Wednesday, 4 March 2015

2015 #AfricanEntrepreneur Of The Month: Chioma Nnani

We're so excited to have officially launched our series on #AfricanEntrepreneurs. An initiative to showcase the brilliance and creativity of entrepreneurs from across our continent. 

We're honoured to have award winning Nigerian author, storyteller and producer, Chioma Nnani as my first feature. Enjoy the article below... The lovely Chioma in her own words:


I knew from a young age that being financially independent was something I had to have. I knew I wouldn't get it from a '9-5'. Yes, I have had 'normal (9-5) jobs'; they taught me a lot – including what I didn't want for myself. At some point, I thought I would be a lawyer. But I believed I would be a lawyer with a number of different business interests and sidelines.

Operating the way that I currently do, took being honest with myself (about my strengths, weaknesses and desires), which led to a massive paradigm shift that I needed. Many people's lives consist of be born, go to school, get grades that are good enough to push you to the next class, so that you can graduate with a certain result, so that you can get a particular job, then retire. I knew a long time ago that that cycle wouldn't work for me; that leaving my financial security up to any company, was not a risk I could take. I get very nervous when my money (and by extension, my life) is determined by someone else, their moods or whatever else is going on with them. There was also the fact that my scores in certain subjects meant I was not deemed to be 'very academic'.

Now, when you're faced with these issues and circumstances, you start to think outside the box, real quick. I knew I was good with my hands – when I was a teenager (after I finished high school and before I went off to university), I ran a small-scale catering business. I would wake up at 4am, five days a week to make sure that products were ready to be delivered to where they would be sold. I'm asthmatic, so I was constantly on Ventolin and Piriton tablets to counteract the effects of frying (some of the products), on my respiratory system. But I wasn't bothered – the thrill of making your own money; there are no words to describe it. Along with the actual money, came opportunities to develop and hone discipline. Getting up when everyone else is still asleep, is not funny. I opened a bank account before I went to university – that made me feel like I could do anything. For some people, that might have seemed demeaning, but I didn't see it that way. I knew one of the things I was good at; then, I turned it into money.

So, by the time I graduated from university and figured out what I wanted to do with my life, there was no issue of “Will people be OK with this?” My mindset is and remains such that whether people understood why I would walk away from a potential career in Law – whether they understood that or not – was of no consequence to me. It was more a question of “How do I turn what I'm good at … what I can do with my hands, into something that people are willing to exchange money for? I did this before I went to uni, even when I had only recognised one skill. Now, I've even got the benefit of additional education, brawn and balls.”

With the creative industry, it's a bit of learning curve but the principles are the same. It helps to know that I am talented. It also helps when a potential client knows, that I know, that I am (talented). I haven't got the time or patience for (displaying) faux humility – if I was a horrible writer, nobody would give me the time of day. You don't book an appointment with an artisan, if their work doesn't inspire confidence. Also, I don't believe there's any decent creative on the planet, who doesn't know that they are good at what they do. They may not know how good they are, or just why they are good. Not knowing at all that they are talented, is an indicator of low self-esteem. That is very different from humility.

Because I bear these in mind, I am audacious about monetising (what began as) my talent. People don't necessarily pay for talent in itself; they pay for talent that's been polished into a discernible skill. The fewer people who can produce the results you are known for, the better. Being talented but broke, is an insult. I'm honest with myself about what's important to me. Therefore, I have no hang-ups about admitting it. Being one of the most fearless storytellers in the world, is incredibly important. But being a wealthy and fearless storyteller, is even more important.


I wasn't happy; personally and professionally. I didn't feel centred. There was all this stuff going on and it was making me completely miserable. I looked fine on the outside – published author, radio producer and presenter, ghost-writer – but some fundamental things were missing. So, despite what things looked like to others, I wasn't living at my fullest potential. It's difficult to really explain that to someone who hasn't lived that nightmare; there was a connection that just wasn't there.

