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BN Trailblazers & Tastemakers: With Over 2 Decades of Creating Glamour, Uche Majekodunmi Shares the Newton & David Story with BellaNaija

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When you see a glamorously set up events venue, you’re most likely to hear the words “Newton & David“. This amazing woman, Uche Majekodunmi is the force behind Newton & David. Born 53 years ago in Manchester, UK, Uche studied Theatre Arts at the University of Jos. Then, she went on to get a Masters degree at Liverpool University. On getting back to Nigeria, Uche channeled her passion into her profession. In this interesting chat with her she tells us all about the life of a florist, events planner, wife & mother all rolled in one! We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we enjoy bringing it to you. Madam Uche at Venue 5

Tell us about yourself?
I am married with five children; the youngest is 14 years old while the eldest is 20 years old. My husband is a Yoruba man. I was educated in Nigeria but born in Manchester, United Kingdom.

How would you describe your business vision?
High standards and excellence at the quickest time at the best possible price.

Why did you decide to become a florist?
I am not just a florist. I am a creative person. Being a florist does not completely represent who I am. I am an event decorator and manager.

Can you tell us what events management involves?
It involves collecting a brief from a client and walking them through the entire process from conceptualisation to implementation. A typical brief would have the following basic information – date, time, theme (if the client knows) and the number of guests, etc.

In Nigeria, people underestimate the value of event planners; they don’t really know why they should engage an event planner.

Does becoming an events manager require formal training? What does one need?
Yes, it does. Any type of formal training in events management is always useful. It provides you with the right skills and techniques. The biggest advantage of proper formal training is it allows you the opportunity to give your clients real value for money.

What are the duties of an event planner?
Take a wedding for example; it is the responsibility of the event planner to ensure that everything goes according to plan on the D-day. I find very often, even when we are not the official event planners and we have been contracted to offer our decor services only, clients ask us for the floor plan.

If I am not planning the event, the flood plan is none of my business. The role of the events planner is to make sure that the car is decorated, the bridal cake gets to the client, the corsages gets to the groom; all of the above are the responsibilities of an event planner. The decorator and/or florist can get the corsages and the flowers ready but it is the job of the event planner to coordinate and make sure that all these ‘to-dos’ are pre-arranged and everything goes smoothly.

In simpler terms, every single issue that a client might face on the day should be met with poise by the event planner. So if the air conditioning unit breaks down, the event planner should have made alternative plans to resolve this issue.

How much capital does one really require to start this kind of business?
Well, I can only speak for myself; I didn’t start with any capital. I started very small but consistent. I worked very hard over a long period of time and now I’m proud to call myself a professional.

Can you share some of the difficulties you experienced?
Over the years, my biggest difficulty has been finding dedicated personnel. Like-minded, hardworking people who share our vision. I personally work 92 hours-a-week. Not everyone shares this work ethic.

Other challenges are more obvious – electricity, water, infrastructure, corruption, and excessive taxes; often taxes that are not in commensuration with one’s profit.

How did you overcome the challenges of starting a business in Nigeria?
That’s a very good question. I just take things one at a time; I am trying my best to do my bit. The most important thing is to keep forging ahead.

Give us a description of a typical work day for you?
I wake up at 5am. I attend morning mass because I’m Catholic. This usually sets the tone for my day. When I return home, we have breakfast together as a family before I head to the office. A typical day is over at about 6:30pm.

Share some of the details of running an established event management company and florist outlet in Nigeria?
First of all, my approach is Teamwork. At Newton & David, we have what we call “Monday Meetings”. At these weekly meetings, we coordinate the various arms of Newton and David – Event Management, Flora Decor, and Set Design.

We find out what our current challenges/ constraints are. All the events (in progress) for the next couple of weeks are analyzed and scrutinized depending on how much detail is required.

We then draft a responsibility matrix accordingly with the various departments. By doing so, there is no room for vacuum. Every team member is alert to his/ her responsibility.

In a nutshell, “Monday meetings” are very crucial. Often they last anything from two to five hours. The rest of the week is used to troubleshoot. If there is a challenge, I step in. If anything is slowed down, I try to speed it up. I’m very hands-on; so I endeavour to cross-check everything that goes out to the client.

How would you describe the average Newton and David client?
Our clients are from all walks of life. We have bankers, high profile politicians, personalities, and private individuals to name a few. We have worked for 5 Heads of States directly and indirectly, including General Ibrahim Babangida’s daughter nuptials, the late Mrs. Stellar Obasanjo’s state funeral and so on.

We thank God for everything. Essentially, we have been here for 22 years. We are the oldest event decorators in the industry.

A lot of entrepreneurs complain about not having good and reliable staff. How do you source good staff and keep them?

