Interview: On Naija Comm, the US Based Incubator for Nigerian Creatives

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If you went to school in Nigeria, then you’re familiar with how each class is broken up into science, commercial or arts and within these classes, the common career paths are medicine, law, and a banker or accountant. The closest thing to being creative is going into law or fashion. Most times, the things we’re good at that don’t fall into the traditional boxes are turned into side hustles. Usually, these same views are reflected at home and if you’re lucky, maybe your parents have recognized what you’re passionate about and are supportive of what you do.

For public relations specialist, Eno Oduok, public relations was what she always wanted to do and while she learned to block out the voices that questioned her decision, she found that there was a lack of Nigerians in the industry. From here, Naija Comm was created in September 2020 to highlight Nigerians in the creative space and foster a community of like-minded people. Naija Comms has over 2,000 followers and connects its followers with job opportunities and a chance to learn about Nigerians thriving within different industries through its weekly Naija Commm Spotlight series.

Oduok currently works on the public relations team at AMC Networks and is also a digital coordinator for Black Girls Graduate. We caught up with Oduok to talk about Naija Comm and why spaces like this are needed for creatives to thrive.

 

How has your personal background inspired you to start Naija Comm?

I am a first-generation Nigerian-American and a Houston native. Being Nigerian, representation and culture is heavily important to me. Around 8% of the PR industry is made up of Black people. Within that category, there is a smaller percentage of Nigerians. 

This motivated me to try to find an online community of Nigerians in PR across the world to connect with. After researching, I noticed there were no “Nigerians in PR” or “Nigerians in communication” pages for men and women. There wasn’t even a page for Nigerians in finance. This inspired me to create Naija Comm, the first-ever online community to celebrate, connect, and uplift Nigerian creatives & Nigerians in overlooked career fields only. My passion for storytelling inspired me to create this space as well.

Have you experienced any societal pressures in the past and even currently in your chosen career field?

Not so much in my household but mainly within the Nigerian community. Whenever you go to social gatherings or parties, the elders ask you the common questions… “What are you studying in school?” or “what do you do?” And when I would tell them about PR, there was also confusion or uncertainty. Either it was because they didn’t know what it was, and they assumed that it didn’t make money or that it didn’t meet their expectations as a Doctor or Lawyer title would.

There is this constant pressure within our community to pursue a traditional career path. You know the saying, “you’re either a doctor, lawyer or a disappointment”. Don’t get me wrong, traditional careers are amazing but that isn’t everyone’s passion. Plus, you don’t need a traditional career path in order to be successful or to progress in life. During my adolescence, that pressure made me second-guess what I wanted to do, and I was constantly worrying about what other people thought. But as I grew up, I ignored other peoples’ opinions and I followed my passion. 

What challenges did you face when starting Naija Comm and how did you overcome them?

One of the biggest challenges was meeting people that would try to take advantage of your kindness and your platform. There are people who believe they’re entitled to handouts, so you have to set boundaries sometimes. Another challenge was trying to figure out what content the NC fam likes and what would or would not work.

Ultimately, what are your long-term goals for Naija Comm?

Honestly, there are so many stories that are untold and voices that need to be heard so a long-term goal would be for Naija Comm to continue expanding. I love meeting new people and making connections so there will be more partnerships & collaborations with other creators in the future. I truly hope Naija Comm will have a lasting impact in our community and continue to inspire people as it has inspired me.

What advice do you have for a young Nigerian creative that is scared to pursue their dreams?

Abeg! Life is short. Do what makes you happy. You have one life to live. You may want to please everyone but in all honesty, that’s impossible. It may be difficult right now deciding what to do or what not to do but eventually, it will get better. But right now, ask yourself…are you going to follow your dreams or someone else’s?

So far, Naija Comm has received positive feedback from creatives about how it has encouraged them to follow their passions. Netflix’s product and technology communications manager, Ebony Turner mentioned that “The tide is changing,” now that there are organizations like Naija Comm creating a space where people can learn about non-traditional careers.

 

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