Adenike Balogun: How I Made Aliko Dangote’s 60th Birthday Bash a Grand Occasion

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At 25, she explored the unknown path of entrepreneurship. Shortly after, fame shone on her as she added her signature to events, public relations briefs and activation. Through various odds, she stood still, strong, focused with eyes on the ball. It’s 2017, she is 32 and has become more successful and resilient. She enjoys good things of life – champagne, food, designer labels and deep conversations. Managing Director, Diamond Incorporated Events, Adenike Balogun, who plans top-notch events for prominent Nigerians, tells Adedayo Adejobi about the experience of planning Africa’s richest man – Aliko Dangote’s recent talk-of-the-town 60th birthday gig, her ideal man and love for dogs

Travails of job loss and foray into my liberty
At the beginning, it was Diamond Inc. It started with my cousin and a friend. My passion for parties was seed to the PR and events company. With our successful launch came helping hands like J.J. Okocha and other good, willing people. We became famous and business soared till we broke even sometime in 2012.
Prior to that, I had lost my job at Quintessentially- a lifestyle management company as head of events (wines and gifts subsidiary) after working with them for about a year.

My first pay-cheque got me a brand new car and a fabulous holiday
From the jobs we got, we raked in about N11million in 2011 December, and I personally bought myself a brand new car, and had a very fantastic holiday.

Six years down the line, it’s been a mixed grill
2012 was a new beginning when reality dawned on me.  Making money came with lots of challenges. By 2014, I went back to England to complete my final year in an online course at Middlestacks University. My father was kind enough to help with my accommodation and ensure my settling back into the country was smooth sailing.
Jennifer Olize of Music Meets Runway – a part of my success story – came along the line with her beautiful light, approached me to change the look of the VIP sections to a lounge that will sit 400 guests. She gave me a picture of what she wanted and suggested making the furniture.

The event room gives me greater fulfilment
With the event room, I am fulfilled. When we started importing, space to showcase the kind of things we had became imperative. The event room was inspired as a result of trying to cater for small and intimate events. There are big marques and events centres, but we don’t have the small intimate events centres. The hotels offer that, but the problem with them is that you pay corkage and there are so many restrictions. To bridge the gap, we opened the event centre and since then it’s been great.

I find strength in being a woman of many parts
Although I studied IT, events are my passion. I have done events management design/floral design training and conferences around the world. I’m working on an application that’ll help event planners/decors/florists design a space through augmented reality.  It makes life easy for planners, especially when dealing with clients who want to see what their space would look like.

The Green-Diamond Project will grow the naira
The green-diamond project is a floral –agricultural project, and idea is to grow flowers locally, thus avoiding import tariff, unstable forex rates, and also saving the stress of importing, equally growing the naira. It helps our economy. The Ethiopian economy survives on the importation of fresh flowers.  Lagos-based Nigerian florists spend over $8 million yearly importing flowers into Nigeria. The project is on going, and we are looking for investors.

As a single lady in business, I’ve never been in a state where I’ve had to compromise
I recently planned the 60th birthday ceremony for Africa’s richest man in the world, Alhaji Aliko Dangote. I sat before a panel of men. I was actually asked the same question after my interview. I told them I’ve never been in that situation. Most times, I am either dealing with the boss, email my proposals. They are happy with it. I don’t even attend interviews.  Corporate clients are quite easy to deal with, and they are the bulk of my clients. I have never been put in a situation where I’ve had to compromise my virtue or standards to get a brief.

Thrills of planning Africa’s richest black man – Aliko Dangote’s 60th birthday
I got the call to pitch the same day, for the richest man in Africa’s 60th birthday event. I wasn’t prepared. I took my laptop and said to my mum, I wasn’t going to get this job. My mum asked me to go and get the job. I got to the meeting, my internet failed, couldn’t retrieve my presentation. I felt disappointed. I relaxed and told them I am not the best, nor the biggest, but there is nothing the biggest company can do for them, that I cannot do better.  They wanted a classy party. My can-do spirit came in full glare. I retrieved some pictures, worked them through a presentation with my phone showing different aspects of the event. They were convinced and they contacted me two days later. I submitted my costing and got the job. It was God because I have never met them in my life. I’ve done events for notable Nigerian citizens but because it was Alhaji Aliko Dangote, I just knew I was in for more a serious deal. So, I left no stone unturned. I met Aliko during the set-up, walked him through the venue and showed him everything. I asked if there was anything he did not like, and he said he liked everything. Coming from the celebrant, he was a satisfied customer, the committee of friends, the owner of the house where the party took place was happy.

