LSF|PR – One of the Fastest Growing PR Agencies in Nigeria
1. Tell us about yourself and your business.
My name is Bidemi Zakariyau, I am the Founder & CEO of LSF|PR, a full service public relations agency with core competencies in corporate communications, consumer and lifestyle brands.
Awarded the Best Law Student during my Business Foundation degree at Brooke House College, Leicestershire, England, I went on to study Law at the University of Sheffield. After university I interned at two top tier law firms, in the same year I enrolled at the Nigerian Law School. While at law school, I founded LSF|PR, my agency’s clients include global and local companies including Philips, Branch, Baker Hughes (a GE Company), TREXM Oil and Gas Services, Godrej, Remy-Cointreau and many more.
LSF|PR is a recipient of a certificate of excellence by the SABRE Awards (2018) – the worlds biggest PR awards programme, dedicated to benchmarking the best PR work across the globe. I have been listed by Forbes Africa as one of the innovators and game-changers in business on the prestigious 30 Under 30 list (2018), Rising PR Practitioner by the Nigerian Institute of public Relations – Lagos Chapter (2017). In I won the Future Awards for Media Enterprise.
In April 2017, I launched an online magazine (www.theluxedigest.com) with the aim of playing a key role in altering the perception of Africa and fostering Pan-Africanism. I am a member of The Nigerian Bar Association and The Nigerian Institute of Public Relations.
In 2016, at the age of 27 I was appointed to join the board of Réle, a leading art company in Nigeria which includes art galleries, an art consultancy offering advisory and art inventory services
2. How much did you need to start your business and how were you able to raise that capital?
I started my first business, LSF|PR with no capital. I had to get very creative by using the existing resources I had. I worked from home for a few months and saved as I worked on various client projects.
Once I had saved enough, it was easier for me to start putting things in place, such as hiring team members, getting an office space etc.
3. What are some of the challenges you face in your business and how do you overcome those challenges?
Running a business in Nigeria is very tough, every single day is a challenge, but some of the stand out ones are:
Juggling Law school, starting a business and securing my first client: Although I had acquired some great skills at the two law firms, I realized, of course that I wasn’t very passionate about the legal practice. At the same time, I needed to make sure I could sustain myself financially through law school as I had already begun when I had my epiphany. I decided it was time to pursue my media interest. I took the risk of setting up a PR agency.
At the beginning I started my company off as a fashion PR agency, I took meetings during lunch breaks or would sometimes miss lectures to take client meetings. I worked on small projects and had only a few clients to ensure I could juggle both. Securing my first client was very difficult because I had no public relations experience, I would visit different blogs in Nigeria and look for contact numbers in the article credits and call the designers requesting to work with them for free.
Someone finally agreed that I could work with them on a project, the potential client requested for a proposal and fees. I sent a proposal and charged a small fee for three months. I worked on her project diligently as I knew what it could potentially do for me. Her fashion label’s new collection received great coverage online and in print (to her disbelief). She had used other PR agencies and publicists in the past and had not received such extensive coverage. This led to many referrals for my next few clients in the fashion industry.
Diversifying my client portfolio, building a team and scaling: Once I was done with law school, the next thing I needed to do was build a solid team and scale my business. I did not want to only work with fashion brands, I wanted to work with corporate and consumer brands too. I got my first office space six months after law school and started to hire. I also began working on my PR certification.
The biggest challenge was securing clients in the corporate and consumer sector. I continued to build our client portfolio, taking on projects with little or no profit for the purpose of reputation building. I stopped taking on fashion projects and focused on more corporate and consumer accounts.
The breakthrough moment happened when we did the PR for a client’s art exhibition and we secured Laurent-Perrier Champagne as an alcoholic beverage sponsor. The art exhibition received a lot of press coverage which Laurent-Perrier benefited from. I decided to research Laurent-Perrier’s strategy in Nigeria and discovered there were innovative strategies I could offer them. I called the Laurent-Perrier team and asked to meet with them and discuss PR strategy that could help in positioning the brand in Nigeria.
I knew well that this was a longshot as company that big may not works with small PR agencies such as mine. My agency was barely 2 years old at this point. When I got there, I discovered that they had an in-house team, but I was still given a chance to present my ideas. After the meeting, I was informed that the company represented other brands and was told to send a proposal for the 12 beverage brands under Ledrop Nigeria Limited. They loved all our ideas and offered us all their key accounts.
Our relationship with the company officially started in 2014 and we currently handle all their key accounts including Remy-Cointreau (Remy Martin, Cointreau, St Remy, Louis XIII), Brown Forman (Jack Daniel’s), William Grants & Sons (Glenfiddich) and Laurent-Perrier. These accounts were huge for us as they were all global brands, our work with these brands – positioning them in the Nigerian market had a beneficial effect on the growth of my company. We gradually started getting recognized for our work in mid- 2015, which led to us securing more local and global clients within the corporate, and consumer sector.
4. Where do you see your business in 5 years from now and what steps are you taking today to reach that objective?
In five years, I see consistent growth over the years and building something that is sustainable and has a positive impact by solving problems/providing solutions at the same time contributing to the growth of the industry and the economy at large. In terms of what I’m doing to achieve these objectives, my business is purely operated with sustainability in mind, I am driven to build a company that can outlive me as an individual.
5. What advice would you give to entrepreneurs wanting to start a business or invest in Africa?
The time is now! Although you may be afraid and scared, there are countless opportunities here, we as African’s need to invest in ourselves and the continent to have real progress, I cannot do it alone, neither can the next person. The continent needs you.
With regards to starting a business, entrepreneurship is hard and takes a lot of work, time and commitment, but that’s what’s required to achieve great results. Its ok to start small and scale as you grow. You don’t necessarily have to wait for when you have all the funds you need.
6. How is your business participating to the development of Africa?
Asides from creating employment opportunities, we also run a career development programme (LSF|CDP) to prepare people for the employment world and provide career advice and direction.