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Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Continued from part 1.........

MO: And I said, “Dick, I’ve got this project and I really gonna start my own sort of like TCC Ogere.” He said to me,  “No, why don’t you brand it?” Why not get a group like Protea Hotel involved to brand. 

So, that now got me into another training to go and see if I could get them involved. Initially they said, “No”. But sometimes when people say no, you have to ask, “why are they saying no?”

 So, we went back again and again and again, eventually they said, “Yes”. We had done some plans initially. We had to change the plan to be more suitable to a hotel. The cost of investment of building a  Protea Hotel went up 10 folds. For me it was  just building a little nice center, for it now having sort of 3 star standard.

Uhmm, of course I must invest in it. I found that my investment, of course in terms of my shareholding was dwindling because I couldn’t afford to tackle the huge investment, and I was 35 at the time. The project cost in those days was $10m and I just wasn’t going to be able to do it alone. I just said to myself, “do you want to see this become a reality?”

Even if you may end up owning a smaller share or do you just want to sit back and say, “I’m just gonna build a little center which may not get all these branding or do you want others to come in and be a part of it, so it can be a much bigger dream?”

And I said to myself, “I’m gonna go the route of let me get other investors in.”  So, UBA Trustee is involved, we also got Midway Insurance involved and also got SAN, and that was basically how we got that project off the ground.

So, that was my second major project after having left ExxonMobil. And then a few years after that ........

JULIET: The ideas came from…..

MO: Sometimes …… the ideas just come. When I’m invited to speak and I’m being asked, what inspires you, where do the ideas come from? I have to just say, “It’s God.” It might sound a little basic, it may sound simple, it may sound yeh right.

But, that is the truth, because for me, what I find out that happens to me….. I’ll say this to everyone – never go to sleep without a notepad by your bed and a pen. Because for me, any idea I’ve had has come in the middle of the night. Yes!

Those ideas come and I find that if I haven’t noted them down, by the time you wake up, you may have forgotten it. So, I find that the clarity is always at some point in the middle of the night and I instantly just wake up, and then I just write and write and write.

Then I transfer that into some sort of power point presentation, and then maybe to go out there and sell the idea. It so happened one night, the Inspire Africa dream just came. Even the name Inspire Africa came, the name- Moments with Mo- didn’t come for a while.

JULIET: Had you been think or was it like literally out of the blues? Because it looks like you’re very good at identifying gaps in the market - opportunities. So, was that sort of in the space or you were thinking and then you got clarity? Or it sort of just came like a light – like a flash.

MO: The thing is, that the ligaments in setting up the clarity was easy because, no…… it wasn’t easy pretty much, it was the same line of what I’m used to. And then, in doing the Hotels projects, I wasn’t going to run the hotels. 

So, I could see that okay, again, it was also there was some sort of clarity; you could see the alignment between Vic Lawrence services and the Protea Hotel at the time. So, this moves in Moments with Mo, when that one came, I was concerned.

I was concerned because, you know how you’re like, who are you going to tell? God! "What are people going to think?" And we live in a society whereby, sometimes people get the wrong end of the stake. You know, I remember telling a particular person about it and all the person could say was, “ehenn, you want to become a presenter – TV presenter?”

But for me, it was more than that, it was about the fact that we’ll be able to have a conversation around the things and the issues that are important to us as a people within the continent and within Nigeria more specifically. I mean yes, I have watched the 'Oparah Winfrey show', I have watched Ellen the humorous show.

I mean I can’t do the 'Ellen Degeneres show.' I mean, she’s so funny, and how does she do it, I don’t know.  At a time there was this 'Tyra Banks show.' All these shows were on the platform. So, I went to have a discussion with Mnet, gathered the courage and I did presentation. At this point, I hadn’t told a lot of people about the idea.

I went to do a presentation with them just to see what they would think.  And the initial response we had at the time was, “why do we need this show? We already have a lot of talk shows.” And it’s incredible how the need for local content has changed in the last 12 to 13 years. Because then, we didn’t seem to have an appetite for local content.

We didn’t seem to crave it, we didn’t seem to want it, and we didn’t seem to care if it existed or if it doesn’t even exist.   

So, I kept saying to them, I think there’s going to be a need for a show like this and my reasons are:  that yes, I am traveled, I can relate to some of the topics that are being said on those shows. I mean, if I want to go, may be 'open stock in expired'. They’re gonna be talking about eating asparagus or carrots or whatever it maybe.

But how is that relevant to a Nigerian that wants to lose weight? Where is she going to find asparagus? For me, it was about bringing this message home, saying that how do we deal with the issues in our environment? If a man is beating his wife and she’s a victim of domestic abuse. How is that show in America going to help her overcome that battle in Nigeria?

While there are so many associations dealing with domestic abuse who we can call out to in Nigeria, who will have no face time having that conversation with, like “this is happening to you? I’m here to help you. I was a victim, now I’m a victor”………there were no opportunities for that.

How we were not celebrating our own people that were achieving certain things in the world like fashion and music and so on and so forth. Now we have all the blogs and stuffs, but we didn’t have those things 12 years ago. All we had then probably was ‘City People’ if you wanted to know what was happening to XYZ.

JULIET: It’s like that … ..has come to live and…  come to online.

MO: It’s totally come to live. In the last decade it has exploded. So it was really about telling them there was a need. Thank God eventually Joe Hunda who was the then MD of Mnet eventually said MO, I’m gonna buy this idea, but know what, I cannot fund you. I don’t have money to commission you, but I will license your show.

So, he now suggested we go and look for sponsors. I didn't have a sponsor then prior to starting Moments with Mo. I didn’t have a crew, but I said okay.  And I’ve been told you can sell sands to the whoever, So, go out there and sell.

