This interview with Mrs Betty Irabor, Editor-In-Chief and Chief Executive Officer of Genevieve magazine is one that we are particularly excited about at OnoBello.com. Why? We are always excited to speak to down-to-earth women especially ones that are placed in a position to change the lives of people daily and Mrs Irabor is one of such people.
Everyone in Nigeria by now knows about or reads Genevieve magazine, but for the sake of our readers in other parts of the world that may
not know, Genevieve is “a complete lifestyle guide and best friend, inspiring wholesomeness globally in all women and the men in their lives”.
Prior this interview, I had only met with aunty Betty (as I and many other people call her) at public functions and have introduced myself to her on several occasions, exchanged phone numbers and other pleasantries but not really had a conversation as there are always people around waiting to have a chat with her. So when I called her up last month, she was welcoming and immediately fixed an appointment for me to meet with her and some members of the Genevieve team.
At our first meeting we chatted about a bit about business, I introduced my businesses of OnoBello.com and PR UNO and said we would love to have an interview where she can share story that will inspire and motivate our readers. She hesitated a bit and explained that she’s taking the back seat now and rarely attends events or make media appearances but soon agreed for the interview to be done early in May on the basis that the focus was not solely on fashion.
We finally nailed down May 14th for an interview after several exchanges with her office, we fixed the venue for the studio of Lanre DaSilva Ajayi for 2pm. On that day, I was there at least an hour early when Mrs Irabor walks in right on time wearing a white long-sleeve cotton shirt with a vintage-like button detail in front paired with black skinny jeans and a beautiful pair of multi-colour sandals. Her driver was in toll rolling a Louis Vuitton carry-on luggage filled with fabrics she wanted Lanre to make into dresses, tops and skirts. She walks in, hugs everyone and settles down with Lanre, we all chat for a while about what she needed made, then we moved on to the business of fashion and then her recent trip to Dubai for the Millinery Exhibition and the World Cup (DWC) Horse Race and Style Stakes, I noticed she was particularly excited about, then we settled down to this interview.
Mrs Iraboris the Editor-In-Chief and Chief Executive Officer of Genevieve magazine, she is also a philanthropist, mentor and champion for breast cancer awareness, however what a lot of people may not know is that beforestarting up Genevievein 2003, she had previously worked as a freelance writer for ThisDay, and Vanguard newspapers and contributed a few columns for Black & Beauty magazine UK. She had also ventured into thetelecommunications business and the money she made from thatshewent into starting up her magazine one she credits to an inspiration from God.
In this exclusive interview she talks about her journey so far as Genevieve marks 10 years in February 2013.
She opens up on how she was raised by a single mother, stayed focused on her vision, protects herself from bitterness and negativity of people around, balances creativity and competition in the business and encourages herself to forge on in tough times.
She also talks about two majordisappointments in her business, “I sat in my office in Genevieve, when the call came in, a South African investor was interested in buying into Genevieve, I said to myself, this is so huge, this is what I have been waiting for, we went into several conversations and the calls gradually slowed down and eventually stopped coming. Another time I was sitting in my office I got a call from Paris, it was about publishing a French version of Genevieve. I was like wow…I went for a meeting in Cote d’Ivoire to try and get a French editor. What else will a publisher want? We were already working on how to get that up and running but when we got news that the main promoter of the venture suffered a set back in business. I looked at it and said this can't be happening, this was huge. But then said to myself that God has a plan and nobody will share in His glory”.
Mrs Irabor is happily married to Soni Irabor, a seasoned broadcaster, marketing communications expert and public speaker, they are blessed with a son and a daughter.
As the magazine clocks 10 years next year, there’s no better time to sit with the down-to-earth and lovely aunty Betty.
OB: You recently were in Dubai for the Style Stakes, can u tell us why you were there?
BI: The Genevieve team were in Dubai for the prestigious Millinery Exhibition and the Dubai World Cup (DWC) Horse Race and Style Stakes, we were specially invited byEme Akenzua of John 3V3 Hats who is a friend and a successful entrepreneur as she was exhibiting her designs.
The exhibition was held at the Burjuman Mall and it was a chance for fashion lovers to shop for the best hats for the DWC Horse Race and Style Stakes, so this exhibition went on for ten days before the event on the 31st of March.
On the 31st, women dressed in all manner of fashion came out, there were women from all over the world all dressed up to show their crowding glory- the hats.
As for me, I was wearing a black and white fascinator delicately designed with pearls and black feathers. Grace Egbagbe woreone of the most spectacular hats a John3V3 Hats design, she got most harassed by the paparazzi, cause she pushes the envelope when it comes to fashion.
We were all there with a mission to support one of our ownEme Akenzua, who is doing exceptionally well in the industry.
OB: Lets goback to you as a young child, did you have any idea, any vision, of what you wanted to accomplish?
