Born Emma Chukwugoziam Obi, ‘Emma Nyra’ left the United States for Nigeria after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Administration from Texas Southern University to launch her music career. Now with close to 300,000 instagram followers, Nyra is focused on increasing the pipeline of female artists in Nigeria’s male dominated music industry. To date, she has collaborated with other female artists to include Cynthia Morgan and Victoria Kimani. A former cheerleader, Nyra is well known for her racy costumes, back-flips and acrobatic moves on stage.
In this interview with Mary Olushoga, Founder of AWP Network, Emma Nyra discusses what inspired her to start her own label and her plans to help increase the number of female artists in Nigeria’s male-dominated music scene.
How did you come up with the name “Emma Nyra”?
Back in college, my classmates gave me the name “E-money.” They said it was because I carried myself with so much class, something I learned from my mother. The name “Nyra” represents the Nigerian currency, “Naira,” I just changed the spelling. My company ‘Nyra Nation’ on the other hand, is an entity that I created. This name refers to my fans and supporters; from this I am able to build my record label.
Who inspired you to start your own record label?
I started my own record label because I felt that it was time for me to branch out on my own. I had learned so much from the Nigerian music scene and I knew that I wanted to fly solo, so as to further my career under my own direction with no second or third parties negotiating on my behalf. I wanted the transparency and freedom that came with working for myself.
Who is your target market?
I want to make music that Africans around the world can truly enjoy. Platforms such as YouTube, iTunes, instagram and Spotify have helped me to get my music out there.
How have you marketed yourself and your business?
To market yourself, you need to build a cult-like following, an audience of likeminded individuals. Social media has helped me immensely with this. Through social media one can build massive audiences. Social media is extremely important for independent artists such as myself. I also truly believe that staying true to one’s personal craft and style is what will genuinely work in the long run. It is important keep evolving and to stay one-step ahead.
How have you financed the business?
To be honest, securing financing when you are in the music industry is quite difficult. At the end of the day, you will bootstrap and use up majority of your personal income to further your business, which is what I have been doing so far. Taking out a loan or accepting sponsorship is risky because some of these situations require that you pay back with interest, with the possibility of not making any profit, so I tend to avoid these scenarios. I don’t want to take that much of a loss. Luckily, I have been able to invest in myself solely from money made from my performances.
What is your competitive edge?
What makes me different from other artists is that I am not only a musician but I am also an actress and a runway model. In addition to this, I earned a degree in Health Administration with a minor in Public Affairs from Texas Southern University. Going to college definitely taught me invaluable life lessons and allowed me access to a network of prestigious individuals who I still network with today.
What is the long-term for your business?
The long-term plan for my record label is to eventually sign some talented producers and artists, with a focus on developing Africa’s female talent. I feel as though we lack representation within this growing industry.
What challenges do you face or have you faced as a woman in show business?
There have been many challenges such as the lack of representation by women, and this leads to an inability to properly treat and care for a female artist. The industry is still very male-dominated but I believe that this will get better over time. I would like to see more female artists get booked for major concerts as opposed to each show only having one or two female artists. Female artists such as myself are definitely paving the way and advocating for more inclusion.
What key things have you learned since starting your business?
. Don’t do business with friends.
. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Venture outside of your comfort zone and test the waters.
. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, this I believe is part of the process of a growing a sustainable business.
. Don’t put all your investments into one basket.
. Don’t be afraid to take a break. Taking a break to rebuild, rebrand and restructure is perfectly fine. Any business that has your name on it is worth the time and effort.
What do women entrepreneurs need to know about finding investors and securing investment deals?
As an entrepreneur trying to secure investors and investment deals, ensure that you have a good legal team. You will always need someone on your team looking out for your best interests and helping you to secure your monetary investments in the long run.
What advice do you have for youths looking to start an idea but say ‘there is no money’?
My advice is that young people keep perfecting their craft and look for opportunities to do so. For instance, when I first started my career, I did over 100+ free shows in order to gain the experience and exposure. At first, this may seem frustrating because you will not be making any money but the exposure and experience will be worth it in the end, at least until the right opportunity presents itself.
How do you think African youths can continue to support each other?
African youths can support each other by investing in African brands. I see this new African pride movement going on right now and I absolutely love it. Why not support each other and help each other to grow, especially since we have the numbers.
How many jobs have you created so far?
I have not only created jobs for producers and musicians, but also created jobs for models, dancers, makeup artists, stylists and much more. This business requires teamwork and constant networking.
How has technology enhanced your business idea?
Technology has enabled my business to grow beyond just a local outreach. Thanks to outlets such as social media, my business has attained international recognition and success, while maintaining a strong base from Africa.
How can we support and improve innovation in Africa?
People tend to think that they can do more by investing in projects that correlate with Africa without leaving the Diaspora, but actually coming to Africa is the game changer. It is not an easy task but it is a huge advantage to come to Africa and experience the atmosphere with a fresh take on what people here truly need. Never rely on what the media has to say.
What are some of the ‘worst’ things you have heard about your ‘persona’?
Some of the worst things that I have heard are, “I have not earned my accolades.” That, however, is completely false. I have worked tirelessly on my brand and on my talent so I am not concerned with these types of comments.
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