Meet Mosunmola Olalekan-Otun, restless entrepreneur, stylist and event planner
Mosunmola Olalekan-Otun is the chief executive officer of Minds and Brains Limited, which is fully into event planning, decoration and catering services. An experienced and restless entrepreneur, Mosunmola started with nothing several years ago but has now grown to become a household name in the events planning industry. In this interview, she tells ODINAKA ANUDU, Start-Up Digest Editor, how far hard work and resilience have taken her.
Why did you choose Minds and Brains as a business name?
When you talk about creativity, you need your mind and your brain. Fortunately for me, my husband already had a business name called Minds and Brains before I started. Then we were producing Insurance World on MiTV. Naturally, I just picked the name because it went with creativity.
What is the level of creativity in event planning and styling?
Creativity starts from planning the event. What is the theme of the event? Let’s assume that it’s a corporate event, you must try to find out what the company is trying to achieve. If the company wants to change its logo, you go into planning. You now ask, ‘Since you are changing your logo, do you have any corporate colour or are you changing colour?’ Where do you want the event to take place? Some companies can say they want a five-star treatment. If they want something for the masses in places like Mushin or Ajegunle, the planning will be different. You can also ask them of their target market. You must find out if the programme appeals to the youths, the elderly, the medium income or to the super rich. With this, you will be able to plan. If it has to do with the youths, you can come up with music and fashion.
How has the business of event planning been in a period of economic slump?
It is very lucrative. In Nigeria we do not believe in holidays and vacations like in the West. Our own way of relaxing is at the parties. There is no weekend there won’t be parties. It’s just that the economy affected us in the sense that the event you do for 10 million, they can just ask if you can manage N3 million. So you have to squeeze things and work with the ones you have.
You hire a lot of ad-hoc staff. Do you have permanent staff?
Yes, we have about four or five permanent staff members. But I have so many trainees and I have changed quite a lot. We work with decorators, ushers and hostesses, among others.
Have you done events outside Lagos?
We have done so many events outside Lagos. This October, and early November, we will be in Abuja working on a wedding and corporate event. We have moved around a lot.
What prompted you to go into event planning?
As a Christian, one of my pastors asked me to pursue events. He said I had a skill of organising things. If anybody was doing anything in the church, I would be the one that would organise the cooking, the serving and all that. He asked me to look into the area and see if it was my calling. I prayed and went for a formal training.
Have you had other formal trainings since then?
I have been undergoing trainings. I have trained in South Africa and India.
How much did you have when you started?
I didn’t have much. I only relied on the grace of God and my husband’s purse. He is a big encourager. If clients paid like N40, 000 and the cost of the whole thing was N80, 000, I would run to him crying. I want to thank God because my husband has been quite supportive.
How big can you describe yourself now?
We are not there yet. We have moved from where we were in terms of clientele, materials and personnel. We are worth millions now.
What is the biggest deal you have done?
So many, like the Lagos Business School Presidential Dinner. We have been handling it for six to seven years. It’s always a real challenge and brings out creativity in us. When you work with Lagos Business School, there is nobody you can’t work with, because they want the best.
Have you entered into partnerships, local and international?
We have thought about that and I am sure by next year, we will have one. We work with other local event planners. You know we are not really only into event planning. We are also into decoration and catering. We have really worked with other big event planners..
What are the challenges you encounter as an entrepreneur?
You have the challenge of personnel. Once your drivers work for two or three months, they decide to leave. They are well remunerated. But some will even begin to think of setting up their own even when they have not learnt the job well.
Finance is also a problem. To expand the business, you need money. You approach the banks and their interest rate will scare you away. Most of the things you want to buy can damage any time, so it’s a big risk to even borrow from the banks.
Again, clients are not making up their minds on time. Approvals sometimes come late.
Again, in some occasions, you find the challenge of not telling the whole truth. A client can tell you he needs food for 500 people, but when you get there you find 1,000 people. But the client will tell the guests that it is the caterer that didn’t bring their food.
Between connections and referrals, which have helped you more?
Referrals have helped us more. Connections can give you leverage, but when you make mistakes, they won’t talk to you again. But once you are doing well, people will always refer you to others and that can grow you fast.
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