Well, like I mentioned earlier, a big challenge for us at Newton & David Events is competent personnel. However, I’m very proud of our team and we continue to invest heavily in them. It is important to us that they are at par with their international counterparts. At Newton & David Events, we believe people are our assets.

Describe your personal style in a few words?
Laidback, Simple, Comfortable, Regal. That is it.

Do you infuse personal style into your floral arrangement?
No. Whatever you see is what my client wants. I am an interpreter. It is not about me.

Where do you see Newton & David Events in 5 years?
The goal is to continuously infuse new energy, new creative talents into the business. Recently, Gozie Coker (Events Manager, Newton & David Events) joined our team and she is in charge of our new office in Victoria Island, Lagos.In five year’s time, I pray I would have gotten to the point where I can just come into the office to say ‘Hello!’ to the team.

Would you say that the Events Management industry is a profitable one that an individual can go into comfortably?
One of the most encouraging things about being Nigerian is the endless possibilities. In Nigeria, almost every business can be profitable depending on the approach you take. But then, don’t expect ‘Oil and Gas’ profits or ‘Government’ profits from an events management business.

Do you run Newton & David Events solely or you have partners? If so, do you have creative differences? If so, how do you resolve them?
At the moment, Newton & David Events has two shareholders. Very soon, we shall be bringing in two/three more shareholders. Do we have our differences? Yes, we do. It is inevitable, even Siamese twins see things differently.

How do you balance the work life with being a mother and a wife?
(Laughs) Fantastic question again. That is by the grace of God. It is very difficult but no matter how tired I am, I always remind myself about the amazing gift God has given to me, and that is my family. I try my best to reach out to my children and be as observant as I possibly can. Parenting doesn’t have a handbook; it is just trying your best.

Work-wise, long gone are the days when mothers sit down and watch their infants grow. Women must do something.

Do you have any Corporate Social Responsibility projects you’re working on right now? Please share some of them with us if so?
(Paused) I don’t know how to quantify that because I do a lot of work privately and I would hate to announce it. This is personal.

What do you say to an aspiring event manager or florist who thinks the industry is quite daunting?
To all the budding events managers and/or florists, focus on developing yourself. Read as many books as possible about your field of interest and never compare yourself to anyone else.

Letting our hair down

Which celebrity would you raid her wardrobe?
None. Honestly. It’s funny; I don’t really want to look like any of them. They all look the same. Do I look like them? {Chuckles}

What super power would you like to have?
Absolute peace, if that is a super power. It is just the ability to have total peace of mind, soul and spirit. With peace, you have joy.

What is your favourite colour?
Black, which is ironic because but I am a colour freak.

What is your favourite BellaNaija segment?
{Laughs} The BN Weddings, of course!

What is the oddest thing in your handbag right now?
{Laughs}…There’s a tissue paper with chewed gum that I put inside.

If your house (God forbid) was burning and you could only get one item out, what would it be?
Once everyone is out and safe, it’s okay. To God, be the glory.

Who is the most famous person on your phone contact list?
No comment.

What is your favourite meal?
I love food. However, I do have a soft-spot for Pounded yam with white soup.

In conclusion, share some words on marble with our readers.
Our people have been cheated. Don’t be disappointed. Don’t feel you cannot achieve. As much as there is so much sadness about our country, there is so much joy. This is a country that has everything. There are lots of foreigners particularly Black Americans, other West Africans that come here and they are envious of the Nigerian spirit. It is not a myth, it is there.

The youth should continue to believe in themselves, hang in there and strive as much as possible to get yourselves an education. Education is your passport to freedom. I know it can be tough but please try. Education is not purely about academics, I also believe the artisan who knows what he is doing is a millionaire. I have numerous examples like my carpenter who is like an “oga at the top”. Just be educated in whatever it is you are doing.

You probably wanna read a fancy bio? But first things first! Atoke published a book titled, +234 - An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian. It's available on Amazon. ;)  Also available at Roving Heights bookstore. Okay, let's go on to the bio: With a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University, Atoke hopes to be known as more than just a retired foodie and a FitFam adherent. She can be reached for speechwriting, copywriting, letter writing, script writing, ghost writing  and book reviews by email – [email protected]. She tweets with the handle @atoke_ | Check out her Instagram page @atoke_ and visit her website atoke.com for more information.

36 Comments

  1. pearl

    July 26, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    Wow….very matured interview..so full of wisdom….the part I like best ”It is just the ability to have total peace of mind, soul and spirit. With peace, you have joy”…so true!!!

  2. Aisha

    July 26, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    I love this beautiful woman already!

  3. Myne Whitman

    July 26, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Lovely interview, that last picture is amazing.

