#LLAInterview: ”Have a passion bigger than your pay cheque” Leading Ladies Africa Meets Simi Esiri, Founder SCHICK Magazine

As the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of the Award Winning SCHICK Magazine, a magazine for Africans by Africans, Intellectual Property Lawyer, Simi Esiri is impacting the world through the power of her ideas and also changing the African narrative a publication at a time. She shares with Leading Ladies Africa her career journey highlighting the role SCHICK Magazine is playing in correcting the single story of Africa and Africans.

Tell us in your own words, who is Simi Esiri?

Simi Esiri is a friendly, very social and happy-go-lucky individual. She’s a daughter, friend, mother of 2 beautiful daughters and a wife. She cares a lot about the welfare and well-being of the people around her as well as the ones closest to her. She’s a nurturer, a home maker, lawyer and a business woman.

Great! So tell us about growing up, what was it like?

Growing in Nigeria, I went to Adesoye College in Kwara State and I have my best memories from Secondary School. I went on to do A levels and had my University education in England which was a little bit of a shocker in terms of environment but still, those years formed part of my best years.

Would you say your educational background prepared you for what you do now?

Definitely! I totally agree that my educational background prepared me for the work I do as the Founder & Editor-in-Chief at SCHICK Magazine. I studied International Relations at Keele University in England, went on to do a law conversion at the same university and then went to 2 different Law Schools – College of Law, Manchester and Nigerian Law School, Bwari Abuja – I was called to Bar in 2013. When I started my passion-led project – SCHICK. I was solely responsible for writing and preparing all our contracts and negotiating with externals, writing cover stories, etc. I wasn’t excited doing it at the time but I’m better for it now. They say knowledge is power, I’d say the more knowledge you have, the better for everyone around you.

By profession, you are an Intellectual Property Lawyer – why the pivot to Publishing? Did you ever foresee your life taking the shape it has taken now career wise?

I’ve always wanted to be a Fashion Entrepreneur but there’s a time and place for everything. For me, it was education first then my passions – Fashion, New Media and Entertainment Law, Women Rights. Career wise, I’ll like to think I’m on the right path. I started SCHICK because I felt traditional media was doing Nigeria and Africa in general a disservice with the imagery and stories being put out especially about Nigeria. My goal as a Publisher was to change the African narrative one publication at a time.

What were your career dreams growing up?

Honestly, I wanted to work for the United Nations hence me studying International Relations but something shifted in me while in the University. There wasn’t enough Africans or black people in the magazines I read so I took it upon myself to do my little bit to empower people like e, Nigerians, Africans through writing and photography. Funny enough, I recently told our Deputy Editor, Emma Adeleye at SCHICK, that I’d love to do an internship with the United Nations now. You’re never too old to intern!

With hindsight vision, can you share some mistakes you have made on your journey and what you have learned from them?

Ok I’ll try and explain this very delicately. I think one of my biggest mistakes was not being a strict and stern boss. I feel being more of a nurturer in my personal life, it hindered me a little in my professional life. I recently heard the saying “You can’t deposit excuses” Let’s just say when excuses dominates work, it will eventually hinder growth. What I’ve learnt is, it’s not important if you’re liked as a boss but it’s very important you are respected.

How would you define failure and what has it taught you?

I don’t see anything as failure, I just see set-backs. They may be very painful set-backs but it’s literally all part and parcel of how life works. You have to pick yourself up again and continue your journey. Set-backs have taught me to be more firm in my beliefs and to always remember to trust the process and know that if God allowed it, why he did, will surely show up in the nick of time.

Let’s talk about Schick Magazine, at the core of what it represents is a digital platform that celebrates and tells the fashion story of the African (wo) man. Why the specific niche ‘’Fashion’’ and how has the reception been so far?

At SCHICK, we are Global Africans. We are building locally but we think globally on a daily basis with everything we do. The best of African style, beauty, travel, trends, fashion, food and much more are welcomed, celebrated & curated by SCHICK Magazine. We also understand that fashion is a universal language for both women and men. Beauty and Lifestyle are a by-product at some level of fashion and style whether personal or not, high-end or high street.

The reception has been amazing so far, our readers, supporters and well wishers have connected positively to the brand because it invokes a sense of pride for the African young lady or gentleman. It’s a magazine for Africans by Africans, we are unapologetically cultured, that’s SCHICK. It’s a movement that I can humbly say is catching on!

As an entrepreneur, would you say there are specific challenges you have faced because you are a woman?

If I’m honest I haven’t personally faced challenges because I am woman but I’ve often heard my job isn’t for a woman which I totally disagree with. We have a Kenyan British Vanessa Kingori right now as the Publisher of British Vogue one of the world’s oldest publications. I think I face the regular challenges any entrepreneur at Start-Up level would. Financial woes and finding the right team, that is, the ones who would make sure and see to it that the work comes first is always a challenge.

Still on Schick Magazine, can you share some of the milestones the publication has recorded?

Oh wow, we have had quite a lot of milestones since our first publication.

