Genevieve Magazine CEO Betty Irabor At 58: Lessons For Entrepreneurs

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The CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Genevieve Magazine, Nigeria’s pioneer glossy lifestyle publication for women was born exactly 58 years ago on the 25th of March 2015. Betty Irabor has risen to become an inspiration for many in and out of the industry. Married to ace broadcaster, Sonny Irabor, the mother of two started her foray into publishing 12 years ago with a simple vision that has since grown. Over the years, the magazine’s cover has been graced by leading women of style and inspiration; high achievers like Agbani Darego, Onyeka Onwenu, Abike Dabiri, Tara Fela-Durotoye, the Edewor twins, and namesake Genevieve Nnaji.

Ms. Irabor’s Genevieve, which has been described as a Nigerian ‘Essence’, ‘Vogue’ and ‘Marie Claire’ rolled into one marked its 12th year of publication in February, not a mean feat in a male-dominated industry that sees many publications fizzle out in their first few years. Likewise, her largely successful Genevieve Pinkball foundation, an organization which helps create awareness about breast cancer has received support from Access Bank, Procter and Gamble, Estee Lauder, Moet and Chandon, House of Tara, Afromedia, and a host of top celebrity patrons.

Starting her magazine at the age of 45, Betty braved all odds to transform her dream into the success story that we know today. She has attributed her success in entrepreneurship to an inner strength, strong will, and sense of purpose, maintaining that entrepreneurs must possess the quality of stubbornness in order to keep going WHEN the storms arrive.

Betty and Soni Irabor at the 2014 Genevieve magazine Pink Ball annual charity event

Betty and Soni Irabor at the 2014 Genevieve magazine Pink Ball annual charity event

Talking about experience and training for an entrepreneurial adventure, Irabor had worked as a journalist at Concord Newspapers and held freelancing jobs at the Vanguard, The Guardian, Thisday and some magazines abroad before venturing out with her own publication idea for a glossy lifestyle magazine for women home and abroad. Genevieve magazine has today, paved the way for many more lifestyle magazines in Nigeria, staying in the lead through sheer dedication, choice content, and of course, gorgeous covers.

Ms. Irabor earlier revealed in an interview with CNBC Africa how she learned at the initial stages of Genevieve Magazine, to correctly balance her passion with a business sense – identifying what sells and what does not? She recalled that after the first issue of Genevieve magazine was printed, she actually considered turning the whole lot into a bonfire. It was her first attempt at publishing and it was pretty obvious, even to her then. Through sheer determination, she conquered her fears, received the feedback from critics in good faith, and forged on.

For her, being raised by a single mom meant that she learned early to be independent and to do a little more than others, an attribute that has helped her in business. There are a lot of lessons to be gleaned from this trail-blazing woman and here are a few of them:

  1. She believes that an education is very essential but nothing beats learning on the job – the experience of falling down all those times and getting back up. Nothing beats that; so the earlier you start, the better for you.
  2. No doubt having being on the receiving end of many raised eyebrows and scepticism due to her ‘late’ debut into the business of publishing, she would tell you that ‘Whenever you wake up, that is when your morning starts.’ Never listen to discouraging comments from people who don’t see what you can see; or believe that you’re too young or old to start.
  3. ‘Don’t be rigid as an entrepreneur. You must keep moving, changing, and evolving.’ Genevieve wears an edgier look now because she is stepping back and allowing her editors to bring in content that readers love and new trends that they want to see.
  4. ‘There are always new grounds to break. Don’t get complacent because of your present level of success, arm yourself with great foresight and be ready to take the lead today and tomorrow.’
  5. To become a successful entrepreneur, you’ve got to keep going even when you’re afraid. Betty Irabor says, ‘The trick is to do it afraid.’
  6. How about passion? She recalls that one of her first investors did not really get the idea she was putting to him, but still bought into the passion he saw in her as she spoke with him. ‘You have to be able to see the unseen and believe the intangible as an entrepreneur.’
  7. In the face of business challenges, the questions that matter are – ‘How badly do you want this? How hungry are you to take it to the next level? Is it just a passing fancy? The answer to these questions will determine your success or not.
  8. ‘The challenge is not so much hitting the high notes as it is sustaining the note.’ Doing things right is a challenge but doing things right consistently is even a greater challenge. Focus on excellence for yourself, and keep striving to maintain that standard against all odds
  9. ‘You don’t have to be phenomenal to do phenomenal things.’ Don’t assume it will be an easy ride, there will be mountains to scale, be ready to deal with them,and be consistent. Perseverance is key!
  10. Legacy. Always think of what you wish to be remembered for. This should keep you grounded and focused.



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