Simi Esiri has not only succeeded in creating a brand but in becoming a brand. The ‘mom-preneur’ who came into the spotlight as a celebrity spouse being married to popular Nigerian Musician, Dr Sid; has since reclaimed her name as the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of her very own luxury Pan-african Magazine, SCHICK.
The magazine, much like its name sounds, is one of the country’s foremost sleek publications and digital platforms profiling fashion, beauty and lifestlye within Africa and beyond. The magazine also boasts some very famous African acts with a refreshing, novel approach to the interviews that are conducted and the quality of product published.
Tell me about your life before SCHICK, what had you dabbled in? Were you in paid employment?
Life before SCHICK Magazine was great, just as tedious if you ask me. I was working as the Deputy Editor of Complete Fashion Magazine, so I had a hectic schedule. Before that I worked as the Fashion & Entertainment Lawyer at O.A Osomo & Co, my mother’s firm – equally tasking! Prior to these jobs, I was in university. I studied international relations as a first degree and went on to do a law conversion course and then law school. I dabbled in a few short courses in fashion pr, buying and styling while in university.
What inspired SCHICK and why the name?
Honestly I was at my old publishing job one day and I thought to myself, I’ll like to have my own magazine soon – I went on google and started googling names synonmous with style and SCHICK came up. It’s a German word for fashionable, stylish, chic, vogue etc. All the nice words attached to fashion was the definition of this German word and I thought this is the perfect name for our publication. Hence our tagline Smart, Stylish and Successful . We pride ourselves on celebrating African style and beyond.
You have successfully built a luxury magazine that has carved a niche for itself despite being less than a year old. What would you say has contributed to this?
Thank you for such lovely feedback. Honestly, I think it’s patience, perseverance, attention-to-detail and God’s grace that really helped us thus far. We are unintentionally a luxury Pan-African magazine, we weren’t thinking about that from the beginning. We were just thinking about creating a great magazine with great content finished off with a great print quality. A lot of people had said to me that you can’t get quality print in Nigeria but we’ve managed to do so with our print runs. People are usually gob-smacked when they find out we print in Lagos!
Please let us in on some of your best branding tips.
With branding, I think it’s really important to know exactly what you want your audience to know immediately they come in contact with your brand.
How do you want them to feel? What is the message behind your branding?
I often talk to my team about the SCHICK experience. As a business owner you need to be thinking about the experience your brand offers – so your choice of colours, fonts, taglines, logo, look and feel of your website down to the product itself has to be thought out. Why did you pick red for instance? SCHICK’s branding is white, grey and black. Why? You have strong classy colours like black and white with grey as a calming hue – we were thinking about the strong bold African woman who knows when and where to be calm and meek when we were brainstorming on suitable colours for the magazine. So all in all, you have to be very intentional with your branding. Take your time to put such things together because once you get straight into the business, there’s very little time to iron such things that demand a lot of attention.
What are some of the criteria looked at when deciding on a cover feature?
We have pretty strict guidelines for cover personalities and we do quite well at adhering to them. Honestly we really look at the talent’s story. Their branding and what their message is. It also helps if they have a project they are looking to promote. All in all we go for celebrities who have that real star power. We have had actresses and TV presenters in the past. We look forward to working with musicians in the near future.
Every entrepreneur faces challenges however, there are some challenges unique to us in the Nigerian terrain. What would you say some of yours have been?
I think one of the major obstacles running a premium magazine in Nigeria is building a hard-working team. There’s a false perception that people in the creative industry don’t work very hard. A lot of people think it’s just fashion shows, glitz and glam more like ‘The Devil Wears Prada (the movie) in 365 days there’s probably 10 days of glitz. It is sheer grit and grind in the publishing industry. Another one is printing, you have to literally be there when your magazine is being printed to ensure the quality doesn’t drop.
How have you overcome these obstacles?
You keep on keeping on honestly, obstacles are there for us to re-strategise, it’s there to push us.
So for instance, with printing that I mentioned earlier I make sure I’m physically there when SCHICK is being run on the machines so I can confirm layout etc to the printers. For the team obstacle, I keep trying my hand at it and I never give up. It’s important to remember that the quality of your staff determines the quality of your business so if you don’t get it right with this employee, you’ll get it right with the next one. Just keep going. Occasionally look back and pat yourself at the back, well done because it’s not easy running any business in Nigeria.
You’re in the public eye due to your being married to a celebrity. How have you managed to make a name outside of being a celebrity spouse?
Quite simply hard work. I think I buried myself in my work and really focused on what was needed for me in the public eye.
In the beginning, I remember it used to sting a little that I had all these achievements or accomplishments but everyone wanted to focus on the “Dr Sid’s wife” label but I told myself to continue to work very hard.
Before I knew it I was called Founder and Editor-in-Chief of SCHICK Magazine. I say this to say, the less I worried about it, the more it reduced. Burying myself in my work and not worrying about what the public says really helped. As a wife and mother, I know what I need to do both in public and private for my family and that’s the most important thing.
What would you say the key to empowerment for any woman is?
Oh that’s a great question. I think empowerment for any woman is financial freedom. It may seem minute but it’s really important for any woman to be able to take care of herself and her children however small. She should be able to contribute however little to her household, that way she’s adding invaluable value that won’t ever be dismissed.
What has been your key motivator to get up and keep going everyday in spite of the odds?
Oh quite simply my family. When I was pregnant and not working as much, I’ll see my husband leave home very early and come back very late. I saw that everyday and having our daughter really pushed me even more. There’s that instant drive you get when you become a mother, it’s very hard to explain but yes, my family is my biggest motivator and they keep me going everyday. Another thing that keeps me going is the call to make a difference in my field. I started SCHICK because I knew there were young women like me at the time that wanted a relatable exciting magazine that truly resonates with them, that celebrates all that we are as African women and I wanted to help bring it to fruition. When work gets tough, I hold on to these two and they help to keep me going on.
For anyone looking to jump into the entrepreneurship boat what would you advise that they consider?
A necessary factor to consider when getting into the entrepreneurship boat is how bad you want it.
Ask the tough questions like Do you have the strength, patience and dedication it takes to be an entrepreneur? Are you doing it because your friends are?
Not everyone is going to be great at being an entrepreneur, just like not everyone is going to be great at a 9 to 5. Before I took this leap, I had saved considerably to cover the business in its 2yrs because I knew my industry well enough that we would need funding to move forward immediately.
A factor to success that I will never compromise is integrity and goodwill. Money can’t buy these two but, they will open far more doors for you than money ever will.
Where will SCHICK be in the next 5 years?
In the next 5 years, the hope is SCHICK will be operating as a monthly magazine as we are quarterly now. We hope to be an established household name with a lot more business under our belt. As a publishing firm, it would be great to have books, more magazines, a lot more events etc I can’t stay too much under our portfolio.
Simi Esiri is important for a generation of African women who are opening new doors and setting fire to a trail that will impact several other young women to empowering themselves and becoming their own entity. We’re here for all of that and then some.