In October 2016, SCHICK Magazine partnered with Lagos Fashion and Design Week to produce their first ever, one-of-a-kind Fashion Week ‘Bible’ featuring all of this year’s fashion, from on-trend pieces to exclusive interviews from designers about their S/S17 collection. The SCHICK x LFDW Special Edition was distributed throughout the 4-day event with complimentary beauty products provided by Zaron Cosmetics.

In November 2016, British GQ’s Editor-in-Chief, Dylan Jones recognized SCHICK Magazine as one of the very few African publications shaping fashion and style globally. In March 2017, SCHICK Magazine’s debut cover issue with Award-winning actress Rita Dominic was launched and this was followed by an intimate event in partnership with upscale champagne brand Veuve Clicquot

Still on milestones, in May 2018, SCHICK Magazine was awarded the “Fashion Magazine of the Year” award at Fashion Finest Africa. In July, 2018 SCHICK partnered with Telecoms Giant MTN with their #ManInTheBox Initiative in a bid to promote and increase the performance of SMEs in Africa. In August of 2018, SCHICK became the first African magazine in Nigeria to be verified on social media platform Instagram.

In February, 2019 SCHICK Magazine hosted a fully packed panel discussion at Social Week Lagos firmly planting its feet in the soil as first African magazine to host at SMW Lagos. The panel had Aso Ebi Bella’sInk Eze, Big Brother Nigeria’sTobi Bakre, She Leads Africa’sAfua Osei and Fashion Designer Ugo Monye.

SCHICK has also been dubbed as the “new hit magazine” by Veuve Clicquot; it has also gotten great reviews from industry insiders, veterans and designers praising its quality. 

Folake Coker of Tiffany Amber says it is “no doubt the best fashion magazine to come out of Nigeria.” Accessory Designer, Zainab Ashadu of Zashadu says, “It’s greatquality in printing and content!” Didi Akinyelure of BBC Africa’s says “there’s nothing like it of the same quality in Nigeria.” SCHICK magazine is also the first Nigerian publication to be picked up by South African Supermarket Shoprite.

Let’s talk about social media. As a public figure, how have you been able to handle social media bullying and criticisms?

Honestly, I hardly deal with bullying and criticisms on social media but if I did, I’ll simply ignore it. I was talking about this recently on one of my Q&A sessions on Instagram. You have to protect your peace of mind and your sanity. Of course, we could all use some constructive criticism to get better in life but once you notice the gears have shifted to hate, please use the block or mute buttons accordingly!

Still, on social media, do you think it promotes unreasonable beauty standards? How so?

I totally disagree with it. Social Media is a tool for business, self-promotion, enterprise, I mean you name it, social media can help you build it a lot faster. You must be very secure in yourself and content with where you are at all times. I mean SCHICK earlier in the year hosted a panel discussion at Social Media Week themed “Breaking Ground Through Social Media” and our panelists depicted beyond reasonable doubt that Social Media is just a tool and it has helped build their brands at a high level. I’ll say don’t get distracted or lost on there, just enjoy it and get back into the real world of networking, building your empire and stay connected with family & friends!

Digressing a bit, what is your take on feminism and female empowerment?

Feminism is our basic human rights as women. We both men and women should be respected in the work place and even at home. It’s that simple. I truly believe that female empowerment is about uplifting, supporting and really helping each other to be better in real time. It’s one thing to arm us with the knowledge, it’s another thing to get us in the right boardroom to speak to right person who can make a real difference for us to grow our businesses and help us thrive!

Do you have female influences that have made your journey significantly easier? Care to share some of them with us?

Oh how much time do we have to go through them?! So many to mention but I’ll list some of them. My mother Olubukunola Osomo, my sister Titi Adesanya, Oke Maduewesi, Bukky Karibi Whyte, Uche Pedro, Bola Balogun, Nike Ogunlesi, Reni Folawiyo, Omoyemi Akerele, Ijeoma Balogun, Veronica Odeka, Betty Irabor, Mrs Rapu, Ibukun Awosika, Dolapo Sijuwade, Omotade Alalade, I could go on and on. In some way or the other, they have shared a pearl of wisdom that’s pushed me further into my purpose as a writer, publisher, editor, mother and a wife.

What professional recommendations do you have for women starting out in the Nigerian Media and Entertainment industry?

Have a passion bigger than your pay cheque! Think so big that it feels like your head will explode with ideas. It’s the beginning of the greatness that is embedded in every single one of us. Back all of this up with a solid education and relevant qualifications.

What is your advice to women who look up to you?

I’m totally flattered. Simi Esiri still hasn’t figured it all out, she’s still on her journey, learning and unlearning everyday. The future is bright so is yours!

P.S SCHICK Magazine is available in select stores and news stands across the country. You can also purchase it here.

The Leading Ladies Africa Series is a weekly interview series that focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.

It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa; an initiative that seeks to effectively mentor and inspire women, with particular emphasis on the African continent.

Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to lead@leadingladiesafrica.org and we just might feature her.

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