Meet Gabriella Nokoe, the Model and Entrepreneur Who Aims to Empower Young People Around the World
Living in Nairobi Kenya for the past four years, Founder of Brielle Model Management and proud Ambassador of ‘Marini Naturals’, Gabriella Nokoe, is already making a positive impact in the world.
With a mentality twice her age, at only 21-years, the model and former beauty queen also the co-founder of Zuree Dolls, a womenswear collection embracing young women of all shapes and sizes, encourages young entrepreneurs worldwide to tap into their greatest potential no matter their age.
Gabriella, joined us to discuss the inspiration behind Brielle Model Management, how she successfully managed to overcome obstacles she’s faced in the early days of entrepreneurship, her aspirations of inspiring young people worldwide, plus more.
The Davi Magazine: Gabriella, it’s great to have you join us during a time where young people are suffering the most and battling with lockdown anxiety. How have you managed to stay positive during these times and what’s the current situation of Kenya and Ghana?
Gabriella Nokoe: Thank you so much for this great opportunity. Being interviewed by and featuring in The Davi Magazine is a pleasure. At the initial stages of the pandemic, I was thrust into the sea of uncertainty. Uncertainty as to the way forward with my coursework along with my business.
" I won’t lie to you, I took as much time as I needed to take a break
to clear my mind."
However, after a while, I needed to have my head stirred in a definite direction. A direction that allowed me to build a business that adapts to change.
Finally landing at digital marketing, I created a platform suitable in meeting the needs of the modelling agency and clothing brand bearing in mind the former has for the longest time functioned traditionally. The youth in Ghana are attempting their best to comprehend the situation and adjust appropriately. The same applies to Kenya.
TDM: Let’s go back a decade. Were you always this confident in your abilities and unstoppable from a young age?
Gabriella: Funny you mentioned a decade because I started modelling at the age of 11 and began pursuing it from then to date. I would describe myself as one who was born naturally confident and daring. It wasn’t impossible until I dared to do it and that has come a long way in birthing the entrepreneur in me.
TDM: With the average age of startup founders being in their early 40’s, it’s rare to find a young entrepreneur. Why did you opt-out of the traditional route?
Gabriella: I broke off from the traditional route because I discovered that I am possible and I have what it takes to be successful in the field I decided to venture in.
" When your values are clear and you have a goal in the end it is very easy for you to do things differently without
any fear or doubt."
TDM : Less than 8 months ago, we saw you fearlessly launch your first batch of models in Ghana, (Congratulations!). It’s extremely rare to find a model who is also a model management Founder. Where did the concept for Brielle Model Management stem from?
Gabriella: Oooh!!! Thank you! Brielle Model Management has always been a childhood dream at the back of my mind. Looking back, I am still in awe that it is no longer a dream but now a reality. I thank God for His grace.
After winning the MISS CUEA title in my first year (2016), I was invited back by the CUEA management to train the models for the beauty pageant for three consecutive years from 2017- 2019. Towards the end of 2019, I introduced modelling classes training ladies who in my personal opinion should have been in the top three. For the next two months, I was juggling model training along with my education. There were days I rushed from class to training and vice versa with very little breaks in between.
After thirty requests to join the training (and counting) together with six models (I trained in the first lot) and four new ladies I selected, Brielle model management came into existence.
In March 2020, I finally introduced my first batch of ten Kenyan models to the world and now I’m delighted to say that Brielle Model Management has thirty models located worldwide from Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Canada, Sierra Leone to the United Kingdom.
TDM: That is amazing! It's a delight seeing your growth! Speaking of growth, there is so much pressure for young girls growing up in the modelling industry to look a certain way. Body image is not just an issue surrounding young girls, but models of all ages too, especially in the media causing a lack of body confidence. What tips would you give to any readers wanting to grow within the modelling industry and currently lacking body confidence?
Gabriella: The pressure to look and be a certain way has always affected the youth and this has been the case not only in the modelling industry but in other spheres of life.
" I always say to myself, there will always be
people better than you in your field but there will never be a better version of you."
So why not focus on attaining the best version of yourself! Embracing who we are can’t be overemphasized. Brielle Models are beautiful and come from all over the world; their beauty is truly in their diversity. We encourage our models to embrace the very best versions of themselves, their perfect.
TDM: We agree, the more you embrace your uniqueness the better.
This year has been very unique and challenging for new graduates with a lack of job opportunities and unemployment at an all-time high. We can only imagine an increase in young people venturing out into the exciting yet challenging world of entrepreneurship. What are some of the challenges you faced during your earliest days whilst creating Brielle Model Management and how were you able to successfully overcome them?
Gabriella: I faced a lot of challenges when starting Brielle Model Management. Let me share the ones I believe most entrepreneurs can relate to. When I first started Brielle Model Management, it was a one-man show. I handled everything from the management to social media influence, training, marketing, shoots and everything in between.
" With time, however, I realised that I needed a team of specialised and competent people. I needed to play to my strength and allow others to do the same;
that’s when a team is effective."
Since Brielle Model Management is working towards having international presence, we established teams in all the countries our models are located; right from our Human Resource Manager, Operations Manager, Social Media Content Creators, Photographers, Creative Directors down to the Make-up Artists.
