Ajoke Akinola, the Chief Executive Officer of Pleasant Jay Events, is a graduate of Business Administration and Management from the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu. In this interview by TAYO GESINDE, the recipient of the Cherie Blair Foundation/Exxon Mobil -Road to Growth Woman scholarship, and Women Exponential scholarship sponsored by the World Bank at the prestigious Pan Atlantic University reveals why she dumped the corporate world for Event Planning.
CAN you give us a brief background information about yourself?
I received my Higher National Diploma in Business Administration and Management with Upper Credit from the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu and had a wide range of administrative, banking and marketing work experiences before veering into business. I am the CEO of Pleasant Jay Events, a fast-rising event management company that is positioned to deliver qualitative event management services to both corporate and individual clients. I am a member of the Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry (LCC), an alumnus of EDC of the Pan Atlantic University and FATE Foundation and also, a member of Association of Professional Party Organisers and Event Managers of Nigeria (APPOEMN). I am the founder of Décor by Rachel (DBR) Interiors Limited, an exquisite interior designs company for the royals and the Well Watered Women (www) These are God-given ideas to help women struggling in their businesses to become resourceful and flourish in all spheres of life. I am happily married to Reverend Festus Akinola and we are blessed with two wonderful children.
What informed your choice of career?
I have always wanted to run a business that would give me the opportunity to impact lives positively and become an employer of labour. I wanted a business that would give me the opportunity and time for family bond. I also wanted to run a business I can confidently pass on to the next generations. In the quest to live a purposeful life, I actually sought the face of the Lord, read a lot of books to inspire me and finally, I discovered that I had always enjoyed meeting people, helping them organise their events without even realising that until after seeking God’s face. I then enrolled in event management and decoration training with a UK-certified specialist – Blooms Designs as well as other local schools in the field of event management and décor. Prior to that, I have always been an active member of the welfare department in my church and this gave me some hands-on practical experiences too.
What are the challenges you faced as an entrepreneur?
One of the challenges I faced was penetrating the new market because many find it difficult to entrust their events to those that just arrived into new terrains. Another challenge is the human capital. We rarely find committed staff. Most people are out there to make quick cash.
Also, one of the major challenges in the industry is the issue of quack planners; many chose the profession only to enrich themselves at the expense of the clients. They provide scruffy and unprofessional services. But thank God for the emergence of the Association of Professional Party Organisers and Event Managers of Nigeria (APPOEMN) to curb all these.
Who are your role models?
My role models are Pastor Mayokun Oreofe, Mrs Ayo Megbope, Mrs Yewande Zacheaus, Mrs Olajumoke Adenowo and Mrs Ibukun Awosika . Pastor Mayokun Oreofe is a woman of God with undiluted words of Christ. She is passionate about helping others succeed, a giver and servant of the most high God. Yewande Zacheuas; very early in life, decided on what she wanted to be. Being quite a focused and determined person, she went after it diligently and has formed the habit of constantly assessing her life. She is an organised person and plans ahead. She set milestones to help her achieve her goals. She believes that, with an unflinching commitment to one’s goals, discipline, hard work and patience, one can overcome the gender and social barriers that may stand in one’s way during the course of growing a business or building a career. She is a committed Christian who is passionate to building a sustainable company. She is my mentor as well.
Olajumoke Adenowo is another role model. I like her poise and drive to achieve success early in life, she knows and seeks God daily and she helps other people grow as well. Ibukun Awosika is a Christ ambassador in the marketplace. She is focused and a go-getter. Ayo Megbope is graced for success, her story inspires me so much to know that God can use us to wow the world no matter your background.
Why did you quit Insurance for event planning?
I knew I was made for more and when I discovered my God’s given potentials, I could not but launch out to fulfill God’s mandate upon my life to build a business I can pass on to the next generation and impact lives positively.
How have you been combining the home front with your career?
Delegating, prioritising and consciously creating out time for the family. Here is the flow-God, family and business. Then, every other thing can follow. And I am also grateful for a supportive husband.
What is the most defining moment of your career so far?
Seeing the satisfaction my clients experience when we render services to them is very defining for me. There is nothing compared to the joy when clients deliberately appreciate and go as far as praying and referring more businesses to you, all because you delivered value beyond their expectations. That’s the edge Pleasant Jay Events has over her competitors. We go above and beyond to ensure that you get value for your money; we practically make you a guest, even in your own event.
How have you been coping with competition?
By continuously sharpening my skills and daily improving myself, my staff and business. Also, I am not intimidated but inspired by current trends. I will collaborate instead of competing and, of course, the sky is the starting point.
What is your philosophy of life?
Do unto others as you wish them to do to you
What advice do you have for women?
They should realise they are made for more, pursue their God-given purpose; they should stop the hate and envy, but build one another. They should also intentionally become resourceful and impact their sphere of influence. They should remain focused amidst the noise and distractions.