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‘This fashion souk edition will showcase the best of indigenous industry players’

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Yewande Zacchaeus

Yewande Zaccheaus is the Founder/CEO of Eventful Limited, a pioneer brand that has brought professionalism and credibility to the event planning business. Using her innate organizational skills to redefine the execution of corporate and personal events, her events business has expanded to include the management of a portfolio of event venues including City Hall, Lagos Island and Harbour Point, Victoria Island. Yewande is passionate about redefining the events and entertainment landscape of Nigeria. She is the convener of Fiesta of Flavours an annual, world class food and beverage fair, The Beauty Souk, a niche fair for beauty enthusiasts, The Fashion Souk, a fashion fair showcasing the value chain of the fashion business and The Street Souk, a fair for millennials featuring urban street wear. These annual Souks have become an important platform for entrepreneurs in the various industries to showcase their products to a targeted audience giving them opportunities for exposure and growth. She sat down with GuardianWoman to talk about tomorrow’s fashion souk, what attendees can expect and the benefits for entrepreneurs.

From law to banking before you decided to go into full-time event planning, tell us a bit about your career journey?
I started my career as a Legal Officer in the Nigerian American Merchant Bank in 1986 after graduating from the University of Lagos and Cambridge University. I had done my NYSC there and stayed on believing it was a good place to start one’s career. After a couple of years, I began to feel restless and thought to try my hand at law practice rather than corporate practice. After a brief stint in private practice, I returned to the banking industry as the Company Secretary/Legal Adviser of Ecobank Nigeria in 1989. I rose to become the Head of Private Banking and resigned in 2002 at Deputy General Manager level, to fulfill my dream of becoming an entrepreneur and established Eventful Limited, an events planning, consulting and venue management company.

You have been in event planning now for over a decade, have you ever regretted this decision and would you consider doing something else?
Almost two decades actually! I have been in event planning for 17years now and I believe I am regarded as the pioneer of the industry. It has been an exciting and rewarding journey and I have absolutely no regrets.

You are the brain behind several souks, how did you come about this idea?
Sometimes in 2015, I realised our company had spent 13 years implementing our clients’ events and felt that it was time to begin to create our own bespoke events which would fulfill the objectives of adding value to entrepreneurs operating in different segments of our industry, contribute to the society by bring home-grown entertainment and commerce to a targeted audience and thereby positively impact lives and businesses. We started in December 2015 with the Fiesta of Flavours (now known as the Food Souk) a world class food and beverage fair for all the family. We have held four editions of the Food Souk. In 2017 we convened the Beauty Souk, a niche fair for beauty enthusiasts featuring international companies as well as all the Nigerian icons and startups in the beauty industry.

We have now held three editions of the Beauty Souk, featuring master classes, which help train and empower those in the beauty industry. Fashion was obviously the next industry for us to consider to host fairs and so the Fashion Souk was convened for the first time last July. It was so successful that due to the demand from vendors and guests alike, we held two in 2018 and the first one for 2019 comes up tomorrow. We had over 400 applications for 140 stalls this time and this shows not only the growth potential of this market but the lack of access to market which small entrepreneurs in this industry really need.

You would be hosting the third edition of the fashion souk this weekend, tell us about this in detail?
The Fashion Souk is a niche fair for everything fashion. It will be holding tomorrow at the Harbour Point from 11:00am to 9:00pm. The Fashion Souk is firmly established as the go to industry fair for providing a platform for emerging entrepreneurs and industry icons alike to connect with their target market, network and tap into opportunities to scale up their businesses. There will be an array of amazing vendors selling clothes, shoes, bags, hats, jewellery, fabrics and accessories for men, women, boys, girls, all under one roof. Activities at the fair include exhibition and sales by over 140 vendors and an hourly runway show, featuring creative indigenous designers, as well as the business pitch competition for young entrepreneurs in the fashion space. There will be amazing discounts and give- away. A food court and crèche are also available to ensure you can relax and spend as long as you want browsing through the fair. Fashion, food, fun, music, it promises to be an exciting day.

