In this exclusive interview with Emmanuel Akaolisa of The News Chronicle, Nelly Wellington, Founder and Creative Director of Wellignton Events, an event planning company in Abuja, shares her journey into the industry, passion for planning, entrepreneurship among other issues.
TNC: First, let me congratulate you for Wellington Events. We all know it is not easy to set up a business and run it successfully. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your business: what does it do? Why did you venture into it? How has it been so far?
Wellington: My name is Nelly Wellington, I am the creative director of Wellington Events, an event management company. We are primarily based in Abuja, but we also handle events all around Nigeria and outside of the country. So far, we’ve planned events successfully in about 18 states and counting and we are hoping to plan events in all of the 36 states of the country, including the FCT.
I graduated from the University of Benin where I studied theatre arts, I majored in theatre management. I developed a knack for planning events and realised that was what I wanted to do back in school. I remember I would help senior level students in their final year projects do their productions, I really enjoyed the process, so during my final year, while I majored in event and theatre management, I chose to plan, and that was officially the biggest event I had planned back then.
I planned and organised our very first beauty pageant, Face Of UNIBEN Beauty Pageant. Back then it was such a huge event for which I went to Globacom, Pepsi, Coca-Cola and quite a number of organisations to source for sponsorship for the event and thankfully most of them responded very positively. The pageant was successful, there were prices given and it gained so much attraction. In fact lecturers reached out to me, saying “oh that was a great thing you did, congratulations you were able to bring Globacom on board” and other accolades.
So, obviously I had an A, my project supervisor was so amazed, he was very impressed as to what I was able to achieve and I was honestly very surprised at how far I was able to go, so that was when I knew I was going to be planning events officially as a career. But however, when I was done with NYSC, you know you had to do something like work, I worked a while as a marketing executive, I remember back then, every time I spoke with the project supervisor, he would always ask me if I had started an event company and I would always tell him no I haven’t started.
But in 2017, while I was on leave from where I was working as a business development manager then, I made the decision to finally quit my job when i resume and then go into event planning full time. On that particular day in November, I decided to start my business and when I resumed from my leave, I submitted my quit notice and that was it. That’s how I decided to start Wellington Events full time. Thankfully, from then till now, we have planned some amazing events, we’ve planned high quite a number of high-profile events; for former governors, state and federal officials, children of dignitaries. We’ve done quite a number of corporate events as well; we recently planned the NNPC groundbreaking ceremony for the oil well that was discovered between Bauchi and Gombe states in northern Nigeria. It’s been amazing, we do quite a number of weddings as well.
TNC: Every establishment has its challenges, what are the peculiar challenges you face in your line of industry? What do you think can be the solutions to these challenges?
Well, yes the industry is very challenging and as event planners we have faced problems that sometimes I reflect on how we were able to weasel our way out of them. One of the challenges is in managing clients, sometimes we get clients that can be a bit difficult and its normal. Even as humans, two people are not the same, people have different ways in which they think a project should go. I have come to learn that if you are going to thrive and survive you need a lot of patience you are dealing with people, you’re creating events for people, so you need to be patient and relate with them in ways they can understand.
Also, there is no way to regularize new event planners coming into the industry to ensure they live up to the standards of what is expected of event planners, there are quite a number of incompetent people in the industry posing as event planners, they give the real event planners a bad name. So I think as an industry that’s one thing that we could improve on as time goes on.
TNC: How do you handle uncontrollable occurrences that impede on already planned events?
Wellington: I’m going to speak for wellington events, before we sign up any client we make sure we send a contract to the client. One of the things that we state in the contract, since the advent of COVID, is that if something uncontrollable happens, we understand that it is not the fault of the client nor that of the planner, so what we offer is we either move the event to another convenient date at no additional cost to the client or find other resolutions.
The reason why it’s a bit different for event planners is because as event planners we reach out to service providers and any money you are sending to us we’ve already deposited to such service providers. For example, we are the event planners but we are working with service providers like hall managers, caterers, DJs, photographers, MCs and the rest. When we receive your payment, we immediately disburse funds to all of these service providers booking them for a particular date, so if anything happens, just so that each party is not going to be affected so much, we are going to make sure that you choose any different date that you are comfortable with and then move that event to that particular date at no extra cost, because we understand that things happen and that nobody has control over it.
TNC: Do you think entrepreneurship is for everyone? What advice can you offer aspiring entrepreneurs?
Wellington: Well, entrepreneurship is quite a journey, and I would say it’s a way of life, it doesn’t end. Regular folks that have 9-5 jobs could probably have the luxury of going home to take a break, but as a business owner, some of my clients are not based in Nigeria, because of the time zone differences you’ll find that most times I’m up late in the night having meetings with my clients because that’s when they are awake in any part of the world they are, so an entrepreneur may not have the luxury of time. There’s always something that comes up that’ll you have to attend to, especially in our industry that is service based.
I would say everybody has the potential to be an entrepreneur, however if you find out that this is not something that works for you, it’s completely fine. People are comfortable working in the corporate world, they don’t want to start a business, they find fulfilment working with someone. Whatever the case maybe, I think the endpoint should be that you are earning a living, whichever way it comes, whether through entrepreneurship or career path or working a job. So, entrepreneurship shouldn’t be for everyone.
For aspiring entrepreneurs, firstly I would say you need to have passion and zeal for whatever you want to do, because as a planner there are days where I get burned out and I keep asking myself why I chose this path, but then the next day I am up doing what I love because this is genuinely what I love to do. So whatever part of entrepreneurship you want to explore, just make sure you are going in because you have a genuine passion for it.
TNC: There’s quite a competition in this industry, even more in a place like Abuja, what are the things you do differently that stand you out from the crowd?
Wellington: One of the things that I would say Wellington Events does that makes us very unique is paying extra attention to details. It’s one thing for a client to say, I want a magical wedding and all of that, the focus point for us would be that we are taking the specific details and information the clients have given us and incorporating it into their wedding. We are always looking for ways to put in that extra spice and incorporate the tiniest details, that’s what basically makes us stand out from the rest.
For example, we could name tables in a wedding according to the places that are special to the couples, others may not understand at first, but when the couples see this innovation, they are wowed, it means a lot to them.
TNC: Where do you see yourself in the future say like next 5 years
Wellington: Honestly, five years ago, I didn’t think we would be where we are today, but we have accomplished and achieved so much within the space of five years. We won best event planner in Nigeria by Lux a UK based magazine purely based on merit, this is just one of many awards we have received. Sometimes I wonder how we are doing it and receiving all these accolades. We bagged two international awards and have been featured by Bellanaija as a brand and I personally as the creative director have been featured on Bellanaija. So I believe that there’s a whole lot more to do and I believe that in the next five years, we will be planning and hosting international events, conferences, weddings, it can only get better.
TNC: Nigeria will be going to the polls in few weeks, coupled with issues in the country, what will be your advice to the government and the people?
Wellington: I think a lot of people have said it, but we won’t say it enough, everybody needs to get their PVC. I was actually shocked to discover that there are people in their 30s and 40s who have never participated in the voting exercise. I am glad that people are now realizing that they need to get their PVCs to vote if they want to see change and to ensure that their voices are heard.