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The Making of Mahogany: How Sola Oyebade Created One of Africa’s Top Modeling Agencies


Hey there! Are you an aspiring entrepreneur in the fashion and events industry, looking for guidance? Does the struggle of building a successful business feel all too familiar? Have you been told to chase the money, only to find yourself feeling lost and overwhelmed? It’s time to break free from the ineffective advice and discover the real secret to success in the fashion world. Get ready to unlock the empowering journey of Sola Ayebade, from model to Mahogany Models founder, and learn how to build a diverse, successful fashion business. Say goodbye to the struggle and hello to the path of empowerment in the runway!

In this episode of the Third Culture Africans podcast, Sola Oyebade, also known as Mr. Mahogany, shares his remarkable journey from model to founder of Mahogany Productions and Events, one of Africa’s largest model agencies. Sola’s early interest in the fashion industry began during his secondary school days, where he organized fashion shows as part of literary and debating societies. His entrepreneurial resilience and commitment to diversity in the fashion and events industry are truly inspiring. He faced challenges and overcame societal stigmas to establish businesses that showcase diversity, such as the Mahogany Bridal Show and Mahogany Models. Sola’s insights into navigating the fashion industry, empowering models of color, and building successful ventures provide a wealth of knowledge for aspiring entrepreneurs in the fashion and events industry. His determination to make a meaningful impact and contribute to the industry’s growth makes this episode a must-listen for anyone seeking guidance in building a diverse and successful fashion business.

Timestamped summary of this episode:


