Move Back to Nigeria is a series on BellaNaija which aims to encourage young and not-so-young professionals in the diaspora who are trying to make the decision of whether to move back to Nigeria. In collaboration with the brilliant team at MoveBackToNigeria.com, we hope to bring you a weekly interview with individuals who have successfully made the leap, considering the leap, as well as those who have tried it and realized it is not for them. MoveBacktoNigeria.com’s mission is to showcase stories of Nigerians abroad who have moved back home and are taking giant strides, often against all odds and to serve as inspiration to others. This, however does not preclude us from sharing stories of the people who have moved back and are facing various challenges.
Temi Conde is our Move Back To Nigeria profile for the week, and we are excited to have her on the ‘hot seat’! She shares with us her academic and professional background and takes us on the unique path she’s charting for herself in Nigeria as the founder of The Louise Marie Stage School. Read on for more on her inspiring story.
Thank you for speaking with us, can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Temi Conde and I own a performing arts school for children called Louise Marie Stage School, which focuses on building confidence through acting, singing and dancing.
If you are to describe yourself, would you say are a creative entrepreneur or a youth empowerment advocate?
I would definitely say both! I am incredibly creative but also believe that one of the most rewarding things one can do in life is to empower young people and to bless them with the knowledge of the fact that they can achieve and be anything they set their heart on.
Were you born in Nigeria?
I was born in London and when I was about nine years old, my mum sent me to Nigeria for a year to get the ‘Nigerian home training and grounding’ after which, I went back to London. So prior to moving back last year and the 1 year I spent when I was 9, I never really lived in Nigeria at all.
Please take us through your academic background.
I went to the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff and I actually studied B.A. Acting.
Was that what you really wanted to do?
Yes, it absolutely was, even though my mother was against it from the beginning. When I was ten years old, I discovered a place not too far from my house that focused on teaching children how to act, sing and dance. From then onwards, I fell in love with performing arts and constantly looked for ways to make it a big part of my life. To be honest going to the Royal Welsh college of Music and Drama was literally a turning point in my life. I was taken out of my comfort zone and I began to do things that I never imagined I could. It really changed my life and a big part of who I am today is because of RWCMD.
And after graduation, what came next for you?
After graduating, I appeared in a few TV shows in London/Cardiff and I also started working with a network marketing company in London. I worked with the company for between eight to nine months and early on in the business, I became an Area manager and my role was essentially teaching people how to turn an expense into an income, but the highlight was really the fact that I was able empower people. The greatest part of working with the company was the amount of personal growth I went through, I learnt that self development is one of the most important things a person can do. I found myself constantly reading and studying the lives of successful people. So, after going for a training conference in America with the company, I made the decision that I was going to move to LA.
What inspired the decision, was it career related?
Yes, absolutely. After much deliberation, I thought that was the next logical step to take. However, even though it was never ever in my plans, I ended up moving to Nigeria,
Well, my family had moved to Nigeria two years prior, so already some of the most important people in my life were there. Just before I went to America for the training conference, I met a lovely group of ladies through a close friend at her wedding, they had all made the move to Nigeria and during our several conversations I realised that they were happy and that there were so many opportunities in Africa. After arriving back in London after the training conference in America, I sat down and weighed up all the pros and cons, prayed about it and packed a few bags and flew to Nigeria with the intention of just spending a few weeks in Lagos. On arrival in Lagos, I just saw the immense amount of opportunities. I then decided to go to London, pack all my things and move back to Nigeria.
So, when did you move back?
I moved back in July, last year.
And how have you found it thus far?
It has been incredible so far. It has had its ups and downs, but my experience has been really positive. I have enjoyed the journey and the person I am becoming. Every day brings a new challenge but also new reasons to be thrilled about the future. To me, little things like going to the market, looking outside my window and just generally meeting new people has been so exciting. Settling in has gone smoothly mostly because my family were already here.
And what do you currently do in Nigeria?
When I was moving here, I had a particular business in mind, so straight away I was ready to launch my business, however even though I was certain the business would succeed, I wasn’t one hundred percent passionate about it. I then decided to begin my current project, a performing arts school called The Louise Marie Stage School.
