Adaora Mbelu is a branding expert whose work has not only on set her apart but also earned her accolades. She is the founder of Socially Africa and a director at Trellis Group.
Adaora “Lumina” Mbelu has stayed true to her life’s goal; bringing Bright Light, being a Dreamterpreter, and a Purpose Driver. As a brand developer, she has worked on projects with several multinational companies, SME’s, and individuals over the past few years. With Socially Africa, she gives back to society through a number of initiatives. Adaora Mbelu is the author of a phenomenal book titled This Thing Called Purpose
In 2017, she was mentioned in Entrepreneur Magazine’s “11 Africans that are changing the business landscape in Africa.” She was also nominated in the “Entrepreneur Of The Year” and “Prize For Media Enterprise” Categories of the Future Awards Africa. Adaora has been featured among Nigeria’s Under 40 CEO’s, and Top 30 Under 30.
In this revealing interview with Diadem Akhabue, Adaora shares insights and gems from her inspiring journey.
Current role: Founder, Socially Africa
Location: Lagos, Nigeria
What you want to be remembered for: I would like to be remembered for being honest, loving, and kind, while using as many of my gifts as possible, to help other people succeed on their journey. I also want to be remembered as someone who didn’t just support people through my message but invested resources into bringing their dreams to life.
Tell us how you started out and how you got to where you are today?
I usually tell people that I knew my purpose from an early age in life, and I think that really helped me get an early start for where I am today, and where I am going tomorrow. I discovered my purpose by becoming in tune with my spirit first, and then serving other people’s needs. For instance, I started my business to solve a problem that I identified in the creative sector. When I first moved back to Nigeria, I found that a lot of creative people did not have the skill sets to monetize their creativity. Hence, I started off helping people structure their ideas, and create sustainable products/projects that would allow them to monetize and build something that made them truly proud. In the process of doing this, I started to help brands find innovative ways to engage with their consumers, and tell their brand stories. I believe that we are multi-purpose beings, and can only discover this by actively being and doing.
What time do wake up, and what time do you like to be at your desk?
I wake up at 5am, and I’m usually at my desk by 9am. Some days, I’m at my desk around 10am.
A brief rundown of your daily routine?
I don’t have a daily routine. As a multipotentialite, my days differ depending on what hat I’m wearing for the day. However, my morning and night routine is standard. In the morning I’m up at 5am, meditate/pray, stretch, eat breakfast, get my son ready for school, get ready, and then I’m out of the house. At night, I listen to podcasts and fall asleep. I’m usually in bed by 10pm latest.
Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in business?
Honestly, every day is a tough day. Running a business in Nigeria is a whole movie. However, I believe in consistency, and patience.
What is the best business or career advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I’ve ever got is “allow yourself to evolve”. I don’t get so stuck on the services I’m offering per time, because I understand that business is about innovation and evolution.
What conventional life or business advice do you disagree with?
Do one thing at a time. Doing one thing has never worked for me. I engage in multiple industries at the same time, and I enjoy it. I also don’t agree with the conventional advice about focusing on what your competition is doing. I don’t believe that in order to succeed, someone else has to fail, or I have to do better than someone else.
If you had to start all over again, what would you do differently?
If I had to start all over again, I would probably have stayed in paid employment a little longer. I’ve bootstrapped my entire business journey with no investors. I took the road less travelled, and I know the many challenges that came with.
Tell us about your current role and key traits required to succeed on this role.
I understood early in life that it is not enough to have gifts, if you cannot upskill to use them to the best of your ability. I understand the value of hard work, consistency, and discipline, and so I wake up every morning and put in the work. My parents raised us with the mindset to take initiative and to produce results. My brothers and I spent more time sharing results, rather than talking about what we would do. I take each day at a time, and give as much as I possibly can, per time, with the understanding that to whom much is given, much is expected. I’ve never had an entitlement mentality, and I often thanked my parents for all the effort they put into raising us. I’m also thankful to everyone who has given me a platform, or opened a door for me.
Who has had the greatest impact on your career, and why?
Aside from God, My parents have had the greatest impact on my career. They continuously find ways to encourage me to be the best version of myself. Furthermore, My family background provided a diversity of thought. My parents are from different racial and cultural backgrounds, and this provided an opportunity for me to understand diversity very early in life. Hence, I keep a very open mind, and this allows me to forge relationships with people without bias for their backgrounds. I consider myself more open minded than many people. I’m also the last child, and only girl in my family, hence, I built confidence and strength really early in life. Also, my parents didn’t always have the “last say”. They listened to their kids’ opinions and put this into consideration when making decisions with us. They didn’t just make decisions for us, and force us to do as they wanted. They helped us understand the various options, and the results of the decisions we made. This is something I put into practice with my son.
What business achievement are you most proud of?
It’s not a “business” achievement, but it’s a social impact achievement I’m proud of. In 2015, my co-founders and I had a discussion around the importance of giving back to the community, and the concern that many young people are waiting till they have millions and consider themselves financially successful, before they start to engage in community development. We decided not to sit and complain, but to take actionable steps to rally people together to solve some of the problems we had identified in our communities. We want to serve as an inspiration to the next generation watching what we do, and how we impact our world, beyond chasing the next job, or working to feed our families. We started investing funds from our businesses into community development projects. In 3 years, we have executed one of our projects “Art For A Cause” in 15 schools across Nigeria, Impacting over 8,000 kids. We’ve also run our code classes for teenagers, teaching basic programming to 80 teens. We have given out 3,000 Love Boxes, hosted 5 food drives distributing over 4,000 food packs. Socially Africa is more than an NGO, we are a movement teaching young people how to give back.
Name two untapped lucrative business opportunities in the world, right now.
Tech Art, and Nigerian Youth (yes, that’s a business)
Aside from God, what do you consider your greatest success secret?
If I had to summarize my trade secret, it would be my faith, work ethic, and integrity.
What advice do you have for young creatives looking for a niche?
Passion is great, but purpose is better. There’s a misconception that Purpose is about our “Why” alone. But purpose isn’t just about “Why are we doing this”. It is also about “Who will benefit”. When you understand that this journey is really about being a solution, you’ll express yourself more confidently. Be open to collaboration – if you don’t care about who gets the credit, you are more likely to do many amazing things. Don’t say yes to everything. You have to show up fully or not at all, your integrity is hard currency. Finally, be Patient – Time is a great storyteller. This is my mantra. I believe that we can beat many variables in life, but cannot beat time – the understanding and acceptance of this fact, brings focus, peace of mind, and ultimately Joy. I know you want to “hammer” overnight, but I suggest that you keep working hard and let all things work together for your good. Your future self will thank you for putting in the work now.
What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to?
A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. I’m also binge listening to Oprah’s Super Soul Sundays Podcast.
What’s your favourite social media platform, handle, and why?
@Mrphisha because he inspires me all the time.
How do you unwind?
I like to spend time with my circle of friends, laughing, eating good food, and sharing our stories. I also love to travel -I currently don’t travel as much as I would love to. However, exploring new places is top of my list. Many people might not consider this “fun” or “unwinding”, but I love to binge on Podcasts and audiobooks. I can listen to podcasts for hours at a stretch.