It’s hard enough getting one effective team talk less of establishing them in different countries however it remains the best decision I made for the growth of the agency.
Now that we had a management system in place, the next hurdle was funding. The agency required funding for many of its operations and frankly speaking you can never really save up enough money to start up (chuckles) and being a student didn’t make matters any easier. There were and still are challenging days when it comes to funding and on such days I lean back on my principle of priority ‘If it is a necessity it will be done if it is not it will wait’.
The last and most common challenge is getting clients outside your network to trust a new brand.
" Human beings have an insatiable need to belong and that’s just what a brand does, it gives a sense of belonging to its clients and consumers."
You will be shocked to realise that many consumers and clients stick to a brand not necessarily because it offers world-class service or products but because it has made a name for itself. People only buy for two reasons, to satisfy a need or to feel good; what was it going to be for us?
We gained entry into the industry with many clients sharing testimonials and referrals. The question as to the credibility of the business (because of my age) stopped being a reason for doubt and has by God’s grace become an inspiration to many.
TDM: Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew beforehand?
Gabriella: Everything takes time and hard work. Just because you’re taking longer than others doesn’t mean you’re a failure, Keep moving!
TDM: Great words! What advice would you give to young aspiring entrepreneurs?
Gabriella: My advice to young aspiring entrepreneurs will be in this abbreviation- I, R, H, P, F, V. The first abbreviation:
Interest - Before you start any business or organisation it is very important to be passionate and have an interest in it. Don’t start a business just because everyone is starting a business. It can never work like that. So make sure you identify your area of interest.
Research and Hard-work - After identifying your interest and field of passion, whatever it may be; work towards knowing more about the industry. Identify your audience and how you need to approach this particular audience? This stage involves a lot of work. If after this stage you’re still ready to push on, you can move to the next stage, planning.
Planning - A business can in no way be successful without a plan. Before starting your business, you must create a business plan that you the aspiring entrepreneur has prepared, which includes specific details of your goals for the next 5years. The business plan will help guide you to successfully achieve your goals.
Funding - As a young entrepreneur, this is one of the most challenging stages however, it can be conquered. How do you plan on funding your business? Is it from your savings, current earnings (if working), loan facilities from financial institutions, family, friends or potential investors? There are many organisations interested in being part of viable youth-owned business projects and enterprises. With a well documented and laid out business plan, you can reach out to organisations and apply for funding.
Value - As entrepreneurs, our responsibility is to provide value with our products or services to our customers.
" As a young aspiring entrepreneur, providing value should be at the forefront
of your mind. Your business shouldn’t just exist for the sake of it."
For example, if it’s to empower women in feeling great about their bodies, then let your product or service be and do just that. This was the concept behind Zuree Dolls, a two-piece clothing brand I co-founded intending to beautifully represent women of all shapes and sizes around the world.
TDM: Managing Zuree Dolls alongside Brielle Model Management must be quite demanding for a young entrepreneur, which is why it is so important to have a work-life balance. We already know you have a great love for fitness. What else do you usually do when you have downtime?
Gabriella: Yes! I love keeping fit; I guess I got that from my mom. She has always made it a point to see that she works out and stays healthy. I also love spending quality time with my friends, going out together, trying new restaurants. I am a 100% fully certified extrovert (laughs) so this works to my advantage. I enjoy travelling, visiting new places and meeting young people in hope of understanding their diverse perspectives towards life, culture and language.
TDM: It’s amazing to see how you have managed to become a young positive influential figure by connecting with other young people worldwide. Who has most influenced your work to date and why?
Gabriella: I would attribute this to my mom. She is the pillar that supports me, my backbone, confidant and best friend. My mom is the place I can pour my heart, the place I find rest, the place where I find peace and refuelled to keep going.
TDM: Already doing amazing things at just 21 years of age, we can only imagine what you will be doing post-COVID-19 era in one, two or three years from now. (Hopefully in one, but let’s just say three.) Where do you envision yourself and Brielle Model Management three years from now?
Gabriella: Thank you for the encouraging words! Well three years from now I see Brielle rising to gain international presence, representing models on a wider scale alongside world-class brands and becoming a force to be reckoned with.
" I can see myself positively impacting young African girls, children and women in the modelling industry and establishing a foundation enabling them to
enhance and harness their potential"
whilst connecting them to a wide range of platforms.
TDM: We can see you successfully attaining all of the above!
It is so important to spread positivity in the world, especially during these times. If you could leave us with some empowering words to help young people around the world who currently lack hope and feel like giving up, what would they be?
Gabriella: The truth is doubting your ability is normal, however allowing the doubt to stop you is a choice. On some days you just have to start before you are ready and be your biggest fan. Your audience will stop questioning your age when they see competence; every form of bias bows in the face of competence.
" Follow your dreams and always remember that there is a seed of greatness in you and it is for a specific purpose for a specific audience."
Your seed of greatness is not to be shared with everyone; you are not to solve everyone’s problem.
There is nothing great about playing by another person’s playground rules. Don’t be discouraged by challenges and closed doors, some closed doors had nothing behind them and challenges build you for bigger and better. See you at the top!
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