Bidemi Zakariyau is the founder of LSF|PR, one of the fastest growing PR agencies in Nigeria. In this piece, she shares her story to ignite the growth of potential women seeking to reach their dreams.
How I Began
I have always been interested in media and communications since I was a teenager. However, the dream of studying Public Relations in university died when I turned out to be the best law student in college. But after law school, and working at top-tier law firms, I decided to finally follow my passion for public relations.
My journey was not void of challenges, notable of which are diversifying my client portfolio, building a team and scaling – with no PR experience. Initially, I worked with fashion brands, but I wanted to work with corporate and consumer brands too. However, the biggest challenge was finding the right people because of the skills gap in Nigeria.
I also had to deal with Nigerians not believing and respecting the talents of young women. I started my company at 23 and found that not only were clients skeptical about working with a young woman, but many people, including potential employees and their family members found it odd that I was such a young entrepreneur and this made hiring even more difficult.
I continued to build our client portfolio. The breakthrough moment happened when we did the PR for a client’s art exhibition and we secured Laurent-Perrier Champagne as an alcoholic beverage sponsor. The art exhibition received a lot of press coverage which Laurent-Perrier benefited from.
I called the Laurent-Perrier team and asked to meet with them and discuss PR strategy that could help in positioning the brand in Nigeria. I knew full well that this was a longshot as a company that big may not want to work with small PR agencies such as mine.
After the meeting, I was informed that the company represented other brands and was told to send a proposal for the twelve beverage brands under Ledrop. They loved all our ideas and offered us all their key accounts.
These accounts were huge for us as they were all global brands, our work with these brands – positioning them in the Nigerian market – had a beneficial effect on the growth of my company.
If I Could…
I wish I had worked at a PR agency first. I think getting experience first before starting my own business could have prepared for some of the operational challenges of running a PR business. Personally, that is a piece of advice I would give my younger self and any potential entrepreneur out there. Getting experience cannot be over-emphasised.
Having a great support system is valuable as a business owner. You need people who troubleshoot with you when you have problems and people who cheer you on when you have bad days. Partnerships are great because you can move faster when you collaborate with others. However, you have to be careful about it.
Vision is important because it gives you a direction and something to look back at even if you succeed or fail. From a leadership perspective, vision is everything. What type of leader are you if you have no vision? You have a team depending on you and it’s your job to share that vision with them so they can execute effectively.
Being a Woman
There’s no gainsaying that it is definitely challenging being a young woman in Nigeria – across family, social and political expectations – but you have to be fearless. You don’t want to look back on your life and have regrets because you didn’t pursue your passions but spent your life focusing on other people’s ideas of who you should be.
From a business perspective, programmes that demand diversity across all levels of a company are also important. You can claim to be a diverse company that hires women but if all these women are lower staff and not the decision-makers – managers, directors, board members and so on, then there’s something wrong. Investors need to give more funding to women to help balance out the gender wealth gap and the gender pay gap.
- Live fearlessly and follow your passions.
- As a boss, you have to live out your vision if you want your staff to believe in and run with it
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in The Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.