Olamidun Majekodunmi is the Founder, Performing Arts School of Nigeria setup with the aim to promote the performing arts industry and to encourage Nigerian creative passions and talents. She is passionate about the way her company’s brand is positively impacting the creative industry in Nigeria and inspiring people to free their creativity. In this e-interview with Alaba Ayinuola, she speaks on how The Performing Arts School of Nigeria will serve as the pillar for performing arts in Nigeria by supporting the community to pursue their passions in the arts with regard to cultural diversity and inclusiveness. And it’s vision to be the foremost performing arts institution in all of West Africa by 2023. Excerpts.
Alaba: Tell us about the Performing Art School(PAS) Nigeria and the inspiration behind it?
Olamidun: The Performing Arts School of Nigeria is a community center for those passionate about developing artistic talents. PAS was founded in 2012 to encourage Nigerian creative passions and talents, and contribute to the performing arts industry in Nigeria. We recently moved to Lagos with the development of our first Creative Center serving the Lagos Island community.
Alaba: What was your startup fund and how were you able to raise it?
Olamidun: Startup fund was 90% of personal savings. I also received support from family and minor stake partners.
Alaba: What are the challenges, competition and how are you overcoming them?
Olamidun: There have been a number of challenges but the toughest I think is, maintaining a balance between demands of performing arts training and academics for kids. In a country like ours, where so much importance is placed on academic performance, it has been a herculean task convincing parents to see long-term value in our offerings.
To support their needs, we’ve included academic enrichment to our after school offering for kids, so we have a balance. So in addition to our discipline which is performing arts (dance, music, drama and a host of others) we have included programs such as STEM, Lego robotics, homework help etc. As for competition, there is no business without a competitor, so we try as much as possible to stay on top of trends and offer more unique propositions that make us stand out and help students grow as well-rounded individuals.
Alaba: How is your business contributing to the development of the Creative Art industry in Nigeria and Africa?
Olamidun: The growth of the industry is more visible now than ever and I am happy to have a footprint in the journey. We have created a wholesome space for nurturing learners and encouraging them to identify and develop their talents. Starting early with children helps us create well-rounded individuals not just in education but also creative and personal development. These developments help to accelerate their passion for arts and steer them to make their contribution to the creative industry in the future.
Also, PAS continues to provide employment opportunities to individuals looking for a platform to make a mark in the creative industry and the education sector. We have facilitators for various aspects of the arts who are paying it forward to these kids with the knowledge they have gathered. We are gradually growing an arts inclined community and it can only get larger.
Alaba: What’s your view on the development of the Creative Art ecosystem in Nigeria and Africa?
Olamidun: We have more individuals pushing for the growth of the creative arts and development of talents through platforms like festivals, competitions, and creative schools. In my opinion, we are yet to have a sophisticated ecosystem because we do not have a sustainable plan that encompasses every aspect of creative arts. For instance, a hub where veteran creative’s can interact with budding creative’s for mentorship. Also, more needs to be done in connecting creative arts with academia; this will help foster innovation and development not just for the arts but the country too. Private organizations are doing our bid but with more support from the government, we can further develop a strong ecosystem for creative arts.
Alaba: How are government policies supporting startups and entrepreneurs in Nigeria?
Olamidun: There are policies in place to protect and promote entrepreneurship in Nigeria but the problem has always been implementation. The lack of solid implementation and continuous improvement leads to limitations for entrepreneurs such as getting the capital to finance businesses, poor electricity and the constant political and social issues also discourage foreign investors. But gradually, we are experiencing a shift through initiatives and programs being created by the government because they have recognized that entrepreneurship is the answer to our high unemployment rates and will facilitate the country’s development.
Alaba: What is the future for your business and what steps are you taking in achieving them?
Olamidun: The long term plan for Performing Arts School of Nigeria is to never stop supporting individuals with a passion for arts with regard to cultural diversity and inclusiveness. We also hope to establish creative centers across various Nigerian cities and be the foremost Performing Arts institution in all of West Africa.
