Ronke Emielu is a Marketing and Advertising professional and Founder of Love in a Box Homeless Project
Why did you choose advertising?
I didn’t choose advertising, it chose me! I practically stumbled into the career after doing a 360 degree turn on my dream of working in financial services. My long list of skills was well fitting to the industry.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I love the fact that everyday is not the same. I can wake up tomorrow morning and be on a TV production set, the next week I can be on a plane to a different country, project managing a global product launch.
What challenges have you faced in your profession and how have you overcome them?
Being the only black girl in the office (apart from when I worked in Nigeria) has always been a challenge. Different cultures, different expectations and different influences. I overcame them by trying to work at least twice as hard as my peers.
How does adverting and marketing in Nigeria compare to countries like London and Dubai where you have also worked?
London adverting is very different to Dubai advertising. Nigerian advertising, is very different to Dubai. They are all unique because people are unique. The greatest task in Nigerian advertising is finding different ways of marketing products to such a large population size.
It is a great challenge understanding 170 million people from different cultures, tribes and social classes. Having worked on brands such as MTN, Fidelity Bank and Interswitch I was able to further understand these different demographics to create effective advertising campaigns.
Nigeria is at the forefront of mobile money, which the other countries are now only slowly picking up. Digital advertising in Nigeria is quite advance, this sets it apart from the other countries I have worked in.
What advice would you offer someone who would like to pursue a career in advertising and marketing?
Intern, get work experience, network and be ready to work for peanuts (at the beginning!).
Also, the world is changing, so digital advertising should be at the top of everyone’s mind. There are daily tech updates happening, new apps, new tools and new platforms. You must be able to learn quickly as the world is changing rapidly.
Lastly, you have to have a passion for the industry otherwise it may get tiring, very quick! You have to love this industry to thrive in it.
Where would you like to see yourself in a few years?
In a few years, I will be running a social enterprise. A mix of business and philanthropy.
Can you tell me more about your ‘Love in a Box Homeless Project’ and what the inspiration was behind it?
Love in A Box is a project that was co-founded by myself and a friend in 2009. I used to run a clothing brand called JesusLovesMe, we started by giving free clothing from the brand to homeless people as homelessness has been something so close to my heart.
I believe that in ‘developed’ countries like the UK have no excuse for homeless people. With the wealth, welfare state and the endless opportunities, we should not turn a blind eye to the few that are in need. Since 2009 it has become a fully fledge project, we have had over 200 volunteers and have met, smiled and spoken to over 500 homeless people in London alone. We have a great relationship with Thames Reach Homeless shelter in London and also manage a street outreach programme.
There seems to be a lot done for homelessness in Western countries like the UK, for example, but it doesn’t seem to be much of an agenda for Nigeria. Why do you think this is and what more do you think needs to be done for the homeless in Nigeria?
Nigeria, o Nigeria. We have a long way to go with poverty, education, welfare and everything in between. We need to start there. What was very strange, was that in my time in Lagos I did not see many ‘homeless’ people. I know people are homeless but they are not seen like how they are seen in London. We have people that beg but I did not see many rough sleepers. I believe this is because we have accepted poverty and the poor people have communities where they learn to live with what they have. Once the sun goes down, where do the people that beg go? I need to figure that out.
As I could not run a homeless project in my two years in Nigeria, I invested my time in volunteering at orphanages.
There is a rising surge of young Nigerian’s getting more connected to the country, what are your thoughts on this?
I love that people are now connected. It was never cool to be a Nigerian kid at school in London, but now our culture and country is cool!
Despite this, I do believe that many people in the diaspora have been sold a fake social media dream of what Lagos/Nigeria actually is. Nigeria is more than Lekki, Ikoyi and VI and it’s more than Afrobeats and the club! People need to come and see the true essence of Nigeria and see how they can make positive impact with their skills.
How do you think a community like NNC can be a part of creating such connections?
NCC is a great platform for the Nigerian community. We need more things like this because a persons network is their net worth! We need to build Nigeria together, one step, one network at a time.