So, I went round, I went to Banks, I went to the Telecomms to try and sell Moments with Mo. Looking at what will the benefits be and opening bill boards saying that, “brought to you by XYZ company.” Adverts in between the show - products placements. Maybe if your color is red, we”ll have red in the background.

So, I had to now start thinking about, “what are all those things I’m gonna do to get them to commit.” Because you can’t just keep saying to somebody, be a sponsor. What is the value? What is the value you’ re giving to the sponsor?

I mean, it happens to us. Every day, people call me saying, be my media partner. Media partner how? You want exposure on the channel. But what are we gaining in return? So, we need to get value, so we can give you some value as well.

So, that sort of opened up my eyes to the world of sponsorships and how to close up some sponsorship deals. And then, we had gone to one particular bank at the time, and they were like, “oh yes I want to do it.” The MD herself was going to do it. And this particular MD had a co-plot.

He now said, we aren’t gonna do it. And I was totally like devastated. And I spoke to myself; “Am I going to let that let me down?” I said, “No.” I picked myself up. I called a good friend of mine at the time – Coldmacatasi, who went into small incubator and consultancy -Wemac.  I said, “Mark, see me see trouble o! no sponsor again, what do I do now?”

And at the time I was looking for huge amount of money to start the show. He said, “Mo, break it down. Why don’t you see if you could even do one season of the show?  If you could do one season successfully, then you could start going from there.” And that advice makes it easy, and was what happened.

He took me along to have a meeting with then the MD of Sky Bank – Mr Shola Akinfemiwa. I did my usual presentation to him. I had never met the man in my entire life. I don’t know what he thinks, and eventually he said, we’re not going to sponsor, but we want to invest in your company.

Then they had the SME scheme and they bought into Inspire Africa. And that gave us the seed capital we needed to go build our own studio. Because we had to build our own space where we gonna have these conversations.

It didn’t exist. It’s not like a space where you could just walk into a studio and record.  We couldn’t do that. So, we then had our studio space, it was then in City Mall. It was an empty space and we did it up to as best as we could. And that’s where we started Moments with Mo. and before then, I went on a training course.

JULIET: Now, I was actually going to ask that. that’s a vital area

MO: Yes

JULIET: Before now, I could recall hearing you say that you had no prior media experience.

MO: I had never done it before.

JULIET: It was emm going into a new space.

MO: Yes

JULIET: How did you develop your own capacity? And also, position yourself in a way that you and the show will be taken seriously.

MO: Before we started, thank God we had Sky bank, so they came on board as investor and also as sponsor. And luckily, eventually, I was able to persuade MTN to come on board as a sponsor. So, I had 2 strong brands that were associated with the Moments with Mo brand.

And the very first interview I did, my goodness, was Professor Wole Soyinka. And I chased, and chase and chased, until he said Yes. Because I thought since I need to start this show with the bank, I need a really special guest. And that sort of gave the show the credibility that it needed. 

I went on a training course to learn how to be a presenter. At the time Oprah had launched 25 years in those set of DVD boxes. I bought the entire thing. I would watch and watch. 

Emm, running a training Consultancy firm, I got one of my instructors, Tony Osimi, at the time to train me. So, we would train every weekend at the Protea Hotel. He would record me. We would play back. He would like – "Mo, you need to improve on this, improve on that."

So, I did all those things before I got started. So, that kind of gave me a little bit of confidence. I was still very nervous but I just found that once I got into the flow of the conversation and, of course I had researched. It is important to prepare for your interviews.

Advise to young girls out there that want to become presenters. It’s not really about how you look or the shoes you have on. Yes! That’s nice too. It’s really got to be about the quality of the conversation and the questions that you’re asking, and the topics that you’re selecting.

Because I found when I launched Moments with Mo, I kept saying, we need to have topics that are exciting and people are would want to watch.

So, one of my episodes was this lady that said that she was a parent to 7 children, but she claimed she had in 7 months. So, we did lots of research about it - we went for the blood test, we interviewed her. She said she was the parent. At the end of the day, she said she wasn’t the parent.

I had another crazy episode with an armed robber. This guy was an ex- armed robber and he sat and told me how he got into it and how he got out of it.

 Ammm another crazy episode was a snake eating episode. There are actually places we can go and buy snake meat in Nigeria and eat. And the lady came to the studio with the snake meat. It looks like chicken. And she said try it. I was like, "ain’t  trying this one today."

It was really about finding those topics that would engage; that would be interesting. Rather than just another. 

Domestic abuse we covered. Of course we celebrated lots of people on the shows. Eem I mean, I’ve published already a thousand episodes, before I decided that I wanted to kind of take a back seat before we sort of started on this journey of Ebony life Television.

JULIET: Still on Moments with Mo, so you had several moments in the course of ….. I think it’s over 10 years now.

MO: Yes! Yes! 2006 to 2016

JULIET: From the discussions, were there personal lessons that you learnt that really had a profound impact on you?

MO: The thing is, when people that you don’t know open up to you, you find yourself in a situation whereby you think you really…, I mean they are sharing things with you that you may otherwise not have known.

And one of the episodes I did was very early in my career that I found really touching was when that plane crashed in Port Harcourt.  And it carried those children from the school in Abuja on the flight.

And I had Mrs Amachree, who lost her only daughter, in the studio. She was sitting next to a woman. Not only did she come on the show, but she was able to share her pain. How she dealt with the fact that her only child has been killed in a plane crash.

You find that those intimate moments, they are just moments you’re like, you can never just get them, and people are sharing things with you that are really, really private.  And you’re the custodian of that information and how you treat it and how you treat them, I found it to be eem….

To be continued ......

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