Over the last 15 years, Ibidunni Ighodalo has dominated the events management and decoration business in Nigeria. Her entry into that space changed the headlines. For instance, everyone is still talking about the 15 amazing days of great discounts and wonderful giveaways she instituted to push the boat out at that landmark. Ighodalo’s fame as an events manager is legendary. A former beauty queen, she deploys an amazing precision and attention to detail that results in the complete transformation of any space into a spectacular setting. The narrative behind her foray into the events management sphere will make a good read any day.
It all started while she was waiting to gain admission into University of Lagos to study medicine. It was her father’s choice and being that she loved her sire very well, she also fell in love with the medical sciences. But providence had charted another way for her. Due to an inexplicable error, Ighodalo’s admission letter to study medicine was somehow mixed up and sent to someone else to her dismay. No amount of tears could reverse the human error. The young teen was left with no choice than to study another science-related course. This in a way made her ambivalent on what career to pursue. Each day, she came up with one career or the other, “I want to be a pilot,” she would cry to her husband, Pastor Ituah Ighodalo, the next day, she was thinking of becoming an engineer. At a point, he gave up on her indecisiveness.
While still in school, Ighodalo participated in a beauty contest that did not require her to wear a bikini which she eventually won. That was the beginning of a new stage in her life.
“I was based on a salary despite the little perks that came along with my reign. From the monies paid, I saw myself through university. There was always a holiday job for me which helped my finances. It was during a particular holiday job in an oil-servicing company that God pushed me to the direction of my purpose. I was a receptionist there but somehow, I was given the responsibility to organise the company’s social events. From luncheons to birthday parties, I was in control of the celebration. I had no experience, but I was able to add one and one together and deliver well.”
Her talents and efficiency were so admired that when she was about going for National Youth Service, her boss gave her a blank cheque to fill in any figure.
“I never expected this. I was so shocked I didn’t know what to do. It was so generous of him. At the same time, I didn’t know what to do? What figure should I write? I asked my colleagues and they suggested I write a sum in six digits. Something inside stopped me from doing that. I went home with the cheque and came back the following day. I went directly to see my boss and thanked for his munificence but insisted that he write down whatever sum that came from his mind.” With monies received, she bought a piece of land.
Years later, fate crossed their paths together again. The boss’ mother passed and he wanted her to take care of the burial ceremony. From the band to the decoration, he blindly trusted her with such a huge task. From that single task, Ighodalo built an enviable client base. Through referrals, she became one of the sought-after events management company in Nigeria.
Over the years, the company has positioned itself to provide total events management services-from start to finish; including logistics, decoration, media coverage, entertainment and catering. As a testimony to her astuteness, there is The Dorchester, a 3000-capacity event hall in Oniru area of Lagos.
A pacesetter with a penchant for excellence, the Elizabeth R headquarters has become one of the most beautiful landmarks on Awolowo Road in Ikoyi. It is impossible to pass by and not give it a long stare. The exterior which is done in marble accentuates the design and architecture. On the ground floor is the recently opened gift shop which made an impressive showing during the last Valentine season. Because it offered rare and very attractive pieces, it sold out to the surprise of Ighodalo. The First Floor houses the different departments in the company, a conference room and the office of the CEO. As many do not go beyond the welcome-and-greeting area, the eye-pleasing, soft-furnishing there combines with the artistic presentation of a bowing mannequin to convey a strong message of warmth and willingness to serve. The top floor is dedicated to the bridal store called Avant Garde, which stocks some of the most exquisite designs for a most memorable wedding.
Ighodalo hinted at the possibility of an official opening of the building which is taking a new lease of life. “That is why we moved it to the present location in its 15thanniversary. I was in my 20s when we started this company. I knew what I wanted, but I could not guess we would come this far and make such an impact in the industry and in the lives of many people. I am very happy to see the number of people who used to work here but have since moved on to do their own thing. That, undoubtedly, is our greatest achievement in 15 years. Add the fact that we still keep a warm relationship with all of them. We are like a family. We plan on being here for a long time. It would be nice to have an official opening, but it has to be well done and at a time all my valued guests and clients can attend. That is the challenge. Again, we are very busy.”
Certain things remain the same in the events management equation. This is particularly so for Elizabeth R. Ighodalo likes to think that if its logo and other marks of identity are completely removed from a decorated space, many will still guess correctly whose job it is.