Henry Alade better known as ‘Oldskool’, is a man about town who is rightly connected. Beyond being a socialite, he sits atop Impact Direct, an experimental marketing firm; an event management firm, party deals, as well as a local delicacies business, Oyo Amala at Omole Phase 1. The Oyo-born shared with Wole Adepoju how he started life as street compeer, to how he has fared in the business world and his biggest dream. The graduate of OAU, a fashionista, also highlighted why he can’t compromise looking good.
How best can you describe Henry Alade?
The man called Henry Alade is a likeable person, a free hearted person, easy going, loves himself more than anything and has no secret. He’s a goal getter, lion hearted at the same time.
Can you recall an incident where you could say you exhibited traits of a man with a lion heart?
Yes, in a lot of ways. I have been a man that has gone through thick forest back to back in the line of business, in the line of struggle, in the line of friendship and what have you.
A lot of things have come my way that an average man who is not a lion at heart would have lost it. I have passed through things that made me have the thought that, ‘do you want to continue living this life or you want to commit suicide?
I am somebody that I take things the way they come.
I am a person that in the process of doing things, when I hit the rock, I calm down. In the process of being calm, I find the solution. I have come to discover it is only the lion hearted that can walk through the face of the earth.
You are often referred to as a socialite, how did you get to rub shoulders with movers and the shakers in the society?
It is basically the industry that I am in. I am in an industry where whether you like it or not, you need to socialize to meet with a lot of people and to get your networking antenna there. And in the process of moving around, you meet the good the bad and the ugly.
You have friends for different reasons. You have social friends that you drink together; you have the intellectuals and the well-wishers so to say.
And in this process, there are a lot of lessons. You find a friend you think you can lean on and when the time comes, you discovered he’s not there for you and so on.
But basically, it has actually helped because if you don’t have the contacts, there is little you can do, especially in this part of the world. I have had so many contacts, I have met so many people and I have done so many things through friendship and goodwill.
Can you take us down memory lane of how you started your journey in this industry?
Yes, I started my life as a compeer. I started with a company called Group Africa. I grew up there with the likes of Osaze Obiekwu, Wole Oladunjoye. Anytime I see those boys hawking coffee and the rest, I remember those days because that was how I started.
And from the road, there was one call that came in that afternoon and I had to return to the office, getting there, I was told I had been made the Creative Head of Group Africa Nigeria , and from there, Client Servicing. So it was while at client servicing that I had to meet with kings and the rest.
That’s one of the advantages of clients servicing, so from there, I started making contacts. From there, I was called back to operations. I got to the level of Operations Director.
So it was one stage to the other and I evolved in different companies as well. From Group Africa, to ES Momentum, to TQA, 001 and TPT. So all those movements helped in my positioning in the society in terms of being there.
Your upscale local dish restaurant, ‘Oyo Amala’, is hub for celebrities and top shots. One wonders what led a corporate guy into such area. Can you let us into it? ‘
Oyo Amala’ came at a time I was not thinking of any business to do. The vision came from my dreams and it was with me for over a year.
It kept coming actually. What I saw in my dream was Admiralty Way and amala and all that.
On this particular day, I was driving on that road and I saw the house I saw in my dream. I parked and I was lucky to have met the woman who owns the house. I told her I needed it for a restaurant and she gave me a total package of N18 million.
That actually killed the whole thing because I found it funny to relate amala with N18 million. The dream never stopped coming.
To cut it short, I later found another building inside Omole and luckily, the owner of the property happened to be a friend, as a matter of fact, I got the keys almost immediately because the friend actually drove down and that was it. Since I had the dream already, I tried to fertilize it and bring it to light.
That was the beginning of Oyo Amala. You know food selling is not my beat, so it has been in the teething period, maybe it’s going to graduate someday but it’s a business that is there and can turn to anything.
You also run an outfit called ‘Party deal’. Tell us about it?
‘Party deal’ is party company and that would make me remember Ibidun Ighodalo. She was a mentor, she was somebody I met along the line and talked to about it.
Although, it’s related to what I do naturally, but the way they do it is not the way we do it. Our own focus is on the brand, events but the party stroke party, do goes down to the level of weddings, naming ceremonies and all. So I found ‘Party Deals’ along the line and its doing well even though there is room for improvement.
What is your biggest dream in the business world?
My biggest dream is to be one day fully selfreliance and get to the level of financial engineering. That means, let what I have work for me. We keep moving towards a fully digital world so I have some babies I am nurturing in that area, and hopefully, before the year runs out, we intend to launch one or two of them.
Are there people you look up to in the business world?
Yes, a whole lot. I read in my quiet time and I follow a lot of business mentors. I like the Dangote style, maybe I don’t want to be a Dangote. But I like his style, he’s lion hearted.
The way he makes his business one after the other, I like his style and I look at him a lot. I look at, maybe he’s not a business man but I like about the way he does things. That is Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He might not be a business man but there is an underlying tactics that he’s used to get things done. There are a whole lot of them really.
You are such a stylish person. Was it borne out of the fact that you are into branding?
I think I got that from my father. He’s a little bit stylish, though he’s old right now. And I think my mum too. As old as they are, I still see it in them. And then, the innate tendency, because one of the things that keep me going is, looking good and it is a good business. You look good, you look presentable, and you attract a lot of positivity. It is part of being networking conscious.
Are you particular about any designer brand?
Gone are the days that I used to be ‘a designer’, so to speak. Even those days, all I looked for was just to look good. I don’t have particular designer I am attracted to, right now. I am dying for anything Nigerian label.
I love looking good in my Kaftan. The only thing I am yet to change my mind towards in Nigerian brand is the shoe. But I wear a lot of Nigerian slippers. And then, most of my shirts are my shirts.
How do you mean?
If you see me with any white shirts, all my white shirts are my customized shirts. They are for me, what you see there is HA. The initials of my name. You won’t see me wear Tommy or Thomas Pink. Any white shirt you see on me is HA. I have flair for fashion and I’m working on my own fashion line.
It’s one of the things in the pipeline, OS Apparel. It is something that comes easy with me and I felt why not do something around it?
Not many know your real name but your nickname, ‘Old skool’.
How did you get it?
It is a whole long story but I will try to cut it short. I got my first interview after series of short listing and eventually, I was picked. As a matter of fact, out of about a thousand, they were actually looking for one person.
After series of auditioning like sessions, it was now time for the proper interview but I didn’t have anything to wear. I just put together creatively, my daddy’s jacket, I had a white shirt and a black jeans, I put everything together and went for the interview, still looking smart but of course the jacket was obvious.
So bursting into the interview space, it was Osaze of MTN that first noticed me, because he was part of the crew checking for a compeer. He was the one that shouted Old Skool lapeeee and it became a chorus of sort.
So after the interview and all was set rolling, in the company, we didn’t call ourselves by our real names for security reasons. It was nick names we call ourselves. We had Virus, Oxygen, Tomato, Yellow Boy and mine was Old School.
And out of every one of them, it’s mine that has stuck. Even if I write a mail now, I need to write Old Skool in a bracket, otherwise, it goes to junk. I have tried to run away but it has stuck, even my children call me Old Skool.