  4. Spotter

    July 26, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Wow . , ,nice one! Well done and keep moving forward. All the best

  5. violet

    July 26, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    Lovely

    • violet

      July 26, 2013 at 7:11 pm

      Interview truly interesting and lovely woman

  6. violet

    July 26, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    Interesting. I like 🙂

    • violet

      July 26, 2013 at 7:11 pm

      Interview truly interesting

  7. Obi

    July 26, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    Very nice interview. Inspirational. Not starting with capital? Even more inspirational. That’s a can-do-attitude.

  8. jay

    July 26, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    i love this woman very inspiring

  9. lola

    July 26, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    i love her. I have heard a lot of good things about her. kudos.

  10. .....just saying

    July 26, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    Wow! Great interview.

    Bella permit me to digress a little pleaaase. Does anyone know what type under garment she’s wearing in the first pic? I need it in my life. Despite the lycra fabric it’s not even showing….Wow!

    Thanks

    • Sel

      July 26, 2013 at 10:12 pm

      Spanx baby

  11. oyin

    July 26, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    I would love to be superhero peace too. Hi5 Uche

  12. Idak

    July 26, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    Very very strong woman.
    I will say no more.
    Much respect,Ma.

  13. Princess

    July 26, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    i laughed so hard @ chewing gum in tissue paper! great interview

  14. Shanday

    July 26, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    Super talented. She knows her craft. Plus she is super witty.

  15. Ada

    July 26, 2013 at 10:05 pm

    Anty Uche I remember the first day I heard ur voice .. . ” I need the brillent white here ” in my mind as a new comer in d event industry in 2004 , wht is brillent white again … I know bette now … Indeed u r a force to reckon with

  16. Pachie

    July 26, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    Great Interview…i’m also a budding Event organizer in Kenya and your words are encouraging .
    Thanks

  17. QQ

    July 26, 2013 at 11:53 pm

    Aunty Uche!!!! God Bless you beautiful woman.

  18. chizzweightlossdiary

    July 27, 2013 at 2:34 am

    wow. what an amazing lady. Professionalism at its peak. Lesson learnt: always believe in yourself and give your best in whatever you do.

  19. AHOW

    July 27, 2013 at 5:50 am

    Thanks… Really needed this.:)

  20. DocDeola

    July 27, 2013 at 7:41 am

    Kindred spirit…..such a sweet, inspiring, realistic, interview. Nice

  21. Fokasibe

    July 27, 2013 at 8:33 am

    I love her! Truly an inspiration….I have a new role model… God bless you Ma’am!

  22. onyinyeoluwa

    July 28, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Very inspiring…don’t wait for the millions to come before ў☺ΰ start up something.

  23. fuzy

    July 28, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    i am even more inspired…thnks ma,u made me smile.proud of u.

  24. kikelomo

    July 28, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    I love Newton & David the very first time i met her at Oaken Events some years back at Eko hotel….A very fantastic person she is. I love you ma.Thanks for sharing with us.

  25. Mma

    July 28, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    She really inspires me. Amazing work!

    africansweetheart.blogspot.co.uk/

  26. Advocate

    July 28, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    THIS GOT ME CRACKING………
    Which celebrity would you raid her wardrobe?
    None. Honestly. It’s funny; I don’t really want to look like any of them. They all look the same. Do I look like them? {Chuckles}
    TRUE THEY ALL LOOK THE SAME
    BE YOU

    • Ready

      July 31, 2013 at 11:34 am

      +1. At some point, these females will understand. They like to use the argument of “it’s what men like”, but you can’t live your life bleached, avoiding the sun, and gluing small fortunes to your scalp because of men. Find yourself, and to thineself be true! But if looking like everyone is what you like….

  27. Precious

    July 29, 2013 at 10:15 am

    very nice and real. Kudos Uche

  28. STOP PROMOTING MEDIOCRITY BELLANAIJA

    July 29, 2013 at 11:13 am

    TO BELLA NAIJA: Please feature VISIBLY successful women like this woman only henceforth. OBVIOUSLY the young and enterprising can draw inspiration from her. STOP feeding us with mediocrity by featuring actresses who earn N2m or even N5m a year but live N100m lifestyle, it is an insult to real hardworking people.

  29. lara

    July 29, 2013 at 11:15 am

    inspire

  30. Miss Anonymous

    July 29, 2013 at 11:32 am

    My former oga! Truly talented!

  31. tatafo!

    July 29, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Such an inspiration! God bless your hustle ma!

  32. MIDES HOMES & EVENTS: 08051793971

    July 31, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    Ma, you are truly an inspiration. I am inspired and encouraged that hardwork and diligence is profitable.

    please BN, I need the address to Newton and David’s florist shop, thanks.

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