In April 2015, Chocolate City Music CEO, Audu Maikori, made an announcement that he would be stepping down as CEO, after ten (10) years of leading Chocolate City record label to acclaimed success. Chocolate City is one of the respected music labels in Nigeria and Africa, at large.
Maikori made the announcement at the third annual Nigerian Entertainment Conference in the presence of the media, highly influential audiences and the world, the event was live streamed.
Maikori is a shareholder in Chocolate City Group, the parent company of Chocolate City Music. In addition, Maikori is one of the co-founders of Chocolate City Group. Now, lest there be any concern by the public and media that some sort of internal conflict was driving his decision to step down, he laid to rest such concerns by explaining the rationale for why he was stepping down. He said he wanted to create the opportunity for the younger ones to help take the brand to the next level.
Maikori’s announcement and explanation was greeted with applause and the media has been good to him in pushing his personal and business brand in a positive light.
Now let’s contrast this with a recent scenario in the fashion industry.
Last week, Nigerian fashion media outlets broke the news that L’Espace retail co-founders, Isoken Ogiemwonyi & Wonula Okoye nee Odunsi, had shut down their popular retail operations for six (6) to eight (8) weeks and would be looking for a new location. The reports also included a notice/statement by current L’Espace store manager, John Paul , stating that co-founder Wonuola had stepped down and given her resignation notice. The republished notice follows:
After 3 plus years of being a director at L’espace, it is with deep regret that we announce the resignation of Mrs Wonuola Okoye from her position.
We want to say thank you for all the support and belief you have had in L’espace over the years.
Please join us in wishing her all the best in her future endeavours.
What immediately happened post the notice reaching members of the fashion press and public was a growing viral communication and speculation that there was a rift between the co-founders.
I contacted the duo, who Ladybrille has supported with marketing and promotions right from their early days of operating Le Petit Marche to the current L’Espace, to get the direct scoop on what was really going on. Wonula assured me there was no rift between her and her business partner and that a statement would be released.
The statement has now been released. Despite the release of an official statement a few days ago, the speculations that a rift exist persist.
L’Espace will re-open but will be solely operated by Isoken and Wonula is in fact embarking on a new/solo venture of her own. But, is there a rift?
Ladybrillers, here are two tips to consider when putting out a statement regarding a director’s resignation that should help you avoid the conflicting and confusing situation L’space and its co-founders find themselves in.
- The tone of your press statement matters. Over the course of a decade, I have had the opportunity in my press/legal/business/and public relations capacity to consult and draft press statements for a handful of high profile events and personalities/celebrities. What I have found and continue to find is that the tone matters. In our L’Espace example, using the word “deeply regret” or “wish her well in her future endeavors,” on its own, may be appropriate if Wonuola was just an officer of L’Espace hired to play the role of director. However, she is a shareholder and a co-founder of the business. Therefore, “deeply regret,” especially coming off the heels of a 6-8week shut down of a popular retail store, needs to be accompanied by something else that debunks fear or concerns the public, customers and even the media have in the stability of the L’Espace brand.
2. Director resignation is not a bad thing so don’t make it look that way. As a quick summary, a corporation is a creation of the law/statute. This means there are very specific delineated legal structures it must have. As an incorporated entity, there are shareholders. The shareholders provide the capital to operate the business. The directors and officers manage the daily operations of the business. Where you have a shareholder like Wonula also taking on the responsibility of a director, it is not a bad thing when resignation occurs because it frees up her time to do something else and the corporation can then hire someone else to run the daily operations of the business.
So, if indeed that is what has occurred, as a continued shareholder of your business, you have a vested interest in making sure your brand continues to thrive, that includes how you communicate your resignation as director of the business.
You want to communicate directly and honestly, much the same way Audu Maikori at the beginning of this article did. Yes we are shutting down our brick and mortar store/physical location. Yes, you can still shop online for our items. If you still want to see us in person, come to our Le Petit Marche events. No. Wunola is not leaving the company. She still co-owns it.
Indeed, as a press insider and business owner, I teach seminars about relating to the media. When I do, I always tell business owners and creative talents, “don’t let the press write your story. Take control of your narrative. Write your story and tell the press who you are.” You should always take control of your narrative. L’Espace co-founders have made it appear as if there is in fact a rift between them and the media and public at large are interpreting it that way.
I hope these two quick tips help. Read the press statement from L’Espace below and watch a clip that tells a bit more about the brand.
After 3 years of ground breaking success at its flagship location on 19a Olosa Street, Victoria Island, the concept store L’Espace will be moving to a new location in Victoria Island and will now be run solely by co-founder, Isoken Ogiemwonyi.
The first multi-brand concept store which launched in 2011, was co-founded by Wonuola Okoye and Isoken Ogiemwonyi and is purely dedicated to Nigerian fashion design, beauty and lifestyle, creating a solid platform for both emerging and established brands, and was created after a successful three years of Le Petit Marche – the foremost.
Nigerian designers market in 2009 driving discovery and bridging the fashion retail distribution gap in Nigeria.
“It’s been an incredible six year journey in deepening our visions to impact the Nigerian Fashion Industry,” the co-founders said in a statement. “We look forward to the advancement of the Nigerian Fashion industry which we are both passionate about.”
The current flagship store L’Espace will be closed for business in preparation for the new chapter which kicks off in July.”
Ms. Uduak is best known as an advocate who uses the tools of media and the law to help creatives and businesses clearly articulate their true brand identities, and communicate it to the world through their products and services, to maximize profits. She is a lawyer, speaker, author, journalist, and recognized thought leader, and trailblazer for her work on Africa’s emerging global fashion and entertainment markets, and the niche practice of fashion law in the United States. She is also the founder and publisher of Ladybrille® Magazine, and an Attorney and Partner at Ebitu Law Group, P.C, where her practice focuses on Fashion, Business, & Entertainment Law and Trials. For more information about her, visit www.msuduak.com.