“Position yourself as a center of influence, the one who knows the movers and shakers, people will respond to that, and you will soon become what you project” – Bob Burg
“Poverty, I realized wasn’t only a lack of financial resources, it was isolation from the kind of people that could help you make more of yourself” – Keith Ferrazi
“Networking is not about hunting.
It is about farming, it is about cultivating relationships.
Don’t engage in ‘premature Solicitation’- you will be a better networker, if you remember that” –Dr Ivan Misner
The power of networking with regards to success should never be underestimated. Today, world leaders and business pioneers gather at the World Economic Forum in Davos to talk about global growth in all spheres, but above all, it’s another chance to network. Today’s interview highlights the power of making a change and advancements by leveraging the power of networking.
Whoot Africa talks to Funke Shonekan, CEO of FunKey Events and the Creator & Founder of YAP & E (Young Adult Professionals & Entrepreneurs)
Here are excerpts from her chat with us.
Can you share with us a little about Funke Shonekan and YAP&E as platform you represent?
My name is Funke Shonekan and I am from Abeokuta, Ogun State, but I was raised in Lagos. As a child, I attended my mother’s school called Early Learning International School, Lagos. I had my primary education at St. Saviour’s School, while my Secondary education was at Atlantic Hall both in Lagos. I studied International Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Surrey, in the UK. I am the founder & creator of YAP&E.
YAP&E is a social networking event where young professionals and entrepreneurs meet to mingle for a common goal, which is to grow their networks, their businesses and their influence in the world.
What were you doing before YAP&E and what inspired the YAP&E movement?
I worked at Viacom International formerly known as MTV BASE Africa. I was the events/marketing specialist and managed all their events in Nigeria. I was inspired to start my own company because during that time, I felt that it was time for me to birth my company.
YAP&E started operations in 2006-2010, I was the face behind the brand, and I was the accountant, marketer, public relations representative, operations coordinator as well as strategic partnership representative. I learnt the hard way then, as I burnt myself out which lead me to look for full time employment from 2010-2012. In May 2012, I decided to go back and rebrand YAP&E and restructure. I then saw that there were a lot of people who wanted me to connect them to other people they admired and people who inspired them. I realized that if I had access to all these people, I should connect them by hosting networking events. So voila!!
Can you share a little about the history of entrepreneurship in your family?
My Father, Late Adebayo Shonekan, was a professional photographer who enjoyed travelling around the world, taking beautiful pictures. My mum, on the other hand, is a retired school owner and till date, loves taking care of children.
My older sister Feyi Mbanugo is a certified International Chef aka Chef Floand my younger sister Wunmi Williams is CEO Nakenohs which is a one stop hub in the fashion industry. My younger brother Mosope Shonekan is about to start university, and we already see the entrepreneurial spirit in him. We are all entrepreneurial in my family and we are blessed to have a family that encourages us to believe in our dreams and have the ‘just do it’ attitude.
You have years of experience as an events/marketing specialist as the CEO of FunKey Events, how easy or hard has it been convincing young people on the need to join/attend the YAP&E organization events?
Being CEO of Funkey Events, it has been easy convincing people to attend the networking functions especially because they see the value in the short and long term of what my brand offers.
They say “one’s net worth is determined by one’s network”- how much of this is true and how has the reception been with YAP&E? How much impact has this organization made since its inception? Can you also sum up your experience running YAP&E in 5 words?
I agree, ‘one’s net worth is determined by one’s network.
I have a quote to share by Margaret Wheatley: “Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone.
The truth is, when you help others they often help you. Success breeds success and indeed, the rich do get richer. The reality I found in Nigeria is that, people who know the right people for the right reasons and utilizes the power of these relationships can become part of ”a Network”. Once I got this light bulb moment, I wanted to give people who aspired to be successful or who were genuine to improve and develop themselves the opportunity and access to network amongst the established professionals & entrepreneurs. Truth is, you can’t get there alone.
My experience running YAP&E has been an amazing journey because through the power of networking I have been able to meet wonderful and like-minded people. Through the power of networking, I came up with the (5) five-lettered acronym –YAP&E – that is rooted in(5) five C’s 1-Connect 2-Communicate 3-Collaborate 4- Co-create for 5-Change. This is the objective of all our Networking events. We ask each person that attends to apply these 5 C’s whilst networking. Over the past couple of years, I’ve come to realize that someone and something connect us all. And that truly, who you are or what you are looking for is right in front of you! It is truly all about ‘the power of networking’.
Your work with YAP&E brings you in contact with young career men and women and entrepreneurs, what are those things you think separate the winners from the losers from your own experience and point of view?
Two words – Patience and Perseverance! You cannot be successful without these attributes. We all make mistakes but what differentiates the winners from the losers is that they pick themselves up, dust themselves up and keep moving forward.
Young people in Nigeria complain about the lack of opportunities; is there really a shortage of opportunities in Nigeria or are these young people not looking or working hard enough to create these opportunities?
There are business and professional opportunities, but the young people are short sighted, they believe they can be the boss overnight, or in their heads, they believe that once they have gained a few months of experience they are experts. It’s quite sad when I hear young people say that there are no jobs. I can personally count 5 other young entrepreneurs who are looking to recruit people. Then, you’re confronted with unemployed youths who apply for the jobs and demand for huge salaries that do not match their competency level. In the end, they miss out on opportunities as opposed to starting small while creating a good foundation and building from scratch.
With your knowledge and practice of entrepreneurship today, what are some of those things you’d do differently if you had the chance to start all over again?
I would strategically partner with multinational organizations. And I would outsource the following; accountant, digital media and communications person.
As a CEO, if you had to sell doing business in Nigeria to an investor, what would they be?
I have to think about this. Good food for thought!
If you had to share words of wisdom to a conference room full of energetic and aspiring young people, what advice would you share with them on the secrets of success, based on your experience over the years?
1) Be a positive thinker 2) Be authentic with yourself 3) Know your value and 4) Follow your instincts 5) Be patient 6) Be humble and have 7) Clarity
Where do you see the YAP&E movement in next 5-10years?
I see us in every state in Nigeria and West Africa, having functional hubs as the go to hub for information
What do you think are the most important personal skills someone must have to be successful in the events industry?
Humility and good character, and be a gracious person!
Who was the most Influential person or mentor in your life? What was the biggest risk you have taken? Would you do it again?
My mentor is my maternal grandfather Chief Christopher Oladipo Ogunbanjo – he instilled a lot of values in me from my childhood till date. Everyday is a risk in itself and I will continue to take them.
What are your thoughts on university education, should more people go into entrepreneurship rather than spending 4 years at college, considering some of the world’s greatest never had college education?
I believe that everybody is entitled to education, whether or not they choose to go the entrepreneurial path. Education is a good foundation to have both mentally and emotionally, both now and in later days.
30years from now, what would you want Funke Shonekan to be remembered for when her name is mentioned around the world?
I like this question. I want to be remembered by the special grace of God, as a virtuous woman, who fulfilled her purpose by creating opportunities for young adult professionals & entrepreneurs to succeed, and be trail blazers during their lives on earth.
Visit YAP&E official Website for more information on upcoming networking events and seminars – Click Here
FunKey Events Official Website – Click here
If you missed the previous parts of the 15 Questions with the CEO series, please click here