Oprah Wannabe

Thursday, 25 March 2010


I can’t believe four weeks has passed and I haven’t blogged about meeting His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales!! Yes you read correctly... not the Prince of Nigeria (as he would be my brother as I’m a Princess back home don’t you know), but yes, Prince Charles.

The special day was Friday 26 February. A few weeks prior to this I had been contacted by The Prince’s Trust events department, requesting my attendance for a private event the Prince was holding at St James’s Palace. When I heard who was inviting me and where I’d be going, I nearly fell from my chair. Whilst I sat listening excitedly on the phone, I had now stood up and started dancing like a fool, prancing all over the office.

Fast forward to the day in question, a car arrived to pick me up to take me straight to the palace, so it was a great start to the day. I spent my time in the car talking to my driver and updating my Facebook status – which obviously was highlighting what I was up to and resulted in streams of responses, which were words of support and encouragement from friends and loved ones.

Once we arrived at the Palace I met with various Prince’s Trust employees who escorted me upstairs to the main reception room. A few weeks ago I was asked to have a stand to showcase the company alongside the trust, so when I arrived everything had been set up for me – all branding, samples, tester pots the lot. As the attendees of the event were CEO’s of councils all over the country, many of them were mingling around by now, visiting mine and the other stands which were highlighting the several areas of support the trust offer to young people.

We were 45 minutes into the event when everyone (180 guests) were split into 5 groups to take part in round table discussions on how the trust can work with the various councils and how the trust can in turn help the young people of the boroughs into employment and education. A short film on some of the activities The Prince’s Trust do was shown to all guests on a large television screen. At the end of the film the facilitator opened the floor with questions and the discussion began and lasted for about 1 and a half hours. Whilst this may sound a little boring, it actually wasn’t. Half way into the discussion, the facilitator who was the London Regional Director for the trust introduced who I was to everyone. I knew prior that the trust required me to give a talk, informing the attendees of my journey since becoming involved with The Prince’s Trust, so I was prepared. As per previous posts, it was a little nerve racking, however I thoroughly enjoyed it as I had the full attention of the entire room - avidly listening to what I had to say. There are not many opportunities for a young self employed woman who has recently founded a natural skin care business to be in a situation where she’s talking to a captive audience of senior level members of staff, from decision makers for local councils and senior management at million pound turnover companies. I think this is what further added a ‘sweet taste’ to the whole thing, that fact that I later found out I was the only young person running their own business to have been invited to attend the event. I had been selected to represent the young people who have been supported by the trust (we’re talking thousands). If I wasn’t sure when I set foot in the palace, then I surely understood now why I had been given the first class treatment from being picked up in the morning being chauffeur driven to and from the palace. I now had the full attention of 30 + CEO’s and high level managers from well known corporate companies who support the trust, and I won’t lie, it felt good, real good.

After the round table discussions came to an end we were ushered back out into the main reception of the palace where we were served lunch (and what a lovely lunch it was). As I stood at my stand I was approached by several council CEO’s and Mayors, who were interested to learn more about Emi & Ben, my association with the trust and whether I would be coming to trade in their boroughs. After I had shook hands with what had probably been my 7th introduction, it was then I spotted Prince Charles; walking around with his aides, being introduced to key people in the room. The first thing I noticed was that his shoes was exceptionally shiny, (yes I know what I weird thing to say, but I’d be lying if I mentioned anything else first). Oh and his ears are not at all like how 80’s programme Spitting Image exaggerated them to be!

