‘Africa is the place to make it happen’

Biola Alabi is the CEO and founder of Biola Alabi Media, a consulting, production, film and television company based in Lagos. She returned to Nigeria from the US in 2008.

Alabi was born in Chicago, Illinois and lived there until she was 8 years old. She later moved to Nigeria with her family and didn’t return until she entered college. “I was encouraged to study science so I originally took pre-med because I knew I was good at it and would make my parents happy,” she said. “I quickly found out I didn’t want to be a doctor, but I knew I wanted to help people in some capacity.” So she figured public health was the best route to take.

Alabi had her first taste in marketing when she had to take courses in film and marketing as part of her public health program. After graduating with a degree in Public and Community Health from the University of Cincinnati in 1996, she moved to Korea for two years as part of the marketing team to launch the Korean motor vehicle company Daewoo in the United States. This was a move she said helped her adapt to the business culture internationally. “It was very challenging living in a place where people weren’t use to me,” she said. “They were familiar with black people in movies, they knew black people lived in America, but the frame of reference was so limited.”

Later, Alabi earned a position at an internet start-up company in San Francisco, and that was the beginning of her e-commerce journey. She ran a marketing campaign for them until she was faced with a situation that turned for the worse. “The company went bankrupt,” said Alabi. “Things just fell apart and I ended up unemployed.” She had a hard time finding work. Alabi had never had a hard time finding a job and the experience soon became a big reality check.

“The economy was rough, my employment benefits ran out, and I couldn’t control what was happening to me at a macro-level,” she said. “I told myself maybe if I was a doctor this wouldn’t be happening to me.” At that point she moved to New York City seeking another job opportunity, but that eventually fell through. She ended up doing temp work all across New York, from bartending, dog walking, and waitressing to keep a roof over her head. “I was mildly depressed,” said Alabi. “I really had to be positive and rediscover myself because my purpose in life depended on it.”

She sent out numerous resumes until she landed a job with Sesame Street in 2003. “This was the turning point for me,” she said.

Alabi worked with Sesame Street for five years before making another career decision. She wanted to take her talents to Nigeria. “I knew it was time to do something else. I wanted more,” she said. “So I moved back home to Nigeria in 2008.

She held a prominent position as Managing Director of M-Net Africa, a well-respected television broadcast channel. She worked tirelessly to create broadcast content made for Africans by Africans. Overseeing the launches of numerous television programming.

After cementing her legacy with M-Net, her next move was to start her own business. In 2015, Biola Alabi Media was born. She saw that there was a gap in the creative industry in Nigeria and she wanted to change it. “I consider this to be my passion project. I am interested in new talent,” she said. “It’s a global market and I want to create a platform where we can incorporate fresh faces and ideas.” As much as she loved America, she felt her skills would be more of use at home.

Alabi understood the trajectory of the media and film industry in Africa and in Nigeria and saw that it will have a positive impact economically.

“I started my business during one of the toughest economic times in Nigeria,” she said. “It helped me to manage my resources, build with a small team, and work with very little resources while getting the most out of them.”

“If you have a business that can add value to people’s lives and can contribute to the betterment of the continent, then Africa is the place to make it happen,” she said. “Visit during your vacations, shadow small business owners, network, collaborate, learn the language of the business and demographic before you begin your journey.  There are many myths about doing business in Africa, but I am living proof that the opportunities here are endless.”

Not only has Alabi been recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of the 20 youngest power women in Africa, but she is a World Economic Forum Global Leader, and a Yale World Fellow, just to name a few.

Source: Bel Monique

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