Event management has become a goldmine of sorts in Nigeria and the number of entrepreneurs tapping into it is on the increase. One of them is Ms Mosun Nicole Akinwamide, Managing Director of IPC Events. In this interview with Taiwo Ogunmola-Omilani, the event planner bares her mind on issues ranging from mediocrity in the profession, government apathy and what she perceives as the future of events management in Nigeria.
How did you venture into events management?
I went to Christabel Academy for my primary, Government College, Ijanikin for my secondary education and University of Lagos (UNILAG) where I studied Creative Art and majored in visual art specifically. Afterwards, I had a brief stint with Lagos Business School for brush-up and further certification. I am currently running a course and internship in London on event management, logistics and operations. I have also done several project management courses. Well, first of all, creative art is a creative venture. Now, because the foundation is creativity, whichever way you decide to express your level of creativity depends on the individual in question. But then, I don’t think that it is something different. I believe it is just an extension of creative parameters or foundation in that aspect. But then again, I think every day that I have in this industry, I see creative art in it. And what I did in visual art was a lot of drawing, sculpting, paintings, decor etc. And for events, there are lot of colours in term of painting, bride outfit, decoration, the bouquet aspect, that is, in terms of bringing it down to the wedding business we run here in Nigeria at the moment. So you see a lot of similarities in different facets. They might not necessary be painting tools, but every time I plan an event, it actually looks as if I am sculpting or painting. At the end of the day, I see similarity in it; starting a vision and then working it up to execution stage.
In fact, I always wanted to do this right from the time I was in school, before I left for service (NYSC). For every semester that I was in school, it became clearer what I wanted to do. I knew from inception that this was what i wanted to do. I am not surprised that I am here now.
What is the scope of event planning in Nigeria
Well, I think it is a growing sector. I think it is Nigeria’s next oil business. I mentioned oil because in Nigeria, once people hear oil, they know that it is a big market and everybody wants to do it. There was always this perception people had as to why you need an event planner when you can do it yourself. ‘If we could plan our elder brother’s wedding and did it well, why can’t we plan our daughter’s own?’ people often ask. It took some people a lot of adjustment in the course of about five years to accept and now, people are warming up to it. It is a huge industry. It is indeed a money-making business if you understand the rules. But as I said earlier, I think it is the next oil sector in Nigeria.
How profitable is the business?
If you structure your business properly and focus on the right thing, profitability knows no bound. It is a huge margin you never know. One of the problems we might have in this business is that it is one with an easy entry; it doesn’t demand you to have a particular capital to start. Anybody can wake tomorrow and say ‘oh, I read so much about it on Google and felt that I could plan my graduation party or my 21st birthday party myself.’ Therefore, they just wake up one day and say they are event planners. It does not necessarily have to be that way. That is a major problem we have in the industry. We probably need something like a licensing agency to maintain standards and ensure that before you venture into the industry, you must have pass through a clearance exam. I think that will reduce the number of mediocres and quacks in this industry. In terms of profitability, you just have to structure your business and position yourself in the industry. But as I said, it is a very profitable business.
How organised are event planners in reality?
I don’t really think it is an organised sector. I was driving to my office recently and got stuck in a major traffic. I was wondering what the problem was and later realised that the vulcanisers association of a certain local government were holding their meeting. I started thinking how it is possible for people like vulcanisers to have a body and even hold induction before becoming a member, yet we event planners in a huge market don’t even have one. First of all, I don’t think the government takes us seriously. Secondly, I don’t know of any form of regulation which allows for proper structuring of the industry. As I said before, the easy entry makes it possible for anybody to just enter the industry at any time. The people who wake and say this is what they want to do don’t even do it well. By the time a client has an encounter with those kind of people and gets away with a nasty experience, it dissuades them from wanting to give us a chance. It makes them start wondering what the usefulness of event planners is. It makes us look like mediocres. There is always a deficit in that area. In terms of structure, let me be frank with you, there is none. Nothing! People just wake up and do what they want. For instance, there is no government policy that says event planners can import this or export that or something that allows us to play big on the international scene. Nothing! That is because they have no idea what event planning has added to the GDP of this country. I have been taking some statistics of event planning as a whole and realised that it contributes about 32 per cent or so to the Nigerian GDP. I think that is a huge market when you look at it. If that kind of thing is happening here and you are not taking it seriously, it becomes a rising storm.
Where can the government come in?
First of all, I think the government needs to create a regulatory body. You asked earlier if we know ourselves, we don’t! For such a huge industry, we would just probably get to know that this person is a planner and, of course, with the help of some websites, we get to know from articles posted what the other person is doing. That is how a number of us get to know one another. There are even times when you get talking with some planners and you find out that these persons don’t even know anything. Let me tell you why I am saying all these things. I started this business without having to go to any training or event school. I have always been somebody who is very fashionable and passionate about business. It is clear that any business I veer into, I know I am going to do it well. As I mentioned earlier, I was sure about the kind of business I wanted to do from the onset. But again, for someone like me who claims to be passionate about the business I wanted to do to now stop at that level, not learning, not improving or pushing myself to learn so much; and all the services that bother around my residual knowledge and the things that I think I know, I am going to make more mistakes. A wedding is a once in a lifetime opportunity and if you are planning a wedding for instance and you mess it up, you have messed up an entire memory plan.
So are you saying people can’t go into event planning on their own?
I am not saying you cannot wake up and become what you want to become. No! Just don’t stop at that. If we have a regulatory body that says regardless of your qualifications and dreams, you must pass through this process, that would help a lot. I knew a friend who went to sit for an exam to get certification on mixing of drinks for bar tenders. That threw me off balance. I was seriously worried and upset. I kept wondering why anybody needs certification for that. But yes, it is important to them because it involves lives. A lot of people venture out in this regard that you can’t verify. So what platform gives you the right to think that you are even there in the first place? There must be some certification and exams. How can you be a project manager when you have not even got the certification? How come a big industry like event management doesn’t even have such? Today you see many people print certificates for event managers and the person even issuing those certificates doesn’t even have any license, no background, nothing! You may have been surprised when I said I was studying at the Events School of London. It is intentional because to me, it is important to identify. If the government cannot identify with us, let us go out and identify with people who are willing to identify with us. I believe the government fails to recognise our impact because they don’t really understand how much event planning is benefitting it. As I said, it is the next gold mine. However the annoying thing here is that I doubt if most planners pay tax. If anybody is paying at all, it cannot be more than 10 per centof the population of them. It is quite upsetting that I have to pay so much as tax and other people are evading tax by the day. This is easy because the government is not even aware that they are operating. The way I see things, it is a huge deficit. Hopefully, when this new government settles down properly, they will fully realise that we are there. It is indeed amazing how they use all their time to plan big events and still don’t pay attention to the fact that we are also important. Another sour point, for instance, is when somebody defrauds a client; there is no information, no office or residence address, no licensing office to report or even track the person. For me, it is important to have a regulatory body in place to check that.
Source : Leadership