Being a woman in a male-dominated industry is a challenging reality for anyone, but thriving in the said industry can be done, and it can be done well.
I had the privilege of speaking to Naomi Michael Adenuga, a successful female talent manager in Nigeria about her experience being one of the very few women in the entertainment management industry.
During our conversation, she candidly shared the realities of the struggle, and how she negotiated it to become one of the most sought-after agents in the space.
So, who exactly is Naomi?
Naomi is a multi-award-winning brand strategist and talent manager committed to helping people identify their purpose and monetize their talents. She is the founder of Naomad Talent Management Agency, which represents gifted individuals and visionary brands passionate about their craft and meaningfully connecting with their audiences.
She and her world-class team of professionals help clients hone their skills, develop confidence in their capabilities, and strategically build and position them as viable brands with longevity.
She boasts of over 9 years of experience and is unapologetic about taking her “seat at the table.” Her sharp intuition, a penchant for over-delivery, and exceptional ability to connect to her clients have gained her the apt moniker of “Boss Lady”.
She has a true heart for people and believes that everyone comes into the world endowed with certain talents given for the purposes of earning a personal living, sharing with others for social good, and impacting the world.
A few notable awards she has won during her career include Talent Manager of the Year, Entertainment Personality of the Year, and the Young Achievers Award.
She has most recently been nominated for Nigerian Entrepreneur of the Year by Nigerian Teen Choice Awards and Entertainment Personality of the Year by Nigerian Achievers Award.
With such a compelling set of accomplishments, I was eager to have her share her story and perspective on how to “kill it” in a male-dominated industry.
How did you discover your purpose and passion?
I found my purpose when I started my passion filled talent management journey. Talent management means building up a person and guiding them to their highest potential.
I call it King making, some people are Kings and some others are King-makers. As time went on, I had people come to me for advice on general stuff and work stuff.
The more people I spoke to and worked with to help build them up, the more fulfilled I was. My purpose is to help others find their purpose and become better versions of themselves. By doing so, I not only build myself up as well, but I get to do what I am passionate about and fulfill my purpose.
What was it like initially trying to break into a male-dominated industry?
It was tough I had to constantly prove myself, work harder and smarter.My purpose is to help others find their purpose and become better versions of themselves - @NaomiBosslady Click To Tweet
How has your experience been since then, and how do you navigate challenges?
It’s honestly not as bad as it was in the past. The industry is evolving, and I noticed the change when women and men started being nominated in the same award categories.
A few years ago, it was: Best Female Talent Manager or Best Female Artist or Best Female DJ; now, it’s Best Talent Manager, Artist, or DJ.
The gender bias is reducing.
When I have challenges, I talk to God about it. He always gives me a strategy (laughs). I also have a few people in my Industry I go to for guidance. I look at women who are breaking boundaries in male-dominated sectors and I draw strength from them.
Women like Ibukun Awosika, who currently serves as Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria; Kemi Adetiba, who is a leading music video director and filmmaker. She directed The Wedding Party, which is one of the highest grossing films of all time in Nigeria.
Finally, Tiwa Savage, who is one of the biggest names in the African entertainment industry. She goes toe to toe with the men and comes out on top of her game. She sells out venues like the men and is a mother.
These women and a couple of others have consciously and unconsciously laid out the blueprint for the next generation of women to break into and thrive in male-dominated industries.
I draw strength from them by reminding myself that they too must have faced similar challenges and more but keep pushing. This tells me that I too can do it, survive, thrive and beyond.I look at women who are breaking boundaries in male-dominated sectors and I draw strength from them - @NaomiBosslady Click To Tweet
Why did you choose the entrepreneurship route over working for someone else?
I didn’t have a choice really. The last job I had working for an entertainment company ended because the CEO dissolved the company. I had to make ends meet, and so I started working independently.
I began by writing proposals for people, coming up with strategies, consulting here and there for upcoming artists and small brands, while moonlighting as a manager of a nightclub and serving as an event planner.
I was working by myself and just winging it. Along the line, I realized, “girl you really can do this”. I never applied for a job with any company after that and continued working for myself. I also discovered that I am a natural born leader.The entertainment industry is evolving and the gender bias is reducing - @NaomiBosslady Click To Tweet
Can you share a little more about the non-traditional route that brought you where you are today?