I am so bloody-minded, that it can be mistaken for recklessness. There are times when I over-analyse and there are other times when I go on instinct. Moving back home was a decision that my head and my heart agreed with – there was no battle, there. It might seem odd, but I wasn't afraid of coming home to Africa. I don't have a massive trust-fund from a billionaire dad; I wasn't coming back to a glorified VP position in a parent's business empire; I didn't have any safety net to rely on. But these didn't scare me.

The prospect of remaining in a place where I was miserable, ill and not manifesting at my fullest potential – that was what scared me. I just thought, “I could die like this, totally unfulfilled.” Of course, people would have applauded and been all like, “Oh, she did X, Y, Z” but I would always know that I was also capable of doing A-W. I would know that because I didn't do A-W, I had failed. That wasn't something I was ready to settle for.

Like I said before, I'm bloody-minded, so when I make up my mind to do something, I will go a million extra miles, if that's what it takes. There were lots of people who were saying, “Oh, you know, you're making a mistake. Sure, things can be tough in England, but you just need to hang in there” and I was thinking, “Y'all cannot be serious! You must not know me!” I'm a grafter, I'm not afraid of a tough situation or of working hard. I've endured and survived a number of sh*tty situations. Some of the situations were so … challenging, that even when people hear about them now, they think, “Oh, she's probably writing another fiction novel.” But they are real. So, the idea that I wanted to walk away because I couldn't hack it, was just laughable.

Again, I'm not as impressed with 'appearances' – there's a bit of an obsession with 'looking successful' as opposed to 'being successful'. So, people will go to incredible lengths to acquire (or even fake the acquisition of) so-called status symbols. Especially now with social media, some people are more titillated by dumb arguments over whether the designer label on a purse they've seen on someone's Instagram profile, is real. Some couples are more interested in making kissy-faces in photos on Facebook, than on working on their relationship. These are things that delude people into thinking that they look hip. I just think, “That is a poverty mentality, seeping out and disgracing you.” When you're excessively turned on by a physical thing, it just means that you don't have that in abundance. When I was a kid, my dad had a poultry farm – every Sunday, we had pounded yam, nsala soup and chicken for lunch. Till date, that's one of my best meals because we didn't have that, everyday. Apart from the fact that it's fattening, it just wouldn't have been normal to eat that, everyday. That's human nature. So, when I see someone losing their mind because their validation comes from a pair of Jimmy Choos or a Burberry creation, I know I'm looking at a very poor person – regardless of what their bank account actually says. The only reason they're tripping is because they're not used to it. It's extraordinary to them. I also know that I'm looking at someone who will do anything to 'seem successful', but will not put in half the effort to be successful. Most of the time, they don't have what it takes, which is another reason they're dedicated to 'seeming successful'. I haven't got that kind of time and I don't care about such things. I am more interested in actually having £1,000,000 in my bank accounts and investments, than in looking like I have that – so that some people on social media, that I don't even know, can moon over my photos and go, “London Big Girl!” I use all my social media accounts for work. Some information I regard as 'personal' cannot even be found on either my Facebook profile or page. I absolutely refuse to spend my time or money for internet subscription, to go on social media and pander to anyone's vanity. The mindset I have regarding social media usage, is an offshoot of my approach to life – I will do what I know is right for me, regardless of how glamorous the opposite looks to others.

I'm also quite good at leaving things behind, without any regrets, if I believe their season is over. So, even feeling trepidation is not an excuse to be paralysed by fear, when you know that you're doing what's right for you.

A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE: Perceived Stumbling Blocks That Were Actually Stepping Stones

(laughing) I've had a number of those.
One major one was in launching my career. After I graduated from uni, I discovered that someone I trusted, was trying to rob me. In fact they had faked a friendship with me for five years, so that they could have access to the material I had written. If they hadn't been so evil that they tried to rob me of my work, I don't know if I would have noticed that the material was good enough to be published. So, that was a supposed stumbling block that turned out to be more than just a stepping stone in reality; more like a flying leap!


- I am obsessed with Swarovski crystals and New York penthouses.
- I really want to ride a camel. I've been told that I cannot own one, so I'm willing to settle for just riding one :)

Contact details
Twitter: @ChiomaNnani
Facebook: Chioma Nnani
LinkedIn: Chioma Nnani

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