“I come from a very entrepreneurial family, so making something out of nothing was never a foreign concept to me,” she said.
Her quarterly magazine, focused on celebrity and lifestyle news, now has a circulation of 1.4 million, making it one of the most-read periodicals among women in Africa. It has offices in Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and Britain, with plans to expand to the United States.
It also places a premium on fostering a sense of intimacy with its audience. It hosts an annual Glam Africa gala, as well as smaller events throughout the year — usually brunches and tea parties — that often attract professionals with disposable income like doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs. They are sponsored by European beauty brands like Schwarzkopf Got2b.
Recently, the magazine began a “Beyond Beauty” campaign featuring Britain-based social media influencers and bloggers sharing their experiences with self-acceptance and self-worth. At one event in London, a panel of women discussed their experiences with conditions like alopecia, in which a person loses her body hair, and vitiligo, in which the skin loses pigment, causing discolored patches. One panelist shared her struggles with discrimination based on skin tone, and another with the visible injuries she experienced from a burn accident.
Ms. Onwutalobi, 28, leads the magazine from its headquarters in the fashionable Shoreditch neighborhood in London, where she has lived since leaving Nigeria at 17. Every other month or so, Ms. Onwutalobi travels to the magazine’s offices in Africa to meet with potential advertisers, scout for writers and broker partnerships with local vendors. The majority of her staff is younger than 30, but when Ms. Onwutalobi has meetings with people outside the magazine, she is often the youngest executive in attendance.
“Being a woman, a young woman, it’s hard for people to listen to you,” she said. “Hands down, the hardest thing is getting men to listen to me. Sometimes, I have to spend an hour getting the men in the room to see me as an equal. It’s frustrating.”