Sounds interesting! Do tell us the story about the establishment of the school?
It was quite random. I was in church one day and there was a guest minister preaching. Long story cut short, the minister began to call people forward to donate certain amounts of money every month towards building the church, so I watched as people went forward to make donations. As the minister continued speaking I felt something in my spirit telling me to go forward, I was honestly fighting it and begging God to change his mind about wanting me to go forward; because I had just moved back, I did not even have a bank account in Nigeria.
All the same, I stepped forward and made a pledge and then asked God “what is your plan for me?” That was when God began to speak to me about opening a stage school. I got home and started planning and two to three months later, I started the business. I honestly believe that because of my obedience thankfully I have been able to pay my pledge every single month. The stage school started on the 18th of December 2013 (we had a Christmas session for a week), but we started officially on the 18th of January 2014.
That definitely is noteworthy. Can you tell us what the reception has been like?
It has been incredible! People have started to realise (especially parents) that confidence and the ability to speak publicly is essential, regardless of the industry your child may go into in the future. Children need to be taken out of their comfort zone in order for them to know that they can achieve much more than they think. A lot of parents are excited about the work we’re doing and the children absolutely love our classes.
What age of kids do you teach?
We teach children aged 3 – 15 and classes are divided into age groups.
Thinking about the logistics, space, infrastructure, staff etc. how have you handled all of that?
The process wasn’t as straight forward as I had hoped, but eventually everything worked out well. We currently use a school building for our classes which is perfect. Also Finding and dealing with staff was initially difficult, but now I work with an incredible group of people who understand my vision and who are equally excited about changing the lives of children.
This is really what you have been wanting to do, performing in the arts and giving back to the society, seems you have found a way to kill two birds with one stone?
Yes exactly. The first time I saw the children perform I cried, I just couldn’t take it, I was so proud of them and what they had achieved, and I knew that from that moment on their lives were changing for the better. I see the Louise Marie Stage School becoming a household name; I see it as place where Nigerian children can express themselves without being judged and a place where parents bring their children in order to bring out the best out in them. The best thing about LMSS is that we actually empower the children from the moment they step through the door.
Have you found any resistance at all and if yes, how did you overcome the challenges and resistance?
Funnily enough, we have a lot of parents that say they want to encourage their child’s desire to become an actress or a singer, I was so happy the first time I heard a parent say that, I truly didn’t expect this level of support from parents in Nigeria (for performing arts) because of my personal experience growing up. Our children now take LAMDA exams (London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art exams); these exams/certifications are recognized worldwide and are especially perfect for children who have the desire to embark on a career in the performing arts world.
What do you think has contributed to the success of the project so far, what skill or tips have seen you through?
I think for me personally, some of the key things are having integrity, respecting my customers, respecting staff and mostly importantly building a business based around love. One of our mottos is smile till your face hurts.
And does this mean you are back for good or are you inclined to potentially wake up one day and decide to go somewhere else?
Do you know what? I actually don’t have a choice because I am totally in love with what I’m doing. I’m definitely here for good.
On a somewhat different note, how have you found the lifestyle differences and how have you adapted to them?
One of the most difficult adjustments has been the heat! I am certain that I’m actually allergic to heat! Driving in Lagos is……..interesting! I have learnt a few things from driving here, e.g. if you want to move into the next lane, do not indicate, because NOBODY will let you into the lane, It’s ridiculous.
In terms of business, a lot of patience is needed to keep sane in Nigeria, but things are definitely getting better. Generally, I believe that the good outweighs the bad.
And finally, what would you say to people who are considering the move back home, based on your own experience and how you have navigated it so far?
First thing I would say is to pray about it, If you feel that it’s meant to be, then just decide and move. Do not allow yourself to be overwhelmed with fear; there are so many opportunities here. People always say the ground here is so fertile and all one needs to do is plant a seed and water it.
You also need to be willing to work with integrity and that, combined with hard work will bring success. So just make the decision and everything else that is good will hopefully come after.
Many thanks for your time and best wishes moving forward.
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