Alaba: What advice would you give potential entrepreneurs who intend to start a business or invest in Africa?
Olamidun: There is a lot of progress that needs to be made to catch up with the rest of the world. So, creative businesses, driven by passion and a long-term strategic roadmap are those that stand out. Your impact could really propel African development.
Alaba: How does it feel to be an African entrepreneur?
Olamidun: In total, I employ about 20 people and in an environment that is quite challenging to operate a business in, it’s a very rewarding feeling to create value through employment and through the services we offer.
Alaba: How do you relax and what kind of books do you engage?
Olamidun: I enjoy socializing mostly with friends and family- grabbing a drink or dinner with my girlfriends. I read more current events and research relevant to my field. When on holiday I may read a solid fiction novel.
Her Short Bio:
An avid dancer since the age of 9, Olamidun built The Performing Arts School of Nigeria/ The Studio Abuja, with the purpose of providing students with unique opportunities and a well-rounded education. Olamidun succeeded in implementing key strategic initiatives and formed major partnerships with some of the largest public and private sector organizations in Nigeria. Driven by her strong passion for wide development across Africa, Olamidun also served as a Director of Education for the Nigerian Young Professionals Forum where she led the architecture of a nationwide Education Intervention Scheme.
Olamidun completed her MBA at The University of Notre Dame, USA and has also served as an Education Strategy and Operations Consultant for Huron Consulting Group in New York City.
Shaun Duvet on The Unit Group and the Impact of COVID-19
Shaun Duvet, Founder and CEO at The Unit Group (Source: Unit Group website)
The impact of Covid-19 is changing the way organisations operate and do business about the world. The entertainment industry is not exempted as it’s adjudged the second affected industry after the aviation, travel and hospitality industry. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Shaun Duvet the Founder and CEO of The Unit Group shares his brand story and the Impact of Covid-19. Excerpt.
Alaba: Could you tell us about the Unit Group and the gap it’s filling since you launched?
Shaun: The Unit Group was established in 2017 as the holding company for my various business interests which include: COCO, GoldBar and Souk (my venues), Ultra South Africa, Corona Sunsets Festivals, Anything Goes, AG Virtual, Bella Bookings, Salute, Jet Black & Paradise Springs. These businesses cover all functions of entertainment marketing, management, hospitality, sponsorship and eventing from design, to staffing and artist booking, to production and everything in between.
The gap we launched The Unit Group to fill was that of a true understanding of marketing in the entertainment space. So many brands want to play in this space because the audiences are so receptive and the engagement so high, yet so few of them truly understand it. We felt that we had the marketing know-how, and a deep love and knowledge of not only this space, but the global players within it.
Alaba: What services does your company offer?
Shaun: The services offered range from throwing small corporate events to festivals for 50, 000 pax; to sponsorship strategies, virtual events; to full spectrum design, photography, videography; artist, model and staff bookings; marketing, and PR strategies and much, much more.
Alaba: How has the market responded to your offerings?
Shaun: We have seen a huge uptake in clients that previously came to us just to make the party happen, now asking for marketing, creative and strategic advice. AG Virtual, which launched this year, has also seen the likes of AFI (African Fashion Week) approach us to do their full virtual production.
Alaba: The steady rise of South Africa’s entertainment industry has increased competition in the country. What’s your company’s advantage?
Shaun: My 20+ years of experience and my years behind the decks. I live and breathe music and entertainment which enables me to understand what the market wants and keep abreast of global trends. I also have incredible teams in place that keep our work fresh and relevant, and the machine in constant motion.
Alaba: Kindly share some of the challenges faced, especially in this dire time and how you overcoming them?
Shaun: The challenge of this year is obvious – no events, no DJ’s, no dancing! That’s our life blood. We have managed though to stay busy by diversifying what we offer and working more strategically. Helping brands activate within the highly connected urban youth market in an authentic and resonant manner. Some of our venues are also still operational, and the festivals and events teams are taking some much-needed down time before the parties start again, which we know they will do with a renewed energy when we’re out of the current COVID crisis.
