I am sitting in a furnished ground floor office with two IKEA office desks, leather chairs and necessary office paraphernalia. Behind me is the studio where all the broadcasts take place. Across from me, is Debra Unogu, the CEO of the latest internet radio sensation, AfricaUKRadio, which is based in the business district of Luton, Bedfordshire. The station, already making waves beyond Bedfordshire and the Three Counties is the baby of Debra and her business partner Junior Badila. Debra, looks every inch the successful entrepreneur, as she talks to me about her passion and interest in especially in radio.
She has a strong background from years of working with the British Broadcasting Corporation. With her colleague also from the BBC, Debra took the leap into radio broadcasting. She is also the Creatives Director at Creatives Box Ltd, a multi-media company. Debra is quick to point out that her radio station is not about her herself, but about engaging communities.
How did you get it into radio? I know you have worked for the BBC?
I actually studied media (Television and Radio) production at the Bedfordshire University. I started with our local BBC radio and worked for them till October 2012. When I left the BBC last year, I thought I was going to focus on my online talk show and other projects which I started a little while back, but I met Junior Badila who had university just completed his Media degree. He had this idea for a radio station and the rest is history. The BBC Three Counties Building is just opposite us here. I worked in different capacities as a Production Assistant and a Producer.
What did you learn from the BBC?
Actually, a lot. I started this because of my experience at the BBC. With our experience on the BBC, we knew about how things were done and we wanted our radio station to run as professionally as our BBC counterparts.
With so many internet radio stations, what gap are you filling?
Our vision here is that we don't operate as a black people or a black organisation but as an organisation led with individuals who are talented in what they do and passionate about executing that vision. I believe black people should be out there doing what other people are doing regardless of their race. Working at the BBC opened my eyes to many things and learnt a lot whilst at during the time I was there. Many people come into this country and do jobs just for the money they get at the end of it, not because of any personal goals. I am very anti- that. I am into radio and soon television because I have a passion for radio . We have seen the gap, the reason why I m doing this, is that, there are over 2million of us but not enough black people in the industry . It is not like we are going to come and take over the UK, it is just that we need to do more for our race. I have had to learn never to give up. My mum has always been there to make sure I become the best I can. We want to have a voice, to do what we love doing such as broadcasting.
Who inspires you?
My mum is my number one. She is a business woman with basic secondary school education. I have had one of the best upbringing so far. I would say Holly Wayner, a motivational speaker with an amazing story. I have loads of role models, but my mum is number one. I look at the way she fights for what she believes in. Right now, I am looking to create content for television, I believe I can do it. I will do it.
You must also be a woman of great faith?
Faith and wanting to make a difference. I believe what I am doing will make a difference. I say to my friends, you didn't come here to become a nurse or a care assistant. That's is not what you left Nigeria to become. Many people complain without investing in their lives. We want to build a legacy with the radio station. It is not a DJ radio station because that is not what we are supposed to be good at. All the equipment are expensive, but we need to start somewhere.
In five years time, where do you want to be?
We want to be a global radio. We want to be world wide. We are thinking of AfricaUKRadio America. When you think of radio station, we want to be able to have shows in whatever countries that would represent us. We are looking into Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB). FM is very limiting as a traditional means of transmission. You know, cars give FM an edge but, when you look at new media, everything is going digital. Hence, why we are looking to invest in the requisite DAB technology. Very soon, cars will be fitted with DAB technology.
In terms of costs, are you breaking even?
Some months we break even, other months, we dont. We are on our first year plan. In the first year, we don't expect to make profits.
What's your message to people in your demographic?
My message to young people is to dream, keep dreaming and go for their dreams whatever it is. The story of Richard Parker, the quadriplegic inspires me. Without prosthetic hands, he has become the top designer of Formula One cars. we all have dreams and there would always be obstacles. The most important nugget of truth to believe in yourself. Don't allow the past or your tomorrow to determine your present and don't let your past to stop you from achieving your dreams. Stay focussed and refuse to listen to any voice that contradicts what you want to be.