Neya Kalu: “Uplifting anyone, especially women has always been in my DNA.”

Neya Kalu is the Chairman and Publisher of The Sun Nigeria, founded and published in Nigeria. A reputable company that publishes relevant news in Nigeria and around the world in over ten categories. She is also the founder and CEO of Basecoat Nigeria.

Educated at the University of Buckingham with a degree in Law and Finance, Neya leads the Board on strategic matters, establishes high governance, and oversees the company’s business.

Before becoming Chairman/Publisher of The Sun Nigeria, Neya, an entrepreneur, built and runs several successful businesses, the most recent being Base Coat, a nail salon chain in Lagos. She is also the Vice-Chairman of Sun Heavens Hotels and Resorts.

With a strong interest in social issues and a desire to empower women, Neya works with the OUK Foundation to contribute to achieving SDGs one through six.

Read our Q & A with her and be inspired.

What are three words that best describe you? Courageous. Kind. Tenacious.

You were recently announced Chairman of The Sun Nigeria and you’re also an entrepreneur, what is Neya most passionate about as a career choice? Honestly, looking back, I should have studied architecture in school because I enjoy the thrills of construction and how different elements combined with precision form a powerful structure. Fortunately for me, despite my passion for architecture, I have a team of architects I can live vicariously through while I focus on my entrepreneurial and leadership journey, which allows me to stay solutions-focused and help people solve problems… something I am most passionate about.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as an entrepreneur and how have you surmounted them? Being an entrepreneur is not easy, especially in a country like Nigeria, where every effort is met with frustration. The government has a role to play, and it owes its citizens a stable environment in which both the public and private sectors can flourish. However, this is not the case, as a simple commodity, such as electricity (or its lack in this case), remains the number one killer of dreams in Nigeria, particularly in entrepreneurship. But, as the saying goes, if you love something, keep working at it, so this is one mantra I live by, and I try to focus on the positive, believing that we will succeed despite the daily challenges.

What changes do you hope to see in the future as concerns the growth of entrepreneurs, globally? I’m sure there will be significant changes in the future. One common misconception is that entrepreneurs are lazy or unprofessional because they do not hold traditional titles such as lawyer, doctor, politician, and so on. Entrepreneurs, in my opinion, should be encouraged, and an enabling ecosystem should be created. It may interest you to know that entrepreneurship is now being taught at universities and included in study curricula all over the world, and I am confident that in 10 years, the number of privately owned businesses will triple and the high unemployment rate will significantly decrease.

Neya Kalu

Do you have mentors and how have they impacted your journey? Is it cliché to say that my father is my mentor? Don’t get me wrong, I have a few mentors, but my father tops the list. I am because he is. Everything I know about leadership, business, and sustainability is because of his leadership and guidance, and one of the reasons I am this successful is because he allowed me to fail, to stumble because you learn through your mistakes, and failure isn’t final, you know.

You were recently appointed the Chairman of the Sun Publishing Limited. How does it feel to achieve such a powerful position as a young woman? I feel completely euphoric, I still can’t believe it. But as a young woman? You say chairman and you expect to see an older male in his sixties. I started my career at 18, and I’ve faced gender and age bias. So I’m used to the pressure. Was the announcement a surprise, yes it was because I wasn’t expecting it. But did I earn it? Absolutely. I’ve had to work twice as hard because I’m a woman and I’ll keep on working twice as much because I’m now in a sea full of men now. 

What are the top 3 impactful things you have done/achieved in the past year as concerns uplifting women? This question is tough because I’ve always helped. I have always believed in being your sisters’ keeper. So uplifting anyone but especially women has always been in my DNA. Impactful? Uplifting women? I don’t think we’d have enough pages left.

If you could go back in time, what piece of advice would you offer your younger self? A piece of succinct

Neya Kalu

advice that will go a long way. I’d tell her “Be kinder to yourself”

What is the most important lesson life has taught you so far? I’ve learned that man’s problems stem from the inability of being alone.

What’s your take on “Women supporting Women”? I’m 100% behind this initiative. It is essential for women across the globe to meet like minds, feed off of and lean on one another, and be motivated by their success stories.

Time Travel or Teleportation? Time travel. Imagine, experiencing every era.

If you could share a meal with a woman of impact (dead or alive) who would it be? Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti. I have a genuine admiration for women who are/were ahead of their time.

The name of the last book you’ve read. The Teller of Secrets by Bisi Adjapon

A Quote you refer to when you want to encourage someone. Jeremiah 29 vs. 11

What was the most recent thing you did, that gave you joy? I traveled alone. People are so afraid of being alone, but I think it’s a superpower.

Connect with Neya on Linkedin and Instagram.