My inspiration comes on the job
My creativity comes out the most when on my job. When I start working, my creativity comes out, it becomes really wild. Most times my clients end up getting more than they even paid me.

I’m excited when my clients are happy
When my clients tell me they are happy, for me that’s much more than anything in the world.

I’m single and ready to mingle
I’ll love to be in a relationship, but then I am very emotional. When I break down emotionally, my business suffers. So I shy away from relationships, not because I don’t want to be in love, but I just don’t want heart-breaks. I am not going to keep away from it forever, but I think the right guy will come, and when he does, I don’t need to sweat it.

My idea of the right guy
My friends think I am crazy. They call me vain sometimes because of the kinds of idea that I have and my fantasies. I like good-looking guys. I’ve never had an ugly boyfriend; my boyfriends are always tall and drop-dead gorgeous. He doesn’t have to be very rich, but comfortable. I work really hard, so I don’t need any man to give me money before I live my life. I travel on luxurious vacations, buy myself designers wears, and I don’t wait for anybody to do that for me.

My five most vain possessions
I didn’t say I love vanity, but you can call me vain. I drive a luxury car, wear a very expensive wristwatch – Rolex. My shoe and bag collections are Channel, and Gucci. I wear a lot of designer’s accessories. I travel all over the world, so I shop in every country I visit.

My best vacation spots
South of France and in fact France in general. I like South of Italy. I am a tourist. Unwinding away from work, I travel. People say I travel too much, but I don’t. I travel thrice a year. But when I do, I am very sure to visit a very lush location, and I take lots of pictures.

My aqua-shoes are my favourite item of clothing
It’s very difficult for me to find shoes, so when I find shoes that I like, that fit comfortably, I don’t care the cost, I’ll get them.  My Aqua-Zura sandals are like my best shoes ever. I have them in four colours and I want to buy them in all the colours. They are so comfortable, and look so pretty.

I can’t do without them
My wristwatch, pair of sneakers, my make-up kit, underwear, few dresses wherever I am going.

Values important in life to me
As a child, I’ve been taught to love God, depend on Him only and pay my tithes. I have a very deep and spiritual side of me no one knows about.

What scares me the most
Sickness. My mum is a cancer survivor. She battled it for over 16 years, and she’s healed totally.

What I find romantic in a date
I love champagne, good food and conversation. It doesn’t have to be a 7-star restaurant for me to find it romantic. It can be as modest as being on the beach, having dinner at your house. I appreciate very simple things. I like guys that buy me presents because I also give presents a lot. I like when people give me gifts unexpectedly. I just like it even if it’s a straw.

My favourite celebrity is
Beyoncé. I go to all of her concerts. She is a woman with absolutely no fault, no scandal. Even if there is a scandal, we don’t see it. She’s almost super-human. If not that she’s not God, God forgive me, I can almost worship her.

What I would do on a perfect day…
I have and love dogs. On a normal day, I’ll lay in bed. My family thinks I am crazy because I don’t watch TV. I isolate myself when I am at home. I don’t sit in my living room. I am a phone addict. Always on the phone 24/7 working or online browsing and doing stuffs. I sleep naked, and so some of my friends call me a nudist. I just like to be comfortable.

My cherished secrets…
I like romance. I like to be in love. It’s fun and interesting. If it’s love, I love too much and I forget about the business and follow the man. I am an extremist trying to find a balance. As I grow older I am becoming more mature. Now, I am able to handle my business more maturely, and hopefully I’ll get the right guy soon.