Funke Osae-Brown is as petite as much as she is a power house of ideas and innovation. She is a successful media personality brand who is now focused on reporting on luxury individuals and corporate brands. She dared to be different when she quit her job and forayed into the world of online publishing, blazing the trail with The Luxury Reporter (TLR). Within a short period, TLR has become a force to be reckoned with, promoting reputable luxury brands. Funke chatted with Demola Akinbola on her experience:
We salute your courage and focus on managing The Luxury Reporter Magazine. Congratulations. How did it all start? What was the inspiration?
It all started six years ago when I felt I was at the peak of what I was doing at my former place of employment. I needed a change at the time because I had been doing the same thing repeatedly for 10 years. So, I decided it was time to do something different.
I prayerfully asked God for directions. One, I day I was at home on maternity leave when the idea of reporting on luxury lifestyle came to me. In the course of reporting lifestyle for more than 10 years, I realized we need more publications that will focus on that aspect of lifestyle reporting.
What did you set out to achieve with the magazine? What is the vision?
We want to be a game changer in lifestyle reporting. We want to write about people who have through their hardwork are living the lives of their dream. Who want people to know that if you have worked hard for your success you deserve to spend it. We also want the world to know that Africa is ready for luxury living. We are not just consumers but manufacturers of lifestyle products that can compete with their counterparts globally.
Our vision is to be a one-stop Nigeria based multimedia company, with offerings across all platforms, print, and digital upscale lifestyle magazine published for that man or woman of class with a taste for rare quality.
Looking back, how has the journey been so far?
It has been challenging. It has been difficult to get the High Net worth Individuals (HNIs) to understand why you need to write about them. Most of them are not the loud or boastful type. They are not the wannabes who take to social media to flaunt their wealth; neither are they celebrities who are all over the place. They are very private people who love exclusivity.
Despite the challenges, it has been interesting. It has been good discovering new things and relating to like minds on the importance of projecting African luxury with a special focus on Nigerian brands that are positing themselves as African luxury brands. It has also been interesting interviewing the rich, gaining access into their posh home and having exclusive view of their private collections.
Would you say the vision is being fulfilled? Are you on course?
Yes, to the glory of God we are making inroads into so many new places. We aren’t there yet, but we are taking one step at a time.
What are the challenges that have confronted you and how have you coped?
The challenges are many. When you start out doing something new, there are bound to be rejections. People will think you are embarking on a journey that leads nowhere. But as we progress in our journey, they are beginning to see that we are doing the right thing.
How has it been operating within the Nigerian macro-economic system?
It has been easy. The Nigerian environment is not friendly to entrepreneurs especially start-ups. The capital to start media business is difficult to get. Mostly, when they know returns doesn’t come quickly compared with other businesses. Return on investment for a media owner takes a long time to mature.
You have become a celebrity of some sort by virtue of what you do and your association with luxury brands. What has this done to your personality?
I am laughing hard at this question. I am not a celebrity. I am just being who I am, Funke Osae-Brown and to do my job as a journalist by pursuing the vision God has given me. I try to separate my personal life from my business. I make it as a rule not to live the kind of lifestyle the people I report on live. I am not competing with them; I am just a journalist who is on the field to get her job done. I don’t do red carpets and all those things.
Do you have a most memorable moment in the course of this project that you would like to share with us?
Yes, starting our print edition. When we started TLR five years ago, it wasn’t our intention to do print edition, but we discovered that in Nigeria print journalism still has its appeal to a greater number of people even though many people consume news and other contents online. Getting the right content together, the design and a good place to print was a big challenge.
But by our second edition we were able to get a good graphic artist and printer who did very good job. I forgot to add that, the person who was to design the pages put up an attitude that almost ruined the date we were supposed to come out two years ago with the print edition. It was supposed to come out as the Christmas edition for 2017. I had to get another page designer who did a good job and we printed in January 2018.
Were there occasions you felt like quitting? What happened?
I never felt like quitting at all. I just saw the challenge and took my time to overcome them.
What is your view on the increase in VAT, since VAT is a consumption tax on luxury brands?
Everywhere in the world all goods are taxed luxury goods inclusive. But the Nigerian environment is peculiar for so many reasons. The middle class are the people who spend more on luxury items more than the super-rich. And with the current economic environment, the middle class is struggling, so increasing VAT means you are overstretching an already overburdened middle class.
Given your closeness to most of these luxury brands, would you say they have positively contributed to the development of the society in general or just a segment of it?
They are manufacturers of products which they feel people will find useful, buy and use. Just the same way Coke has its own targeted consumers the same way luxury brands have a segment of the society they appeal to. So, if you can afford it, you buy it.
Are Nigerian brands really focusing on building and managing strong brands, beyond the glitz and glamour?
Like I said earlier, there are emerging luxury brands in Nigeria who are making conscious effort to position their brand for the international market. They are doing well with their product presentation. We just need to support their vision by consuming their products.
You are a wife and a mother. How do you cope?
It is not easy to juggle everything. I win some, I lose some. I take my time and I plan all I must do around my home and my children. I know I can have it all but not at the same time.
You seem to hold very strong conservative/opposition political views. Do you want to expatiate on your political ideology?
My political ideology is fairness. That regardless of who is in power there should be an enabling environment for everyone to thrive without you having to know anyone in power to fix anything for you.
What are your future plans for The Luxury Magazine? Are new products or services coming soon?
Yes, we plan to bring back our online TV which was rested for some time because of technical issues and funding. We are doing some filming and outing new contents together for this.
Who is Funke Osae-Brown? Tell us what makes you tick? What are your strong points?
Funke Osae-Brown is a woman who loves to contribute her own little quota to the lives of those she comes across. I put in all I must achieve my vision and I am generally passionate about intellectual things. I love to read and acquire knowledge. I am a firm believer in the Yoruba cultural values of respect and Omoluabi.
Give us an insight into your family background, as well as your early years.
I was born in Ivory Coast, but I grew up in Nigeria. I lived with my grandparents for some time when my family returned from Ivory Coast. My stay with my grandparents would later lay a strong foundation for my worldview and how I relate with people. We later settled in Lagos in the early 1980s and ever since I have been living in Lagos.
Please summarise your academic and career trajectory.
I studied English Literature at Ogun State University, Ago-Iwoye. I did my MA English Literature at Unilag and I have attended many trainings in The Netherlands, UK, Ghana among others.
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