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Funmi Victor-Okigbo: With TUXP, we want to create unforgettable experiences

By Tobi Awodipe
08 December 2018   |   3:30 am
Funmi Victor-Okigbo, is the lead production designer at No Surprises Events Architects, a design-led event production and management agency in Lagos. With over 12 years experience working with corporate clients across diverse industries such as information technology, entertainment, media, banking and consumer goods, she made her movie debut as Art Director with The Royal Hibiscus…

Funmi Victor-Okigbo, is the lead production designer at No Surprises Events Architects, a design-led event production and management agency in Lagos.

Funmi Victor-Okigbo, is the lead production designer at No Surprises Events Architects, a design-led event production and management agency in Lagos. With over 12 years experience working with corporate clients across diverse industries such as information technology, entertainment, media, banking and consumer goods, she made her movie debut as Art Director with The Royal Hibiscus Hotel and followed up with The Wedding Party 2, both produced by Ebonylife Films. Keen to continually raise the bar of this sector not just nationally, but worldwide, she is returning this year with The Unofficial Christmas Party, the biggest multi-corporate end of year party and the best party night of the year. In this interview, she talks about her plans for this year’s edition, what attendees should look forward to and her journey as art director in blockbuster Nollywood movies.

What is No Surprises all about?
I head an event agency called No Surprises Events and we help brands, individuals and organizations connect to their audiences through memorable experiential events.

I’m passionate about elevating simple gatherings to extraordinary experiences for both client and their audiences. I’m passionate about what I do, I’m a foodie, love to travel and love photography.

You have a background in mathematics and architecture, but you are now in event production and management, what informed this switch?

I wouldn’t call it a switch but a natural progression (Laughs).

If you are asking how I found myself in this space, I’d say I’m obsessed with problem solving and just generally making things better.

Whether in connecting people, generally being resourceful or ensuring people experience life-changing events or creating processes and systems that make this possible, you’ll find me there.

So, I strongly believe event design and production is one of the many other things I could be doing. If you needed these same skills applied to anything else, I’d be equally good at it I think.

Tell us in detail about The Unofficial Christmas Party?

Five years ago, on December 14, we launched a multi-corporate end of year party initiative called, “The Unofficial Christmas Party”. We drew inspiration from the shared services trend in data centres, help-desks and customer services.

We then decided to extend the same philosophy and approach to end-of-year parties. The rest like they say; is history.

What it is basically, is an outsourced end-of-year party, where you get to relax, have fun, connect with your team and clients without the stress of putting it all together.

Companies can now have their party on a scale that they probably would not have been able to do on their own.

What was the inspiration behind starting The Unofficial Christmas Party (TUXP)?

Having worked in the corporate events industry for so long, we saw a vacuum and a problem that needed to be solved and that was making the art of designing and producing great end of year parties accessible to everyone.

It was created for small to large businesses that wanted a night out to reward their employees and clients and connect with other business leaders, not in the usual conference setting, but at a party.

TUXP is for big organizations with small teams who are now able to do what they could not do on their own scale.

It’s for ambitious businesses that feel strong about rewarding employees and their clients in an exciting way, for people who have reason to celebrate without the overhead of time, effort and money, as they have lots of other end of year activities to focus on like reports and closing the books.

It is also for people looking to take the pressure off HR managers to allow them focus on the important things as throwing parties and setting up end of year party committees is definitely not part of the job description.

What should attendees expect from TUXP this year and how is it going to be different from last year’s?

First, every year is always different because we get to reveal a new theme. We keep it fresh and fun and give our guests and attendees and opportunity to dress up.

Nigerians love to party and to dress up, so we have embraced this and injected our parties with this every year.

The other thing is the people; there is always someone new to meet every year.

We have people who have attended every year since inception, yet they keep making new connections every time they attend. We have new attendees who bring in different vibes and energy every year.

The experience is always great, the core of what we do is creating unforgettable experiences and TUXP is no different.

The 4-course meal is always amazing as we always work with the best chefs in town and our DJs always rock the house.

This year, we invited music lover, Bukki Sawyer-Izeogu for her vast knowledge of music to curate all the music, because this year it’s all about the 70’s.

Music plays a big role at every party, so we are paying a lot of attention to it. TY Mix, one of Nigeria’s best producers, is the Music Director and will be making sure the music sounds right and everyone is in harmony.

Kaffy will be leading her team to do some great choreographed moves and hopefully teach attendees a thing or two about how to move.

IK Osakioduwa, our MC for the second time is known for his interactive style and ability to connect with the audiences, Alternate sound, the hottest band in town and band to some of the biggest stars in Nigeria along with some of Nigeria’s best vocals, will be taking us on a 70’s music medley journey. Funk, soul and of course, disco.

Afterwards the party will evolve into club “TheUxParty” where DJ Big N will take over. We also have DJ Issimmo who will set the tone for the evening as the guests arrive.

We will have our usual activities, The Employee of the Year Awards and the highly competitive Lip Sync Battle and this year, we will be pairing some social media influencers with some of the competing companies to form one team and they will be competing with one another to keep things exciting.

What are some challenges you have faced and how did you overcome?

In the beginning, year one to be precise the concept was new and strange, it’s still strange in some quarters but people are embracing it now better than earlier.

We spent a long time convincing people and breaking down the advantages of outsourcing your end of year party.

However, it gets easier every year. Nowadays the conversations are much easier to have, and we now have a proven track record.

How does your discipline(s) help in running your business today?

