An Interview with Obinna Okani—a Connector of People & Experiences

Obinna Okani is an entrepreneur and skilled connector of people and organizations that is focused on creating lasting value on the African continent. He is the Co-founder/ Chief Business Development Officer of an online media platform called Naija Made Me. Over the past 4 years, Obinna has sharpened his business acumen in a number of sectors including strategic partnership and the start-ups through connecting seemingly unrelated ideas to drive fresh and innovative solutions to any given problem. Obinna joined the Town Stages team early 2019 as an Event Venue Associate aiming to increase visibility and new business clients for the space. With a B.S in Biology from Howard University and an M.A. in Management from Wake Forest University, Obinna seeks opportunities that are invaluable in nature thus allowing him to work creatively, analytically, and entrepreneurially in spaces of ambiguity with little direction.


Thanks for sitting down with me.

Thanks for doing this.

Can you introduce yourself?

My name is Obinna Okani. I like to say that I’m a connector of people and experiences.

I like that a lot. Okay, before we dive into work and what you do. What do you do in your free time?

I love hanging out with my friends, going to events and parties in the city. I love to dance—but I haven’t danced in a while though, unfortunately. I used to like to draw and that’s something that I want o start finding myself back into. I love listening to music—finding new and eclectic sounds. 

What are you listening to right now?

Currently, the “Ije Awele EP” by Flavour has been on repeat for several months now. What that translates to in Igbo (Native Nigerian language) is Smooth Journey. I am also always on Soundcloud and two of my favorite pages to find music is Soulection (based in LA) and Flau records (based in Japan).

I know you do a lot of different things, but what is it that you do here at Town exactly?

I started working at Town Stages in early March and it’s been a really cool experience. I’ve been working here under business development as a Business Development Manager. So, essentially, I source new opportunities for business. 

How does Town fit into your goals?  

Town fits perfectly into my five-year plan. Because a lot of what I do is connection based, being in a position that gives me the opportunity to interface with people on a very face-to-face basis as well as being able to create certain experiences for people—like the happy hours—is super helpful.

Also, I believe in the product of what’s happening here. And I enjoy being able to convey the value to others that Town is a great place to host your event and, because it’s a raw space, it’s experience driven and you can make it exactly what you want it to be.

I know you also started your own business.

I did, yeah. I founded an online platform called Naija Made Me with a couple of friends from undergrad. It came out of a need to want to help Nigerians find the value in themselves. We highlight and celebrate young Nigerian professionals, entrepreneurs, mover and shakers of all kinds.

The way we do that is through merchandise and events. We try our best to connect and empower the next generation of Nigerians to inspire and grow that excellence that’s in the fabric of the culture here—especially Nigerian Americans. 

I love that concept. Is there a big Nigerian community in New York? 

There is. It might be the fourth largest in the United States? I don’t know. It’s a sizeable community.* 

[*New York has a larger population of Nigerians than any other state in America at 30,000—the majority of which are in NYC.]

What does Naija stand for? 

It’s a nickname for Nigeria. 

And when did you launch? 

We’ve been running it since August 2015 as an IG page and we then became operational last year in 2018. 

I feel like I’m cheating because I know a lot of these answers already, but what else do you do? 

Ha. I work in strategic partnerships. I’m a strategic partnership consultant. The best way to describe that is if you have a company [X] that wants to pair up with a company [Y] I’m the intermediary who comes in with the strategy of the unique value proposition of “Hey, this is the value that X can bring to Y and Y can bring to X.” 

What is you ideal trajectory or end goal, so-to-speak? 

I would love to get into brand management or marketing management on the strategy end—as well as hosting events. I want to continue with Naija Made and see where that goes. Who knows? In five years I could be working for my own company full-time.

I would love that. 

What’s your background? 

I have a Bachelor’s in Biology and a Master’s in Business Management. I started working in the non-profit and business management world in 2015 and I really liked the space because of the type of work that I found myself doing. I found myself in multiple functions, which was cool because I’m not a linear person. That work has developed over the years and now I’m looking forward to bridging more strategic partnerships. I worked with a non-profit earlier in 2018 and was able to bring them a sponsorship deal with a Fortune 10 company which I think is pretty amazing for someone who does not have that type of background. 

I would certainly agree. Anything else people should know?

I have self-coined myself as a value architect. I am someone who can look at anything, extract and understand what the value proposition is and then mold the communication, the strategy, the marketing of that thing—that service—and bring it to the forefront. I love building and I’m in this for the people. If anyone would like to speak Partnerships or Sponsorships, I’m your guy!

How can people find you?

naijiamade.me
@naijiamademe
@obi.okani

Thanks!

Thank you.

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Town Stages is an event space in Tribeca with a mission to support under-valued and under-represented voices in the arts. Click here to learn more about the space or to book a tour.

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