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My Barbie-like appearance is deceptive-says Ono Bello

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Ono Bello is an entrepreneur and a style maven who is passionate about Nigerian businesses. She is the CEO/Editor-in-Chief of OnoBello Media – an online media and public relations company.

In this interview with Yetunde Oladeinde, the tall modelesque beauty shares her story, Get Motivated project, why she is a big supporter of Nigerian and African fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands.

What inspired you to be an online media entrepreneur?

For me, my inspiration for going into my line of business came after I completed my Master’s degree. I was full of so many ideas and I knew they were being underutilised in my place of work, then I would say I was not totally fulfilled even though the job looked interesting to outsiders. It had become boring to me and I wanted more. I needed a place where my ideas were being put to good use. I wanted to start and grow them. I would say I had some BIG ideas but they were not being utilised and most people working in certain 9-5 jobs might be able to relate to that. So, I decided to start something small and put in everything I had to make it grow.

I started my career in the media in 2005, just before I graduated from the university with my first degree, as a correspondent for the popular ThisDay Style magazine. I left briefly to further my education in 2008 and returned in 2010 where I worked with the newspaper’s sister publication, Arise Magazine London.

What was it like for you at the beginning of your career?

My background is deeply rooted in journalism, not only is my first degree in English, I started my career with one of the biggest newspapers in the country. I started working for ThisDay a few months before I actually graduated from university and while working there, I re-discovered my love for fashion and yearned to make something out of it. Though at that time, the internet and social media wasn’t yet mainstream. So, I worked there from 2005-2008 until I went for my masters at Middlesex Business School, London, United Kingdom, and after graduation in 2010, I worked for Arise Magazine London.

During my time at Arise, I noticed that a lot of people who were working at major publications were starting their own websites and blogs on the side. So, that gave me the idea to start mine.

My experience at ThisDay and Arise gave me a fantastic work ethic. The institution shaped my work ethic and determination to exceed expectations. When I first mapped out the idea of creating this online magazine, I never imagined the overwhelming reception it would receive; it goes to show that hard work and commitment does pay off.

What are some of the challenges starting your online magazine?

At the time I started my online magazine, I was living and working in the UK. So I made a decision to move back to Nigeria, with no money, nowhere to live in Lagos because prior to this I had sold my car, all my belongings and moved out of my small mini flat to go study in the UK and chase my dreams working for a magazine there. My parents don’t live in Lagos, so it was not a question of moving back with my parents. I had graduated with my first degree six years prior to that time and I couldn’t see myself asking my parents for money because I had been quite independent and taking care of myself all this while. However, before I quit my job, I started putting things in place to kick start my dream. I started building my website with the help of a friend that knows how to build websites and doing a lot of researches along the lines of what I wanted to do.

I then moved back to Nigeria and was staying with a friend for a few months who I had asked to give me three months to get my place. Yes, I was a squatter. I only had money to fend for myself for four months and that meant transport myself around and buy food. So, as you can tell, the pressure was on. But you know what, I was hopeful I had something to offer. I worked hard, had sleepless nights, stayed consistent, hopeful, surrounded myself with people that inspired me, validated my dreams and this made me strive to get better. Most of all, I prayed fervently. I still do all that today.

So I started my online magazine and at that time it focussed mainly on fashion and lifestyle and getting adverts for businesses in other sectors was difficult. That is why I had to broaden it to include news, entertainment, music, arts and celebrity news. I also had to strategise on how to make some money, which was how I doubled as a public relations consultant.

Tell us about your project, “GetMotivatedWith OnoBello”

“GetMotivatedwithOB” is aimed at being an annual conference where we host young entrepreneurs and growing businesses across Nigeria.

It is an opportunity to meet the most exciting, entrepreneurial individuals in Nigeria. It is a great opportunity to meet, connect and listen to other entrepreneurs all working on exciting projects, as well as disrupting new markets.

This conference is for any new, young or growing entrepreneur that wants to learn and network with other like-minded individuals.

It is about sharing business ideas, new investment opportunities. Here, the participants learn how to start a business, marketing techniques, branding, mentorship and so on.

We invite professionals and leaders in business to give talks, hold master classes and mentor budding entrepreneurs in the hope of helping them in turn grow their businesses. We invite experts from leading companies in marketing, public relations, give legal business advice as well as get social media opportunities from top companies and brands in Nigeria and beyond.