I find that nothing from my background is lost, the principle of transferable skills rings true in what I do now. I love to create, I work with shapes, design and logical thinking in all I do.

At No Surprises, event architecture is our methodology so yes; they play a role in my business.

You have been in event management for over a decade now, tell us how the experience has been?

My experience has been a potpourri of events, no pun intended (Laughter). Like life itself you get thrown all sorts of balls and you decide how you manage or handle the situation.

In my industry for instance, we have gone from imagining and reading about ideas and concepts and wondering if it will be possible to produce them here to now being able to bring those ideas to life with the help of some amazing vendors in the industry who can do almost anything if the budget permits.

People are now more creative in general and are readier to take the kinds of risks they were not able to take in the past.

Even our clients are becoming more discerning. The world has shrunk and we are one big global village, so we pull inspiration from everywhere.

There are of course some shortcomings in the industry but then they are not peculiar to my industry, everyone has to deal with them at one point or the other.

Do you have any regrets ever deciding to be in this field?

Absolutely none! Not because there hasn’t been challenges but because I generally don’t regret anything. I believe challenges are a way to learn new lessons and just be better. So, the not so good experiences are also welcome.

Of course, when you go through them you feel down and there is some discomfort, however, you are always better when you emerge on the other side.

You were the art director on two recent Nigerian blockbuster movies, tell us about that?

I’ll give Mrs Mo Abudu (M. A as we call her) credit for that. I have worked with her for over five years now and we have planned and produced all her amazing movie premieres.

I think we may have planned the biggest movie premieres in Nigeria to date if I do say so myself.

She was about to shoot her movie The Royal Hibiscus Hotel and she needed an Art Director and to my surprise she called me.

At first, I thought it was some kind of joke but then a few minutes into our discussion, it dawned on me that she was serious.

I think I’m lucky because the writers Nicole Brown, Debo Oluwatuminu and Yinka Ogun did a great job.

The descriptions of the scenes were explicit, I put together my mood board, which is one of the things I enjoy doing in my profession and proceeded to do my research. We had lots of meetings with the director as we had to sync with his vision and expectations.

My project management skills also came in handy when it came to managing the team and monitoring schedules and so on.

I was really nervous because this is a movie, something that is being you know, documented and recorded and people will get to watch and critique it.

It’s someone’s movie and I couldn’t afford to mess up. The second movie, The Wedding Party 2 from the ELFIKE collective was quite intimidating especially since The Wedding Party 1 was the highest grossing Nigerian film at the time. We shot in Nigeria and Dubai, it was a huge film.

However, it went ahead to displace the first movie to be the highest grossing Nigerian movie.

What I loved most about being an art director was the ability to create based on the writer’s imagination and characters in the movie.

You have to sometimes get into the head of the character and think like them to build a set or provide the props needed for the scene, design spaces and bring things to life from someone’s imagination and ideas.

There is a connection between that and what I do actually, however, I learnt so much on set and I got to respect the movie industry in general.

What is the most positive thing that has happened for you this year?

My team. I have watched my team grow every year and this year I have seen them take on things they would normally need me to do myself or will seek direction for.

I love empowering people and seeing people grow, that way we all get to do more and increase our capacity.

It’s never about me but about our collective and corporate vision, my job is to share the dream and guide the team in the right direction.

Tell us something you did/are doing that has influenced your career positively today?

I’d say following my passion and always trying to do things at the highest standards.

Being best in class is one of my goals, so I arrange everything around me to align with that vision.

It can be difficult, however, nothing is impossible. I also know that I have to be ready to do the work to make anything I want to be reality.

If you had the chance to change something for Nigerian women, what would that be?

Their mind, will and spirit. Look around you; women are doing amazing things in Nigeria everyday.

We, however, need more women breaking more barriers. We may not be handed the opportunities we deserve but we can create or take them.

As women there is a lot of stereotype and baggage that we carry around however one way to get rid of that is to prove them wrong.

Sometimes we talk about it and sometimes we “Just Do It” like Nike.

You can’t beat a woman who is determined, confident and focused. She must be able to break down the barriers of gender and the impossibility mindset.

Without passion and determination and self-belief, no education, connection or funds can accomplish much. It all begins and ends with you.

What do you do to relax? What is your guilty pleasure?

I’m afraid I need more work in that department. I however find music relaxes and uplifts me.

When I can, I watch a good movie, sometimes with my husband and daughter when we can. Cooking also relaxes me; I love collecting recipes and trying new things, however, I don’t do a lot of that these days.

What inspires you and keeps you going even when you feel like giving up?

My dreams, ideas, my goals. Like I said earlier I’m result driven. I like to tick things off my never-ending checklist.

I want to make everything better, bring in as much value to anything I’m involved in, solve as much problems as I can, crush my client’s brief and see the look on their faces when we nail it. When I set a goal or make a promise I usually like to keep them.

What would you tell women out here looking up to you?

Not sure I want anyone looking up to me to be honest, (Laughs) as I’m a work in progress myself.

However, if I inspire you, that’s great. Take the bits that you like but don’t lose the essence of who you are.

Be your best self, you have something unique on the inside of you, everyone does, but you must crack that secret code to unveil it.

Believe in yourself, spend time learning, researching, improving on yourself and your craft, and be so good at what you do that your gender won’t matter.

I believe gender inequality exists but sometimes people are just looking for the most qualified person for the job be it a man or a woman.

Sometimes, that’s all you need to get that opportunity you have been waiting for.