BI: I had no idea,we were not born with silver spoon, butwe were not lacking in anything either, most importantly I was raised by a single mother, one of the things she drove home to us was that we should not be defined by the situation, she preached for us to redefine whatever situation we foundourselves. We grew up learning that we could be anything we wanted. I grew up totally not knowing what I wanted to become but I was always writing poetry, I didn't know how it was going to becomehandy.It was not until I got married and ofcourse I studiedEnglish at university. It was not what I actually wanted to study, but it was what my score would take at the time, so I went on and studied English.
It was when I was 45 that the idea of Genevieve came to me, I had heard the stories about how the owner of KFC idea came to him at 67, I was like okay I am very young to start up my business and that of the owner of Walt Disney who had visited 314 banks to apply for a loan and they all turned him down. I then said to myselfcome on Betty you have only approached one bank that turned you down. I read a lot about successful people who just kept at it.
So starting Genevieve was something I did not think about. If I thought about it, I probably would not be here. But what I did was just to jump into the deep end and started going without knowinghow to swim, I thought I was going to drown and thought to myselfthat I better start learning how to swim from the deep end butnow am in the process of swimming my way to the sallow end and am learning new things and having faith in myself and getting stronger.
OB: How are you celebrating your magazine’s 10th year anniversary?
BI: If I start talking about it we would probably not finish out of excitement. The 1st edition of Genevieve rolled out on the 13th of February 2003. I brought the magazine and my daughter Sonia hugged me and said “mummy we made it”. At about 8pm a friend comes around to visit, I had showed her the edition and she goes like, “is this the magazine”, she went through it and said “you guys have work to do oh”. At that stage in my life when I was already doubting that edition I didn’t need someone to put me down but my good husband came and called my friend and gave her the lecture of her life and afterwards my husband called all of us and said let us pray, and we prayed over the magazine. My husband said to me “Betty Irabor, you are a strong woman, even if people put your product down believe in yourself, this magazine is destined to be great”.
We’ll start running celebrations for our 10th year anniversary from early next year which will run from February to October when we will have the Genevieve “Pink Ball”. We are keeping things under wraps for now.
OB: You're in a tremendous position to change people’s lives, you've given a lot back as well, tell me how you have been doing this?
BI: Well, through Genevieve we have brought women who are successful on the cover of the magazine to tell people what it takes to be successful. That is one of the selling points of Genevieve. My page “Morning Dew”, are about my joys and tears. Genevieve magazine inspires people through our features. We grew with the fashion, beauty and photography industries in Nigeria. I also do a lot of mentoring, we use Genevieve as a platform for Breast Cancer Awareness and brought a lot of awareness for other women.
In the last two year I have not been able to do the “Pink Ball” because I was building Genevieve as a brand. Luckily my daughter Sonia has come on board as an Assistant Editor and I have a wonderful lady Vanessa Banigo who is our Contributing Editor and together with the team, we have built Genevieve so am now taking the back seat from the day-to-day running of the magazine.
OB: You have mentioned a tremendous support from your family, was there someone early on who gave you a big break in the business of publishing?
BI: That person would be God, it was through inspiration apart from my family I would say a couple of friends. Most of it has been inspired and God uses strangers a lot.
OB: You've become one of the most successful woman in Nigerian publishing today. Can you talk a bit about your role as business woman?
BI: For one, in business one has to be very hungry, very hungry for that thing you want to start. Also you must be sure that there is a hungry market for what you are selling. Another thing is that you must be able to do numbers. I lost a lot of money when we started because of this.
Secondly, Do not allow setbacks discourage you, let it set you on, don’t focus on your issues and be very creative. Also, be mindful how you treat your staff, because if you treat them shabbily, they would not put their best. Lastly, employ people who would drive your vision.
OB: Tell us about your fashion & style?
BI: I am very youthful, I love flowers, and jeans, I also like to dress my body and dress to suit my mood. I love pink, skirts and I dress elegantly. I also love African made designs a lot. I wear my hair the same way all the time, I love to always look classy and I don’t go for brands and names. I shop everywhere.
OB: Which would you go for; clothes, shoes, bags or accessories?
BI: I think I am more of a clothes person and I work a lot with stylists now to achieve my final look when am going for important events.
OB: What style tips do you live by everyday?
BI: Comfort! Just make sure you are comfortable in whatever you wear. I don’t do trends a lot.
OB: Do you like music, art, if so can you tell us about that?
BI: I love music. I play a lot of Tina Turner and Westlife. I love songs that have deep lyrics.
OB: You have an amazing body, how do you keep fit?
BI: In my younger days I did nothing but now I do a lot; I eat healthy, go swimming and drink a lot of water. It’s good to keep fit and live happy. Most importantly be in God’s space.
For more information on Genevieve Magazine visit: www.genevieveng.com