Thursday, 7 August 2014

360 Woman: XMC Convener, Funmi Elliott On Family, Career And That Point When It All Became Too Much

Funmi Elliott has a lot going for her. Having successfully hosted arguably Nigeria’s pioneer gathering of experiental marketing stakeholders, she has come to the attention of Africa’s experiential marketing space as a pacesetter. A young, vibrant mother of one, she has tread where others only dream and does so without apologies. I had a chat with her last week about home and work and the underbelly of her seemingly effortless achievements. She is as candid as they come. Enjoy.

N: Hey Funmi
F: Hi. I'm here
N: How are we doing this evening?
F: Splendid. Had an interesting weekend, looking forward to the new week
N: Great. I'm excited already
F: Same here
N: Ok so we are both excited, that is good
F: Lol
N: Seriously now, a while back you organised what I thought was a very important event. Important because to the best of my knowledge, it hadn't been done before
F: Yes, that would be the Xperiential Marketing Conference

N: Yes. What were you thinking? What made you do it?
F: Well truth be told, it wasn't just my idea. My close friend/partner and I saw a gap in the experiential marketing industry. Brands are spending a lot of money in that sector, a lot is expected of the stakeholders in that sector, but we felt there were issues with human capital development.

Marketing executives needed to be empowered with strategies that not only deliver their brand message, but immersive, powerful experiences that forge connections and evoke the right emotions in consumers. XMC was also supposed to double as a forum where major stakeholders including the brand owners could rub minds, share knowledge, review and understand trends that would influence future experiential campaigns and improve the industry.

N: Hmm. What I found interesting was the scale of the project...
F:  The scale...
N: Yeah, it was pan-african. Now that was ambitious
Erik Hauser
F: Yes it was, we had attendees from Mozambique, South Africa, Ghana and even Kenya. When we started planning our core focus was the Nigerian market, however when the marketing campaign began, we started receiving enquiries from a lot of marketing specialists from other African countries, I reckon this was due to the pedigree of speakers lined up to speak and of course people keyed into the vision of the forum. Our campaign went farther than we had projected and it just took on a life of its own.

Max Lenderman
N: Amazing. I guess it confirms the gap you talked about. 
What was the reaction you got from those who have been around way longer than you have?
F: A lot of people in the industry applauded us... it was nothing short of brilliant. We had some feedback however from a few who weren’t convinced because they felt Redbutton International; the convener, wasn’t a core experiential marketing agency and because the company was relatively new. Yes, we did have some opposition. They however missed the most important objective, which was knowledge share to help the entire industry grow.

N: So how did you deal with that?
F: Well we did the best we could. We got the support of the key stakeholders in the industry making them more of a minority. What is important is that for a pilot, we had a fabulous outing.

N: That's great to hear :)
Apart from the conference, which you organise(d), what do you do?
F: I head the New Business and Special Projects unit at Proximity Communications, a Marketing Communications Consortium of specialists and firms located within the heart of Africa, dedicated to fascinating consumers in ways that build leading brands. The company has six companies within the group providing varied specialised marketing services.

N:  Okay... please break that down to the average Nigerian, what does that entail?

F: I provide strategic support across five of the companies within the group. My role also involves new product development & marketing, providing solutions to our client’s marketing challenges, client relationship management and project management support. As part of the management team, I also provide leadership support across the group.

N: Hmm. So after doing all of this, where do you find time for anything else?
F: Hmm... It's not all roses and sunshine. Truth be told, at times it can get really tough balancing home and career.
N: Aw...
F: Let me rewind some years ago
N: Okay, I'm all ears
F: I had an awesome career, I was then at another experiential marketing agency, serving as Head of Events & Account Management for one of the leading Telecommunication brands. I had a fun, rewarding but very demanding job. It got really crazy at some point where I just woke up one morning and realised I just couldn’t continue, I was a new wife, new mother... Though strong willed and self-driven, I think I got to my breaking point. I realized my marriage was suffering, I wasn’t spending quality time with my daughter. I was hardly at home. I was always travelling; at times with my daughter who was still breastfeeding at the point and at times without.

N: Wow! So what did you do at that point?
F: My dear, I resigned. I’m soooo happy I married my best friend, maybe my marriage would have ended during that period. My hubby Babatunde just kept being supportive. Even when I told him I wanted to resign he pressed me to be sure that was what I really wanted to do and not just backing down because of the pressures. I took one year off work and just focused solely on family. I had all the time for my daughter and my husband and I used that time to do develop myself.

