From Intern to Award-winning Entrepreneur; we interview Bidemi Zakariyau

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Bidemi Zakariyau is the Founder & CEO of LSF|PR, a full-service public relations agency with core competencies in corporate communications, consumer and lifestyle brands.

She is actively involved in advising clients on critical communications strategies and issues. Her work has included advising clients on entry strategies into the Nigerian Market and ongoing corporate reputation building efforts.

She recently founded and is the head of business development at The Luxe Digest (www.theluxedigest.com) a pan-African luxury content platform.

In 2015 she was recognised as one of the leading female entrepreneurs under 25 in Nigeria by SME100 and in 2016 she was awarded The Future Awards Africa Prize for media enterprise. She was recently recognised as one of the 100 most influential women in Nigeria by Leading Ladies Africa.

Bidemi is a member of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations and was called to the Nigerian Bar. She is also a board member of Réle Art Gallery.

Please note that all opinions expressed in this interview are the opinions of the individual interviewed. They do not necessarily represent the opinion of Legally Engaged.

Please give us a brief overview of what you do

I run a public relations consultancy called LSF PR, and our core focus is corporate communications and consumer brands. We also have a small business division called LSF|SME and a digital division for digital marketing, LSF|Digital.

Why did you decide to study law?

I studied Business as a foundation course at Brooke House College, Leicestershire, England. Law was one of the modules I took under the Business course and I was the Best Law Student in the Foundation year. Actually, there were two of us but I was one of the two best law students.

Since I was one of the best law students, I thought the best thing to do was to study law at university.

Why did you decide to leave legal practice?

When I moved back to Nigeria, I first worked at a mid-tier law firm for a month and then I moved to a top-tier commercial law firm for 6 months before I joined law school. The experience at that particular top-tier law firm was amazing because I learned a lot and got exposed to the business environment; from putting proposals together to going to board meetings to visiting regulators such as the SEC and NAFDAC and the likes.

It was a great experience, but it was during this period I realised I didn’t want to practice law. After the internship, I decided to enrol at law school, because it was important for me (personally) to qualify as a lawyer.I started LSF|PR while I was in law school, taking on small brands and small projects.

I started LSF|PR while I was in law school, taking on small brands and small projects.

Would you advise someone with similar ambitions to practice law for a while or not at all before exiting?

I think it’s different for everyone, I won’t say I practice per se because I think it depends on each individual but for me, I think Law gave me discipline. This is because as a lawyer you have to do things with some assertiveness and go-getter attitude – Law gave me that.

Also, Law is one of those courses that you can never really go wrong with; it’s a great foundation to have. So for me, I still went ahead with Law School even though I decided that I wasn’t going to be a lawyer when I was done.

It’s a personal decision for everyone, if you want to practice or if you don’t – its okay. But if you’re going to practice, I think the important thing is the lessons you learn on the job, specifically, how to run a business looking at the legal side. This is particularly so if what you want to eventually do falls within the corporate sector. You’ll always need to sign some sort of agreement and would always need to do transactions, so Law is always a good foundation to have.

How would you describe your workload?

Well, it depends on the sort of work and client account we have. I can’t say that I have a specific workload. For some clients we are doing just media relations; for other clients, we’re sort of handling the entire corporate communications, but generally, we are very busy.

In your opinion what is the most challenging aspect of working in your field especially as an entrepreneur?

Being an entrepreneur, I take all the risks, I finance the business, I have to work and also manage people. Being an entrepreneur, in general, is very hard, even though sometimes it seems glamourous – at least on the outside.

You have to be able to bring in clients and retain clients, you have to manage finances, and you have to make sure you can pay your staff at the end of the month. All the challenges we’re faced with in this environment makes it extra hard but if you’re focused you can navigate your way through every situation.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working in your field?

I think the most rewarding aspect for me is delivering on the client’s objective. If we have a brief, the client has a particular business objective, they have their target audience, demographics, etc.

Once we are able to deliver in such a way that it meets their business objectives and there is a return on investment for them – that makes us happy.

What advice would you give to aspiring lawyers looking to work in your field or run their own business in whatever field?

I think that it is very important that you take your time and have a plan. It is also very important that you understand that you may fail and if you fail, you must learn from it.

Know that transitioning from a 9-5 to entrepreneurship may be difficult but that’s part of entrepreneurship – it’s risky.

So whenever you do get into your line of business, understand that it’s going to be tough, it’s going to be lonely. Keep pushing; you have to be focused, you have to be consistent, you have to understand that you would get a lot of “No” which would eventually lead to “Yes”. You have to learn to listen to people but also find your own voice. There are so many things I can say, but in summary, you have to be fully prepared for that transition; it’s very important.

Would you say that skills gained at Law School been useful in any way in your field?

To be honest generally, everything has been useful. I have a lawyer for my business because I don’t have the time, and I also don’t practice. But most times, when I get an agreement or similar document, I’m able to spot unfavourable clauses from the beginning. In fact, before I send any document to my lawyer, I already have all my notes tracked on the side with all my concerns. Like I mentioned earlier, Law is a great foundation to have.

In hindsight would you have done anything differently?

If I knew 100% that media was something I wanted to do, I would have probably done it straight after college instead of doing Law. That said, I do not regret studying Law.

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