When Ayeni Adekunle announced on March 8, 2021, that Black House Media (BHM), the public relations agency he started from his living room in Lagos in 2006, was opening an office in the United Kingdom, it triggered excitement and offered a ray of hope in the Nigerian communications industry.

By the announcement, BHM became the first and only Nigerian PR agency to ever open an office in Europe. In the past, PR and advertising agencies from Europe and America partnered with local agencies in Nigeria to handle their local campaigns. Many stakeholders in the communication industry believe BHM’s move to the UK will open the door for more Nigerian agencies to move into new markets in Europe and America.

But as Ayeni recently pointed out while speaking at the #DiversityInPR Conference on Thursday, October 14, 2021, the announcement wouldn’t tell the entire story of some of the challenges the company faced before it eventually opened the office eight months ago.

The conference, organised by the founders of ALeaderLikeMe, Priya Bates and Advita Patel, in partnership with SummersDirect Conferences and Events, examined the dynamism of PR in the past year and what terms such as innovation, service delivery and reputation mean to the profession in today’s world.

Speaking on ‘markets of the future,’ Ayeni told a global audience at the conference held via teleconferencing application, Hopin, that it looked like “everything was designed to lock you out”, but he was prepared for it.

“It’s a concept of anticipation; we didn’t go into the UK thinking it would be easy. I’m black, grew up in Nigeria, don’t have a Scottish or British accent, and we are not part of the big holding companies, so we anticipated those issues,” he said.

“Even opening a corporate business account was a big deal because we just couldn’t get in, almost like the system was designed to lock you out, everything is automated, and once you’re not understood, you can’t just access it. So we anticipated it, even in my country.

Ayeni, who said he grew from adversity and understood how to breakdown doors, said finding the right partners, advisers, mentors, and coaches helped the company while trying to set up in the UK, but it “still didn’t prevent us from encountering those issues, but we had the right counsel and understood what we want.”

“Nine months after it’s almost like those issues never happened, I said to my banker later that I wish they organise the system in such a way that it does not spit out what it doesn’t understand because therein lies the opportunity to change the world,” he said.