First off, shout out to my uncle and mentor who gave me my first shot, Efe Omorogbe. I was basically doing nothing with my time and getting up to no good, and so my mum insisted that I reach out to him.
He is the CEO of Now Muzik and is an entertainment industry powerhouse. He gave me a job as his personal assistant and was always extra hard on me. I felt it was pure hell.
I was basically his shadow, going from business meetings to strategy sessions, taking minutes of staff meetings, etc. I didn’t even realize I was learning anything. And boy was I stubborn!
He fired and re-hired me a few times. But, during my time working for him, I learned a lot, though I still had no idea of the potential I had to become a great talent developer and manager.
Long story short, here I am, doing what I love and absolutely killing it if I do say so myself. If you know Efe Omorogbe, you know he is a tough man and you get the highest level of training with him.
I am a product of that high-quality training.
We love the fact that you acknowledge you are absolutely killing it. If you had to sum yourself up in 5 words, what would they be?
What is your greatest accomplishment or the thing you are most proud of in life?
I was raised by a single mom who did everything you can possibly think of to raise me. It wasn’t easy, and we had really difficult times.
She slowed down on work when I was in my early 20’s due to health issues, and I had to find a way to fend for both of us.
I would say my greatest accomplishment is being able to now comfortably take care of her and give her a better life than the one we had while I was growing up.
What are some of your biggest challenges as one of the very few women killing it in the talent management game in Nigeria?
My biggest challenge was not being taken seriously because, 1. I am a woman, and 2. There is a misconception about talent management.
It seemed to many like it was all about the glitz and glamour [with little substance]. I was seeing a guy once, who said to me “If I take you home to my parents, what will I tell them you do?”
Looking back, I am thankful for that moment because it motivated me to put in more work, refine my work, and strengthen the ethics around my work.@NaomiBosslady talks about breaking boundaries as a talent manager in Nigeria. Read her story here... Click To Tweet
What tools and tips can you share with someone looking to start their own talent management agency?
- First of all, if you cannot serve, you cannot lead. (This applies to anyone about to start their own business). You must put the needs of your clients before yours. You need to believe in your clients and their abilities.
If you don’t, you can’t properly position them and monetize their gifts. The result is that your agency will crumble.
- You need to have a moral compass. A moral compass because your agency and clients’ output depend on the choices you make with them.
These choices affect the overall performance of your clients and your agency. Everything they do reflects on you regardless of who originated their choices: you or them.
- You need to study the market and identify what makes your clients unique. In doing so, you will know how best to position them, market them, and monetize them.
- Negotiating—which is the hardest part. It’s something some people are naturally good at, and others become great at with experience. Knowing your client’s value always helps.
- Lastly, your agency/business should be based on loyalty and integrity. You should under promise and over deliver!
Referrals are the best form of advertising for your business, so keep that in mind. If you adhere to these tips, past and present clients will definitely refer your agency to others who will become future clients.
What are some of the most critical lessons you’ve learned over the course of managing your business and your clients?
I learned that your client is your boss and you are your client’s boss. It’s important for both of you to be aligned and have the same goals for the brand as well as have similar principles.
It’s also important to be patient with the process, most especially when the client is new to it.
You must sow into the client before you reap, and the client must undergo a development process before your work starts to bear fruit that both of you can enjoy. So, patience, patience, patience.
What advice do you have for other women looking to break into an industry that is dominated by men? Are there things that helped you?
- Be strong, be resilient, be positive. Place no limitation on yourself, and make sure the women around you are strong, loyal and supportive.
Even if you are confident, your supporters will help boost your confidence even more, and this goes a long way.
- Always be on top of your game. It’s important to know your onions. What you have in your head and your heart will help you break boundaries and glass ceilings and earn you the respect of your peers – both male and female.
- Find a mentor and study women who have thrived in a male-dominated industry and have added value to the society. And God, carry Him along. He opens doors no man can shut.
If you’d like to get featured on our Facebook page, click here to share your story with us.