Every Monday we feature women and their careers in the Pearls And Heels segment. Our Pearls And Heels lady today is Millicent Otieno. Millicent Otieno Kiragu is an events planner for wedding and corporate events. Her passion for events led to the launch of The Grand Wedding Expo, an annual event that brings together wedding industry professionals to showcase their services to couples planning their weddings.
1. Describe your typical day?
I wake up at 5:30 am to prepare breakfast for my family and make sure they are prepared for the day. My husband and I run a number of businesses together so we brainstorm for the day between 7 and 8 am before we start off on various appointments in our home office or at different locations meeting clients. If I do not have an early meeting, I bathe my 7month old daughter and make her breakfast before my house help arrives to take over and do other household chores.
At around 9 am, I settle in at my office and read through e-mails and answer those that are urgent. I also browse through our various social media platforms to update my business pages and respond to any inquiries from fans and followers. I also read through my favourite blogs, most of which are biased towards entrepreneurship and especially those that are related to the event and wedding industry both locally and internationally.
Most of my day is spent making connections with those in the industry as part of networking which is very important in the event business. I also work with my team mostly through online and video chat to plan upcoming events for clients and our own annual events such as The Grand Wedding Expo that takes place every September.
I am usually done by 5 pm but this can extend depending on the workload for the day. However, from 6 pm I take a break to connect with my daughter and give her, her evening bath and feed. I then prepare supper and rest while waiting for my husband so that we can eat dinner together. I am usually in bed by 9 or 10 pm.
2. What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a DJ, then a chef and even a manager for a famous band.
What were you doing before event planning and what made you switch to it?
After graduation from Daystar University where I studied Public Relations, I worked as a communication assistant at a local NGO for three years before starting out in the event planning business. The decision to go into business full time was because I enjoy planning my own time and putting together projects of different kinds and finally seeing them turn out successfully. The event industry is very dynamic unlike an 8 am-5 pm job which I found to be quite monotonous.
3. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I would have started my event business much earlier so that I would have taken more risks.
4. What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your job?
• Definitely, communications skills because you will have to listen a lot to properly understand the needs of your clients and deliver as expected.
• Creativity is also essential as you are always expected to come up with new event ideas for various clients.
• Integrity because you need to keep your word to clients and deliver as promised. In some cases, clients even deposit funds with you and trust that you will not disappear before the job is done.
5. As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
Working in Nairobi is challenging but also promising in that if you are persistent long enough, you will get to where you want to be in the long run. You also have to be quite flexible to succeed as a businesswoman in Nairobi.
Yes, I believe that Nairobi is receptive to event planners as is evident in the many companies that offer such services. However, to stand out you need to find a way to separate yourself from the rest in terms of services offered and interaction with customers.
6. What motivates you?
My daughter of course! I want her to have the best of things in life and opportunities I did not get at a young age. I would want her to see what a successful businesswoman looks like and believe she can also succeed in life.
My Christian faith also motivates me, because I believe that God placed in me the ability to creatively plan and execute events and I do not want that gift to go to waste.
7. How do you define success?
I believe success is working on goals that you have set in your personal and business life and seeing them become a reality.
8. Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My parents, who were also business people, have inspired me to work hard at my dreams. Also, business women that have beaten the odds to set up thriving companies that contribute to the economy of the country.
9. What is your favourite aspect of your job?
Seeing a project I worked on from scratch come to fruition and the client gives feedback and says that they are satisfied with the outcome of the event.
10. What would you say are the key elements to being successful?
Relying on God’s guidance daily; keeping focused on goals set and accepting that failure does not mean you cannot try again and succeed.
11. What advice would you give somebody just starting out in your line of work?
Be persistent and never give up. Having a mentor; has really helped me keep going even when faced with hurdles on my way.
12. What has been your most satisfying moment in terms of your career?
Pulling off the first Grand Wedding Expo event successfully; with minimal experience in handling such large events.
Also, I once had a client pay me way above the agreed amount because the event I was planning for them was a great success.
13. What makes you happy?
Taking on new projects. I get excited just thinking of the different ways to make it an event that is memorable for all attendees.
I also love spending time with my immediate and extended family, they make me happy.
14. What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
I love reading because it allows me to learn new things. When I am not working I love listening to music and singing my heart out. Music has a way of helping me express thoughts and emotions that may at times be hard to put in words.
15. Where do you see yourself in around 10 years?
Mmh…Being in charge of a thriving event planning business with the wedding expo being an event known all over Kenya and Africa. Also, I would want to be an inspiration to girls and women that want to build businesses on a global level.
To interact with Millicent you can follow her at @MOKiragu. You can also check out her page on Facebook – The Grand Wedding Expo.
Pearls And Heels: Kitawa Wemo