Ifeanyi ‘Wonder Woman’ Okoh-Amayo is the owner of I Plan Wonders, an event company “with the vision of creating wonderment at all events.” In a recent conversation with PiggyVest, she shared how she stayed true to her passion for event planning, despite the odds.
Did you always know you would become an event planner?
I had an idea. Whenever I got pocket money as a kid, I would save mine. Then I would take the money and buy biscuits and Nutri-C. Whenever my cousins came to visit, I would package everything nicely; make the Nutri-C into drinks, open up the biscuits and serve them. It was just always my thing.
Interesting. What did you study in school?
Mass Communication in Babcock University.
So what inspired I Plan Wonders?
From when I was in school and even after, I would attend some events that were so disorganised. I would sit there wondering, “Who put this together?” In my mind, I just knew all the things I would do better.
Now that I think about it, my love for planning goes even further back to my secondary school days at Queens College. I was the president of several clubs, which meant that when there were social events, I was at the forefront of planning.
So after university in 2016, I knew I needed to do something in the entertainment industry. So I started working with Ajebo the Comedian, as his assistant. But I was there for the experience, not because I knew I would start I Plan Wonders.
As it turned out, he did many shows, and I was very involved in their planning because it came naturally to me. Two years later, I decided I was done there and wanted to start my own event company.
I had that conversation with Ajebo and he was super excited for me. Since I was no longer with him full-time, I became his manager, for a little over a year, while I faced my business squarely. So I Plan Wonders started 6th of October, 2018.
What was your first-ever event?
My sister’s wedding. People usually only hire planners with experience. So with things like this, you may have to start with family.
And how has the journey been so far?
Exhilarating, encouraging, challenging. Very challenging. I’ve felt all the different emotions being an event planner.
I Plan Wonders wasn’t making a lot of money at some point, so I had to launch subsidiaries: Wonder Kitchen, a small catering company, and Wonder Shopper, an errand platform. This was how I was able to keep I Plan Wonders afloat.
This journey has taught me that passion will keep you going. If you’re in it for the money, don’t even bother. Every time I have an event, I’m assured that this is my purpose — I was born for this. For every event, I have people walk up to me and express their awe.
Does your family approve?
Ah [Laughs]. Now they do, but they didn’t approve initially. They didn’t do anything to stop me, though, they just encouraged me to interview for jobs. So I would go for interviews and get employment offers, but I would never resume at the office. I just couldn’t be bothered.
Wow. You really knew what you wanted.
I always had the peace that I was going to be okay. I think everything changed in 2020, two years after I started my business. I had an event in Benin City, where my mum lives. So I needed her to show me around. We arrived at the venue, and I went to speak to the owners while she waited at a distance. I noticed her watching me.
After we left, she finally spoke. “Ifeanyi, you’re okay,” she said. “You’re going to do so well, and I’m proud of you.” Since then, she’s never sent me job openings or worried about me again. It only made me work harder, because, as it turned out, 2020 was the most difficult year for me.
True. The pandemic hit the event industry hard. How did you cope?
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a whole year with no jobs because they were all rescheduled or cancelled. I was properly broke. But guess what, I still made the most money I’ve ever made so far in this business.
Many people abandoned event planning at that time, but I knew I couldn’t give up. So I went back to the drawing board. The digital space had taken over, and we had to catch up, to innovate.
I started a thing I called ‘The Event Process’. There are many talents involved in bringing an event to life and The Event Process was to educate people on the different job descriptions.
With The Event Process, I interviewed all these vendors: Security, catering, drinks, decoration, and so on, and they explained their roles.
I was doing interviews back-to-back, enlightening people about the importance of event planners and other vendors. I should even do a part two, now that I think about it.
Truly impressive. Would you say the pandemic was your biggest challenge?
Have you made any money mistakes along the way?
Too many. But this was at the beginning of my journey. I’ve had to use my money to pay vendors hounding me for their balance. The clients would give me excuses, claiming that the money was stuck somewhere.
Then eventually, the client would claim that the vendor did a poor job. But it would be too late because I already used my money. That has changed now. I have contracts in place for the clients and the vendor. And clients pay the full fee before I start any job.
I used to undercharge, too. For instance, I would say I can do a job for ₦3 million. Then when I find out I made a calculation error, I would compensate with my money so I don’t upset the client.
But I know better now, these mistakes have helped me do better in my career.
What does a good month look like, money-wise?
Event planning is a process that spans over months. There are different phases: The pre-event, the event, and the post-event. The latter involves content and the direction you want to take the final production.
But a very good month looks like ₦2 million, take home. And that will entail plenty of back-to-back jobs. So what you might call a good month has just been long coming. But in other months, at least ₦500k.
What’s your favourite project?
I like shows, but I also truly love weddings. I love all my events, honestly.
If I wanted to book you for a small event, how much would that cost me?
A small event can vary. Small can either be a bridal shower of 20 people a wedding of ₦1million. But if we’re speaking size-wise, there are many factors to consider. Do you have a venue already? Do you favour decorations?
There’s no straightforward way to answer this question. But if you give me a budget, then I’ll tell you what it can do.
Fair enough! What would you say is the superpower that lands you the most jobs?
I’ll say my superpower is getting the job done well. Seeing is believing for most people, so I land most of my clients by referrals.
If you could hit a reset button, what would you do differently?
I wanted to say I would avoid certain clients. But when I really think about it, every experience has taught me something valuable. And I can teach future interns or employees how to navigate similar situations.
So no, I wouldn’t hit that reset button.
What’s your advice for anybody trying to break into the industry?
If you don’t have a passion for event planning, I wouldn’t advise you to do it. That goes for any business because the going will get tough. Passion makes it easier to manage the tough times.
You’ll also need patience. You can’t control how everyone will react to or treat you. Intentionality, organisational skills, time-management and practice also help a great deal.
Event planning is easy in theory. I hold a lot of online classes, teaching my students the ropes. But they’re usually shocked when the practical tasks are different from theory.
You’ll have to learn things like how to respond to guests at a concert where the performer is a no-show. You can’t refund the money, so you’ll have to be humble and keep apologising.
Insightful! So, what’s next for Ifeanyi Okoh-Amayo?
I’m working on launching a foundation called Wonder House for CSR projects. There’s young creatives in the event space (food vendors, decorators, stage and event venue managers) with skills that I feel can be enhanced. I would love to help.
I also have a flair for decoration; in fact, I do a lot of my decorations myself. So I’m working on my decoration company as well. Hopefully I’ll launch that early next year, by God’s grace.