“We armed ourselves with talent,” recalls Chude, “and a network of goodwill we had built working for five years with late Levi Ajuonuma, Funmi Iyanda, Gina Harry, Agatha Amata, NTA, Jerome, the counselor, and writing for Tempo, Thisday, True Love and Comet. The Future Awards was hosted in 2006 without a dime in corporate support, but on a network of media barriers with service providers. It’s really a testimony, and it’s also testament that much is possible in Nigeria, in spite of Nigeria.”
Chude and Adebola have always had a keen interest in the media hence it is not a surprise that they have decided to tow that path years later. “I have always been attracted to communication,” says Adebola, who has performed as an actor and anchored events and TV programmes at age 17.
“I was presenting and producing a youth show the same time doing same for a business show on the NTA. Then, I enjoyed selling people, products and ideas to others. My friends would tease that I could sell anything with my mouth. Counselling people is something I’ve also been passionate about. I worked as a counsellor in training for two years. For me, it is about communication.”
In the last few years, RedStrat has evolved from a company that just provides communication services and organise the annual Future Awards to one that understands the imperative of creating value through private sector enterprise. The business for Chude and Adebola fully kicked off four years ago with a name change of the company to Red Media Limited, and expansion of its operations.
“Our business is RED,” explains Chude, “and it’s a community of media brands – Red Media Limited, which is a media and communication firm focused on Public Relations, New Media and Street Activations: Y!/YNaija, which are media content platforms on TV, radio, print and online, holdings in a range of firms operating independently including an ad agency, and our affiliated development firm, The Future Project, which focuses on media for development, In Terms of how it grew, it has always been business.”
With staff strength of 24 people, Red Media services clients like Etisalat, the British Council, BlackBerry, Google, the Nigeria LNG, Nigerian Idol, Heirs Holdings, among others. Y! as a content brand offers advertising platforms for brands like Indomie, MTN, Airtel, Close Up, Nokia, among others. “We are excited by the brands that have connected with what we call our Dankateur spirit,” says Chude, with a smile.
He challenges facing young business owners in the country are numerous, but for Chude and his team, it is beyond epileptic power supply and access to finance. For him, it is more about going up against competitors with in-build advantages when pitching for accounts.
“We face challenges peculiar to other businesses of which Chude has mentioned,” explains Adebola, “some but with years of experience, you learn strategies to combat them. We say to ourselves everyday that we can’t afford to fail, we owe it to ourselves, to the society and to God who has given us all these talents and so we face head on each challenge, day by day.”
Breaking even hasn’t been that much of an issue for the Red Media team because, before they became full-time business owners, Chude had worked with Virgin Nigeria and others while running Red Media. “We had always been clear that we would run a profitable enterprise or else there would be no point to it ultimately, we have always focused on the bottom line,” he adds.
The principles that have been sustaining the business Chude describes as being old fashioned, yet they have become indispensable to the growth of their business. A couple of things have been sustaining us.
First, we live within our means – which means, no matter the temptation we don’t overspend. If we don’t have it, we simply don’t spend it. I have worked in too many media companies that have overreached and sunk, and so I am keenly aware of the dangers. Second, we pay what we owe – largely, we are debt-averse; and when in doubt, we air on the side of payment. Never owed a staff or contractor, for instance, we are insistent that we must pay each bill. Third, we follow the money – everything we engage in has to be profitable, because business really is a matter of value for value. If it’s not making money, it really isn’t business.
It’s not a matter of pretty offices, or sexy cars, it’s about balancing income over expense, and we never, ever forget that.”
Chude says the plans they have for the Y! Brands haven’t even kicked off as they are still keeping their heads down and surviving their first two years establishing their presence firmly. “No dazzle, no razzmatazz, just steady moving. Next year, we are unleashing that brand, and we have a 10-year target at the end of which we’ll blanket the market by His grace. The Future Awards really, for us, just kicked into full gear. I know people will think we are trying to be modest. But in terms of what has been our vision, this year we moved into stride. We are expanding that brand and it starts next year. As always with Red Media, we play our cards close to our chests. So, basically, we’ll be working on these products over the next few years, and in five years, we’ll be telling success stories of giant milestones.”
Both Chude and Adebola grew up in very humble homes. Chude had his secondary school education at Adebola Baptist High School and Mayflower, Ikenne, Ogun State. He studied Law at the University of Lagos, had a masters degree from the Pan-African University.
Adebola tried his hands on Public Relations at the University of Lagos and studied Journalism at the London School of Journalism, marketing at the London School of Marketing and School of Media and Communications at the Pan African University.