Omolola Balogun, the chief executive officer of Dreams and Visions Events, Lagos, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Ilorin, Kwara State. She had a brief stint at a telecommunications company before her foray into events planning. In this interview by TAYO GESINDE, she says her passion for creating beautiful ambience at social gatherings made her become an events designer and florist.
How was the transition into entrepreneurship like for you?
In the early years of my life, I always had a passion for building, so my parents thought I was going to be an architect. As I grew older, I discovered I had the desire to beautify my surroundings and put things in order. During my national youths service in Lagos in 2005, I was introduced into events design and craft training, and that helped to spark off my desire. I was posted to serve in a telecommunications company and was retained after my national youth service, but because my desire had already been sparked off with my training, I had the urge to forge ahead in my events design business and that was why I resigned in 2007 to start my events design career fully.
How did you raise the capital to start?
Raising capital for my business was done in phases. In 2007, when I started the events design business, I did not require a lot of capital. I went through the process of building gradually from the little profits I got from jobs. This sustained me for few years until like other entrepreneurs, the urge to expand and achieve more set in. As a result, other sources of raising capital had to be explored. That had to do with getting loans and credit facilities in order to upscale.
What were some of the challenges you’ve faced as a business owner?
Some of the challenges I faced included sourcing for funds, staff management and so on. The events design business is one where you need to have invested hugely ahead of time, in preparation for opportunities. An intending client wants to see what you have done before being convinced to pay you to do likewise for them, thus the onus is on us to source for funds to get all necessary props ahead to getting the business. Also, staff management is another challenge one faces in business. Manpower takes up to 80 per cent of the success of any events design business because it is strictly a hands-on job. We need to construct and tear down all out set-ups at each event. For each events set-up, a minimum of 20 workers are needed for even the average scaled events designer. The challenge here is having to put everybody together to achieve one common goal, considering the fact that sometimes, some of them are contract staff who don’t have the trainings you must have given your full staff.
In your opinion, what are some of the key issues start ups face, especially in Nigeria?
In my opinion, start ups in Nigeria face the major issues of building their customer base. Most customers, the Nigerian customers inclusive, want to deal with a business that has been in existence for some years and is already established; hence, it is always a challenge for a start up to get its first few opportunities.
Many people believe in renowned brands and now that some other brands like yours are coming up, what have you been doing to change this mindset so that people can patronise brands like yours?
Due to our dedicated nature, we have been doing our best to change the narratives, and to the glory of God, we have gotten to a stage where we are able to compete side by side with reputable brands as well as international ones. For instance, in the events design field, we have attended numerous trainings both in Nigeria and abroad, so, with the right and enabling environment, we are able to deliver same quality with the renowned brands.
What makes your events design business stand out in today’s competitive world?
What makes my events design business stand out is my ability to create new designs at every opportunity given. Our society is a competitive one where everyone desires to stand out from others. This same mindset applies also to our clients who are always looking out for events designers who can give them something unique.
What has influenced your life and career positively today?
Perseverance. Life sometimes makes a twist but I have decided to keep the focus no matter the challenge life throws at me. Another thing that has influenced my career is passion. The events design business is no doubt a tough one. This is evident in the many months of planning and running to and fro for about three to six months. Managing customers, getting them on board, convincing them to part with their funds, managing their anxiety; team management, sleepless nights and so on make you want to quit; but my passion for creating beautiful spaces is what has kept me going.
What has been the impact of COVID-19 on the events design business?
The events industry is one of the major industries affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Events all over the world have been cancelled, thus there are no jobs for us. The events industry is on a partial lockdown because even the virtual parties we are embracing this period does not require any major design.
Do you think events management will be the same after COVID-19?
In Nigeria, there is hope that the events industry will bounce back after this pandemic. This is because our culture is that of celebration, and not just celebrations, but large celebrations. We Nigerians are happy people and in fact, I see us throwing a post-Covid-19 party to celebrate the final declaration of a Covid-19-free nation, also for weddings and burials. Our large number of families and our communal way of living will help us to bounce back to normalcy.
Events design has evolved over the years. What do you see about the future of the business?
Rightly said, events design is always evolving. The new concepts that we will see in the near future of events design is the 3D design features.
What are your future plans?
My future plans will include continued expansion of the business and also to expand my horizons internationally.
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