Ikechukwu Urum is the CoFounder/Director of Jabari Model Management and also The Team Lead at The Qraft Company. He had his first degree in Business Administration from the University of Ilorin and also has an MSc in Employee Relations and Human Resource Management. He likes to refer to himself as a “Dreamer”.

Young and Enterprising: Ikechukwu Urum's Entrepreneurial Journey Into Model Management and Fashion Styling

You’re probably wondering how someone with a first degree in Business Administration, ended up in model management. That thought also crossed our minds, so we had to ask.

So I actually started as an intern at an event management firm. One time we planned and hosted a pageant that I worked on. I eventually noticed that I was more focused on the models than the actual event itself. I did a lot of research and initially started as a catwalk instructor. Over time, I co-founded an agency called “Jabari Models” and I have been building from there.

We also wanted to know how the journey had been so far…

My journey in the model management business has been very rocky, as I have had to deal with lots of challenges but thankfully, I have always had a great support system so giving up is never an option. It honestly has not been easy, but I am very grateful for all the experiences I have had; and how those experiences have helped shape my career in the industry.

Our next question was, Ik (as he is fondly called by friends and family) you’re also a fashion stylist, how did that happen?  “Lol! So I’ve always loved looking good! I remember there was a time I used to tear my clothes and sew them back again just so I could practice sewing with a needle and thread. I even started a clothing line some years back with one of my best friends, but I discovered I was more into curating the looks than actually designing them. So we decided to slit up and I started styling full time, and he kept on designing. We still work together a lot.

Ikechukwu is the co-founder of Jabari Models and is also the Team-Lead of his styling agency called The Qraft Company. This young entrepreneur really is a dreamer, and we wanted to know how these dreams of his became a reality.

For Jabari, I used to work in another agency and my business partner right now also worked for another agency. During the lockdown, I had to deal with some setbacks from work and I resigned from working with them. Fortunately for me, my business partner at that time was also no longer with his company. We got together and had series of conversations about the kind of models we wanted to manage, how we can go about scouting and the kind of clients we want to attract. We also needed some funds, so we spoke to an investor who was willing to key into the dream and began work. We had to first draw up documents and register the company, but after that was sorted we knew that laying down a structure that will help us actualize the goals we had set out to accomplish was important, and that is what we have been doing.

For Qraft, it was not as easy as Jabari. When I started, I was a newbie and nobody wanted to pay a newbie. So I had to intern a lot at fashion shows, intern for other stylists and stuff. I did a lot of assisting on set and that helped me learn and sharpen my skill. I also did a lot of research on the international scene because some things just didn’t feel right with the fashion scene here. Then I started to build a portfolio for myself by doing a lot of editorial work; with amazing photographers like my dear friend Adebayo. People like him helped inspire me to want to be different and challenge the status quo. I remember I didn’t get my first paying client till about 2018 when I started working for Ojy Okpe of Arise TV as her personal stylist, and over time the business grew and we are here today. I’m still working, still learning and still growing…”

On how he was able to get funding for his businesses, he answers. “As I said earlier for Jabari, I spoke to an investor who was willing to come on board and partner with us. For Qraft, Omo I used my pocket money and every other money I could lay my hands on because I had to invest in things like books, accessories, clothes, etc.

Starting a business is never easy but starting a business in Nigeria comes with its own peculiarities. Each industry has its own specific issues, and we wanted to know what kind of struggles Ik faced on his journey to achieving his dreams.

Because there is literally no platform or support for upcoming creatives, I had to struggle to have my voice heard; and I am still struggling with that till today. I know a lot of very creative people who don’t get the recognition they deserve for their work because of the way our industry is structured. There are only a few top creatives who support the up-and-coming. The others will probably use you, steal your ideas or talk you down to get ahead; it can be very toxic. One thing I have learnt over the years is that I will always keep the focus on my skill and celebrate my little wins; every other thing will fall in place later.

It’s easy to assume that having business partners will make it easier to run a business, as you don’t have to shoulder the responsibilities alone. Jabari Models is a partnership and Ikechukwu is one of the co-founders, so we sought to know his perspective on this. He answers.

Yes and No! (Lukman will kill me here)

Yes because I get to bounce ideas with my partners before making any move, and they help refine the idea and make it better, so yea that’s a good thing. I said No because now we have to get a 100% vote from all parties before we can make a decision. So if I find a model who I am excited about, I can’t just go ahead and sign without showing him/her to my partners and getting their buy-in. It can be frustrating sometimes.

Ik has been into fashion styling for a long time, and we are quite intrigued with some of the outfits he’s curated. So we asked him to give us a rundown on how he styles a client and share with us some of the celebrities he has styled.

“I always ask the client what he/she wants. It is important to always get their opinion and know what they actually want, even if you already have an idea in mind. It is now my job to refine their idea by adding elements from there; to what I believe will work for them.

I always like to have a mood board, so I prepare one and share it with the client, and the rest of the team (makeup and hair) so everyone is on the same page.

Then I have to source garments or make them. I have some designers with who I have established a relationship, so I reach out to them and sort that out, or I find new designers with who I can work.

I always like to have a fitting session, so I know what needs to be adjusted and what will work; so on the “D-Day”, everything looks great.

Some of the clients I have worked for are Ojy Okpe, Oluchi Orlandi, Lydia Lawrence-Nze, Adegbemi Akinsanya, Laila Salami Johnson, Nse Ikpe Etim, Etim Effiong, Nedu of Wazobia FM, Kemi Adetiba, Richard Mofe Damijo and a lot of others.

Ikechukwu Urum has worked on some major projects. For The Qraft Company, their biggest project so far was styling Kemi Adetiba’s movie King of Boys 2. As for Jabari Models, their biggest project is still a secret which he cannot reveal to us yet but will share it when the time is right; so watch out.

As most would know, marketing is key to the success of any enterprise. Ikechukwu’s brands have relied majorly on word of mouth as a marketing means. All his jobs come from referrals; he gets a job from and old client and that client refers him to another and so on. He also mentions how important it is to leave a good impression and do a good job, just because the industry is small and word gets around fast.

Just like us, you’re probably wondering what services a Model Management agency like Jabari Models and a styling company like The Qraft Company offers.

Jabari Models is a model management agency, and we represent some of the best faces to come out of Nigeria. We have male and female models for Fashion and Commercial Projects.

The Qraft Company is a Fashion Styling and Production Company, so we offer styling services of all kinds and for all projects, from events, to films, to music videos, to ad campaigns, to documentaries, etc. I dey style burial gan! Loool” he adds.

On what makes his brands unique, he answers. “Very few stylist are able to do every aspect of styling and do it well. I like to believe I am one of those people who have that skill. Plus, I am a hard worker so my clients can be rest assured that I will not rest till I accomplish the set goal.

Ikechukwu Urum enjoys watching movies and gisting with friends as a way to unwind. When asked about his secret to juggling two businesses in Nigeria, he replies. “Having a good support system! All my friends are my assistants Lol! they hve helped out on different projects at different times. You also need to be able to manage your time very well.

When asked about the next steps for his business, he responds excitedly. “We going global baby!!!”

Finally, for potential entrepreneurs, Ikechukwu Urum shared some advice. “Do a lot of research, be willing to learn, celebrate your little wins and don’t stop growing

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