I can’t believe this is the first in the Redefining Wonder Woman Series for 2016. It’s been such a busy year for me so I guess better late than never! When I started my blog, my main reason was to encourage women. A while ago, I was contemplating giving up my blog and I got a random message from Keji Aofiyebi, an events and wedding planner. She was going back to school to gain some qualifications and wanted to let me know my blog encouraged her to. Keji has encouraged me every step of the way and I’m pleased to finally have a chance to interview her, a year since that message. Hope her story encourages you.
RWW: What’s your professional background?
KA: I’m an art and design graduate specialising in illustration. I graduated in the mid 90’s and wasn’t clear on what career path I wanted to pursue. I couldn’t see how ‘Art’ was going to produce an income so I worked my way into IT. For the last fifteen years, I’ve been working as a software tester; the first seven on a permanent basis and the last eight as a freelance consultant.
RWW: If I’m honest, I was pleasantly shocked when you said my blog encouraged you to pursue your dream. How long have you wanted to be an event planner?
KA: I’ve wanted to change my career path for at least ten years now. I’m a creative person by nature and for me, being in an office environment doing something I really don’t like feels like a dead-end job; no matter how much I’m being paid. A few years ago I realised I really wanted out of this field but at the time I wasn’t sure what. Although I’m very detailed and militant in organising my work, I wasn’t sure how or where to start. Reading your blogs, I noticed one thing in common with all the women including yourself that had made changes – they all made sacrifices, they all wanted to follow their dreams and they all worked hard to achieve.
RWW: What was it like studying, working and being a parent?
KA: To be honest, I had to draw strength from and lean on my faith in God to get me through. Thankfully I have a hands-on husband who is really good with the children and cooks well. On a practical note, I did some assignments early mornings and some on my train commute to work. Some weekends, I did nothing but assignments. My older children literally had to sort themselves out but my youngest one was still a bit physically demanding. Thankfully he’s a daddy’s boy. Everyone has really helped to pick up the slack.
RWW: What would you say are the tell tale signs for anyone contemplating a career change?
- Firstly, I would say a lack of interest in your current income source or job – you really can’t be bothered!!
- A lack of vision or a future regarding your current job.
- A lack of drive and the feeling that you’re not getting anywhere in your current job. Incidentally you aren’t getting anywhere because everything you do in your current job seems a bore!
- Most obvious, you really don’t like your job and you’re just doing it for the money.
RWW: So give me three to five practical things someone in a similar situation could do.
- First, you’ll need to identify your dream career. What’s that one thing you really enjoy doing? That thing you enjoy doing so much you would do it for free? After you’ve identified it, find a cheap yet convenient course – could be a one day course, could be a free course. Nothing expensive, you’re simply testing the waters to see if you’ve identified your passion.
- No matter what your dream career is never ever belittle it as someone actually needs what you have to offer. Your dream career is precious to you so be careful who you share your vision with – there are people that are going to think you’ve lost your marbles. Get your inspiration from women who are doing what you want to do, the web, reading books, following bloggers, etc.
- Put your vision down, somewhere you can see it . Write it and put a plan is place.
- Things are not going to always fall into place no matter your plan so be prepared for failure, rejection and mistakes. Give yourself time to assess your failures,only a little time, then dust and pick yourself up and get moving. You must learn to accept rejection and failure before you can accept success.
RWW: How do you manage your time between all your responsibilities? Any tips?
KA: I write a to do list weekly, well I try to. The week of a wedding it’s about that wedding solely. I’m up very early six days a week. When I can’t cook because of the business I order home cooked food and I get the rest of family to chip in big time with housework. I also get the children involved in my business admin and pay them a fee. I always have a rest day where I do nothing, no matter what, because life is hectic I find I need it.
RWW: As a newbie in the events industry you would have made some mistakes. What’s the one thing you would advise anyone to do?
KA: The one mistake I would say I’m making is not getting out enough to network. The advice would be when you’re starting your dream career you need to attend exhibitions and networking events. Get out and see what the competition is doing.
RWW: What do you find exciting about what you do?
KA: Every event is unique, no two events are the same I really enjoy working from concept and bringing the clients vision alive. I also enjoy putting order in a mess, it’s like being presented with a puzzle and me putting all the pieces together … Exciting !
RWW: And for anyone looking to get into events and wedding planning?
KA: This industry is not for the faint hearted. Make sure this is what you really want to do. Find an affordable course there a number of accredited providers out there and go for it. Don’t leave your day job till you’ve built up your reputation.
RWW: You set up your business, Keji Aofiyebi Services, in January 2015. What has been your greatest achievement to date?
KA: Right! My greatest achievement has been stepping out, training up and making the switch. After a certain age we are told by the world that we are too old to make changes, I’ve literally refused to believe that. I think it’s a big deal to live your dream and I’m on the way to achieving that.
RWW: What are the low points?
KA: Building any business is very challenging and comes with it’s share of expenses. No one warned me about that!
RWW: Every Wonder Woman has a cheer leading squad. Who are your champions?
KA: My family! They are always curious about my projects and what I’m up to. Plus they’ve all had to chip in with housework and cooking. My husband has had to do all that as well as act as chauffeur, handy man and critic who is not allowed to be critical LOL. There’s also my good friend Valerie Elliot the hostess of a charity, Time Away With Jesus. She literally saw something in me I didn’t know I had and has been a cheerleader ever since. I also have other friends who have been encouraging and cheering me on.
RWW: I understand you are hosting a wedding exhibition. Tell us a bit about it?
KA: This is me stepping way out of my comfort zone to showcase myself as a wedding planner. It’s called ‘The Aisle‘, an event to showcase a couple’s core wedding needs for their big day. I’m collaborating with four other industry vendors. It’s taking place at Holiday inn Brent Cross, NW2 1LP on the 19th of June 2016. The other vendors are:
Faces of Bodin – The makeup artist
Myrtle and Olive – The caterer
Ayanski – The aso oke and fabric designer
Lite house – The photographer
These really are the core of planning a wedding day. Everything else is built around these vendors so I think it will prove to be an exciting day.
RWW: Thanks Keji. I wish you all the best.