being done the way they should and that is what makes my work professional. I have been able to inculcate my insistence on professionalism into these vendors.  And they don’t seem to realize that it helps to take their business to the next level.

What would you consider your biggest achievement thus far?
Well the ‘blinged’ out corporate headquarters no doubt has been a dream come true in terms of business. But in life generally, I would say my children.

What would you say must have significantly shaped you to be who you are in life?
I believe I have been destined to do what I do and I am just living out my dream.  While in the bank, my friends would usually tell me I was wasting my time as a banker seeing that I would thrive well doing what I am presently doing. So basically, passion for what I do has invariably shaped me to be who I am today. My passion is my guiding force, which is what has gotten me thus far.

Knowing you, there is most likely something else in the offing that you will get involved in. So what is your next step, what next are you looking at?
Let’s just keep our fingers crossed.