After His Royal Highness (*smirk*) had been mingling for what felt like an hour or so, he was introduced to the stage to give his speech. He came across very passionate about the charity and clearly stated what his aim was for today’s event. He included a few jokes which had the guests laughing, however I’m sure 99% of them would have laughed at the Prince’s jokes, even if it wasn’t funny. As his speech drew to an end one of his aides walked through the crowd and introduced herself to me. She said the Prince would like to meet me and asked me to walk back to my stand. As I stood back at the stand, Prince Charles walked off the stage and straight over to me. His aide introduced me by saying “His Royal Highness, this is Ronke...”. He replied “Oh Ronke, of Emi & Ben? It’s a pleasure to meet you; you’ve done so well, you should be really proud of what you’ve achieved. How long have you been running? “ “Five months” I replied. “Anyone would think you’ve been operating for 3, 4, 5 years – you’ve achieved so much in such a short space of time, you should be extremely proud”. I was by this time smiling like I had won the Euro millions roll over. I couldn’t believe how personable he was, I was on cloud nine with all the things that he was saying. He asked me to explain what Shea butter was, where I imported it from and how I made it into body butter. He also asked if he could try some to which I replied that I had a package to give him. Before he could instruct his aides, they had already made eye contact with me and motioned that I should give them the package. Two CEO’s who I had had previous conversations with jumped into the conversation confirming that they had discussed that they’d want me to work with their them on various initiatives within their boroughs, so I could engage with the young people to inspire them to becoming enterprising. “Anything you involve Ronke in I’m sure will be a success, judging by how she’s presented and continues to present herself and her business “. With that, he shook my hand again and said he wished me all the best and he looks forward to trying the body butters as well keeping in touch. *smiling*. Can I just say that I totally forgot to follow the appropriate way of greeting him? Handshake, courtesy and “Hello Your Royal Highness”. I think I did the courtesy and said “hello”! I had far too much to remember!

I could drag this post out some more, tell you how fabulous I felt after meeting him, how he’s my favourite Royal Family member now; and how this day may have just made one of the top 5 moments of my life thus far, but I won’t, I think you’ve got the gist of how I felt. Oh and can I just say I have the most proud Nigerian parents ever! I’m sure the whole of Nigeria know I’ve been in the home of the British Royal Family. :)

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

African Market Day

If you are the owner of a business which offers a product or service within and outside Africa and the Caribbean, then you might want to know about this event.  Run by The AMD Network Team, Africa Market Day is becoming a popular date for the diary for many.  First established in 2008, its aim was to create a positive exchange of African and Caribbean businesses; whilst showcasing culture and enterprise.   
They tend to have various markets taking place throughout the year in various locations around London.  The next Africa Market Day is taking place on Saturday 8 May 2010 at Hampstead Town Hall, 213 Haverstock Hill, NW3 4QP.  Should you wish to exhibit I believe they still have stalls available; email enquires@theafricanmarketday.com for more information, or call 020 3393 5735.  They also have a Facebook page you can check out ‘The African Market Day’.
As I’m yet to attend a AMD Network Team event (shame on me), I’m not sure what to expect, however from what I’ve seen thus far, it seems to be a good recipe - so do show your support by attending if you can.  I might see you down there... where there is African and Caribbean food, there will be a hungry looking chick propped up beside the food stalls.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010


For those of you who have set up organisations to make a difference across the UK and beyond, you should get to know the Social Enterpise Mark http://www.socialenterprisemark.org.uk/ Organisations who refer to themselves as a  'Social Enterprise' at times may get a raw deal as not enough people know what they are or how they work. The Social Enterprise Mark, acts as the brand for social enterprises.  It's aim is to  raise awareness of what social enterprises do in order to get more people to buy from, engage with, start up as well as work for social enterprises.

For the entrepreneurs out there who have set up a social enterprise, I encourage you to visit the site to find out how it may benefit your organisation by applying for the mark.

Thursday, 25 February 2010


Nicola Brentnall (Secretary to The Prince's Trust), ME (Founder, Emi & Ben), Tim Campbell (Founder, Bright Ideas Trust)

Last night I was invited to give a speech at an annual award ceremony which celebrates money raised by companies who take part in an initiative named ‘Million Makers’ - a corporate fundraising challenge developed by the young people’s charity The Prince’s Trust.

As a the founder of a company which is supported by the Trust in addition to being a Prince’s Trust Young Ambassador, I was asked to talk about my Prince’s Trust experience and how I believe they’re support has helped me and the business develop. Whilst I was nervous in the lead up to giving the speech, (I detest public speaking), it’s something I believed HAD to be done and done well, as I really wanted those who are involved in Million Makers to understand the outstanding results they’ve achieved and how their commitment is appreciated by budding entrepreneurs like me. After all its money raised by them that enable the trust to fund start up businesses like Emi & Ben.

Just to give you some facts about how FANTASTIC this initiative is, Million Makers is a national competition challenging teams of employees, school pupils and university students to come together to raise £1 million for The Prince’s Trust and make a real difference to the lives of young people across the UK. Last night’s shindig was the Regional Final for London and the South East which saw 11 corporate teams compete as well as three university teams all take part. In its second year, Million Makers has raised so far just over £1 million (£1.1 million).

