Ten years as a pioneer event planner has earned Funke Bucknor-Obruthe a place amongst Nigeria’s industry leaders and innovators. Zapphaire Events is Funke’s flagship event planning, management and consulting company born out of her passion for planning events. The lawyer-turned-entrepreneur was branded “Entrepreneur of the Year” in 2006 by Nigeria’s most prestigious youth awards platform, The Future Awards. She has also been named “Wedding Planner of the Year” by the Wedding Planner Magazine, and in 2011 she was featured on CNN International’s Inside Africa for her extraordinary work planning a Nigerian Royal wedding. Mrs Bucknor-Obruthe’s passion for planning comes through in everything she does. In this exclusive interview with Ventures Woman, Funke shares her journey with Folake Soetan, expressing her thoughts on the events management industry, African parenting and her hopes for the future.
VW: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
FBO: I was born to Mr Segun Bucknor and Mrs Sola Bucknor; I have one sister, Tosyn Bucknor. I attended Fountain Nursery and Primary school, Nigeria Navy secondary school then proceeded to University of Lagos where I studied Law. I also went to Nigerian Law School in Abuja where I was called to bar in year 2000. I practised Law very briefly before I joined Tie communications, an advertisement and PR agency. Then I set out to start Zapphaire Events after working with Tie Communication for a while. I am happily married to Onome Obruthe and we have two lovely girls.
VW: It is very common for a lot of people to study one thing in university and then pursue a completely different field. What do you think that says about our educational system or culture as Africans?
FBO: In Africa, parents sometimes impose what they wished they had studied on their children not caring whether its a career the child has a passion for or not. When we were growing up, every parent wanted their children to become either a doctor, a lawyer, a banker or an engineer. All of that is changing now as we see parents sending their children to dance classes, including sending them to my event management training school! (laughs)
VW: What was your primary motivation for going into event planning and what do you love about it?
FBO: I just loved planning events, I didn’t start it as a business, at first it was just like helping out friends, then a few friends called me and advised that I do it for a living. I enjoy planning events, every bit of the planning excites me, so I would say I love absolutely everything about event planning.
VW: When you started, event management as a field was still unknown in Nigeria, how did you grow and make it successful?
FBO: First it takes believing in yourself to be a pioneer in an industry that no one was sure of what the future held, but thank God it took the courage of people like me to launch out and now we have over 500 event planners in Nigeria. It took courage, focus and hard work to grow the industry.
VW: What has been the best event you’ve done so far and why? The worst?
FBO: Every event I have ever planned had a special touch to it, so I wouldn’t say I have a best or a worst. Every event is unique.
VW: Many people identify human resources as their biggest challenge. What can young, unemployed Africans do to make themselves more appealing on the job market?
FBO: Be creative, think out of the box. Identify your unique selling point and always make a concious effort to improve on yourself. VW: Great advice! Has being a woman proved helpful, challenging or irrelevant to your success in this industry? FBO: So far, it hasn’t been of much relevance.
VW: You’ve received quite a bit of national and international recognition. Which of them was most significant for you?
FBO: Both my national and international awards are significant for me. The CNN Inside Africa report was very special and all my nigerian awards have been a great honour because it’s my country.
VW: You recently published the bridal handbook. Please tell us more.
FBO: The Essential Bridal Handbook was born out of the need to inform and educate brides on how to plan a flawless event, the book also serves as a journal and resource book, where you can get all the tips you need on planning your event and managing your budget. I wrote the book with the contributions of a few of my friends who are event service providers, so it’s packed with a lot of experience from professionals. This is just the book to recommend for every bride-to-be.
VW: What are your plans for the next 10 years of Zapphaire?
FBO: A lot of people see Zapphaire as a company that has already “arrived” but I tell you, Zapphaire has just started. In the next 10 years people would be wowed by the new innovations. There are a couple of things in the pipeline already. Zapphaire is reaching for the sky!
VW: I hear you work both inside and outside of Nigeria. Can you briefly tell us about that?
FBO: Yes, I have worked in Ghana, Dubai and America. Working outside Nigeria has made Excellence a driving factor for me having seen the level of excellence put into all these events.
VW: Thank you Funke! It was a pleasure speaking with you.