Thrilling entertainment and spectacular crowds; expect nothing less from Tiwa Aganga Williams’ social events. From college students to A-list celebrities, thousands are drawn to his grand parties. Williams, better known as Tiwaworks, is an enterprising socialite who has put his money where his mouth is.
For years, his company, also called Tiwaworks, has created memorable experiences but nothing could have prepared him for his worst day in business.
It was all set. Another spectacular evening of entertainment was set for Atlanta, United States (US), not far from where his career was launched in college. A call from American rapper Jay Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records to have Tiwaworks host a party with one of their artists was supposed to launch his budding brand into the stratosphere. At the age of 22, Tiwaworks, who is of Nigerian descent, set the wheels in motion. It was going to be a huge party, drawing a mammoth crowd from all over Atlanta, and no expense was spared.
But things didn’t turn out as planned.
“Unfortunately, we took a big financial hit that night as everything that could go wrong did. The event was a complete flop. I was sick to my stomach and remember sitting across the street from the venue with my head down. I had raised $10,000 with a promise to repay with interest, and I had to face the music with my investors. My mother came over and advised that the financial loss is a class I paid for as I would never repeat the errors again,” says Tiwaworks.
However unwelcome, the setback reinforced Tiwaworks’ drive. It would be a mere stumbling block in his journey – a journey he had only just begun.
The genesis of his business occurred while he was the Special Events Coordinator at his college fraternity.
“When I took this role upon myself, we pretty much changed the face of marketing and entertainment for the city of Atlanta. We were doing very innovative productions, our flyers looked more creative and appealing than others, we had approached local media companies to enquire about advertising rates. We were able to distribute our product to a population of about 1.2 million people in the area instantly – something no one else was doing. We positioned ourselves strategically. This is how I opened myself to the world of entertainment and events marketing.”
Although successful now, there were lessons that Tiwaworks had to learn.
“I learned to study my market thoroughly and not take chances. Audiences will only gravitate towards what interests them. I also learned to be aware of what competitors were doing and be well prepared,” he says.
Born in England, to Nigerian parents, Tiwaworks’ roots haven’t left him. His interest in programming, while in the US, was influenced by a desire to follow in his father’s footsteps, who owned a computer networking company in Nigeria.
“About a year and a half into graduation, I realized I wasn’t really interested in programming. I didn’t want to pursue it anymore but I was also not prepared to quit on my major and start something else all over again. I decided to go ahead and finish my course.”
With great hurdles to overcome, Tiwaworks revised his strategies for doing events. Atlanta was laden with new attractions. He hosted parties with some big names in American show business: Bobby Valentino; Brandy and Jagged Edge. Sponsorship and alignment was putty in his hands as brands clamored to be a part of his parties. Tiwaworks was expanded to more cities and soon his parties were the hottest ticket.
With the impressive growth of the brand, it soon appealed to different clients.
“Our events were very casual. A lot of Nigerians soon started coming up to me enquiring if I am a countryman. In no time, we started to receive a lot of support from the Nigerian community. Soon, a friend of mine suggested that we take a chance at going back home as the entertainment scene there is really opening up.”z
In 2004, for the first time since he was 13, he returned home. With some feasibility studies and more groundwork, Tiwaworks hosted its first Nigerian event in 2008 and recently celebrated the fifth anniversary of its most upscale event – All Black Everything – an elite annual event for young professionals and celebrities to network in Nigeria.
For Tiwaworks, the secret to success is simple.
“We made our parties very personable. I establish a one-on-one relationship with everyone that comes. I built my events handshake by handshake, brick by brick. That is more powerful than any radio or television advertising spot we could ever buy. We are looking to tour about 11 cities in the US this year.”
Tiwaworks now hosts the largest weekend which draws about 25,000 people annually to the city of Atlanta boasting average revenues of about $ 600,000 on its large weekend events.
“We have used it as a marketing tool establishing relationships with many companies. With our events, you are able to place your product directly in front of the market. Companies that look for non- traditional ways to enter the market approach us. We understand consumerism.”
He also sees creativity and foresight as a crucial element of entrepreneurship.
“You have to be a visionary. You have to visualize each and every aspect of the event and how it all comes together to provide a unique experience. Putting an event together equates to looking at a blank canvas and beginning to piece it together. I am a very visual person and always looking to heighten the experience. Then comes paperwork – budgeting, costs and estimates. Sponsors always seek visibility and return on investment.”
The Atlanta Greek Picnic Weekend is another attraction built under the Tiwaworks stable. This event draws a wide variety of all the black fraternities and sororities that make up the prestigious Divine Nine.
Tiwaworks’ entrepreneurial flair is not limited to hosting social events. He has a passion for real estate and technology.
“Ultimately, I am a businessman at heart. I love doing business. One thing I have learned in business is to diversify and have multiple streams of income. We now have real estate educational seminars and speaking engagements.”
With expansion plans for Dubai, South Africa, Britain and Nigeria, Tiwaworks’ toughest period in business was a precious lesson.