Kikelomo Atanda-Owo is a marketing communications expert with significant experience in the marketing, advertising, communications, public relations and client account management world. Managing Director of Z-Edge Limited, a positioning and Strategic Market Planning, Vendor Relations and Supply chain consultancy firm, she has worked with different ministries on various governmental projects. Before founding Z-Edge Limited, Kike served as Senior Vice President at Peculiar People Management (PPM) and sat on the project committee for the seventh Economic Summit Lagos (Ehingbeti) in 2012 and 2013. Having worked with MTN Nigeria, Stanbic IBTC amongst others on projects supporting businesses to leverage marketing and communications to grow their businesses, she led the MTN Football Scholar program for over three years and helped generate $7.25m in revenue. Passionate about project management, finance, management and accounting, Kike holds a Bachelors degree in Communications, an MBA from the University of South Wales and is awaiting a Masters degree in Social Sciences (International Relations) from Kingston University. An avid explorer of new business opportunities, she takes us through her career journey, starting and sustaining a business in a country like Nigeria, and the three basic things women must do and avoid when running a business.
You have been in the marketing, advertising, communications, PR and client service industry for over a decade now, kindly take us through your journey?
It has actually been a worthwhile and fulfilling journey for me and I have to say that when I started off, I wasn’t sure what I would eventually end up doing. I just found myself moving from one phase to another, gaining expertise as I went along. I started off as a journalist with Silverbird Communications, then TVC, before proceeding to Nigerian Compass as a columnist and journalist. This spanned a number of years. I then moved to Kruss Atlantic as a marketing/financial manager, charged with a senior supervisory role at LIRS. A few years later, I challenged myself to take a media and content manager role at Great Places to Work Nigeria (GPTW). Finally, on this career journey, I worked with PPM as an account manager and a relationship manager with clients in banking, state governments, MTN, oil and gas and churches. This double role was the core of my career expertise that helped me rise to the position of Senior Vice President. It was a major landmark on this journey and I had to manage international clients like Steve Wozniack, the late Myles Munroe, Ram Charam, Faray Grey and many more for their diverse leadership campaigns, SMEs, and other multi-faceted engagements in Nigeria. There are many things to be thankful for, really and mostly I would ascribe my progress to the grace of God and the many people I have met on this journey.
When and why did you decide to go into entrepreneurship?
The experience of my life that I can term a turning point was when I took a decision to become an entrepreneur who would run and manage her own organisation. After having worked with several organisations for over 12 years, I had a dream to start building my own business empire. Looking back now, I realise that it was an audacious move, which I didn’t know would work. Having a salaried job and being an entrepreneur are two completely different things. There were those, who out of genuine concern, hoped I knew what I was doing and there were others, who encouraged me to make the move. At the end of the day, when I did move, even though there was a lot of uncertainty, I began to grow confident that I had what people needed and I was going to make my dream a reality, no matter what.
You hold several degrees from various schools, home and abroad. How would you say they prepared you for this journey?
Nothing really prepares you for life’s journey. It’s an adventure with winding roads and mountains. But I have to say that the degrees I acquired along the way (BSc, MSc, the Senior Management Progamme at LBS, CMD, MBA and others) have been pivotal for my career. I wouldn’t have it any other way. When it comes to effective management, administration and even leadership, getting advanced degrees and continuous learning makes all the difference. Learning gave me the advantage and expanded my mind beyond what I thought was even possible. However, the practical expertise emanated from on-job experience, especially in Nigeria, remains unmatched. The urge to bag more degrees was as a result of self-motivation and the desire for further self-development and to prove the womanhood within me, which is beyond the pretty look or the flamboyant public outlook of my profession in the media.
You have worked with several big brands; what advice would you give a young woman trying to start out in her career?
My advice to aspiring young women out there is to be consistent. Whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your heart and give it all you’ve got and never stop. Young people should never get carried away, especially if they will want to be in the media. Rather see each day and work engagement as an opportunity to project yourself as a brand. As they say, whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well. Be consistent.
In your opinion, what are some of the key issues startups face, especially in Nigeria?
Compared to some climes, running a business in Nigeria is actually quite promising, provided one has all their ducks in a row. Here is where you can start a business from your living room, without thinking about registration or a bank account. However, there are perennial challenges that include infrastructure and finance. The cost of power, for example, has a domino effect on the entire value chain of any business. The lack of power increases prices while reducing speed and product quality at the same time. In tackling these challenges, I have learnt innovation in everything. I’ve learnt prudence in resource management. And I have also learnt open-mindedness to solutions from other businesses: the truth is there’s never any need to reinvent the wheel. I have also learned to work and collaborate. If you are going to survive in Nigeria, it is a combination of a lot of things.
You describe yourself as an avid explorer of new business grounds, tell us in detail what you mean?
Well, at this phase of my career as an entrepreneur, I am not afraid to take on new grounds and little-known terrains. The world is opening up at a superfast rate. Technology is changing everything, from how we do business to how we live. There is opportunity in everything. I keep moving. Also, I am more inclined to changing the status -quo of women in the society and building a stronger support system for them. This is very important to me.
