Toyin Lawani easily holds her own as a serial entrepreneur with 33 thriving businesses in Nigeria, a fashion designer par excellence and a reality star with a knack for keeping diverse audiences glued to her personality.
During a brief chat with Legit.ng’s Adeyinka Odutuyo at the just-concluded 9th edition of the Nigerian Entertainment Conference (NEC), Lawani opened up about her struggles in the industry and the importance of handing down a legacy to her children.
For Lawani, years of running her empire in Nigeria have not absolved her from going head-on against obstacles that would have otherwise crippled budding entrepreneurs.
The celebrity stylist particularly mentioned the epileptic power supply in the country and how it frustrates the efforts of anyone looking to build a respectable business.
“To be very honest, it's not easy running various businesses in Nigeria, NEPA will disgrace you. They will frustrate you. Now, we have money to run diesel, we have big gens, but what about the small businesses that are suffering and don't really have money or capital to run these things? Their businesses have been crippled. I know a lot of people who have had to close up their shops and are now selling online. They can't compete and do business properly. Everything is really stressful right now and everybody is running abroad. We really don't want that…
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Lawani equally charged the government to do something about the plight of entrepreneurs in the country and help those who do not have the financial means to keep pushing their businesses.
“The government needs to fix up and help us. It's really important. Entrepreneurs are really suffering out there. You know, people like us that have money to push their brands. Yes. We're lucky. But what about the others, what do we do for them?”
Styling international celebrities
Sharing her thoughts on the theme of the conference tagged “Sustaining the African Momentum” and how she has been able to reach a global market, Lawani made references to working with the likes of Ciara, Kelly Rowland and putting in the extra effort to sell the Nigerian story to the world.
"How many Nigerians have styled Ciara, Cardi B, and Kelly Rowland? Tiannah opened doors for you people internationally. I style international celebrities and also do a lot to bring more attention to the tourism sector in Nigeria because of my yearly videos that I shoot. I go to all these beautiful, amazing locations...Erin Ijesha, Abuja rocks, Lakwe Lake, Takwa Bay. I travel far and shoot in all these various places and make them look beautiful. I push it back out there to the world and people from other parts of the world send me messages and even ask about coming to shoot their projects in these locations. Some find it hard to believe it is Nigeria but I always tell them 'This Is Nigeria and you have to take a trip down here.' "
The business mogul once again stressed the need for government to focus on tourism and how it can do more for the country.
"The government themselves needs to chill, focus on what we have and do more to make things look beautiful and push out there to the world. Do you know how my videos have added to tourism in the country? How people from all around the world now want to come to Nigeria? Just because of these videos that I do with my money that nobody gives me. To be honest, it’s not just about me doing a beautiful video to sell my story every year or sell fashion. It's more or less about selling Nigeria with me as well. I'm a proud Nigerian but Nigeria is not making it easy for any of us. So imagine if I'm not doing this with my own funds, who will?"
My children are my legacy
The industrious Tiannah Empire businesswoman also touched on why her children have been a major part of her journey and how she painstakingly makes sure that they are involved in all she does.
“I'm a family woman, but apart from that, my legacy is the most important thing to me. I carry my kids along with me everywhere I go. They all have all their various businesses as well and it's been striving so far because of how I'm forcing them. I keep pushing it out there because nobody is here forever. Today is promised but tomorrow is not. It’s important to empower your kids when you can."
Many creatives can run for office in 2023
Sharing her thoughts about the forthcoming 2023 general elections, Lawani disclosed that people in her circle have suggested she has what it takes to run for office.
She, however, noted that entertainers who dabble in politics are often frustrated.
"Everybody says it because I have a voice, you know, and I'm always saying the truth. I also tend to keep things real, but the truth is that they will frustrate anybody in this field. Do you think Wizkid cannot contest for president? We have a lot of creatives today that will get heavy support if they decide to run for office. There's Davido, Burna Boy..we have so many creatives like that but they will end up frustrating your efforts because it's not them. So trust me, I like myself the way I am right now."
Mr Macaroni reveals what inspired 'freaky freaky' character
Meanwhile, Legit.ng reported that popular comedian Mr Macaroni was among speakers at the just concluded edition of the Nigerian Entertainment Conference (NEC).
The skit maker touched on 'soro soke' influencing and using entertainment as a tool to drive social change.
According to Macaroni, there is a burden on artists to cause change with their crafts and be influenced by happenings in the country.
The skit maker pointed out that the onus rested on him to transform what is going on in society into his individual art form.