Biola Campbell: We make the Christmas season magical
Biola Campbell is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of One Charming Party, a luxury Event Planner, based in Lagos and operating throughout Nigeria. Known for outrageous children and adult parties, the 11-year-old business has since grown to cater, and deliver exceptional, exclusive, and unforgettable experiences at events. Having planned over 300 exquisite parties, she tells The Guardian, its plans for the Christmas season.
Share with us your growing up and how it informed your passion for your work?
I grew up in a middle-class family of five. We grew up comfortable and we seemed to be able to afford what we needed or wanted. My dad was an Engineer by profession, who later turned manufacturer of aluminum products. He worked very hard and ensured he provided for his family. My mum was a housewife and mother who dutifully kept his home and looked after us, his children. She was quite entrepreneurial but didn’t take it much further because she never needed the money. It however turned out that in the later years she resented not making and having her own money. She wished she didn’t have to fully depend on her husband, more so when he passed on suddenly. My parents ensured that my siblings, a brother and a sister, and I were educated up to a minimum University level, and were hands-on in our upbringing. The ethos of hard work from my father and the discipline and principles of my mother became the guiding framework for my siblings and me when it comes to hard work. My mom’s latter regrets and her wishes to be independent further fuel my own passion. I believe that is why I work really hard.
How are you able to nurture your skill and grow it into a thriving business?
I have always loved fanciful things, and as a child, I desired beautiful toys. Even though my mom was not usually in agreement, I was quite the dramatic child. I had always been very creative, but discovering that I had the skill to turn into a thriving business happened by chance, and I suppose fate. I planned a baby shower when I had my first child, and I decided I was going to arrange it myself. Luckily my sister was already living in the US, so I was able to have her send some items to me. I had that access and used it to the fullest, and of course, my imagination ran wild and I went over the top. The end result was simply spectacular. So much so that friends and family started borrowing the props I used, for their own events. The business started on the back of that when a friend who witnessed my baby shower recommended me for another friend’s bridal shower. That was 10 years ago, and we have been waxing stronger and stronger since then. The rest as they say is history.
What stands One Charming party out?
A few keywords come to mind that I believe makes One Charming Party stand out; extraordinary, dramatic, outrageous, spectacular, lavish, and above all, luxurious.
At OCP, we deliberately make extreme and excessive statements to showcase our creativity in our projects. Because I believe people (my clients) are entitled to their dreams and fantasies, we go out of our way to create and bring these to life. Our aim is always to surpass their expectations by creating for them memories that would last forever, ones they would cherish a little longer. If you can imagine it, we will create it better, that’s what makes us stand out. We simply do not do ordinary.
It’s the Christmas season, what are your plans. How are you making it memorable for children?
At OCP, Christmas is our season. Growing up, it has always been a magical time that I looked forward to every year. Turns out that it’s the same for my siblings, friends, and family. As a matter of fact, this applies virtually worldwide, as children everywhere look forward to the magic of Christmas. We invite Mr. Claus and his elves to Mega Plaza, Lagos every Christmas. Mrs. Claus will also be around. He will be around for the whole month giving out gifts to every child that comes to see him. While they are here, there is a wide range of activities available to create a memorable experience. We ensure that every child that has been looking forward to the magic of Christmas like I was will be happy.
Who should request your services? What cadre of society and how affordable? Who are your clients?
We offer our services to whoever needs them, although we have since realised that we are generally considered unaffordable. So far we tend to be hired by people who are largely eccentric, who are up for the dramatic, the unusual, the spectacular. People who have a vision and big dreams, and who realise that not only will it cost money to realise these dreams, they are able and willing to pay for it. Consequently, we have found ourselves operating in a niche market catering to people who can afford their fantasies. Our client base includes actors and actresses, musicians and social media influencers, top political players, and quite a number of celebrities. They tend to be the ones who don’t say we are unaffordable.
Tell us about your Santa Workshop? What is the idea behind it?
Our trademark grotto, Santa’s Workshop, is in a class of its own. For seven years running, One Charming Party has offered a magical experience for the Christmas season. Spanning over two floors at the top level of the iconic Mega Plaza Building in Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria, Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, and their elves will enthrall visitors with the most magical time of their lives. In addition to the magical spirit of Christmas, everyone also regards the period as celebratory. Families tend to seek out events and activities during that time, especially if they have children and younger members. Meeting this demand is the central idea behind our Santa’s Workshop. Coupled with our desire to display our creativity in different audacious ways, the grotto has become an excellent must-see go-to place that people far and wide put on their calendars as an annual event.
How challenging is it to run a business in Nigeria?
Running a business in Nigeria is not for the faint-hearted. The business environment is extremely challenging at this level. To start with, people either don’t understand agreements or they simply don’t care. This is usually because they are largely unenforceable or it’s too tedious and costly to enforce them. Financing is also a challenge as the necessary funding needed to run and scale your business is just not accessible. Bank loans are ridiculously prohibitive and JV partners never seem to be able to key into the vision behind non-traditional sectors. By far the most challenging is in the recruitment and retention of a competent workforce. The idea of hard work and building a career is becoming increasingly unattractive to young people, and therefore staff turnover is very high. This does not help the growth of businesses as too many resources are being expended in constantly retraining new staff.
What lessons have you garnered as a business owner over the years?
The biggest lesson is perseverance. This is the only way to always have and maintain plans B, C, D, E, F. Changes are inevitable, with clients, with suppliers and contractors, and more importantly with prices. One must always be prepared for these changes and be ready to adapt.
What is your philosophy of life?
As dramatic and complicated as I may seem, my philosophy of life is pretty simple. That is simply to live life to the fullest. I have long realised that life doesn’t always work out as you want and plan. There is usually not a lot you can do about that. It is incredibly easier to let it be. So I aim to live a beautiful life and strive to be a better person. While I work very hard, I play even harder. In doing so I love, laugh and live.