As a mentor, how do you specifically help younger women and how important is mentoring for women?
Mentoring for women is a critical aspect of growth in the Nigeria of today. I am a product of active mentoring and I understand the value of providing mentorship for people in general. I have over 20 young athlete boys in the USA in top Ivy League schools. I am still mentoring them, which gives me the privilege to work with international coaches as well as our local coaches like Segun Odegbami, Joe Erico, Taju Disu and others through the platform of MTN football scholar. I was privileged to be a director of this successful project for four years. Training is also the core of my expertise over the years and by habit, a second nature. It is important I change the narrative for women in every area, as daughter, wife, sister, and friend and especially as a mother. I understand women are sometimes faced with dire options in tough circumstances. These circumstances have fine-tuned the perception of women in society. However, a lot of difference can be achieved and the gaps of challenges can be bridged through training and empowerment of the female gender.
Running a business cannot be easy, what are some of the challenges you face?
Establishing any business in Nigeria is very risky and very rewarding if you get it right. If you don’t get it right, you run the risk of losing a lot of money, but as long as you can keep your focus on your niche market and strive to make a difference, you will be fine. However, there have been several challenges in the course of running my businesses. I have already spoken about the poor economic climate. Also, it can be very tough trying to scale your business in Nigeria. In Nigeria, anything can affect business- workers strike, petrol scarcity, elections, political uncertainty, just name it. You have to be tough and very shrewd, have local knowledge, learn quickly and be efficient.
What makes your brand stand out in today’s competitive world?
Z-Edge Consulting is a brand that keeps up with innovation in the marketing, training and advertising global space. I believe the framework for growth for any company and business in the 21st century is technology and innovation and this is our core. We align our processes with global best practices and do our best to remain at the cutting edge of knowledge. This is what makes the difference for us.
Tell us something that has influenced your life and career positively today?
In the public relations field, good client relations and values are indispensable criteria. Clients want to feel that they are dealing with someone who is competent and looking out for their best interest. I am a people person and I take every task and every client seriously.
Who and what inspire you?
There are four major sources of influence in my life. First is my grandmother, late Alhaja Abibat Atanda-Owo who had a molding impact on the woman that I have become. She essentially taught me values, morals and ideals of life. Guidance and mentoring are a crucial part of growth and development. For me, during the process of my growth, DIG Taiwo Lakanu who is my second father has been an integral source of guidance as mentoring in various aspect of my womanhood. Of course my parents have been a bedrock of influence in my life. The background and support to my life’s successes have been them from my early education. My dad, who is very fond of me, afforded me luxuries that anyone would wish for while growing up. His touch has made the stand-up-tall lady that I am today. One giant behind the scene is Mrs. Bola Adesola, CEO of Standard Chartered Bank. She is a woman that I deeply appreciate and admire amongst many great women in our society today. Her substance and career doggedness has been lifting the heavy fog of female career limitations in Nigeria. It is a rare privilege to be mentored by her.
You wear several hats, how do you balance them all and make them work?
It is about objectivity and time management. Wearing different hats depends on how you manage it. Our purpose, and objectives under different circumstances, woman, daughter, entrepreneur, wife come with different demands and challenges. The feather on the hat is you being able to prioritize what time and what degree of commitment that you ascribe to these different positions at their appropriate time.
As someone with keen interest in business development, briefly tell us three basic things women must do and avoid when running a business?
First, the God Factor is the never-do-without factor. Never leave your Creator for anything or anyone. Second, your chastity is what bails you out with humanity: never compromise your integrity for anything or anybody. Finally, always stick to best practice and professionalism; you’ll never lose with these.
What do you do to relax? What is your guilty pleasure?
In my leisure, I love to connect with family and friends. I value relationships with colleagues, clients, and family. There are some jewels amongst them like Dolapo Balogun, Nike Oginni, Kehinde Bada, Korede and Bolaji Oluti, just to mention a few. There are cherished ones here that I spend quality time with. We add value to one another and have always been a great support system for each other. They are Aderinlola Mary Ojulari, Cynthia Ige, Morayo Afolabi Brown, Chichi Usen, Didi Akinyelure and aunty Shaffy Bello. I also have to admit that I’m obsessed with fashion and shopping. I love fashion in my own world and way. I adore great brands, they are the guilty pleasures I engage in. Many thanks to my Dad who brought me up with this lifestyle. I also love interior décor: this is another fancy that captivates me.
What does your typical day look like?
My typical day is not conventionally fixed because my job is flexible, I am my own boss. Sometimes, I could be away at work for couple of weeks due to the fact that training and procurement contracts are periodic with client organizations. At other times, I can take some weeks off to spend quality time with my family and friends. Nevertheless, it provides a justifiable balance for family and business.
What last words do you want to say to those that have been inspired by you?
There are many reasons to give up in life, career, marriage and dealings with people. Always remember that you were created for a purpose. Don’t live for yourself alone, live for others and most importantly, never give up, no matter what.
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