Alaba: Technology is disrupting the entertainment industry across the globe. How’s your company adapting to the use of technology?
Shaun: As mentioned, we have launched AG Virtual which is doing well. But we have always been at the forefront of event and entertainment technology in our work. Our audience demands it.
Alaba: How does your company contribute and set new standards in the South African entertainment industry?
Shaun: I regularly write and speak on industry channels and give back to the industry that way. We also ensure that we are constantly raising the bar with the work that we do, meaning that more people around the world sit up and take notice which will ultimately benefit the whole industry.
Alaba: What’s the future for the Unit Group and are you post COVID-19 ready?
Shaun: We cannot wait for life to return to “normal”. Down time was nice, but we’re rested now and it’s time to work!
Alaba: How do you relax and what keeps you going?
Shaun: I have 3 young kids so relaxation is scarce, but they certainly keep me going
Alaba: What advice would you give to entrepreneurs and investors coming to South Africa?
Shaun: Come! Don’t be afraid. There is risk, yes, but the rewards are also so great. We live in such a special place and I really believe in the future of this country.
B I O G R A P H Y
Shaun Duvet, CEO and Founder of The Unit, South Africa’s leading entertainment-based holding company, a combination of enterprises, individually built to make brands better. Shaun is also the CEO and Founder of Anything Goes, the branded entertainment agency, aligning campaigns, properties and music tours with international brands and artists across the continent.
He is the co-Founder and Director of ULTRA South Africa, which brings 50,000 dance-music revellers together every year to see some biggest names in eEectronic Music. He is the partner and producer for Corona Sunsets Festival South Africa, which over the last 5 years has seen over 40,000 fans join together across three cities to celebrate the sunset.
He is a co-owner and operator for COCO, one of SA’s premiere nightclubs, think celebrities, Ibiza-style go-go dancers, Hip Hop MCs, and a parade of sparkler-topped bottles, this alongside it’s sister GoldBar, an elegant bar annex to COCO.
Shaun Duvet is a board member and proud supporter of Bridges For Music, a non-profit organization that utilises the power of music to uplift communities through creative education. Recently, partnering with Defected Records on a new imprint Sondela Records all of whose profits will channel back directly into the charity.
Viola Labi: The multi-hyphenate creative strategist building an eco-luxury fashion brand in Africa
Viola Labi is a multi-hyphenate creative, premium retail Strategist and Founder of WOVEN, a design-led fashion enterprise.
With over a decade of experience and a proven track record in the global luxury retail space, Viola has worked with renowned international brands such as Burberry, ZARA, Loewe, CELINE and Valentino and has caught the attention of media powerhouses such as Vogue Business, Essence, Forbes, BBC and CNN International, as one to watch.
Born in Canada with Ghanaian parentage, Viola is culturally plural and holds reverence to fashion’s interaction with humanity; asserting that it permits people, irrespective of their cultural and social affiliations to unite. It is this fundamental belief and her relocation to Ghana that inspired WOVEN, a ground breaking brand which seeks to herald a new direction for eco-luxury retail on the African continent.
Viola said, WOVEN was birthed from a personal journey to Northern Ghana. “I witnessed my own reunification to elements of rich Ghanaian culture through textile creation at the diligent hand skilled Artisans. Despite language barriers and unfamiliar grounds, I felt at home. I spent more time with women creating textiles and found myself being stitched together in areas I didn’t know needed mending, areas like self-identity and purpose.”
“Looking back, I guess you can say we weaved symbolic exchanges of knowledge and cultural practices and this inspired me to creative WOVEN. Although the entire assortment of products are literally woven, the company name speaks to a higher purpose of coming together as Humanity.” She said.
The Brand’s mission is to actively work towards uniting the fashion value chain into a cohesive whole by showcasing the creative talent that pervades throughout the African continent; while emanating the diversity of culture, history and skill, much like yarn being formed into a unique tapestry.
