Top 20 UK Hospitality Influencer of 2023, Olajide Alabi

BA (Hons) Events Management alumni and Top 20 UK Hospitality Influencer of 2023, Olajide Alabi, talks about his career in equality, equity, and inclusion within the hospitality sector.


A man smiles at the camera.

Tell us about yourself and what you've been doing since you graduated

I’ve always worked in hospitality. After graduation, I worked in restaurants for a few years until I joined Blue Arrow Recruitment Agency. My role involved recruiting Chefs, but quickly expanded to recruiting front of house staff for events, venues, schools and basically wherever I found an opportunity. I loved the fast-paced nature of temporary recruitment. In this role, I also got a great feel for the events sector, and it was exhilarating.

After 4 years, I moved into internal recruitment. I found myself at JD Wetherspoon, where I worked for nearly 4 years supporting recruitment for over 950 pubs and hotels, and I got involved in branding, employee value proposition, diversity and inclusion strategy, and social media.

I left to head up recruitment for Gourmet Burger Kitchen where the idea was birthed to start my own consultancy business with my friend and business partner. SISU was born, an agency created to support businesses, schools, and people with their equality, equity and inclusion journey.

Why did you choose to study at Leeds Beckett?

I wanted to move away from my home in London to gain independence from my family, and Leeds helped me achieve that. I picked Leeds because of its great nightlife, and I already knew a friend who was having a fantastic time studying there.

“Leeds Beckett had amazing facilities and an Events Management degree that taught the transferable skills I would need to succeed.”

What work experience opportunities and support did you have access to on your course?

My placement year was by far the most fun. I was lucky to scoop up a placement with Haymarket Exhibitions. There, I worked for 6 months in Sales & Marketing, followed by 6 months in Operations. I got such a well-rounded exposure to the world of exhibitions.

I worked on some great shows, including the BBC Good Food Show where I worked on the Gordon Ramsey Scholarship with Gordan himself. In this time, I also worked on BBC Gardeners World, Auto Sports International, and the Clothes Show Live.

“Being able to see these events come to life right from the start, concept to build to execution, was an experience I will never forget.”

And I got to do it with one of my closest friends. We lived a very glamorous life in London, going to some amazing events whilst learning so much about the world of business. The faculty at Leeds Beckett, especially the placement office, helped me undertake this opportunity. I am eternally grateful to them for opening that door for me.

What inspired you to find a role in Equality, Equity, Inclusion and Wellbeing?

Throughout my career, I have never truly felt like I belonged anywhere. I always felt like I had to change who I am, dim my light, change my name, stay silent, etc to make others feel comfortable. I have experienced racism, homophobia, and seen misogyny and sexism in a range of environments.

I got involved in diversity and inclusion when working on a recruitment campaign for JD Wetherspoon. For this campaign, we shared stories about people’s experiences working for the company on Wetherspoon lorries, to advertise our amazing employment opportunities. At Gourmet Burger Kitchen, I headed up the company’s DEI project and knew there was more work to do in this space. It sparked this innate feeling of responsibility and a need to do more to move the dial.

“My lived experience and the desire to make an impact inspired me to transition into equality, equity and inclusion work. I want society to learn more about each other, so that we can be a truly inclusive place to live, work, and exist as individuals.”

What has been your biggest success so far?

A huge success so far has been setting up our consultancy, SISU.

SISU is an equality, equity, inclusion and wellbeing consultancy that collaborates with brands to embed equitable and inclusive practices within their business. What we do feeds into their workforce's wellbeing and creates a sense of belonging. We challenge the status quo and seek new ways to grow our company and each other.

Every day that I get to facilitate a conversation around equality, equity, inclusion and belonging is a success. Being able to have these light bulb moments with different people is so powerful and a real game changer.

What advice would you give someone looking to study Event Management?

“Keep an open mind about what you can achieve with this degree.”

The skills that you learn are transferable. You will learn about project management, budgeting, marketing and promotion, multitasking, customer service, and more. It was only after graduating that I realised that the skills I had picked up from my degree really set me apart from other people.

You’re not limited to being a wedding planner or a party planner if you don’t want to be. The opportunities that this degree can lead to are endless.

What's next for you?

I will continue to be brave, honest, and vulnerable. I plan to host more live events, launch a podcast, expand our reach within schools and the education sector, publish a book, and grow our team at SISU.

Boundaries need to be pushed and many marginalised people deserve to feel empowered. Society still has more work that needs to be done, through learning, unlearning and growth.

It’s pretty exciting to have all of this on the horizon. The opportunities are endless.

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