Listening to Debbie Larry-Izamoje – daughter of Larry-Izamoje, veteran sport journalist and CEO of Brila Fm – talk about her entrepreneurial experience, reminds me of the famous words of former US President, John Quincy Adams who thoughtfully said, “I am a warrior, so that my son maybe a merchant, so that his son may be a poet.” In the case of the Izamojes, Mr. Larry is a journalist, so Debbie can be the digital communications expert that she is today. More so, he built Brila Fm to be the foremost sports radio unit in Nigeria, while she’s the young and trendy mind, giving the brand image a boost, projecting it to the global audience, through the inter-connective power of the digital space.
24-year old Debbie, an Information Management degree holder, and with a Masters degree in Management to her name, established “Image Boosters” and “Entrepreneur’s Best Friend” – the former is a digital agency that handles campaigns, online story sharing, and other communication parts of digital marketing; the latter, a passion-driven commitment to helping budding businesses. She explained, “my real passion comes from sitting down with entrepreneurs, teaching them what to do, and helping them, which is the concept behind Entrepreneur’s Best Friend; but most of my money comes from Image Boosters.” Lately, I have growing doubts about my sense of humor but I made an attempt at a joke by saying to Debbie: “since you referred to Entrepreneur’s Best Friend as your real passion, then Image Boosters has to be your money passion.” She simply chuckled.
Common to both of Debbie’s initiatives, is the foundational interest of hers, in “helping people with owning a business in Nigeria”, but the ideas separated along the lines of structural pattern and approach. While “Image Boosters” is “structured”, run with a staff size of 8, operating under the 9 – 5 timeline; Debbie said Entrepreneur’s Best Friend is “just me and whoever wants to talk to me.” – more like a “non-profit” consultancy service, which, so far, about 200 businesses have benefited from. For Image Boosters, Debbie and her team have executed about 45 different projects, in just about 2 years, since the birth of the agency.
My guess was right: Brila FM is one of the earliest clients of Image Boosters, and the relationship between both companies has been strengthened over time, as a result of their productive dealings, such that the sports media outfit remains one of the digital agency’s biggest payers even till date. Officially, the first assignment Image Boosters undertook for Brila, was to project the radio station’s emphatic stature in the Nigerian sports sector, on the digital space. “We transformed it from Brila FM to Brila media”, growing the internet presence of the sports outfit, increasing it from barely over a thousand to 71 thousand Instagram followers, and about two folds of a hundred thousand on Twitter. Whether as a joke or for context-sake, I am not sure, but Debbie said: “sometimes I remind the (graphics) designer that they were still using PowerPoint for their designs when we came onboard.”
Consequently, the increased reach came with “more jobs and more money” for Brila. “Jobs came in from Greece and other countries.” One successful campaign after another, and then it became a company trait, which was brought into projects executed for members of the brand’s impressive clientele, including The Nigerian Football Federation, TW Magazine, who, Debbie said: “we helped them with their online presence.” The intensely competitive nature of the digital communications industry makes it hard to imagine that an ”unknown” company, in less than 2 years, would land such high-level projects without some form of untold advantage. Admittedly, the name – “Izamoje” – opens doors for Image Boosters. Debbie said, “it would have been way harder (without the advantage of the name). It makes life a little easier because brands want to work with me because of the name sometimes.”
Debbie paused briefly, giving an impression that she was about to make a confession. “It takes away from my credibility, which is very annoying”, she said, in a pensive tone that communicates the challenge that comes with her last name – a challenge that she faces, one that she’s beaten repeatedly, and now, she relishes it. Whenever she mentions her work on Brila Media in her profile and she gets a condescending variance of ”is it not your father’s business? Take it away”, she responds with the statement of fact that her effort and her team’s, was put into the project, so ”it counts.” She added, ”anything that has to do with integrity I am very upfront (about it). I don’t play with my integrity.”
In the middle of our discussion about the interesting projects she has undertaken, and her family’s position on her chosen entrepreneurial career – her influential and vastly knowledgeable dad particularly, Debbie told me about the one time that they got the management of Brila FM annoyed. Debbie’s team – the Image Booster staff members – were scoring high numbers on some of their posts on the Brila Media Twitter page, with an audience of 200,000 followers. These posts included videos which, violates the rules that guide uploads to the apps – Debbie and her team members were unaware at the time. They lost the page, forever, and they had to start the rebuilding process. For this event, Debbie was grateful for the name: Izamoje. She said, ”on a normal day we could have lost that client.” And about the incident she said: ”it has made us very careful, especially with other brands. We have learnt from there. It was a learning experience.”
From a general outlook, Nigeria’s digital industry is among the fastest growing sectors – probably the fastest. But Debbie sees a lot that can be done that isn’t being done in the field – like influencer marketing. ”I believe we have gotten influencer marketing wrong in Nigeria. Every influencer should have their core. So they will be able to give you results”, she said to me. ”Nigeria is the only country where, influencers don’t tell you for this post that you’re paying for, this is the return on your investment.’ In other countries, there are Influencer marketing platforms for these things.” She continued, ”a lot of brands think they just need influencers. They just pick influencers randomly.”
As Debbie explained, influencers should have their core audience, characterized by the nature of their content; and this is supposed to be expertise of digital agencies like Image Boosters. ”Where Digital Agencies come in, is before, and after influencer marketing.” ”We are like the third party. We connect clients to influencers. We ensure that influencers do their jobs well. We ensure that our clients are at the forefront of their consumers even when the influencer has moved on and has started talking about their competitors.” I have actually seen an influencer, on Twitter, promote a certain drink as the ”most notorious and energising”, and not too long after, via the same account, it was said that there is nothing healthier in the market than a similar but different drink – barefaced lies in the name of promoting a brand.”
The next steps for Image Boosters, after the company’s impressive run in brand promotion on social media, is to “go technical” – building applications and product launching; and in the coming years, actively “work with a lot of international companies trying to reach the Nigerian audience.” Debbie, a usually translational leader evolving to embrace a mixed style, is willing to stretch the resources at her disposal to reach new levels of productivity because, as she said, “I haven’t even started.”
Interestingly, these days, Debbie’s last name comes after “CEO of Image Boosters” and the many qualifiers that capture her intelligence and ambitious nature. Even Mr Larry-Izamoje from time to time, sends Debbie web-links of articles about her and her brand, suggesting that “oh you are becoming popular o.” But for Debbie, it is another essential sign that indeed her dreams are valid.
This article was written by Ibironke Oluwatobi. He tweets via: @ibironketweets