INTERVIEW: Hyperactivity Sacked Me From Banking - Ndidi Obioha
Everything about Ndidi Obioha exudes style, panache and elan. The events planning consultant and fashion designer has carved a niche for herself in the industry. Ndidi is creative and electrifies red carpet events with her looks. The walls of her office scream class and elegance showing her sense of style. In this chat, she talks about her enduring romance with designing. Excerpts:
How did you get into event consultancy and designing?
I began as an employee in an advertising agency when I was still in the university. We were then on a compulsory holiday forced on us by the prolonged strikes of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). I studied at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). I found it difficult just staying at home and idle. One day I just hit the street to seek paid employment. I got an opportunity to work with an advertising agency. They were so impressed with the effort I put into the job. From that first step, the firm said that I was free to come back anytime I was on vacation, assuring that their doors would always be open to me. So anytime I was on holidays, I went to the company to work. By the time I graduated, I took up fulltime employment with the agency. Then I moved to STB McCann, from where I joined a telecommunications company, Independent Telephone Network (ITN), which was one of the first independent phone companies back then. From that company, I went into the banking industry.
How long did you spend in banking?
Though I worked with Savannah Bank for about three years, altogether, I spent seven to eight years.
Why did you leave the banking industry?
I was tired of doing the same old thing. You know, when you haven’t found your calling, you tend to linger in what you are doing. I was determined to find my calling. Eventually I did in events planning and fashion designing. That’s why I enjoy what I am doing now. Whatever I decide to do, I commit everything into it. That was the way I worked while in the banking industry. I have always liked all the aspects of marketing. So during my days in banking I loved to be in the marketing, customer services and public relations departments. When I stepped out to establish my own business, I simply pooled all the experience I got from adverting and banking. I wanted to do something fresh and new which would give me ample opportunity to utilize my God-given talents.
So you started Enthyst Events?
No, I first started a salon. Actually, I was still working in the bank when I started the salon. I was not a hairstylist, but I have always been creative. A few months after I opened the salon, I resigned from the bank. The salon gave birth to Enthyst Events, which in turn gave birth to the bridal arm of the business. Over time, the red carpet arm was spun-off from the bridal business. We don’t know which other corporate entity is in the womb. I am simply having fun coming up with new things, just exploring myself, my ideas and turning my dreams to reality.
What makes Enthsyt Events unique?
Creativity defines everything we do. We first study the personality of our client and then build the concept for the particular event on it and we give attention to details. That is what makes the difference. I don’t compromise on my standards and we try to give each customer true value for money. As an event consultancy outfit, we conceptualize your event and define it for you. We deliver a turnkey service right from the décor to food, master-of-ceremony to the clothing. I add that extra personal touch by making sure I serve them properly because I also want you to look great. When somebody looks great, especially the host of the event, there’s this confidence that it brings out in them. We define everything to the last letter and that’s the value we add to every event we handle.
Your clothing line is unique. Describe the style?
My clothes bespeak and define the dress style of the new generation. They are simply glamorous, decent and still bring out the sexiness in woman. Nigerian women are getting more uncomfortable with their bodies i.e they are no longer comfortable with the folds, the baggy eyes, heavy arms (what some people call Christian mothers’ arm). They no longer love clothes that just hide excess flesh. They want to look elegant, so they wear dresses that make them look so graceful. When the woman enters anywhere, heads turn to admire her. We bring out our new collections every eight weeks.
What would make you say a woman is stylish?
If your carriage hits me and then the way you are totally put together. Style is more than just clothes. There are different things that make up style – from the hair to makeup, accessories and then the clothes. The way you put everything together is what helps me define a woman of style.
Did you at any point in time attend a finishing school?
I never did any of that. First and foremost there are things that are innate . They’re God-given. My mum is very stylish and she comports herself so well. I got a lot of this from my mother. I like fashion, I love to look good and I love to see people look good.
What would you say is your fashion fetish?
I really love to collect shoes. I love to collect bags and accessories too . I love my cocktail rings. I love belts. I think I love everything that has to do with fashion. I’m always obsessed with everything fashion. In preparing for a red carpet event, there are certain factors I would consider first. They determine what I wear. For example, I would like to know what the crowd would be like – which you can tell from the exact type of red carpet event it is. Is there a dress code or colour code? I must be comfortable in whatever I choose to wear. I like garments that flatter me. I usually would not repeat an outfit and if I do repeat it, I would re-accessorize it in such a way that it would be difficult to tell that I had worn it before.
Have you ever had any embarrassing moment as an events planner?
Of course yes ; particularly when I encounter ill-mannered people. I do an event when I’ve agreed with the client about the style of admission. I once had a crazy crowd size. Right from conception, we agreed that we would have placement cards to indicate the sitting arrangement, so that guests would come with their placement cards. We took our time to number the cards and allocated the guests expected to be at the event to specific tables. So, in coming for the event, it’s not just about bringing the wedding invitation, it’s the placement card that we put in the wedding invitation that we expected them to come with. We had a situation where we had a relative of the bride who decided she didn’t need to come with her placement card – to her it was all about her relationship to the bride. She went on shouting and screaming. I would say that God has been so fantastic. There has been no event that we did that we didn’t receive a “Thank you” card from the client. The appreciation I get from my client is what matters most to me. It’s not the money. The ‘thank you’ is my greatest satisfaction not the money they pay to me.
Your events often stretch into the night. As a married woman how does your family cope with this hectic schedule?
The truth is that I’m lucky to be married to a man that totally understands me and is very supportive. This gives me total confidence and because my husband is so understanding, my kids automatically understand too. You know how we inculcate these things into our children. That has been my greatest asset and luck.
What’s your typical day like?
I never get to my office before 11am. I’m not your regular ‘morning hours’ person. When my kids are on holidays, I try to spend the morning hours with them. My day starts from 11am except I have an early morning meeting. In that case, I make efforts to be there. I work till 10 pm. You see, the evening hours are really the best time to come out with the creative aspect of our events. At such hours, everywhere is calm. The moment I enter my office I just bury my head in work.
Do you have time for chores at home?
Ah! I have people who do them but my home never suffers. My home comes first. I make sure my household never suffers at all. It’s only when we go on holidays that I have time to cook.