WOVEN has the honour of partnering with 150 esteemed Artisan weavers in Ghana to create sustainable, functional, home furnishing products. It’s design principles and execution promote inclusion and seek to disrupt fear-based stereotypes by creating products, made in Africa, that are par with those of global standards.
Emalohi Iruobe, An Attorney and Founder of Tribe XX Lab Empowering Female-led Startups
Emalohi L. Iruobe Esq. is an attorney, adjunct professor and social entrepreneur. She is the founder of Tribe XX Lab, the first and only co-working, wellness and incubator space exclusively for female entrepreneurs and female led startups and companies in Lagos. Tribe XX Lab offers an open-plan office, private offices, events, networking, yoga, a nap room, conference room, reference library, pop up restaurants and wellness retail.
The fundamental idea is to create a place where women are able to present a professional front for their business as well as network, get training, access to funding opportunities and help each other. With a general focus on self-care and balance, the space also partners with brands that retail wellness and selfcare products in order to meet the other often overlooked core need of women in business-wholeness.
Prior to founding Tribe XX Lab, Emalohi was an adjunct professor of Business Law, Business Research Methods and Legal Analysis and Writing at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, USA for several years before moving to teach Business Law and Data Management at LIM College in Manhattan, New York. Afterwards she taught Expository Writing at Rutgers University in New Jersey, USA before founding Aimanosi Lingerie; a dynamic brand focused on promoting body positivity and selflove in African women. She has a Bsc. in Finance and Banking from Lincoln University, PA and a Juris Doctor from Villanova University.
Before delving into full time entrepreneurship, she practiced law in Pennsylvania and New
Jersey working in Commercial litigation, as well as working as the Manager of Project Implementation in the Kwara State Public Private Partnership office in 2013. She comes with over a decade experience in entrepreneurship, law, education and business.
About Tribe XX Lab
Tribe XX Lab is a civic space for complex conversations, critical contemplation, learning and action to prevent all forms of violence and oppression against women and girls. The goal of their work is to change the perceptions of women and their role in society as well as lead conversations and interventions that PREVENT violence against women and girls in the first place. They do this through the use of digital and social media, conversations, XX-CEED Virtual festival, game theory and art.
Through their work, they are particularly looking to provide support to survivors of Gender-based violence, promote greater public engagement in preventing violence against women, increase public awareness of the intersectionality of oppression women face, create social projects that encourage the extermination of rape culture.
Since inception, they have successfully carried out several survival supports programs, prevention panels and have received a grant to prevent gender-based violence against women and girls in universities in Nigeria as well as provide psychological support to victims of GBV in institutions of higher education from Oxfam/Voice.
Emalohi also launched ‘I GO TALK’ a Nigerian Pidgin phrase which simply means I will not be silent, I will tell on you. It came in as a crucial response to the sexual violence that female students in Nigerian Universities face. This is a clarion call from victims, survivors, and women in general to the perpetrators of sexual abuse and to the general public, that they’re here to XXterminate, silence and provide support to victims. This is a motivation for victims of sexual abuse and harassment amongst University students to speak up and also a mode to create awareness for students on their rights in line with the recently signedd Sexual Harassment bill.
After the BBC Documentary, Sex for Grades rocked the whole of Nigeria in October 2019, the long cloaked truth about the oppression that young women face in the hands of university lecturers started to come to light. For the longest time, young women seeking higher education have been preyed upon by several academicians high in power and have been oppressed, victimized, and helpless.
Starting from the 25th of October to the 31st of October, they are kicking off the first edition of I GO TALK Youth Summit, the largest gathering of university students across the country to build collective power and voice in the fight to end Sex4grades and sexual harassment in Nigerian Universities.
Tribe XX Lab is laser focused on promoting gender equality, deliberate living, transformative leadership and community development through the design and delivery of trainings, workshops, seminars, collaborative partnerships and data gathering.