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Disrupting the Future

By Fejiro Onohwosa and Njideka agbo
08 July 2018   |   6:50 am
Nigeria is replete with people who make it their life work to do the exceptional. They thrive in adversity and take bold steps to do what needs to be done. Meet Bolajo Fawehinmi (who capitalised on taking polaroids in Nigeria), Tiwalola Olanubi Jnr (New Media expert and social media consultant) and Obinna Owodu (introduced flexible…

Nigeria is replete with people who make it their life work to do the exceptional. They thrive in adversity and take bold steps to do what needs to be done.

Meet Bolajo Fawehinmi (who capitalised on taking polaroids in Nigeria), Tiwalola Olanubi Jnr (New Media expert and social media consultant) and Obinna Owodu (introduced flexible rent and lease payments), three individuals under 30 in whose lives the saying “exceptional people learn that doing their best is all they can do” is evident.

They are changing the status quo raising the bar in their industries and proving to the world that excellence and innovation is the foundation on which the future will be built and that such could be found in Nigeria.

Bolajo Fawehinmi – Changing the Business of Modelling

Bolajo Fawehinmi. Photo: Niyi Okeowo

One glance at the fashion industry and it is apparent how much the modelling industry has evolved. Bolajo Fawehinmi, director of FEW Model Management, has leveraged the changing tides to establish herself as a maven in the world of talent management in Nigeria.

With roughly three years in the business and half a decade of modelling under her belt, Fawehinmi has taken modelling from a struggling industry to having Nigerian models walk the international runway and grace international magazine covers.

Having no inkling that she will go into modelling, Fawehinmi was a sportsman who represented at university [Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU)] competitions until someone told her she should consider modelling. She entertained the idea and headed for Lagos.

She stated that during her time as a model, she was proactively teaching other models how to do certain things that were required of them. She also observed that a lot of models were not comfortable in their skin because of the media portrayal of beauty.

“I didn’t feel like Nigerians were portraying African beauties the right way so I started taking polaroids which allow girls to embrace their beauty and be comfortable in their own skin”.

This move contributed to the success of FEW modelling agency. Within a space of two years, FEW gained recognition for its use of polaroids and boasts of having 10 international models including four models in IMG Models, an international management firm which manages Gigi Hadid, Alek Wek and  Halima Aden.

The Management Accounting graduate attributes the success of FEW to organised structure, a knowledge she gained in school, “It has helped a lot in setting up FEW because there has to be a structure for my work to go well. I personally believe the structure is important and this is what every organisation should have”.

Managing the world’s notables has proved lucrative. Yet, it is not completely a bed of roses. Despite her brand’s success, Nigerians have not fully accepted modelling as a promising career. “It is a major challenge convincing the parents getting them to understand taking their child out of their sight not even nationally but internationally and the fact that there are a lot of agencies out there that are not trustworthy. It makes jobs for scouts like me very difficult”, she adds.

With current earnings of over 100,000 naira per job, she says there has been an improvement in models’ pay compared to her days as a model. “We were earning so bad but we didn’t know it was so bad. The comparison between what I was earning then to now is terrible but right now, there has been over a 100% increase. There is a future for modelling in Nigeria”.

Bolajo Fawehinmi. Photo: Niyi Okeowo

Tiwalola Olanubi Jnr – MR. Media Savvy

Tiwalola Olanubi Jnr. Photo:Niyi Okoewo

In this age where real life is governed by the whims of cyberspace, Dotts Media founded by Tiwalola Olanubi has distinguished itself as a media house with a knack for using the art of storytelling to convey the messages for brands.

It took Olanubi, less than a year to realise that Quantity Surveying was not what he wanted to do. Ironically, public relations was where he found fulfilment. He began to organise and publicise events at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and beyond.

Luck shined on him when, in his second year, the “Blackberry” telecoms brand arrived in Nigeria and he became their first ambassador.

During this time, he mastered the art of storytelling with an understanding that people are drawn to intriguing stories. “I was getting paid for posting things on social media [for as little as N5000] and this was something I loved doing and would have done for free. That helped me plan my life around Public Relations.”

Arguably the leading company with the largest chain of online influencers in the country, Olanubi says his success lies in the art of storytelling. “Storytelling is one of the best ways to sell content without people realising that you are selling a product,” he says. This is the mantra at Dotts Media House.

It is this art he infused in the Aquafina #LagosCityMarathon, Pepsi #NoShakinCarryGo Campaign and #StudyInHollandFair campaign for the Netherlands  Embassy. These successful campaigns fetched the company a few awards at the end of 2017.

Not only did his company make close to 40 million naira last year, social media marketing is now recognised as a necessary tool for brand visibility with influencers getting paid for as much as 1 million naira.

He asserted that having the social media tools to calculate engagement and the ability to tell engaging stories are keys to making one stand out in the industry. Going by how far social media marketing has evolved over the past few years, he believes that it will be a force to reckon with in the future as long as it is pursued with passion.

“You need to have the passion for social media to be able to work effectively. Once you have someone who is passionate, the person automatically becomes creative and sustainable. It is an industry that [I am convinced] will be huge in about four or five years time”.

Tiwalola Olanubi Jnr. Photo: Niyi Okoewo

Obinna Okwodu – E-real Estate Colonist

Obinna Okwodu Photo: Niyi Okeowo

For a millennial, finding the perfect house in any of the sprawling cities around the world can be the undertaking of a lifetime, especially in Africa, where our unique challenges make it even more of a trial.

Enter Obinna Okwodu CEO of Fibre Nigeria, a real estate company with a mission to “make living easier so you can focus on building your life”. By offering solutions to provide young people with access to affordable and comfortable living options, Fibre has morphed into one of the driving forces behind the remarkable growth in the modest network of real estate in Nigeria.

And Obinna has played an incredible role in that journey. After his return to Nigeria after graduating from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), he was hit by the reality of an average Nigerian’s struggle to pay the compulsory two-year rent upfront from their salary. He began to work on a solution.

“The idea that anyone looking for a home has to pay one or two years’ worth of rent upfront is 100% risky and is not the smartest thing to do,” Obinna says.

This mindset inspired his company to devise a plan which will allow occupants to pay monthly. At first, interacting with property owners to allow this was difficult but they eased up when they started seeing the effects.

The plan became a huge hit such that last year and Fibre made “over 450 million in revenue” for Lagos Island and its environs alone. Not resting on his oars, he believes that there is a lot of work to be done by the two-year-old company.

“I think we have a good start. There are a lot of people on our waitlist trying to get in but there’s still a lot more we can do. A lot of the work we have done so far has been laying the foundation of trust with property owners and the market”.

In the grand scheme of things, he notes that Fibre will not only be, “a subscription for your rent to a subscription for your life. We have a growing young population who one, are having a hard time finding places and two having a really hard time paying for those places.

“There is an opportunity for us to solve those problems and have them as our subscribers for a long period of time as they move from a one-room apartment to their own. So there’s the ability for us to really follow people throughout their life circle”.

Obinna Okwodu Photo: Niyi Okeowo