00:00:00 – Introduction to Mr. MahoganyπŸͺ΅
Zeze introduces the guest, Sola Oyebade, also known as Mr. Mahogany. She highlights his achievements as a multi-award-winning founder in production events and the owner of one of the largest model agencies in Africa.
00:02:30 – Early Journey into ModelingπŸ’πŸΎβ€β™€οΈ
Sola shares his journey into the modeling industry, starting from his time in secondary school to funding his university education through modeling. He discusses the challenges of being a male model in the UK and the lack of opportunities for black models at the time.
00:07:05 – Setting Up MahoganyπŸͺœ
Sola explains the motivation behind setting up the Mahogany bridal shows and model agency, emphasizing the need to represent people of color in the wedding and modeling industries. He discusses the challenges and initial stages of establishing the business.
00:12:15 – Addressing Racism in the IndustryπŸ‘¨πŸΌβ€πŸ€β€πŸ‘¨πŸΏ
Sola addresses the pushback and accusations of racism he faced for promoting black models. He shares his efforts in educating the media and breaking down the lack of representation in top modeling agencies. Sola highlights the success of the Italian Vogue all-black issue.
00:13:43 – Curating Our Own StoriesπŸ“–
Zeze and Sola discuss the importance of curating and telling their own stories, challenging the traditional media’s narrative. They emphasize the need for empowerment and representation within the black community, and the impact of curating
00:14:40 – Telling Our Own StoryπŸ“š
Sola Oyebade discusses the importance of telling our own stories and doing things for ourselves, particularly in the UK. He emphasizes the need for businesses to be self-financing and the challenges faced in competing with mainstream agencies.
00:18:45 – Citizens Advice Bureau🏒
Sola talks about his role as CEO of the East End Citizens Advice Bureau, a charity that provides legal advice and assistance to those who cannot afford it. He highlights the importance of fundraising for each office and the challenges of managing multiple boroughs.
00:19:48 – Building InfrastructureπŸ‘·πŸ½β€β™‚οΈ
Sola shares his experience of building infrastructure for his events production business, particularly in the African market. He discusses the challenges of gaining trust from mainstream agencies and the need to build capital and business relationships.
00:24:47 – Demystifying SuccessπŸ€‘
Sola reflects on the journey of building his business, emphasizing the importance of hard work, persistence, and consistency. He stresses the value of doing what one loves and providing a service that people want, rather than focusing solely on money.
00:28:55 – Working with Young People πŸ‘¨β€πŸ‘§β€πŸ‘¦
Sola discusses the impact of the internet on the current generation of young entrepreneurs and the opportunities it presents. He emphasizes the importance of mentorship and knowledge sharing with young people to help them navigate the business world.
00:29:20 – Evolution of Advertising in the Fashion Industry🧢
Sola Oyebade shares how he used to advertise his nightclub through pirate radio and flyers, contrasting it with the ease of online advertising today. He reflects on the significant advantages Gen Z has with the power of the internet.
00:32:28 – Impact of Social Media on Advertising πŸ“±
Sola discusses the drastic change in advertising costs and reach due to social media. He highlights the accessibility and affordability of reaching thousands of people with just a single online post, contrasting it with the high costs and limited reach of traditional advertising methods.
00:34:06 – Influence of Models and Influencers πŸ’πŸΎβ€β™€οΈ
Sola explains the differences between models and influencers, emphasizing how models primarily showcase clothing, while influencers create a dream-like association with their audience. He also notes the merging of models and influencers in the industry today.
00:37:26 – The Power of Social Media and Timing ⏱️
Sola reflects on the impact of social media on influential figures like Ronaldo and the potential influence it could have had on past sports icons like Maradona and Pele. He emphasizes the importance of timing and how he would have leveraged his knowledge if born in the current era.
00:43:06 – Influence from African Americans πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ
Sola shares how African Americans influenced him when he started in an environment with no fashion or entertainment industry. He admired the struggles and achievements of publications like Ebony, leading him to create a company name that represented people of color.
00:45:28 – The Importance of Giving Back and Sharing Knowledge πŸ€”
Sola Oyebade discusses the importance of saying no, sharing knowledge, and giving back to the community. He highlights the value of helping others and the impact it can have on their success.
00:46:59 – Defining Success Beyond Money πŸ’°
Sola Oyebade shares his perspective on success, emphasizing that it’s not solely about money. He believes success is about leaving a legacy, making a positive impact, and being recognized for one’s contributions.
00:49:49 – Advice for Young Dreamers and Entrepreneurs πŸ‘¨β€πŸ’Ό
Sola Oyebade provides valuable advice for young individuals with big dreams, emphasizing the importance of learning their trade, finding their area of expertise, and being persistent and consistent in their pursuits.
00:56:01 – Balancing Confidence and Authenticity in Business πŸ‘©β€πŸ’Ό
Sola Oyebade discusses the cultural differences in promoting oneself and the importance of balancing confidence with authenticity. He highlights the need to step into and celebrate achievements while remaining genuine and grounded.
00:59:35 – Show Support for Third Culture Africans πŸŽ—οΈ
Zeze Oriaikhi-Sao and Sola Oyebade encourage listeners to support the show by sharing episodes, commenting on social media, joining the newsletter community, or leaving a review.
00:59:35 – Importance of Community Support πŸ’™
The hosts stress the importance of community support in making the show bigger and express gratitude to those who have supported the podcast.
00:59:35 – Call to Action πŸ’ͺ🏽
Listeners are called to action to help the show grow by engaging with the content and spreading the word to friends and on social media.
00:59:35 – Gratitude and Farewell πŸ‘‹πŸ½
Zeze and Sola express their thanks to the audience and sign off, looking forward to the next episode.

Visit mahoganyinternational.com for corporate event production and fashion show services. Contact details are available on the website.

  • Explore fashionsfinestafrica for opportunities to learn about the fashion industry, attend workshops, and participate in the annual epic show. The website also provides contact information.
  • For those in the UK, check out fashionsfinestuk.com to stay updated on the London Fashion Week show held every February and September.
  • Interested in modeling? Visit mahoganymodelmanagement.com to learn more about mahogany models and the opportunities available. Contact details are provided on the website.
  • Follow the Instagram handles of the respective companies for the latest updates and insights: @mahoganyinternational & @ffaevents.

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