RITA OKOYE, CEO OF MAJESTICALLY RARE IS LICENSED TO PROVIDE THE PARTY OF YOUR CHOICE, FROM CATERING TO INTERIOR DECORATION; HER DESIRE IS TO GIVE HER CLIENTS THE PERFECT EVENT. OMOLOLA ITAYEMI TALKS TO THE MEDIA GRADUATE ABOUT THE COMPETITIVE BUSINESS OF EVENTS PLANNING, HER PASSION FOR WRITING AND THE BOOT CAMP FOR YOUNG GIRLS
Rita Okoye’s weekends are often busier than week-days. But it’s one fact she had to come to terms with when she chose to swap her BBC job for events planning.
So it came as little surprise when we met to talk at the 50th birthday of a top politician at an event centre in Victoria Island, Lagos. No small feat as she had to share her time between attending to guests needs, ensuring her hostess were seeing to guest satisfaction and maintaining a conversation with me.
Much more than talking with her, it presented the perfect opportunity to watch an events planner, up close at work. Dressed in a black and red Chinese-inspired fabric bustier on jeans, dark-skinned, petite, medium height Rita looked like any other guest in attendance. Well, except for the ‘Majestically Rare’ ID card hanging on her neck.
Each interlude sometimes lasted longer than the first, but I could understand considering the success or failure of such events rest solely on her. Occasionally I did get a glimpse, however small of her bubbly personality, as she hummed and bobbed her head to one of Fela’s popular tracks, ‘Water No Get Enemy’.
The third of three children born to an engineer father and administrator mother, Rita studied Media Relations in Middlesex University and graduated in 1997. She worked at the BBC London for eight years in prior to coming back to Nigeria and was involved in promoting BBC Experience (a media interactive centre). She also promoted BBC Training and Development.
She left BBC when she embarked on maternity leave of her third child. Also at that time, her husband was relocating back to Nigeria and she had to think of other options. Relocating back home wasn’t so easy for Rita whose family and friends were back in England. ‘My husband spent a long time persuading me to come back to Nigeria with him. I had only spent four years in Nigeria in secondary school and didn’t look forward to returning back home permanently. After some time, she agreed and the family relocated back.
According to Rita, “the decision was made easier because I was able to take voluntary redundancy, which was on offer from my employers, the BBC. I had spent eight years working as an event and marketing planner where I organised corporate communication campaigns and major events.”
For an external observer, Rita’s swap is not so bad considering she’s in familiar territory. But it wasn’t that easy because each culture has its peculiarities and this she found out when she decided to return to the work.
She worked with a friend’s firm first (Centricity as an Events and Logistics manager. She worked on behalf of premium clients such as Microsoft, Cisco, BAT, Diamond Bank, Fidelity Bank and Skye Bank), then with The Rain Institute, a non-profit organisation set up by This Present House Church as Head of Events. She was responsible for coordinating all major events including major conferences with international speakers, team building events, business events, family fun days, and events for couples and singles.
She also gained valuable contacts, which is essential in Lagos. “It was great to be part of an organisation at the forefront of change and impact in Lagos,” Rita says. It was after this she established ‘Majestically Rare’ was birthed last year, as a premium events and communications firm. Our slogan is ‘where only the best will do’.”
According to her, “I always seek to add that uniqueness, so that my customers are blown away. I particularly love organising weddings because you can be so creative and elaborate.
On the peculiarities of different countries, she had this to say. “Yes the peculiarities are there but its finding a way to strike a balance and I was lucky to do so with the aid of God and a mentor, who absolutely believed in me and gave me all the support I needed,’’ she revealed.”
The support didn’t only help propel her forward in her new endeavour, it provided an opportunity for her to groom and prepare young girls towards leadership roles. This decision gave birth to ‘Majestically Rare Boot Camp’ and other leadership-inspiring seminars and talks.
She also discovered more of Nigeria. ‘ As I travelled to Ibadan, Kano and Owerri to deliver Customer Service Training, I discovered more about Nigeria. It was a good experience to be part of a team training Nigerians about good Customer service,” she says.
Speaking in a well-articulated voice with strong British accents, her BBC trained voice (valuable for voice-overs) and having lived in UK for a while could be reasons for such. ‘I’ve prepared voiceovers for company websites, corporate recorded messaging and announcements and narrations for documentaries and presentations. I also offer voice training to children and teach them to use their voice effectively and to pronounce words properly.”
A strong believer in her Christian faith, Rita’s cites the bible as her favourite book and is very fluent with bible quotes, which she infuses in conversations. A far cry from a preacher on the pulpit dishing out bible verses, she’s able to achieve a fusion that is fluid and interesting.
Rita in her early forties, though she doesn’t look an inch of it cut her teeth in events planning from front-facing roles she had to perform in her career. “I have worked for the likes of BBC, Channel 5, Pride Magazine, Financial Times and NatWest bank in front facing communications roles. It was at these prestigious event ceremonies, often located at the likes of the Dorchester Hotel and London Marriott Hotel that I learnt high standards in event planning, table setting and dining etiquette. I was often the only black person at such events filled with hundreds of English people. I love the whole buzz of event planning from conception to completion.”
Her love for elements that make up the rich social scene of Lagos parties also endeared her to events planning. “I had heard about the flambouyant Events Industry in Lagos and I loved the social scene, the dress style of the people and the ‘can do’ spirit of my peers. I felt alive.’’
Rita, whose best genre of music is old school music writes about relationships and mentoring. She’s also a contributing writer to magazines such as TW and Genevieve. Her unwavering belief in positive networking for growth of business is so firm she’s not missed Wimbiz yearly conference for the past four years she’s been in town. “I had realised that networks are essential for building a business. I focused on building my networks by attending events such as the Wimbiz yearly conference.
“It was very impactful listening to the inspirational stories of women, who had moved from success to significance. I also joined a network called WOW D.I.V.A.S, which stands for Women of Worth Divinely Inspired Victoriously Anointed Sisters. We empower ourselves and aim to positively impact society through programmes such as Autism Awareness, Charity Cancer Race and Breast Cancer Awareness.”
Aside from weddings and parties, she organises team building days, TGIF’s and staff award days on behalf of clients. Also children theme parties is our strength,” she revealed.
Speaking further about ‘Majestically Rare Boot Camp’, ‘’I and my team are passionate about developing young girls (aged 8-11) and teaching them to become responsible, influential and innovative thinkers so they can stand on their feet early as leaders of the next generation. “We train them to conduct and value themselves as treasures.
“We offer training workshops in schools, churches and groups that are child centred and where the girls are active responsible participants in their learning. So you’ll often see my girls engaged in role plays, group discussions, work sheets and at the end of the day, there is a test to ensure understanding,” she’s also of the firm belief that networks are essential for business.