‘Don’t validate your existence with what society thinks of you’
Kikelomo Atanda-Owo is a marketing communications expert with almost two decades of experience in marketing, advertising, communications and public relations. She holds a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications, an MBA from the University of South Wales, as well as a Masters degree in Social Sciences (International Relations) from Kingston University. CEO of Zedge Consulting, she is also the Chief Host /Founder of a popular live talk show on radio and television, RealTalkWithKike, a contemporary programme on IFM92.3 and Silverbird TV. Over the years, she has built a reputation for process and product innovation, developing business strategies, incubating new business models and building winning marketing programs. Her experience also includes project management and managing profitable business models for high-end enterprise solutions and supporting businesses to leverage marketing and communications to grow their businesses. She led the MTN Football Scholar programme for 21 young talented Nigerian boys who are presently in the US studying and working. Officially launching her foundation, Kike Hub Foundation, which caters to single mothers and widowers, she talks to TOBI AWODIPE about the talk show, running multiple businesses successfully and her passion for helping the less privileged.
You have been a major player in many industries for almost two decades now, how has this journey been like for you?
THE journey has been a robust one with divergent involvement in different areas of specialisation. I have traversed different sectors from telecoms to finance, NGOs, consultancy, banking, oil and gas and even government work before birthing my company, Zedge Limited. It has not been an easy task. I have functioned as a corporate management consultant, trainer, facilitator and program director. Challenges come and go, but I always try to grow on the job, leaving the footprints of my standards as a legacy for others to follow. It is good to know that the journey has given birth to my experience, expertise and independence and these three have been vital to my own organisations.
Having been an entrepreneur for a while, you have diversified into TV and radio, what informed this switch?
My career in media started from TV 18 years ago; hence TV is not a new playing ground for me. The focus was to return to TV right from the start, but the process to return was very gradual. Radio was new to me, but my girlfriend convinced me to start from radio. However, I liked the training, as it is more rigorous than TV in terms of the conviction you give the audience. Voice training and communication are integral aspects of radio. However, RealTalkWithKike on TV has my name and it is now a legacy for me.
My team and I are consistently working assiduously to deliver top-notch programmes. What informed the switch, asides from my obvious passion was the perception of women working in the media space. I have known and experienced women who actually abuse the media space due to a lack of integrity and greed. Also, a lot of people think that media women are ‘easy’ or must have paid their way up their career with their body. I really want to be a part of those that change this narrative for the better.
Producing and hosting a show on TV and radio can be very tasking, how are you managing to succeed at it?
Truth be told, it is very tasking. I host a live talk show and you know what that means; it has to be spontaneous, contemporary and border around fresh issues. The most tasking challenge is facilitating guests on the show and not just guests, but decision-makers and public authorities that will impact my audience and give them value for their viewership. I have been the producer of my shows since conception, but the team shares the tasks and that’s why it is called a production. The technical crew to the content development and the entire production group are an excellent set of people.
I also want to buttress the fact that my show is alive and gaining grounds because of the quality of sponsorship my sponsors give. They align with my vision and support me extraordinarily to ensure that my show is a success. I am using this medium to give kudos to Nigerian Breweries, Eko Hotel and Suites, Airpeace, Addas Mall and ZEdgeconsulting for the support.
What would you say are some of the major challenges businesses here face?
The challenge of doing business is that there is nothing like the ease of doing business in Nigeria. In Lagos where I reside, basic amenities like power and financing are non-existent. To get loans in this country, you have to have a connection with the banks. I don’t subscribe to bank loans and I have never received one, but a big project came the way that made me consider it but the process was so rigorous, I had to quit.
Another aspect of the challenge is business execution where at the end of the day, organsiations you worked for are unable to pay due to bad business and the likes. As an entrepreneur, obligations of staff salary and other commitments lie ahead of me. Thankfully, I have never owed my staff their salaries for once because I’m conscious of their own families and personal commitments despite the frustrating economic and financial prevalence in the country.
You run other businesses side by side, how do you combine everything to produce the winning formula that works for you?
Honestly, there is no winning formula that I have reserved for myself, but I can tell you for a fact that consistency and learning at all stages are key. I have RealtalkwithKike on both Radio and TV; I have Z-Edge Limited and my foundation for single mothers and widows. I also anchor events both online and offline. I must tell you that to get all these done, takes God’s grace and involvement. One thing I never discard or disregard is God’s inspiration for me. I stick to whatever he inspires me to do. I follow the dream, learn along and stay consistent to grow.
Tell us something you did or do that has impacted positively on your career?
To be sincere, one thing I did that has impacted my career is facilitating over 20 boys of MTN football scholar to the US over a period of five years to change their lives. This achievement speaks volume of my career and it brings joy and fulfilment to my career. Kudos to my previous boss, Pastor Ghandi Olaoye; I owe him a lot. As a Senior Vice President then, I changed the story of many young boys through the programme and that transformation has translated from one person to their entire family, thereby making a community chain of impact.
I have also had to train older people and the fact that I am able to impact their lives through training and education by unlearning and relearning speaks so much about my achievement. Now, the live talk shows on TV and radio is a result of this transformation and I am proud to be one of those who train people and transforms the thoughts of society positively.
There have been several stories written about you and your marriage recently, would you like to clear the air a bit on this?
For your curiosity and for record purposes, I have been legally married twice and I can say confidently that I have as well been in four marriages because, for every relationship I enter into, I see it as marriage. I keep telling anyone and everyone who cares to listen that I can count all the relationships I have had on one hand.
