Adaora Mbelu-Dania is currently a Director at Trellis Group (@trellisgroupco). Trellis group is a group of companies in the brand development and experiential marketing space that has worked on several projects across various industries, with brands such as Microsoft, Google, Sterling Bank, Union Bank, Techno Oil, Lagos State Government, Nokia, Diageo, Absolut. Trellis is also home to Nigeriaís Foremost Graffiti Artist, Osa Seven, Professional Violinist, GodwinStrings, Media Personalities, Denola Grey, and Tobi Bakre.
Adaora has a passion for innovation and a belief in the power of creativity to achieve extraordinary business results. She moved to Nigeria in 2008, and found that there were so many young Nigerians in the creative sector that were unable to harness their creativity and build sustainable brand/business structures – Trellis group bridges this gap. Prior to forming Trellis Group, she has worked as a content director on the following projects – United Nations World Tourism Conference, Nigeria Centenary Awards, International Conference On Peace & Security. She has also worked as the project manager for Freemantle Licensed TV Shows, Nigerian Idol and Nigeriaís Got Talent, where she was responsible for managing various aspects of the show ñ business, brand, and production. Adaora was also the Corporate Communications Manager for OSMI during the 2010 World Cup where she managed all communications on the broadcast rights for Nigeria. Prior to moving to Nigeria, Adaora was a Credit Analyst at Citigroup, where she received an award for outstanding sales, and team spirit. In 2017, Adaora was mentioned in Entrepreneur Magazineís ì11 Africans that are changing the business landscape in Africa.î She was also Nominated in the ìEntrepreneur Of The Yearî and ìPrize For Media Enterpriseî Categories of the Future Awards Africa. She has been featured among Nigeriaís Under 40 CEOís, and Top 30 Under 30.
Aside her academic and professional accomplishments, Adaora has a passion for community development. She is the founder of Socially Africa (@sociallyafrica), a foundation that gives back to the community through several initiatives.
She believes in sharing her knowledge, and also helping teams operate at optimal capacity. She currently conducts brand and productivity trainings through Trellis School Of Decisive Advantage.
One of Adaoraís philosophies is the importance of living a purpose driven life, and using as many of her gifts as possible. As a result, she finds several mediums to express to her creativity. She is an Actor, Poet and Rapper who expresses herself through a part of her that she calls LUMINA.
Where it all began
Growing up was interesting for me. My family background provided diversity of thought. My parents are from different racial and cultural backgrounds, and this provided an opportunity for me to understand diversity very early in life. Hence, I keep a very open mind, and this allows me to forge relationships with people without bias for their backgrounds. I consider myself more open minded than many people. Iím also the last child, and only girl in my family, hence, I built confidence and strength really early in life.
What is it about the creatives that endears you?
I try to stay away from the tag of ìCreativeî vs ìNon creativeî. I believe that everyone is born with some level of creativity. Some people are just more. I focus primarily on teaching people how to harness this creativity to solve problems, and produce great work. The understanding that creativity can be used to solve problems is what truly endears me. Hence, I am super passionate about the results, and not so much the idea.
Share more on Socially Africa and your involvement
In 2015, my co-founders and I had a discussion around the importance of giving back to the community, and the concern that many young people are waiting till they have millions and consider themselves financially successful, before they start to engage in community development. We decided not to sit and complain, but to take actionable steps to rallying people together to solve some of the problems we had identified in our communities. We want to serve as inspiration to the next generation watching what we do, and how we impact our world, beyond chasing the next job, or working to feed our families. We started investing funds from our businesses into community development projects. In 3 years, we have executed one of our projects ìArt For A Causeî in 15 schools across Nigeria, impacting over 8,000 kids. Weíve also run our code classes for teenagers, teaching basic programming to 80 teens. We have given out 1,000 Love Boxes, Hosted 2 food drives, and launched our volunteer platform, The Amber Circle. Socially Africa is more than an NGO, we are a movement teaching young people how to give back.
Trellis School Of Decisive Advantage
With SoDA we have taken the art of brand development and turned it into a Science, a methodology that ensures when we bring certain elements together, the desired result is achieved. All our programs were created because we know how tough it is for businesses to figure out how to position their brand to really get results from their marketing efforts. After working with businesses collectively for over 15 years, we developed SoDA so that business owners could access effective training that gets them the results they need – Brand Equity, Sales, Awareness, Lead Generation, and much more. We teach a principle that we call ìDecisive Advantageî it allows people and brands to Stand Forward, and be picked before people get to the market.
