On Nairametrics‘ Founder’s Profile this week, we bring you one of Nigeria’s finest, changing the narratives about Africa to the world. After several interactions via e-mail, Nairametrics was able to secure an interview with her. From her smiling pictures that abound on the internet, one could mistake her for an ex-beauty queen. The tall, beautiful and brainy Biola Alabi can be remembered by many as the Managing Director of M-Net Africa, but she has since moved on and is now a media entrepreneur-founder and Managing Partner of Biola Alabi Media.
While waiting for her to start the conversation, I was quite unsure what to expect from her besides the information contained in feeds online about this successful woman. Throughout the short conversation, her Western upbringing was reflective in her voice and mannerism as she eloquently provided answers to our questions.
Her Early Days
Biola was born in the US to Nigerian parents. The eldest among four children, her dad is from Akure in Ondo State, while her mother is from Ilesa, a town in Osun State. After some time in the US, her parents moved back to Nigeria, where the young Biola spent some years before they eventually returned to the US. While growing up, Biola’s parents wanted her to become either a doctor or an engineer but fate had other plans.
Education and Work experience
Because of her parents’ back and forth movement, Biola had her early education in Nigeria and the US. She attended the University of Cincinnati for her Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in Public Health and graduated in 1996. She later proceeded to the Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government for a Certificate in Global Leadership and Public Policy.
She kick-started her career at Bigwords.com as a Regional Marketing Manager and later moved to Sesame Workshop as the Regional Director, International Strategies Group Sub-Saharan Africa. She was at Sesame Workshop for seven years and later joined MNET Africa in 2008 as the Managing Director Africa, where she oversaw 4 editions of Big brother Africa and African Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards in 2013.
Experience at Sesame Workshop and MNET appointment
During her stay at Sesame Workshop, formerly Children’s Television Workshop, a non-profit organisation that provides educational learning resources for children through TV, she was saddled with the responsibility of looking into international markets and local productions of their flagship program, Sesame Streets. Biola was in charge of the Africa markets, this required that she travel to different countries on the continent, and also work with different broadcasters and producers to set up a local production of Sesame Street. During the course of her work at Sesame, travelling around Africa (South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania) like the goldfish that has no hiding place, Biola was spotted by M-Net and the rest is history today.
The Biola Alabi Media (BAM)
Biola left M-Net to start her media outfit, Biola Alabi Media (BAM), a fast-growing media company dedicated to telling authentic African stories to the rest of the world. BAM, a content creation and consulting company, is based in Lagos while working across the world in broadcasting, telecommunication, and digital industries. Since its establishment in 2014 the media outfit hit the ground running with its first film, Banana Island Ghost, and its first TV show, Bukas and Joints which is regarded as the most watched TV food show across the country.
According to Biola, creating a positive narrative about Africa spurred her to establish her media outfit.
“One of the things that have really been core and important to me from a very early stage in my career has been how can we constantly add and create positive narratives about Africa about the continent and how we can make sure that we have enough positive images locally, that we can see of ourselves and globally, that we can share. And I think doing that you have to believe that there is a story that you are not seeing out there. That’s how we started the company.”
How BAM has been able to manage challenges
According to Biola, some challenges facing the media include funding, distribution, and right partnerships. So far, her media group has been able to manage these challenges by working with the right partners.
“working with the right partners has helped us and as an entrepreneur, you have to constantly find ways to get your product out there, which is a constant process. I don’t want to give the impression that we just scale through all these problems.
“We’re constantly working through these challenges and problems using innovative solution tools.”
She advised entrepreneurs to always see challenges as opportunities and also continue leveraging on their network for growth.
Her Grooming for Greatness Project
Apart from the BAM, Biola also has a mentoring and grooming academy named Grooming for Greatness. The Academy equips selected participants with tools and skills that they need on their journeys as professionals and entrepreneurs.
According to Biola, the flagship has rolled out and accommodated 2 sets, with a call for new applications opening in January.
“We’re very excited about the advancements we’ve made there and the opportunities we’re creating and the dialogue that we’re having with the next generation of Nigerian leaders.”
Her Personal Life
Biola is happily married. She describes her husband as a wonderful man, and a beautiful person all around. She also loves to invest in early-stage companies with the potential to scale and make huge impacts on people’s lives. She describes travelling and reading as her relaxation techniques. Biola also sits on the board of Unilever Nigeria Plc as a Non-Executive Director.
Biola is the recipient of several awards by A-list organisations around the world among which are:
- Listed among top 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa by Forbes in 2013.
- West African Business Woman of the Year in 2013 by CNBC Africa.
- Financial Times 100 Global Female Executives list 2018.
Additional Information provided by Ibukunoluwa Samuel.