N: That's reassuring
Now you are back at work, what are you doing to make sure it never gets to that point again?
F: Well I’m stronger now, more mature, more experienced. I had a clear understanding of the working culture before joining the Proximity team; work culture here is great, I resume at 9.00 am which gives me enough time to do a lot at home (get Kiishi ready for school, do my morning exercises, have breakfast etc.) before heading to work. Also there is less travelling. I hate to think am painting a perfect picture…

N: LOL. Relax, the picture is less than perfect. You haven't gone to Disneyland yet.
F: There are times when I have to work really late and at times my hubby is back home before I am, though he is very supportive, I try to close early as often as possible.
N: I was just going to ask you about Babatunde
F: Shoot
N: He has stood by you through all of this. Share your story with me. How long have you both known each other? What has kept you going strong? What are the challenges you face as a young couple? How do you get past them?
F: Wooow! That's practically my life story. Lol
N: Hahaha
F: I'll give you the short version
N: Let's go :)
F: I am one of the lucky ones. I met Babatunde 13 years ago while I was in Uni. For us it was instant. The chemistry was undeniable. We fell in love right there and have been together since. We got married 4 years ago and have been blessed with a beautiful feisty daughter called Iteoluwakiishi Zara Elliott.
N: Praying *Lord don't let me get jealous*
F: Lol. Babatunde asides being my husband is my best friend. He knows my dreams and has encouraged me every step of the way. He is unusual, he isn’t the typical egotistical male.
N: Aw...
F: Lolz. I’m thinking back on the journey so far and it wouldn’t have been this easy if he wasn’t him. Let me sit an example
N: okay
F: There are periods when I’m super-stressed from work and on certain occasions, he just says "Temi (he calls me that) just lie down, don’t do anything… He then goes ahead to make dinner, runs a bath for me…" It’s the little things
N: That’s really sweet
F: So yes he has been my shield through the storm
N: Aw again. Babatunde thank you oh *waving*

F: Lol. For us as young couples we have shared responsibilities such that at the end of the day, life is easier and enjoyable for us both. Despite having a very demanding career, I ensure I am present for bedtime tuck-ins, morning bathes, ensure the freezer is stocked with various meal options and during the weekends I make special dishes that he loves and he in turn on some weekends feeds our daughter or brushes her teeth or you know, does those little things that help us connect better as a family "blushing."

N: LOL. It's okay, you can blush. You called your daughter feisty, whose genes did she inherit?
F: Hmm I remember seeing her for the first time in the hospital and I’m thinking Oh My Gosh, she looks just like me… Hmmm a different story some days after till now. She is a miniature of my husband, but she has my character and energy
N: I can just imagine :):
F: She's so smart, people who meet her are shocked she is just 2+. Lol
N: That must be a lot of energy
F: Yeah, I’m animated and she takes after me in that regard. She’s also very inquisitive and so I get so many questions. Some months ago, her dad told her she couldn’t dance in a particular way because it was too mature for her and I remember some weeks back I was dancing in the living room and was completely blown away when she said "Mummy, daddy says don’t dance like that, why are you dancing like that?
N: Hahaha
F: I had to delve into some long dialogue of how adults are permitted to do certain things bla bla bla
N: The way kids pay attention. It's amazing
F: It’s unbelievable!
N: And if you keep saying one thing and doing another, you are going to really mess them up. Because your word is law, it's all they know
F: Yes. I know… So it’s important that we hold ourselves to higher standards

N: Yeah. To close this Funmi, I have one last question, what would you say to the young mother out there who doesn't think she can succeed at home and work?
F: It’s really not easy finding a perfect work-life balance. From the onset she needs to be clear about her priorities. What comes first? Over the years I have practiced 3 steps that has helped me balance work-life better.
1. I set limits on my work time. I have a cap as to when I need to leave, most time if there are deadlines I take work home with me instead of staying too late at work.
2. I ensure at work I am very organized such that I can use my time and energy efficiently.
3. I have established rules and routines to help me manage certain elements of my home in my absence. My housekeeper knows what time my daughter needs to have an evening bath, dinner etc.

N: Great. Thanks for your time Funmi
F: Been great chatting with you Naomi. My pleasure...

Funmi Elliott is a dynamic marketing communications specialist, thinker and multi-faceted project manager. She currently heads the New Business unit at Proximity Communications, provides strategic support across five of the specialist companies within the consortium.

Prior to that she served as Senior Consultant and Project Director at Redbutton International, a strategic marketing solutions company. This new consulting outfit was the brain behind the revolutionary Xperiential Marketing Conference in Nigeria that took place in June 2013. Funmi has expertise in creating unusual experiential marketing initiatives. She is passionate about building strong and exciting brands. Her distinctive understanding of what drives the customer and conceptual approach to brand experience initiatives makes her project executions very fresh and impactful.

Prior to her role at Redbutton International, Funmi Elliott was the Head of Events and Account Management at Tequila tasked with the full management of the Etisalat Events and Sponsorship across Nigeria. Over the years, she has also created and managed numerous brand experiences for brands like Unilever, Huawei, Samsung, Dangote, Dana Air to mention a few.

Funmi is strongly inspired by Albert Einstein and her favorite quote by Einstein is “I have no special talents, but am passionately curious”. She is happily married with a lively beautiful daughter. She is a fitness and health buff, loves to travel, experiments in the kitchen and is a budding photographer.

You can find her on - Twitter - @phoomielliott, Instagram – Funmielliott, LinkedIn/Facebook – Funmi Elliott

©Naomi Lucas

1 comment:

geena said...

I knew Funmi as a kid, I can attest she is d Feisty one... keep doin great dear