What do you consider before the decision to work with a client?
With the projects we work on, we choose our clients as much as they choose us. Many times we focus on the people behind the projects. We have been through the start-up phase where weíve worked with people and projects that we didnít necessarily have a heart for, because it was profitable. However, we are now at a stage where we measure value very differently. These days, we choose peace of mind over financial gain. I know itís a bold statement to make, but itís factual. Iím not as concerned about quantity, as I am about quality. Hence, a lot of our business is either return business, or by referral.
How important is branding and how detrimental can the lack of it be?
I believe that branding is a very important part of every business. Itís important to understand that people buy into extensions of themselves and their lifeís story. As a business, you want to be consistently chosen by the people you exist for. You want them to buy you over and over again and make you a part of their beautiful story. For this reason, you must develop a brand strategy that positions you in such a way that when they consider their journey and what elements perfectly fit in, they think about you. Branding isnít solely about logo design, or visuals, as much as it is about making a promise, and keeping to that promise.
What is your definition of the Nigerian brand in comparison to what it is now?
The Nigerian brand in my opinion is Resilience and Opportunity. The promise Nigeria makes is that it will teach you how to pursue success against all odds. If nothing else, this is something Nigeria has truly shown me. Iíd also say that our brand is centred around opportunity- contrary to popular opinion, I truly believe that Nigeria is a land of opportunity. The lack of structures and processes is what makes it difficult to truly harness the opportunities that exist. However, we are flowing with opportunities across various sectors and industries.
From your understanding through consistent interaction and influence with the Nigerian youth, do you agree that they are lazy?
I donít agree that the Nigerian youths are lazy. The Nigerian youth epitomizes the phrase, ìThe rose that grew from concreteî. We have been able to build and grow regardless of the various challenges that exist in the Nation. The Nigerian youths are continuously thinking up solutions and new ways to drive development. I agree that many Nigerian youths have challenges with discipline, dedication, and taking initiative sometimes. I think this stems from our educational system, where students have to cram their way through school, rather than actually learn through practicals. However, despite these challenges, I would never agree that Nigerian youth are lazy.
Are the Nigerian youths often misunderstood?
Absolutely! I think Nigerian youths are very misunderstood. The older generation takes the resilience and independent attitude of young Nigerians to mean that they are stubborn.
What is your take on the Not Too Young To Run Bill? Implementable? What do you advice?
I think the Bill is brilliant. It has set us in the right direction as a Nation. If nothing else, it certainly shows that a group of people who come together for a common cause can truly influence decision making within the country. It would be great to see more credible young people show interest for government and politics. I would like to see more transparency of objectives, and willingness to serve the people rather than serve personal pockets and godfathers. We have an opportunity as youth, and we need to use it well.
Increase in drug abuse and depression leading to suicide especially among the youths. What do you have to say about this?
Iím not sure thereís an increase, as much as thereís more attention on these matters, thanks to social media. I think itís incredibly important that we discuss mental health challenges more openly, and eradicate the stigma associated with being depressed. Too many young people are caught up in the comparison game, and that is causing them to spiral into confusion, and anxiety.
As far as drug abuse goes, I think we need to keep educating people about the detriments to their health, and also create more avenues for people to be rehabilitated properly. Furthermore, our leaders, celebrities, influencers, all need to pay more attention to these issues and work together to create awareness for them.
What are your personal and professional challenges?
Everything in life comes with various challenges, even the superheroes in the movies have to fight people, and even their own emotional struggles. I have my fair share of challenges, especially as I work on the client side, but also manage operations. I am continuously dealing with solving peopleís problems, and that sometimes means fully immersing myself in understanding the problem first, before I try to solve. I have learned to focus on the objectives, and not worry about the fluff, there is so much fluff in the consultancy world. The most important thing to me is generating results, everything else is secondary.
Define your brand
My brand promise is that I help creative people take decisive actions so that they can get their greatest work into the world, and solve problems. I also show people how to live a purpose driven life.
My final words are for every young person reading this. Be Patient. Time is a great storyteller. This is my mantra. I believe that we can beat many variables in life, but cannot beat time. The understanding and acceptance of this fact, brings focus, peace of mind, and ultimately Joy. I know you want to ìhammerî overnight, but I suggest that you keep working hard and let all things work together for your good. Your future self will thank you for putting in the work now. Trust your journey, but more importantly trust the process.
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