What is different about this year’s edition and what can attendees look forward to?
We always seek to improve our guests’ experience every time. This edition will showcase well-curated vendors that cut across the different fashion segments. This ensures that we bring you the very best of our indigenous brands across the entire fashion value chain from manufacturers to designers and retailers in clothing, textiles, leather and skin products, jewellery, accessories, training schools and even runway fashion. The curation of quality vendors, the empowering of entrepreneurs through the business pitches and the platform to meet so many creative and talented fashion entrepreneurs, all in one space, is what makes our souks so compelling. Her Excellency, Dolapo Osinbajo, the wife of the Vice President is the special guest of honour and will be presenting the prize to the winner of the business pitch. Mrs. Maiden Ibru, Publisher of The Guardian and Mrs. Ibukun Awosika, Chairman of First Bank would also be attending as special guests.

In what ways would entrepreneurs and SMEs benefit from the fair?
Fairs are a perfect opportunity for entrepreneurs to build contacts and increase their target market, network and also provides access to market for them. It is necessary that entrepreneurs attend fairs with an open mind as connections made there can often lead to partnerships and new clients. Our fairs also provide entrepreneurs an opportunity to gauge the competition; and thereby reevaluate their products and services with a view to perfecting their craft. Guests’ face-to-face contact with relevant business owners can often prove a refreshing change for the many small businesses whose daily marketing regime consists of online sales. Entrepreneurs and SMEs can use our fairs as an opportunity to enhance their client liaison skills. Building solid relationships is what the business world is all about, as this will eventually translate into sustainable business as their network and sales increases exponentially.

You mentioned taking the fair to Abuja next year, are there possibilities of expanding to other cities as well?
Yes, this is very much in our plans. We would want the opportunities our souks provide for businesses to be available to entrepreneurs all over Nigeria as soon as we are able.

The Nigerian fashion industry has experienced some growth in recent times; what can be done to bring it to par to international standards?
I must say the Nigerian fashion industry has grown tremendously in the last few years. According to FADAN (Fashion Association Designers of Nigeria) it is a $10billion industry. The potential for growth is phenomenal. We have seen Nigerian designers like Deola Sagoe, Lisa Folawiyo and Lanre DaSilva- Ajayi experience great global success and visibility. I believe a significant amount of training and mentorship is required to bring the young entrepreneurs in the fashion space up to international standard. Opportunities for partnerships and the finances to scale up their businesses so as to position them as serious players in the business is also imperative. Finally, we must pay a close attention to our intellectual property laws so as to protect the creativity of the entrepreneurs. The copycat syndrome has led to growing frustration in the fashion community. It is important that all the above is given priority by our government if we truly want to be at par with international standards.

Running multiple businesses such as yours cannot be without challenges, what are some of these issues you have had to face?
One of the greatest challenges most businesses face is staff attrition. The need to literally replicate oneself is key to ensuring the continuity of the business, long after the founder has exited. However, in this environment it appears that once you have mentored, trained and nurtured an individual to the level where you believe they are prepared to take up a leadership role within the company, they move on and you have to start the cycle all over again. Fortunately, our company is now at the stage where I have strong leadership in our various businesses and I am confident that I can soon exit to pursue other interests, having established over the last 17 years a structured and organized company that can run efficiently without me at the helm of affairs.

What is Eventful Limited doing differently?
As I said, Eventful is the pioneer of the events management industry and I believe the business has been sustainable because it is built on the pillars of integrity, professionalism, resourcefulness, excellence and the fear of God. We pride ourselves on providing a seamless and stress free client service with experienced and professional staff. We are focused on our niche areas of corporate events and high profile retail events and we have enjoyed an enviable track record of services both in event planning and venue management. I am humble yet proud to have been able to open up an area/industry that was hitherto untapped in the country. The great value add of the event-planning business and the several ancillary businesses that have arisen from this, have all contributed to the growth of the events and entertainment business in Nigeria.

What do you do to relax and unwind?
I love to travel and explore different cultures, particularly for food. I also enjoy reading books by Nigerian authors, watching movies and plays.

What final words do you want to leave with anyone that has been inspired by you?
I think it’s important for everyone to prayerfully discover what their purpose in life is and to go for it. There may be challenges and obstacles along the way but if you are truly passionate about what you do, you will eventually overcome these and find great joy and fulfillment in doing what you love. Whatever you do remember integrity is key and your reputation must be more important to you than any financial gain or reward. So my advice, do what you love even if you are afraid. Better to try and fail than never to have tried at all. Live a life of no regrets and enjoy your life as you do so.


In this article:
Yewande Zaccheaus
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