The GLAM AFRICA BALL to celebrate black excellence in the UK was held at the Royal Automobile Club last week, a suitable setting as the message of the evening was that Black Britain is motoring!
The evening was designed to raise funds for the charity, Aleto Foundation, which provides mentors for deprived black youths. The event was organized and hosted by the hottest African lifestyle magazine – Glam Africa.
Three of the ‘drivers’ at the wheel of Britain’s black success story at the ball were Chioma Onwutalobi, Publisher of Glam Africa Magazine, Gary Eldon OBE, chief executive of global recruitment company SThree, and Dr Yvonne Thompson, Britain’s first self-made black female millionaire, owner of PR agency ASAP. All three of them have made it big in the UK and beyond against considerable odds.
The evening was also attended by representatives of the Ghana High Commission, the Liberia High Commission, the Zambia High Commission and “Central Association Of Nigerians in the UK” (CANUK) as well as representatives from some of Africa’s top banks. An exhibition by British designer Mary Martin showing her ‘African Queen Collection’ which plays a visual ode The Great Benin Kingdom of Nigeria and its lost and returned treasures added to the glamour of the occasion.
Chioma Onwutalobi, the 27yr old CEO of Glam Africa magazine is putting Africa on the map and telling Africa’s story to the world through Glam Africa’s various media platforms which operates in four countries (Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and the UK)
She arrived in the UK from Nigeria as a student on her own at 17, didn’t know anyone, but was determined to succeed. At 24 she set up Glam Africa as she felt the continent she knew wasn’t well represented in the media. With Glam Africa magazine, its online platforms and TV show just about to launch, the world can now see the little reported glamorous side of the huge 54 nation continent.
In less than three years Glam Africa has become Africa’s top pan African lifestyle magazine. Her story inspired her to support Aleto Foundation in empowering other young ones from disadvantaged background as they move on in their career by matching them with successful mentors and through their training programs.
A woman who has also fought her way to the top is Dr Yvonne Thompson, CBE who has been described as Britain’s first black self-made woman millionaire. She is managing director of the marketing and PR company ASAP Communications, a former director of Choice FM radio, and president of the European Federation of Black Women Business Owners She took part in the Channel 4 programme Millionaire’s Mission.
She left school at 16 and went to Croydon Polytechnic to do a pre-nursing course but then got a job as a data processor at Natwest. The pay was good, but it was so boring.
When she was 20 she went to an agency and got a job at Phonogram Records as PA to the contracts manager. And there she found her calling, which was PR. She then moved to Warner Brothers and then to CBS, but being black and a woman she realised she was never going to get anywhere. When she was refused promotion for the third time she went to the loo, cried her eyes out and resigned.
She got desk space at the Independent Record Labels Association. At that time there weren’t companies serving hard-to-reach audiences, unlike in America where if you wanted to reach Hispanics or black people, you went to a PR company run by them. So she adopted that approach and it’s worked brilliantly.
She says:”The more people put me down, the more I fight back.”
While she was at CBS she wrote for Roots, the first black monthly glossy magazine. The publishers applied for a black music radio station license and her best financial decision she says was to go in with them and start Choice FM (since sold to Capital Radio).
Another trustee of the Aleto Foundation is Gary Elden OBE, the son of a taxi driver, brought up on a London council estate he left school at 16. Today he heads a huge international recruitment company ‘SThree’ and says it was the ‘cabbie work ethic’ of his father that drove him to success.
When Gary arrived in the City in the Eighties, he couldn’t have been further from the pinstripe stereotype of the insurance industry, but he was soon hooked on life in the Square Mile — hardly a surprise, given what it took to get him there. As a teenager, he faced the disruptions of life in SE5, and his teachers’ apathy.
“It was a rough area — there were iron gates on doors, urine in lifts, graffiti everywhere, and killings. I remember glue sniffers… the National Front parading past where I lived. My school was a mad school, very ethnically divided. I was in all the top classes and captained all my sports teams. But no teacher ever said to me ‘you can be somebody’.”
“I wanted to work in an office. You’re in a suit, your hands are clean. You earn lots of money.” He sought a foot in the financial-services door. About 120 applications, 28 interviews and many rejections later, he got a job in insurance as a claims technician.
“It introduced me to a different world and I loved it. But I got an opportunity to go broking as well and still noticed there was a divide. I decided I needed to get into a job where what I put in was what I got out.”
Inspiration came during a house hunt when he eyed his estate agent’s Golf convertible. He picked up the Yellow Pages and landed an interview and then a job at a franchise of Winkworth. S one of the chain’s youngest-ever managers.
In around 1990, a BMW caught his eye at a wedding. The owner worked in IT recruitment. With phone directory again in hand, he found Computer Futures, SThree’s precursor, and a new profession.
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