Victoria Nkong, Chief Executive Officer of Qtaby Events, an international events production and entertainment company, is a young woman in business who is creating waves and building a brand for herself. The entertainment consultant and producer, has been involved in events planning and implementation for over nine years. In this interview with Mary Ekah, she revealed how it all started, the challenges of being a female entrepreneur, the progress she has made so far and her future plans
What basically are you into?
I run a company called Qtaby Events and Concept. We do talent management of media personalities and artistes. We actually help creative people turn their passion into profession and earn a living from it. As a performing artiste, you could be making a lot of buzz on social media without really making money. So we help you package that into a career. So it is not only about artistes, it is more about creative people generally and managing a brand. That is the end point – to turn you into a brand. We have managed a number of artistes both Nigerians and non-Nigerians. We also do events productions like concert, seminars, and other things.
We have worked on quite a number of them both in Nigeria an outside Nigeria. Qtaby has handled events like International African Athletics Competition 2012, The 50th anniversary of African Music with Akon, Vlisco Annual fashion show for three years, MTN Yellow Summer in Benin Republic 2011, 2012 and 2014, AVS dinner on Italian Navy Aircraft Carrier ship (Cavour), Tensile inspection for LSG, Headies 2015 and more. And on the other hand we run a foundation and an orphanage home. I am also on the board of trustee of the Jegede Paul Foundation and Life Fountain Orphanage Home, and correspondent for Radio Legend in Nigeria (the biggest radio station is Burkina Faso). There are various projects under the foundation that has grown over the years.
How long have you been doing this?
This is my 11th year of the doing this. Qtaby is just seven years old. I started out with the first Tinapa International Trade Expo and with focus on events management and production; artiste booking and management, video production, media consulting, human resources consultation, and logistic planning and management. I am also an entertainment consultant and producer, and I have been involved in events planning and implementation for over nine years. My initial involvement in the prestigious KORA All Africa Music Awards as a bilingual presenter gave me a lot of exposure in entertainment before I became the Personal Assistant to the KORA President and then Line Producer for KORA Awards.
What has been the most remarkable experience in course of handling artistes?
Despite the oil meltdown, Nigeria would have been great if we had put the then surplus resource in developing the entertainment industry. The entertainment industry is a big income spinner but it’s a pity it has been relegated to the background. And what I have learned so far is that the artistes themselves need professionals to properly manage their careers. You see an artiste who was bubbling seriously five years ago and then five years down the line, he is merely a fallen hero and people can only remember memories of him. This is usually as a result of wrong management. Those guys are like babies and need professional managers to teach them etiquette and how to behave well and be professionals. Being a performing artiste is a serious career just like being a banker or lawyer. So, I am so passionate that artistes have very good professional managers to help them push their career to the level they should be and the sustain it.
Can you name few individuals you have helped grown their career?
My first remarkable experience was with P Square. Then they were just beginning and then Jude had a relationship with us long before they won the KORA Award. He met with the KORA president and I and then, I could see the determination to be successful in them. You could also see that they were equally talented. We championed their whole Africa take over at that time. I was very involved and it was not a surprise they became quite big outside the country even before they even got such recognition in Nigeria. If you watch the trends, you will find out that P Square did a lot outside the country than within the country before their fallout. And then we have worked with number of other artists who have become very popular today like Toosan, who are outside Nigeria.
A lot of popular artistes are fading away right now. What would you say is responsible for this?
I am very sure that if they had the right management team around them, they would not go down the way they are today. Managing artistes involves a lot. You need to see them like children, you really need to sit them down and explain to them, like you would be explaining to a two-year old, the importance of being properly managed before they could even see reasons with you and know what to do. You need to deal with their egos seriously as a professional. You need to know when to be firm, you need to know when to disengage yourself from the ‘arranged girlfriend’ set up to be respected by these artistes. So a lot of the problems they have is that a lot of the guys who end up with them as managers, are friends that could not have a hold on them.
Take us back a bit to when you started. How did it all begin?
I was privileged to be around a lot of influential people at an early age through my involvement with KORA. I started working with KORA before I was 19 years old. I finished from the university quite early. I was already a graduate at 18 years of age and KORA came at about that time. I was fresh from the university and I started work with them immediately. And then I came to notice I was able to buy their confidence a lot more because I worked with commissioners, ministers and presidency a lot outside Nigeria and with the burning desire to also reach out to young people who are hard working and talented but probably were not able to get the right contact they needed at that time, I decided to start something so that I can give opportunity to such people. It wasn’t rosy because I had to start from my little savings then but I went on to start a company and it was looking all good but I had to break out at some point when I lost my elder sister. Now making a come back was even more difficult than the beginning. There were a lot of hurdles, gender discrimination, financial challenge and all that but then the passion, determination and the need to keep the integrity kept me going and today we can say that God has been faithful.
You started out so young, so what was the driving force for you to start a company at about 20 years of age?
It was the decision to make a difference in an industry where I was operating, and which I had come to understand and know so much about. I must tell you that I never dreamed of being an entertainer or working in the entertainment industry. I had always wanted to be a lawyer and my entire family thought I was going to be a lawyer but something went wrong some where along the line. And I think God orchestrated it and then I had this burning desire to make a difference in this sector. So when I was registering my company, it was actually for a reality show that we were putting together. It was actually my first idea, to put together a reality show tagged, ‘Aid Model Reality’.
We went ahead to do a pilot in Accra, we partnered some TV stations and the financial requirements were huge. It was more like as the day went by you got to understand what you were in for. At some point I had to take the decision to go back and re-strategise and that was exactly what I did. At that point we just finished KORA 2010 and I had a lot of artistes contacting me home and abroad asking for one favour of the other. And at that point, I realised that I was doing this favour helping these guys to make a lot of money while I was making nothing out of it. And there were a lot of them then. Then I said to myself, why not make this thing professional so that I could make some money from these guys while doing them the favour. So I had to sign a contract with the next artistes that came to us.
Are you happy you took that decision?
Absolutely. Though it has not been all rosy but it is beginning to take shape and we are also trying to study to keep ourselves approved and to be ahead of the games. And it is taking shape gradually, even entertainment itself in general is being given more consideration in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. So yes, I am very happy I took that direction. I also keep saying that being a female entrepreneur in Nigeria is not easy. You need to be focused and determined because there are a lot of people out there who want to put you down simply because you are female and young. But I have been able to overcome such challenges because I know my worth and I also go extra mile to prove my worth and stand my ground while adding value to all that I do.
What did you study at school?
I studied Foreign Languages (Fresh and Spanish) for my first degree at the University of Calabar, after which I went further to study Business Communications at the University of Cape Town, South Africa and then an online-based MBA with St. John Business School in the UK.
Now, what are your future plans to take Qtaby to the next level?
We are seriously rebranding at the moment, we are re-strategising, signing up new talents and all that. In fact, we have a lot going on under our sleeves, putting guidelines for where the business is supposed to be headed and all that. I have also just concluded a course at the Lagos Business School. It was so refreshing and has helped me put on my business cap. So a lot is going to be happening this year that will bring us closer to our vision, which is to make a difference in the entertainment industry, helping a lot more talents out there to turn their passion into profession; not just becoming known artistes but being professional artistes.