Our maiden edition pilot conference where we hosted 60 entrepreneurs took place on the 15th of September 2017 in Victoria Island, Lagos; it had the theme “Inspiration”. Business leaders; Funke Bucknor-Obruthe (CEO Zapphaire Events) Oke Maduewesi (CEO Zaron Cosmetics)

Seun Tayo-Balogun (Founder/CEO Brief Essentials & Co-Founder of Techmonks Limited)

Lanre DaSilva Ajayi (Creative Director LDA), Tunji Ashiru (Executive of Strategic Policy Engagement, Interswitch Group) and Ibikunle Bolorunduro, (Fidelity Bank SME Business Advisor) gave talks and hosted master classes.

Highlights from the maiden conference also included half a million naira support to 10 entrepreneurs, networking coupled with loads of fun. This 2019, we are working on the second edition, hence we are calling on brands, businesses and like-minded individuals to support and sponsor this conference this year as we are planning to host a minimum of 300 entrepreneurs.

What are some of the other things that occupy your time?

I spend a lot of my time hustling and grinding. That means working 12-15 hours day/7 days a week, which means having less leisure time. Creating content and working in public relations takes a lot of hard work.

The cool thing about it though is you can work it into your everyday life. The internet simply means you can work anywhere in the world.

Forget all those “get rich” fads, there is no substitution for hard work.

Would you say it is lucrative?

While it might seem as though a lot of online media entrepreneurs and bloggers have started scoring six-figure income, I can tell you that being that lucrative is not easy to score. I have been working at this for eight years; creating contents, then gradually moving on to be an influencer, and I can say it is not an easy task making money out of it. What most people do not realise is that it also costs a lot to run an online magazine, you have real bills like most businesses; 24 hours electricity, stable internet, which means subscribing to three-four internet providers, website hosting, paying content writers, social media administrators, graphics, photographers, videographer and so on. It hasn’t been easy; however, I love what I do, so it’s quite lucrative.

Who or what do you consider as the greatest influence in your life?

I am my greatest influence as odd as that may sound. For me, my greatest influence is self-improvement. When I started doing this, everyone did not understand what and why I was going into the online media and venturing from a well recognised organisation to starting from nothing. I take a leaf off Oprah Winfey’s success. You cannot fulfil it unless you have a level of self awareness to be connected to the inner voice….I call it your ’emotional GPS system’ that allows you to make the best decisions for yourself.

Let’s compare when you started and now, what has changed?

I have less and less sleep and pay more and more bills. Lol. But seriously, OnoBello Media was not built overnight. In fact, before I started OnoBello.com, remember I was already in the media environment working for ThisDay and Arise. So from there, I realised I could do even more with the name I had built and started my online magazine.

As we all know that audience is key to success, I have spent the bulk of my time doing this, and this has meant taking a few years to build a large, devoted audience of authentic and engaged followers. Since I have worked on building my audience, I think I am already halfway to mogul status.

In what ways has this changed your lifestyle?

Well, I think I am now open. I had to learn to move from my private shell to be an extrovert. My followers certainly know a lot about my life, or the edited version of it, which I post on social media anyway. I post daily about my style, projects, travel and adventures both on OnoBello accounts and on my personal account, OnoDiary.

What are some of the changes that you would like to see in the sector?

I think I might prompt eye rolls from older generations who believe success should flow from perhaps being a doctor, lawyer, or even work in an oil company like my parents think. I will like to see that change because I am making a positive impact with what I do. I have made my career from moving with technological advancements and I am part of a new breed of social media players who go beyond blogging to all platforms.

What are some of the lessons that you have learnt?

The biggest and most successful business leaders all started small and grew organically. If I continue to work at growing my business, brands, companies, and individuals will pay me big bucks to write, endorse and attend their events. Every blogger or online entrepreneur earns money in different ways.

What is your definition of style? What won’t you do in the name of fashion?

Always staying true to yourself. Never say never.

What are some of the things that you treasure most in life?

My work and happiness.

How do you relax?

Spending time with the people I love, travel, shopping and sampling restaurants.

Where do you expect to be in the next few years?

I will obviously like to grow OnoBello Media to be the number one source of factual and entertaining online magazine. Also, I will like to go into retails by starting up my own clothing and accessories line that will sell on my own websites, and of course with flagship stores in major cities within Nigeria.

I want to be able to share my wealth of experience through periodically organised master classes and conferences as well as solidify my credibility by being a brand ambassador to top local and international brands.

People need to know that my Barbie-like demeanour is deceptive, I am very much focused on business.

Let’s talk about the people you admire and role models.

That’s easy; Chiara Ferragni, she’s an Italian influencer who has built a global brand.

If you had to advise young people, what would you tell them?

Start your dream and passion today with what you have and where you are. Start small and grow from there. Time waits for no one and advancement in technology is growing rapidly. You really do not want to miss out on all that it has to offer.

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