IN just three years, event design guru, Nelson Jack has done very well for himself. Cornering the juiciest jobs in the land, the Abonema, Rivers born creative genius has made millions providing event solutions to clients. Interestingly, the dude has never seen the four walls of the university.
The MD/CEO of Nelson Jack told ENCOMIUM Weekly his inspiring story and where he’s headed.
In an online article published in 2012, your job was aptly described as stageneering.
Stageneering was actually a word I coined because there was no professional term for those who build stage. So, I came up with the term to show that stage construction is actually an aspect of engineering.
So, how did it all start for you?
I’m a naturally talented artist. From there, I moved to graphics advertising, from there I moved to stage construction.
At what point did you realize you can make a living from all these?
I had a transaction with a guy who ran away with my money. So, I went to the show, saw what they did there and thought I could do better than that. Since then, I’ve not looked back.
What separates Nelson Jack from the traditional event decorator?
I have a background in graphics. I’m a very creative person. I see my work force as my own way of doing corporate social responsibility service. What I do is to take people from the streets, boys who don’t have hope I train them and they become engaged. When I started in 2012, I had only two carpenters, now I have over 50! And that’s just one unit of my organization. I also have about 18 lighting engineers. There are equally about 12 in the screen unit. I have the graphics, animations, architects, all gainfully engaged.
In all, how many staff do you work with?
We should be more than 60 because a lot of them are on contract. We hire them when we need their services. But the good thing about Nelson Jack is we work regularly. In fact, there is no weekend I don’t have jobs. We always have a project.
How have you been able to leverage on your brand to offer better services?
First, I study my competitors. I take time out to know what my competitors are doing. When I get this, I add something extra. For instance, I have competitors who just stick to the hardware or construction, but what I did is to combine LED technology with stage and lighting design. So, Nelson Jack is one organization that gives you all of these. We are a one-stop shop when it comes to stage designing. We will do stage construction, give you the LEDs, the screens, the lights, we brand you; we will give you everything.
Instead of contracting multiple service producers, we give you a cutting edge solution to all your event needs. We stand out in event technology; that is stage, sound, light and what have you. That’s what we do.
You are the most sought after in your sector, how does that make you feel?
It makes me feel proud. I wake up in the morning to realize a lot of people are dependent in two ways: to give them a good event and to put food on some families table. It makes me feel good. I might not be the richest guy, I might not have as much money as I might want but what I have that money cannot by is peace of mind. I give the lowest level of people hope and a means of livelihood. That makes me happy.
What’s the least number of people you engage for a job?
It depends on the event. I have come to a point where I have three, four events in a day. So, I need to have a strong team that executes the jobs simultaneously. I’ve been in over 28 states in this country for events. I have also been to the deepest part of this country for an event. I’ve been to the sea, two hours from land to do event. And take them along. These are guys who had never had the opportunity to jump on a plane, now we give them the opportunity. These are guys who never travelled outside Lagos. These are guys who never knew they had skills in them now they have discovered their talent. We make money but the fun for me is when people admire our jobs.
Which has been the largest event you’ve handled?
Lagos Countdown, 2013. I’ve done Rhythm Unplugged, Brandy, UB40, Jahrule, Access Bank All White, Soundcity Music Festival. We have done a lot in and out of Nigeria.
What about your most paid job?
It doesn’t really work that way because Nelson Jack was actually built on crashing the price. That’s the reason I invested so much in equipment. While others charge N5m, N6m for an event, I would ask for half the price. I support the industry. I sponsor events and mentor those new in the business. If it’s about money, I have brands that pay me per year. Like every month, they do four, five events.
Can you please share with us your most challenging job so far?
My next job because it hasn’t come. And when I’m done with it I look forward to yet another challenging one. I’m as good as my last job.
You recently took delivery of state of the art stage design equipment. What informed the move?
We had to do this because equipment comes out every day and to be relevant in the industry you need to be up to par. If I consider how much I spend in renting some of them it would make more commercial sense to buy the ones I could. Right now, I have all I need unless it’s a very big event, maybe 100,000 guests or stadium size event then I would consult my technical partners.
How much did you spend on these equipment?
It cost us close to N14 million!
Are they available for rent?
No, I don’t like renting my hardwares out. I use them for my events. That gives me an edge. What I, however, do is to encourage those who need them to get theirs through a special arrangement I facilitate to empower them. I also assist them to move the equipment.
You have a good voice, would you try a voice-over job some day?
No, I won’t find joy or fulfillment in it. I as in entertainment for a long time, though. Many don’t know I was a graphic artist with Storm Records, I was a director in another record label but it wasn’t as fulfilling as stageneering.
Away from Nelson Jack, please tell us more about you?
I’m your regular guy always consumed by my job. I’m a highly creative person. My vice is shoes. For every event I do, I buy a pair of shoe. I’m a football fan, I love Arsenal.
Are you married?
I am married with two kids, but I don’t like to talk about my family.
What’s your dream for Nelson Jack?
It is to be a teacher. I want to teach people how to do this job. I will tell you something a lot of people don’t really know, I’m uneducated. I don’t have any certificate or university education but I’m more technical than any university graduate in this. I want to tell youths that the fact that you missed university education doesn’t mean you will amount to nothing in life. It’s all about discovering your talent.
– UCHE OLEHI