“There Were Days I Felt Like Giving Up” — Christian Okoli on Life as an Entrepreneur
What many may know is that Christian Okoli is a Brand influencer, Pan-African Entrepreneur, Mediapreneur, and Public Relations Expert. However, many may not know that he is the Co-Founder of Southeast’s leading full-service Media & Communications Agency, Blueafric Media. Why so? Because Christian Okoli is a tranquil and private person, though he believes in extreme fun as much as he does in extreme work.
So, here’s insider info on his personality and work.
Sitting face to face with you today is fascinating because your company, Blueafric Media, has been in the spotlight for a while now, but not much is known about the brains behind it, and that is quite coincidental because you are also popularly known as ‘Brain’. So, why is that?
For the three of us who started Blueafric Media; myself, Michael Ikechukwu, and Anugo Osadebe, it’s not about positioning our personalities out there. The focus was on getting the work done and fulfilling the mission of placing brands on the map through our media services, amongst other things. Yes, Blueafric Media has been in the spotlight, but at the end of the day, we’ve not gotten to that point where we want to be because we are still in the process of building.
We are very sure people will like to know you more at this point, so can we meet you officially?
Wow! It’s my pleasure. My name is Christian Okoli, and I’m from Enugu State. I graduated in 2019 from the Department of Business Administration at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology.
How did you start out? What inspired you?
The journey of Blueafric Media started shortly after I declined an offer to study business abroad. I was 19 at the time, and my father was furious with me. He saw it as a step towards ruining my future because “What has Nigeria got to offer its youths?” Many people held the same viewpoint as he did and kept giving me pieces of advice. But my mind was made up. I saw a need in Enugu State; the State needed to be recognised globally, it needed to have a place in the global market, to be placed on the world map. This factor inspired my partners and me. We also saw the wonderful works of Debola Williams, and that was a model for us. So we started Blueafric Media but in a restaurant. We kept meeting at the restaurant, piecing ideas together and developing them with our skills even though we had grave financial challenges. Out of that restaurant grew something impressive, and we are happy that all those seven (7) years of hard work finally paid off because Enugu is finally getting the recognition it deserves. We have extended our branches to Abuja and, presently, we are penetrating the Ghanaian market, because if the work is good, why does it have to be limited to Nigeria alone? As the company grew, the dream grew with it, so we had to expand.
Blueafric Media celebrated its seven years of operation in 2021. Could you tell us about the toughest moments you’ve had bringing the company this far?
These 7 years have been crazy because there were times we couldn’t pay salaries; there were times we couldn’t find the best hands to work with, and there were also times when other companies took the best people we had, and I won’t blame them because the company wasn’t paying much at the time due to inadequate finance. We shut down twice, and that period was a learning process for us because we were more focused on scaling the company and made a lot of mistakes along the way which led to the shutdown. I wouldn’t necessarily say they were mistakes because as budding entrepreneurs, we concentrated on making things right and our mistakes built us. At one point, I was also trying to gain admission into the university and it was very difficult to find a balance because once I got into school, I would be studying, working, and doing an internship in another company all at the same time. There were days I woke up and felt like giving up, but we are here now.
Over the years, the company has produced different subsidiaries. Which of them are you most proud of, and why?
Under Blueafric Media, there are subsidiaries, including some which haven’t been introduced to the public yet. But I’ll say that I’m most proud of Blueprint Afric. Blueprint Afric is a new-age media organisation using original content, stories, and events to create timeless and wholesome African communities, both offline and online, paving the way for a new generation of content creators and consumers. I’m especially proud of what the brand is doing in the online space. I started it as a wedding blog, but it currently has 9 platforms under it.
What is the biggest lesson that being an entrepreneur has taught you?
The biggest lesson that being an entrepreneur has taught me is people.
Really? How is that?
No matter how big you want to become and how far you want to go in developing your company or brand, you must make sure you know the right people. You should also ensure that the people you have are happy with the way they are treated. Build as a team. A company cannot grow bigger than the people pushing it because the company is the people. Our core strength in Blueafric Media is the people because they are not just the “staff”. They are regarded as the company’s partners. In a nutshell, find the right people and partner with them. Being an entrepreneur has also taught me to be patient and polite.
What advice will you give to budding entrepreneurs?
One piece of advice I’ll always give to any entrepreneur starting is that collaboration always works faster. Entrepreneurs shouldn’t always be in a haste to attach the CEO tag to their names, but should first find a way to merge with people and form partnerships. Another thing I want to add is that they should keep learning. They should also have impressive working experience before starting up any business.
If you had a chance to go back to the start, what would you do differently?
Playing safe. I wouldn’t have played it safe. I understand now more than before that a business requires more risks than safety for it to thrive. When I say risk, I mean sensible risks and not careless mistakes.
What is the big dream for Blueafric Media, and where do you see it going?
We are hoping that one day we will start building our own products and marketing them.
Rosemary Kasiobi Nwadike
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