‘I was told it was impossible to find good, local talents in Nigeria… But that is not true’
Gozie Coker is the founder and ‘Chief Experience’ designer of Coker Creative. Describing herself as the last of three girls in a household of overachievers, she says she is extremely reserved and shy when she meets people initially but opens up once she has gotten to know them. An avid traveler and wine lover always looking to discover the next experience, she tells TOBI AWODIPE of her journey into event planning, building her business from the ground up, her challenges as an entrepreneur and her plans for the future.
You studied Marketing as an undergraduate and Strategic Management for your Masters. What inspired you to be an Event Planner and how did you get into event planning?
WHEN I started, I was not sure what the role was called but I had always planned end-of-year activities for friends, right from when I was House Captain of my house in Loyola Jesuit College secondary school. It didn’t stop there, as I would plan parties and trips for my friends while I was an undergraduate student and eventually a Masters student. I even interned at several event companies while I was in the University to be sure if that was what I really wanted to do.
Would you say your educational background has helped in running your business better?
I must confess that my educational background definitely gave me the courage, and to a degree, the know-how to go ahead and run my business. My undergraduate degree exposed me to various courses that have definitely come in handy today, such as Accounting, Finance and Marketing. More importantly, my Strategic Management masters degree from Cass University shaped my business strategy from the onset particularly with my discovery of certain business theories and strategy. One of such that I have applied to Coker Creative is The Blue Ocean which basically suggests that companies are better off creating unique products and searching for ways to create new market spaces rather than engaging in traditional competition with existing businesses. This theory has definitely helped guide our business principles and practices till today.
What is the scariest moment you have faced as an event planner?
The scariest moment would have to be when we were given the task to plan a wedding for 1000 guests in three days! I was literally freaking out and tried to pull out in multiple ways. However, the client insisted that we proceed and my team reassured me that we had the capacity and the expertise to pull off a seamless event despite the short time frame. The event was a major success and I was extremely proud of my team, as all the procedures and processes we had worked tirelessly to put in place helped us pull off the event seamlessly despite the timeframe.
What challenges do you face as a business and how are you overcoming them?
I would have to say that our biggest challenge at the moment is collecting payment after events. Special events and weddings are very emotional scenarios and we have found that once we deliver that unique experience to clients, they hardly want to discuss outstanding payments after their events. Our new policy aims to settle all finances prior to the wedding to ensure the business does not have to chase money, and the clients do not have to discuss funds with us following the events.
What makes Coker Creative different from any other event planning company?
We strive to create value for our customers and vendors as we recognize the importance of client and vendor relationships and work tirelessly to manage both relationships. It is important that every client leaves, feeling like they got a unique experience. We are constantly thinking of how to improve the experience for our clients and make the entire planning process more seamless from start to finish. And we deliver on these promises. We’re constantly looking inward to improve and do better so we can grow and improve.
Where do you see your business in the next five years?
Teaching, consulting and guiding other businesses and clients to find their inner creative and help them run their own successful events.
Coker creative was established in 2014. In the time you have been in operation would you say you have achieved the goals you set out to accomplish?
I surpassed my expectations for the first two years in the first year and now I am having to re-plan and re-strategize because clearly the plans I had for us were much smaller than the plans God had for us.
What do you like most about your job?
I absolutely like celebrating love and so I’m grateful that I get to play a part in making people happy and I get to share in their special moments.
What is the highlight of your career so far?
I was told that it was impossible to find good local talent in the country and so I would have to say the highlight of my career would have to be disproving this and being able to build, after much trial and error, a team of hardworking, passionate go-getters who are committed to excellence and detail, and motivate and inspire me on the days that I lack inspiration.
If not event planning, what would you be doing?
The truth is there was never a plan B and that’s probably why I am as passionate as I am because I have nothing to fall back on and failure is definitely not an option.
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