The millennials, also known as Generation Y, are the early adaptors of technology and a demographic companies simply cannot afford to ignore. In Africa’s booming wedding industry, estimated to be worth $3.35 billion, millennial couples – understandably – comprise more than 83% of customers.
Which means that what worked for bridal marketing 10 years ago is no longer relevant, given that couples today have completely different – and often stratospheric – expectations. To differentiate requires finesse.
And that’s what Tamara Jonah-Goka, CEO of Lionheart Events, excels at.
At her office, tucked away in a cul-de-sac off the road leading to Accra’s biggest exhibition center, Jonah-Goka is hard at work planning yet another Gen Y wedding. Lionheart, set up six years ago, is Ghana’s leading event management company.
Born to successful entrepreneurial parents, Jonah-Goka has business acumen encrypted in her genes.
She is the daughter of Sam Jonah, former chief executive of Ashanti Goldfields in South Africa and one of Africa’s wealthiest men.
“I think because I have a successful dad, it drives me a lot more. It is more of a weight on your shoulders and I know I cannot fail,” she says.
Jonah-Goka grew up watching her mother organize social functions and events at home, which led to her own love for events planning. After high school, she studied sociology in Kingston University in the United Kingdom. She took a year off after graduation to figure things out.
She wanted to do something creative, but wasn’t sure what.
Her brother suggested she take an online psychometric test to see which career would be best suited for the creative person in her. Over two hours and a hundred questions later, Jonah-Goka had her moment of truth. It turned out she had a strong affinity for people and planning. Armed with this knowledge, she decided to invest in a Master’s program with special focus on hospitality, tourism and events. She soon relocated to South Africa to work for a start-up wedding planning company, where she worked on a number of high-profile weddings, most notably that of Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter.
“I knew South Africa was always going to be temporary, Ghana was always home and the plan was always to relocate,” says Jonah-Goka.
On her return to the thriving cosmopolitan city of Accra, she quickly got to work, attending events.
“One thing I noticed was everything seemed very generic and I felt like there wasn’t a lot of design to weddings in Ghana.”
She began by paying a company to carry out market research to identify competitors, trends and insights into the events industry in Ghana. This was the first step at differentiation.
“My vision was always to create events that spoke about the personality of who my clients were instead of me.”
Her customers had to be 100% satisfied. Today, the company has hosted over 300 major events including weddings, corporate events and private functions, providing turnkey solutions for any budget. Every Lionheart event also comes with its own signature.
“I remember we flew in an ice sculpture from South Africa at no extra cost to the client because he wanted something he had never seen before and I felt that would be a nice touch,” says Jonah-Goka.
Going above and beyond for her clients has earned her a reputation for delivering quality, which does not necessarily translate to expensive; she works to all budgets.
But Jonah-Goka’s journey has not been without challenges. Tragedy struck when her brother, who influenced and supported her career choice, passed away.
On the work front, she was faced with a paucity of skilled labor. It was tough looking for people who bought into her vision. Consequently, she was heavily dependent on vendors. Chairs, flowers, décor…everything had to be outsourced.
“I knew I had to control my entire production line in order to deliver the quality and standard I wanted to see.” Eighty per cent of Jonah-Goka’s customers are repeat customers.
“The challenge with repeat customers is they know the value you bring and there is always a new pressure to wow them again and deliver something better than what you did before.”
Her’s is not a normal nine to five job. Like her businessman father, Jonah-Goka is up at 5AM every day. With her work, she hopes to create a sustainable hospitality industry in Ghana focused on imparting training to people passionate about the events sector, thereby creating jobs. Jonah-Goka is leading the pack of young entrepreneurs in Ghana, growing rapidly, just like their country.