Funke Osae-Brown popularly called FOB by her friends and associates, is a media entrepreneur, journalist and founder of Luxury Reporter Magazine. A graduate of English Literature from the Olabisi Onabanjo University and a Master’s Degree holder from the University of Lagos. She has been trained at Radio Netherlands; Germany; United Kingdom sponsored by First Bank Limited; Ghana amongst others. Our correspondent, Olutayo Irantiola, caught up with her after the celebration of the 5th year of her publication, herein below is the excerpt of the interview-
PDC: How did you start out as a Journalist?
FOB: I started my journalist career in Edo State as a Corps member; I had a friend, Dr Fasan, who knew someone who worked in BusinessDay, he encouraged me to write, he sent my writings to the newspaper and my articles were published as Opinions and later on, my book and film reviews were equally published.
After my mandatory national service, I got a job with the defunct New Age newspaper, I worked for a couple of months before I moved on to BusinessDay, they pulled up all my old articles and paid for my previous contributions. I did 6-months work without pay, within that period, my writings were understudied and I was subsequently employed as a reporter.
I worked in BusinessDay for about 10 years, I rose through the ranks from Reporter to Correspondent, Assistant Editor, Editor of BusinessLife and Deputy Editor of the Sunday title before I left in 2015.
PDC: You started the Luxury Reporter five years ago, why did you choose just that niche of reportage?
FOB: In the course of my journalism career, I was largely a lifestyle journalist with a major in arts, travel and fashion. I discovered that we do not have so much journalistic writings on luxury lifestyle and it is an aspect of journalism that is booming in the Western world, for instance, Financial Times with a magazine pull out for the affluent; New York Times organizes the International Luxury Conference and special publications on luxury. It’s a niche market for people who love to live good life without breaking the bank.
At some point in my career, I believe I have seen it all and I was ruminating on what to do extra and something new, I decided to create an online platform but I wanted a proper magazine website that was how I started Luxury Reporter. The first digital edition of the magazine was in December 2015. We did 26 digital editions before we started the print edition.
PDC: There is a presumption that luxury products are always expensive, what has been the acceptability of the Luxury Reporter?
FOB: Penetrating the luxury sector is always difficult but if you understand the terrain, it is easier. Luxury is about brand association, luxurious brand do not want their brand to be associated with just anything. A Rolls Royce would not want to sponsor funny events, it is an iconic brand that has been around for many decades. For a journalist, you will have to do something exceptional for them, this include the writing, presentation and understanding the market you write for and the quality of the publication.
It is not everything that is luxury that is expensive, there are some things that are reasonably priced that are authentic and original. Nigerians usually believe that anything that is luxury must be expensive and this led to people buying imitation as original. The uniqueness of each product and the time spend on the producing it, determines the price, for instance, BMW is a premium brand while Rolls Royce is luxury brand. Rolls Royce is about class; exclusivity, many people aspire to be in that class, it is highly priced, and custom built. You can enter a BMW shop and drive out a car but for Rolls Royce, it would be done to your taste, you choose the colour, the wood or whatever interior you want. The car is for the buyer alone, for every owner of Rolls Royce, they own the car end-to-end.
PDC: For people who had known you as a regular reporter, do they still patronize you?
FOB: Yes, some of them who understand the uniqueness we are offering the Nigerian media market are still our readers, some who rejected us at first and when they saw that we were offering a different type of journalistic endeavor, they are back with us after discovering that we are all about the lifestyle and its another area of journalistic writings.
PDC: It’s assumed that women are more into luxury products than men, from your experience in the last five years, is this assertion true?
FOB: The luxury sector is a mixed market and I believe it is tailored more towards men especially the auto market while women spend money on very expensive jewelries and there are some discerning men who purchase such for their wives. There was a time I did a story on watch collection, men spend money on high-end watches, and women too also buy it for themselves for their landmark celebrations.
PDC: With the growing trend of Nigerians accepting luxury, what do you see to be the future of luxury market for upcoming entrepreneurs?
FOB: Nigerians tend to be consumers of luxury more than the manufacturers. We want to make sure that Nigerians don’t just consume luxury but we have entrepreneurs who are projecting their brands as luxury brands especially those into the production of leather goods and other handmade products. Also those in the service industry, there is a level beyond the ordinary way of presenting, the perfumery sector with scented candles. Also, luxury furniture made by crafters, they engrave on tables, consoles etc. This skill is handed down from one generation to another, they sell abroad. These are luxury pieces, we want to showcase and encourage people with these skillset.
PDC: What should we expect from Luxury Reporter in the next few years?
FOB: Hopefully, we aim to launch the TLR International Luxury Conference to celebrate our anniversary annually with special inclination on the African luxury market. We also aim to start a luxury fair later this year, people will be able to buy for things for their selves and their loved ones towards Christmas. We also hope to start a training for luxury brands in Nigeria so that they can learn the various ways in which they can position themselves, know the taste of the Nigerian consumers and with this knowledge, they will thrive in this peculiar market.
PDC: As the pioneer of luxury reporting, what are the ways in which you are preparing others to take up this form of reportage?
FOB: I understand that there are a lot of other website also reporting luxury, for me, the more we are, the merrier. I don’t feel threatened, I take a step at a time to get to achieve my goal. Everyone will have different audiences, just a single person cannot have the entire country as an audience.