58 corporate teams have taken part this year across the UK from a variety of sectors including legal, public sector, financial and retail. Million Makers has raised nearly £600,000 in total nationally with around £125,000 raised for the London and South East Region. The Corporate Challenge tasks teams of aspiring entrepreneurs; from graduates to senior employees, to work together to turn £1,500 seed funding into a profit of £10,000 for The Prince’s Trust over the course of six months. Once established, teams pitch their business plan to a Dragons’ Den style panel in order to secure their seed funding. In the knowledge that they have a robust and water-tight plan, the teams then implement and promote their own mini enterprise. A host of teams from companies and organisations across the UK compete against each other to run the most profitable mini enterprise.

My fellow speaker was BBC’s Apprentice winner Tim Campbell, who is exceptional at keeping the guests geared up, motivated and inspired... a true professional; as a public speaker and entrepreneur. After my speech he took to the stage to present the awards to the runner’s up which included Royal Bank of Scotland (£17,926), Linklaters (£20,736) and winning team Yell who raised a phenomenal £82,000! A truly amazing effort by all...

Every time I think about last night I find myself smiling. I’m feeling truly privileged and blessed to have been in the company I was in. I made several exciting contacts which I hope will result in some fruitful business relationships. I also sold quite a bit of product which was an added bonus, as I didn’t really intend to ‘set up shop’ there – however the guests weren’t having any of that.

I really hope that other companies follow in the footsteps of the aforementioned companies in addition to Accenture, Capgemini, PKF, SAB Miller, RSA, Oracle and Mitsui and not forgetting London Metropolitan University and University of Kent. They should all really be proud of the amounts they raised.

To find out more about Million Makers and how your company can become involved, visit http://www.princes-trust.org.uk/support_us/million_makers.aspx

Monday, 25 January 2010


The other week I was asked by the Prince's Trust to become one of their ambassadors. For those who read my blog Oprah Wannabe, it will come as no surprise that such a request has had me grinning for days. I love running my own businesses and love it even more that through it I'm able to inspire the younger generation. Times have changed from when I was 18 years old, working for free (whilst studying) and holding down a part-time job to gain experience in the industry I later wanted to have a career in.  Nowadays you mention the words "work for free" to an over 16 - 21 year old and they'll look at you like you just dissed their Mum. So because of this I happily grab any opportunity I can to tell 'tomorrow's generation' my story. To tell them how they need to get off their backsides and go chase their dreams, whatever they may be, by doing whatever it is they need to do to gain the relevant experience to be good if not the best. They need to be told and told again that with self employment you get out what you put in; so should you be one of the younguns reading, apologises if I'm repeating myself.

So, my role as a Prince's Trust ambassador requires me to commit to four appointments per year and I have my first one tomorrow. I'll be giving a talk to a class of Year 11 kids about my Prince's Trust experience to date as well as my experience of running a business. I haven't quite worked out exactly what I want to say, I've been mulling over it the last few days and will jot my plan later tonight, once I've defrosted my toes and eaten some dinner, (I type this sat at the Emi & Ben stall in Greenwich market). Whatever approach I do decide to take, I hope I'm able to keep them engaged and I hope they are receptive to what I have to say. I suppose I better make sure I park the turquoise Almera 10 streets away, as I don't want to be pelted with eggs, or have cheap school toilet roll stuck on my back due to being uncool.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, 3 December 2009


Screen grab of me - don't laugh I'm in the middle of talking hence the expression!

Three weeks ago (Monday 9th) I was asked by The Prince’s Trust if I would like to do a radio and TV interviews on Radio 5 Live and BBC News. My initial reaction was “hell yes” what brilliant PR this will be for the business (Emi & Ben) as well as for me as an aspiring business woman. Then moments later it started to sink in... “live radio and television”. Oh my god.
I had less than 24 hours to get nervous about it which I think was a blessing in disguise, had I had time to fret I probably would have drove myself crazy.

Anyhow the opportunity came about as a result of some research the Prince’s Trust had commissioned which showed young people were still setting up new businesses despite the recession, this is where I came in as they wanted me to talk about my experiences and the challenges (if any) I faced whilst setting up Emi & Ben during the current financial climate. There was also another angle to the story as one of the broadsheets had been privy to a leaked Labour document which stated the party were going to axe training budgets for young people. The Prince’s Trust Marketing and Communications Director Paul Brown (what a lovely man) was made available to comment on this aspect, so at least I wasn’t doing the interviews alone.

