By – Pamela Echemunor
They say you can have everything you want if you just put your mind to it. However, very few people get to put in adequate effort in achieving their dreams. Nollywood actor and producer, Chika Ike, is one of the few people who had ambition, started working on it, stuck to it and, eventually, succeeded in achieving one of her many aspirations: going to Harvard; she graduated recently from the prestigious institution. In this interview, she is gushing over it but also inspiring woman far and wide, showing that if you think it and believe it, you can do it.
What course did you major in at Harvard Business School?
The Leadership Development programme; it’s an eight-month intensive programme.
What do you plan to do with the certification?
I am a businesswoman aside being an actress. I run my real estate business and other businesses. It has helped me to gain more insight on how to run a sustainable company. Beyond that, I have learnt how to dig deeper into issues and become a better leader.
How long did it take?
Why did you choose Harvard specifically?
Harvard is the mother of all business schools in the world. I thought to myself: why not go for the best if you want to thrive in the business world? I wanted to get the best possible business education and to network with top business executives around the world.
How did you feel when you got accepted?
I was super excited. I couldn’t contain myself. I tried for five years so I’m sure you can understand how excited I was to get something you’ve wanted for a long time, finally.
Your African Diva project is taking off. Tell us why you decided to start the project in the first place.
I wanted to give young African women a platform to be seen, heard and discovered; also to promote Africa as a continent and unite girls across Africa. It’s a quite educative platform. I like to refer to it as a school or training programme. It transforms the contestants and the audience also gets to benefit from the knowledge shared on the show.
Did you sideline the project to study or were you running both simultaneously?
I was running both simultaneously. Thank God for a great team. They stepped in whenever I wasn’t available and did a great Job. Teamwork makes a dream work. That was precisely the case for me – juggling school and business.
Was it hard to get sponsors for African Diva?
Every new show or business has its challenges when it comes to sponsorship; you have to think long-term for your business or show regularly. Yes, it was a challenge but I’m glad sponsors are beginning to believe in the brand and willing to be part of it.
What difficulties have you faced working on African Diva so far and how do you handle them?
Every new project comes with its challenges. When you believe in a project, you have to be willing to fund it during the early stages. Funding was a challenge. It’s an African show; we have diverse cultures and backgrounds on the show. Trying to get young women to be part of the show for previous seasons and guaranteeing their safety was also a task. But I’m grateful that wasn’t much of a chore because my name was on the brand and it was easy for them to put a name to the brand and trust it.
What was the one thing you took away from your experience at Harvard Business School’s programme for leadership development?
Business is a risk so you have to think strategically when in business. You always must think deeper and figure out the cause of the gap in your business and not make easy conclusions. For your business to be sustainable, you have to explore and exploit your business.
With a title like that, it seems you plan to run for the presidency in the nearest future. Should we expect that?
If I feel I should go in future, I might but for now, I’m focused on other things which do not include running for the presidency.
How would you say the experience has impacted on your operations so far?
It has impacted on (our operations) in ways words can’t explain. It has changed the way I see business and leadership and has opened my mind to a lot of business opportunities. Harvard exposes you to the depth of the business world and trains you on how to solve complicated business problems.
Compared to your Nigerian education background, what improvements would you say needs to be applied in the education sector in Nigeria?
A lot can be implemented but I’ll focus more on the method of teaching. At Harvard, professors do not profess; they engage you in class discussions and put you in the position of a problem solver. You have to come to class ready to discuss and you must have an opinion – not just waiting to be taught.
Did your choice to study abroad, in any way, affect your movie career here at any point in time?
Not really but I had to decide which to give priority to at a certain point. Harvard is intensive; it needs in-depth concentration. So, yes and I’m glad I took time off to improve myself. I have projects lined up for the year so my movie career is now on the front burner.
Is acting on the back bench or are you working on anything soon?
Acting is my first love and will always be. I’m standing on the platform it gave me to explore other business opportunities. Yes, I’m working on something soon.
What advice would you give to young women reading this right now who aspire to be like you?
I always stress that no dream is impossible to reach. You must believe in you – be willing to put in work, work smart and be patient. God will crown your effort with success.
Creative Director: Nelly Mesik
Photography: Trans4maz Fotography
Stylist: Rhoda Ebun for RTF Company
Makeup: Debrene Beauty
Hair: Tony for BeautyAce
Outfits: Mae Otti and Desire 1709 Fashion