My last marriage, unfortunately, opened me up to many issues and controversies; I thought I needed the marriage to validate my existence and I stayed longer than necessary. Let me use this opportunity to educate women, please get a job for yourselves and build your name with integrity. This will give you the courage to defend yourself and say ‘no’ to rubbish. At a point in my life and marriage, I realised that it was time to say ‘no’ to negativity, oppression, fear and abuse and I had to let go of the marriage. My family and close friends kept asking, ‘What would people say?’ I ask them, ‘What have people done for me? I tell my dad who frequently battled me with the perception of society, “What has society done for me?’ After a while, he found the truth in this and applied it to his life. We don’t validate our existence with what society thinks of us.
Nonetheless, I am fine and at peace with the end of my last marriage as we are in a positive space now. Above all, I made peace with my past so it won’t mess with my present because life isn’t fair but it’s still good and beautiful. Never compare your life with anyone because you don’t know what their circumstances are or what they are dealing with behind closed doors. So, women reading this, know everything that you want is inside of you and you just need to embrace who you are and your past mistakes and move on with life. I do not claim to know it all myself but because we hold on to so much pain, shame and guilt; you never know how much it’s holding you back or affecting your life. The minute you realise that you are deserving of so much more than you have been through, saying to yourself that you are magnificent, beautiful, made from love, amazing and have done well for your self career-wise, then you know that disappointment in relationships/marriages should not define your existence but complement it.
Despite being lied to a million times and heartbroken, I still believe strongly in the institution of marriage and in love. My family and friends even joke that my name should have been ‘Love’. Love and marriage are beautiful when you are with the right person who has the fear of God, respects himself and you and above all is loyal, committed and trustworthy. So, for my admirers and curious cats, the qualities I mentioned are what I look out for in a man and in my next relationship or marriage if I ever take that step again. For now, I am sharpening my media career, company and foundation and more importantly, my kids and their future.
With this ongoing pandemic taking a toll on businesses, industries and the economy, do you fear the entertainment industry?
Fear? Not at all; the media remains the juggernaut of survival in this pandemic. The media industry drives information and helps the world stay abreast in these difficult times. The media is the most vital and active industry after the health industry as we saw during the lockdown with TV, Radio, social media and the rest being sources of information. The problem with the media is that now, both trained and untrained persons have ventured into it and the only way to distinguish your brand from others is to judiciously put your skills to optimal use with professionalism. Differentiation is key to maintain relevance and dictate standards in this game.
As someone passionate about uplifting other women, tell us some things you have done in this regard?
Most of the things I don’t make their way into the media for people to see. However, I believe in ‘charity begins at home.’ There’s no point being so nice outside and not positively impacting your home and inner circle. I think I have touched those within my inner circles more than the public. I have influenced, supported and extended growth to those around me through guidance, counselling and philanthropy.
For the public, I think I am doing something though my NGO.
During the pandemic, for instance, I initiated empowerment schemes with the help of my brand sponsors to help widows and young ladies, especially those in school and orphans fending for themselves. We have provided employment for some in AirPeace through a partnership when we were marking our first anniversary of the talk show. I didn’t know anyone personally. We have given business support in cash and in commodities and have mentored a few. I also support widows courtesy of Nigerian Breweries and provide household items to single mothers amongst other things I do quietly.
You’ve spoken severally on how mentorship has helped you thrive, would you recommend it as an important career tool for other women?
While I have no one in a designated role of mentor, I have grown under the wings of many great people in life. First, my grandmother, Alhaja Atanda-Owo who brought me up and trained me. I have had the likes of Bola Adesola, who has also supported, advised and guided me in my career. I also have Temilolu Ogundipe who has held my hand and guided me in my career and daily activities. I believe learning is continuous and I learn not from one but from many.
My advice for women and everyone is that there is no error in straight jacketing a role model for mentorship. However, the most important feature is to know what you want in life and know those who embody those virtues or attributes the most and emulate them till you get to excellence. I personally think well-rounded learning from all fountains of learning is a more powerful source of mentorship that can mould individuals to become the best version of themselves.
How do you manage to keep going despite everything you’ve had to face in the last few years?
First is God’s grace; I really just pass by each day with God’s given grace and His mercy has been sufficient for me. However, my family and loved ones who are always by me also keep me going. My father is an enormous pillar behind me and my children motivate me more than I can ever imagine. Waking up every day to set my eyes on them inspires me and tells me never to give up. Not the least of those who keep me running is my dependable staff and my trustworthy domestic house staff, they keep me focused.
What and where can we expect from you this year?
We all know nothing is guaranteed and we can only dream, hope and work. For this year, I am going to put a lot into my talk show to grow it and impact society positively. This will be one of the biggest achievements for the year, to impact my world at large. But if you ask me what my goals are in the coming years, I’m hoping to own a TV/Radio station in the next few years while my company would have grown to global recognition. I also pray my foundation will be a legacy that will impact the community and to have enough resources to help the less privileged in society.
What would you like to say to women reading this that have been inspired by your story?
I want to tell mothers to be good role models for their children. I do that gallantly in all ramifications for mine. We can change Nigeria right from our homes and to those at the career front, I would tell you, Never give up, Never look down on yourself, Always follow your instincts, Failures is feedback and be consistent and follow the process. My admiration would always be for women at the frontiers of societal transformation, they are the real players making a difference.