By Jemi Ekunkunbor
Lara Rawa, the founder of Eventi Cocktails is a lawyer by profession. She holds a Master’s Degree in International Business Law from Queen Mary University of London. Her passion for Cocktails and event planning, made her shelve her law certificate to follow her dreams. As far as Lagos and Nigeria is concerned, Lara Rawa is a name to reckon with in cocktails known for creating distinctive cocktails and custom mixology for luxury events, conferences, wedding, social and corporate events.
In this interview with Esther Onyegbula, she talks about the upcoming Lagos cocktail festival and other issues in the industry.
What is Lagos cocktail festival about?
The Lagos cocktail festival is a week-long event aimed at providing individuals, businesses, corporations and global brands a platform to interact, connect and share brand value. There will be exhibitions, master classes, tastings amongst other side attractions and activities.
This festival can also be described as a gathering of cocktail enthusiasts as beverage brands and lovers of great cocktails and mocktails alike get to indulge their taste buds at designated hubs. This year, the event has been renamed ‘Lagos Cocktail Week’ and will be different in various ways; for one, we are switching up some of the competitions and encouraging more of our guests to try their hands at making cocktails at some of the different hubs.
We are also signing up partnering bars who will offer cocktails at a discount to LCW wristband wearers. Anyone interested in taking advantage of the promotions and offers happening during the week, will need to purchase wristbands from the official hub, The Milano Bar at the Intercontinental Hotel.
Who are your target markets?
We are reaching out to people who are in cocktail business; we are also reaching out to the brands, the Liquor companies, the grape company, beverage company, those directly and indirectly involved in the Nigeria cocktail business.
As the organiser of the event, what is in it for you?
I guess you are asking about my long term goals and vision. My goal is for Lagos to host the International Bartender Association, for us to have the master class skills come to Nigeria, for us to have the mixicologist guru in the world to come to Nigeria and train Nigerians so that we can also be on the same platform with the rest of the world in the art of cocktail.
Why did you go into this business when you are a professional lawyer?
I went into the sector because I love to drink cocktail. But there was a point when I didn’t have a job and I felt that rather than stay at home doing nothing, let me go into cocktail business.
How is starting and staying in the business been like?
Well starting a business is easy, the difficult part is staying in it and being able to move with the trend. What that means is that you always need to horn your skills by going abroad to train. For you to acquire these skill, you will need travel tickets, pay for hotel, and then you have to pay and be trained which is why we have decided to bring it home.
What should people expect at the festival?
It is going to be educative, informative and entertaining. Entertainment is happening when you are going to the different hubs and enjoying cocktails at a discount while chilling out with friends. The educative part is when you get people registered to attend classes. We also want to create a platform for the cocktail trade vendors to network.
They need this relationship because sometimes, two or three of them have to work together at a big event. So far, the response has been very encouraging and positive. The N2,000 is to get the wristband while the training cost N10, 000 and the training will run for four hours, from the best facilitators.
Do you have plans to partner with the government?
The partnership is with the Lagos State ministry of tourism and obviously, this is a platform that will encourage tourist activities as we go along. So there is no reason why they shouldn’t support such an initiative. I believe they are also supportive of young people who have fresh ideas and who are trying to make things better.
Do you think Nigerians are very much into cocktails?
Nigerians are visual people. They like to see things. From the response I got, I won’t say Nigerians are different, I will beg to differ. They know exactly what cocktail is, they know what Chapman is because everybody drinks it. But we are trying to tell them that, Chapman is the least of it all. Cocktail is a lifestyle thing, you just need to be creative with it and be dedicated and passion driven.
For me, what is more important, is the success of this event. Once the event is successful, next year, the turn out will be huge. But my expectations of the cocktail is that I will get the brand to give us their full support, to bridge that massive gap that we have been talking about between the brands and the consumers, when people are educated, and informed and then the attention of the international community, and obviously next year we will get better response.
How do you relax?
How I relax is so easy, I just go to my room, put on my television, put on my AC, watch movies maybe with a glass of cocktail that is how I relax.
What was the earliest challenge you faced running your business?
When I started, I didn’t know how to mix cocktail, I just loved to drink it and there was no place here where I can learn. When I got jobs, I called people who I knew could do the job and they will take all the money. And I used to wonder how they made profit.
Did you ever dream of becoming an entrepreneur?
Initially, as a career person, I wondered why people stress themselves to do a business when they can actually have a 9 to 5 job and get paid and if you perform brilliantly, you get promoted. Then I became an entrepreneur and now, I am like, I don’t know how people work for other people, because as an entrepreneur you are able to set the pace of how you want to go.
How do I balance work?
I don’t even know because I do a lot of things like school run, I am also actively involved in church work, I do events, I am doing Lagos cocktail week, I won’t lie to you because I have been asking myself how do I do it? My day starts from 4am and I don’t sleep until 11pm when I have responded to all my emails. I will just say it is the grace of God that I am able to balance everything because I can’t say it is my strength.
What is my driving force?
My driving force is trying to be better, wanting the best for my child and also wanting to be known for impact the industry and people around me.