Morning came around quick, I was awake by 3am, ready for my 4.30am pick up from Add & Lee which was taking me straight to the BBC studio in White City. I felt quite alert and I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be.

When I arrived at the reception I was met by one of the show’s runners and taken straight up to the studio area. The Paul soon arrived with the PR Manager (Lucy – again another lovely person – actually everyone I’ve ever met at the Prince’s Trust are genuine nice people, must be part of the hiring criteria). Within 15 minutes we were in the studio, put in our positions with our mics all set. We were being interviewed on the Monday breakfast show ‘Wake up to Money’, so it was no surprise that the two presenters seemed quite serious people, nothing like my usual breakfast presenters of ‘Choice’ Martin and Lucy.

The entire interview ended up being approx 5 – 7 minutes long with me talking for most of it and it was fine... I didn’t have anything to worry about. The presenters asked me general questions like why I started the business and how I found running a business during the recession, etc and they even gave me good plugs at the beginning and the end of the interview ; name checking the business and our locations of trading.

The presenter decided he’d like to wrap up the interview by asking me what advice I would give to any budding entrepreneurs out there who were listening, to which I commented on them going out to get experience in their field and that they should know their craft inside out. My mouth then continued to talk and I ended with some stupid, cringe worthy line saying “knowledge is power”. I thought vomit was about to fall on my lap as the word “power” rolled off my tongue. All I could think of was “twat, twat, twat”. I mean it may not sound like anything now, but if you heard it in the context of how I said it you would understand. I mean my whole family and friends cracked up laughing altogether when they came over to my house the same evening for a ‘surprise’ screening of both pieces (as arranged sweetly by my not so better half – just playing babe!), so I know I sounded like a complete moron.

After a few hours down time we were back in the studio this time in the television side of the building for the BBC News live interview. As we sat in greenroom having our make up done (yeah, I know I ain’t no superstar but yes I had it done and I’m glad I did as the guy who went in before me had a forehead that was shining for miles and he didn’t look like that seconds before he went in, so I now completely understand why make up is needed for TV). Anyway I digress, none other than the champ David Hayes walk in (he is still fine in real life)... as it was two days after he had won his fight against the beast (the opponents name escapes me) in Germany, so he was in to talk about his win. Nothing more to add about David except for he is fine.

When it was our turn to go into the studio, they called us in led us to be seated whilst the news headlines were rolling and then cued us that they’d start the interview once the Berlin Wall anniversary story was over. All I could see was my big head in the monitors in front; that really put me off! I nearly burst our laughing as all I could see was my boyf and my good friends Fiona and Delali taking the piss out of the size of my head (like they always do)... I had to re focus quick.

To close this story which seems to now be dragging out, the TV interview went well, I don’t think I appeared nervous and I said what I needed to say – well actually in all the talking I did I didn’t say the flipping company name! I even had a jar of one of the body butters on the table, but was concentrating so much on what I was saying that I forgot to pick it up to sneakily show off the branding! Cha... next time, I’m sure there will be many more, I don’t intend to stop there – no way.

Thursday, 14 May 2009


The start of this week was really good, work wise. I had made progress with some new business leads for the PR side of things, getting closer to contracts being signed off. Also one of the other ongoing projects was ticking over nicely and I was now beginning to see my ‘hard graft’ being worth it. Fast forward to today and I’m wondering what have I let myself in for. Leaving an extremely well paid job within a highly successful agency to go it alone and start up other ventures too? Was I stupid? Now I have to work every single god damn day if I want to see money a pay cheque at the end of each month, with no real holiday entitlement or sick pay arranged. Doesn’t matter if ‘boss lady’ may have interfered with my sleep, leaving me to survive on 2 hours or more (which has been the case twice this week and last), or better yet, if I’m not feeling well – I’ve got to still pick myself up, dust myself off and get on with it.
Cha’, I suppose I’m just feeling the strain and having a dud day? All I want is for the ‘stress’ to go away immediately. Not in a month, not in 6 months, just right now. I suppose I should just “Breathe slow, count from 1 to 10”? I’m so feeling your tune right now Alesha.