When a church event took a dramatic turn, it planted the seed of a life-changing idea for Bella Adeniran. She explains: “The event was taking place in a tent and midway through the planned program, it became obvious there were some serious leaks—the audience got soaking wet!”. Bella recalls thinking that must be a better way to provide quality rental services for events like these, and she soon got the chance to test her theory when her father organised a community event. As Bella shopped around, helping him source different suppliers, she realised that life would be so much easier if a one-stop-shop for events existed.
Juggling the day job
Then, fate intervened. “I was working as a project manager for a telecommunications firm and it became clear that the business was losing market share to competitors. At the same time, I’d realised that I wanted to work for myself, so rather than waiting to be made redundant, I prepared an exit strategy.” For Bella, that meant continuing to work while preparing to set up in the events business. She decided to invest in herself, learning the new skills she’d need, but also found herself applying her project management experience while she made plans for her own enterprise.
After a gradual start while Bella balanced her day job with her fledgling business, Lagos-based Naphtali Party Rentals launched fully in 2011 and offers full service event management, including tent and furniture rental. What’s more, having built a strong reputation through word of mouth and social media, Bella has been able to build a customer base right across Nigeria.
Women in the workforce
The years spent preparing and building the right foundations for her business were well spent, according to Bella. “One of my biggest achievements has been doubling sales and opening a new branch, just two months after I finally quit my job.” But it wasn’t without its challenges to begin with. Funding the business out of her own pocket and finding the right team were learning processes for Bella, who now believes that the first few hires a company makes can be make-or-break. “Take your time and invest in hiring the best people you can,” she advises. “You need people who understand your vision and who can go on to be leaders in your business.”
Having built a dynamic team of more than 30, Bella is now focused on growth, with plans to open more branches across Nigeria. And that includes creating more jobs for women. “I want to create jobs that make lives better. Women tend to bring equity and fairness, which I see as major strengths.”
So what makes a successful entrepreneur? “I’ve always been a risk taker,” reflects Bella. “You never know what’s possible if you don’t try, And even if you fail, there will be lessons you can learn to help you in the future.” One of the main lessons learned, Bella admits, has been about managing her own high expectations. “Success doesn’t happen overnight, so don’t be surprised if your initial expectations aren’t met,” she advises. The key, she believes, is to maintain focus and to keep taking small steps towards your goals.
As she looks to the future, Bella is keen to encourage more women into work and entrepreneurship and is committed to leading by example. “Every woman needs to see confidence, leadership and accomplishment in other women in order to envision herself with those qualities and replicate them,” she says. “I want to show that success is possible in real life.” But she’s quick to point out that her definition of success expands to her lifestyle, too. “It’s important to also spend time with my family. That’s why being a female entrepreneur is so rewarding — you’re in control of your time and as a woman, that’s priceless.”
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