It’s hugely fulfilling to make a living from something you are passionate about – just ask Ono Bello, the style director and founder of leading lifestyle website, Onobello.com. Started five years ago, the website has grown to become the go-to place for all things lifestyle-fashion, news, photos, event reports – with a tinge of creative inspiration.
The brain behind the concept, the beautiful and classy Ono Bello, in this chat with ENCOMIUM Weekly, tells us what the five years have been like. She also spoke about her other passions-styling and PR, as well as her love life; it’s an engaging piece…
Tell us, how did it all start?
I worked for ThisDay Style for about four years. Then, worked for its sister publication Arise magazine in London for a year. During my time with both publications, I got exposed to the world of lifestyle journalism, styling, local and international media and I got to attend a lot of big fashion events around the world.
However, while my experiences were fantastic, I wanted to create something that was my own. I am passionate about fashion and lifestyle journalism and needed to create my business around that. At that time, there were very few websites and blogs that focused on this in Nigeria and it was a perfect way to start out. I actually started working on starting up my own business in 2009 but had to put it on hold to face my full time job. But in 2010, I decided to pursue it seriously.
What’s the journey been like five years down the line?
The last five years has been quite interesting I must say. I have learnt a lot of things about running a business in Nigeria. It has not been a walk in the park but it truly has its rewards, and I am happy I am making a living from something I am passionate about.
Can you share some of the ups and downs you’ve had during this time?
There have been loads of ups and downs. Sometimes I take two steps forward only to be dragged four steps backwards, but I have tried to remain resilient on succeeding. My challenges have been having constant power and internet, as you know those are the main things in the business.
Also, I have to create awareness about the business so that it can reach everybody and this is not an easy task. But I think my style of writing, of keeping things clean and professional has helped a lot. The rewards have been a blessing, a lot of doors have opened. I have been able to create a professional image as a website that focuses on celebrating the achievements of Nigerians and Africans both at home and in Diaspora. I have tried to celebrate people and the good things they are doing to promote us as Africans in their various field.
How did you birth the idea for OnoBello.com?
While I was working with Arise Magazine London, I got exposed to a lot of fashion and lifestyle events, networked with other professionals in the media and was part of the team that styled some celebrity shoots for the magazine.
Also, I got a lot of brands and personalities approaching me about wanting to create more awareness about their products and what they do. Of course, I wanted something I would call my own and watch grow so starting a website was a small way to start.
What would you say is behind your success so far?
I would say God has been faithful, I always talk to Him about everything I do and ask for His guidance. Also, I have met a few entrepreneurs along the way that have been genuinely interested in what I do and have supported me by encouraging me not to give up.
Also, the media has been super supportive, I have made more friends now than when I was working for ThisDay and Arise. Also my readers have been an inspiration and their comments on the website and my social media pages keep me going to stay focused.
Did you sincerely think you would be where you are today when you started?
When I started this, I knew that this was what I wanted to kick start my business empire with. I actually thought things would move faster than this but like I said sometimes I take two steps forward only to be taken back four steps. I guess that’s what running a business is all about. But I am resolute and determined to achieve all my goals by God’s grace.
What would you say has stood you out over the years in the face of competition?
I will like to think that I stand out. For one, I have kept things clean and report the facts and not speculation or gossip. I know a lot of people are interested in reading about other people’s business, but for me if it’s not going to inspire others why do it. I will like to use my platform to inspire and teach younger people that they too can do the good things other professionals or celebrities are doing.
There will always be competition and for me I try to stay focused and not look at what other online media are doing.
What does it entail to run an outfit like yours?
It takes a lot. It’s not easy to run a website neither is it cheap at all. For one, I have to have constant electricity and with a country like Nigeria where that is epileptic, it can be difficult. Also, internet access has to be constant and at a fast speed. This has improved tremendously over the years with the emergence of a lot of internet companies so I tend to subscribe to a few so that I am not caught off guard.
Also, a great technical team is important because anything can go wrong with the website at any time and I wouldn’t want that to happen as I have to keep my loyal readers engaged all the time. Also, social media is quite important, I get to know about a lot of things happening as well engage the public through it.
Tell us about Ono Bello, the person. What kind of a person are you?
I am from a close knit family of three sisters and two brothers. My parents are in their 70s and still married. I am a Christian from a Catholic and strict background. Growing up, I was very introverted and shy.
I studied for my first degree at the University of Lagos where I graduated with honours in a degree in English. After working a few years, I went to the UK and studied for a Masters degree at the University of Middlesex Business School where I have a post graduate degree in Human Resource Management.
These days, I love to sit in front of my computer all day researching and working on different things. I consider myself a workaholic.
What do people think of you that you are not?
I think a lot of people think my job is quite glamorous but to be very honest, it’s not at all. I face the constant pressure to meet deadlines and in front of my computer between 12-15 hours daily. I also prefer to just chill at home than going out.
How do you relax?
I tend to work for a few months and when I can save enough money, I travel out of the country not really for a holiday because in the last five years I haven’t gone on a proper holiday where I don’t work. I am always working, so for me it’s just a change of environment that might be more relaxing, a place I can step out of all the pressure and come back with new ideas and initiatives.
What’s your typical day like?
I wake up between 3-4am every day, check my emails and respond to them. I update social media with newsy things and work on content to go up on the website. From that, I move on to work on PR campaigns that I have lined up. Sometimes I have one or more client and press meetings during the day so I go for them after which I am back at my desk up until 11pm when I go to bed.
Sometimes, I might have an event to attend, which I do for a couple of hours. If it doesn’t run late, I get back to work right after as I always have to make up for lost hours from my work at any event. That’s how my Mondays to Saturdays are. On Sundays, I try to just organize my schedule for the upcoming week.
Thank you so much for the compliment. (Smiles). I have dry skin, so when I wake up in the morning before I have a bath, I rub a bit of shea butter on my face. Then while taking my bath, I scrub with a natural honey and sugar scrub I make at home. Then wash with a face wash. After that I use a face serum and moisturizer.
For my body, I just use a moisturising lotion and bio oil. Also, I try to stay make up free when I am not attending events, so if you catch me during the week, I hardly wear any make up because I believe the skin should breath a bit. At night, I always make sure I have a bath, cleanse my face and use a moisturizer.
Describe your personal style.
I will like to think I have a chic and classy style. Sometimes I like to be trendy and edgy but most time I just like to be simple.
How is PR UNO doing?
PR UNO is doing great. As a boutique PR firm, we have been able to work with some big brands and personalities as well as help emerging brands as well.
Which do you prefer – styling, writing or PR?
Oh PR of course! It’s more fulfilling and rewarding for me.
How do you balance all your passions?
My passions are all intertwined. Working in PR and running a website are part of each other.
Would you say men are intimidated by successful young women as is claimed?
Men are intimated by anything, a taller woman, a beautiful woman, an out-going and outspoken woman. But I think once they get to know her better then they can make up their mind.
Is there a man in your life right now?
I like to keep my relationships super private, I am sure you know that (laughs). But I am not married yet.
What would you say to young Nigerians aspiring to be where you are?
I will like to say, nothing good in life comes easy. We all have to keep working at improving ourselves and with God on our side, everything will go according to His plan for us. Also, no one should be deceived that it is a glamorous line of work, it’s not about looking good and attending events, it’s about getting the job done and making clients happy. It is a very pressurized environment and you must be willing to work under an immense amount of pressure. The key is to stay focused, be determined and be happy with what you do.