How Nigerian entrepreneurs are bracing the odds in 2020

2020 has demonstrated the need to build resilience in business. Nigerian entrepreneurs have experienced one of a business owner’s worst nightmares: to have the business that they have so lovingly tended face the worst of disruptions.

Entrepreneurs are typically extremely resilient, creative, and tough. However, surmounting the challenge posed by this year appears a tough ask for even the toughest business person. Being part of a community is considered an important factor for surviving hard times.

A coalition of supports

The recent recession that followed the Covid-19 global pandemic has put significant strains on many entrepreneurs and businesses in Nigeria. In this peculiar period, a number of initiatives and offers by the government and other private establishments have helped to cushion the negative effects on people and businesses.

Aside from the CBN loans, there is an offer for those who are yet to register their business to take advantage of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) provisions and register their businesses for free. FATE Foundation, Nigeria’s foremost enterprise development non-profit, also recently launched the Business Recovery Programme.

The BRP is tailored and designed to equip Nigerian businesses with relevant knowledge and toolset to quickly adapt to economic disruptions while maintaining continuous business operations and safeguarding people, assets, and overall brand equity. This programme is free to all FATE alumni members and they can access it via fatefoundation.org/brp.

FATE Foundation held a conference for its Alumni, which was live-streamed on YouTube and Zoom to a combined attendance of 1,285 participants for both days. Participants got great insights from great speakers and excellent moderators, including the Founder, Mr. Fola Adeola, and Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State.

As the lockdowns began to ease, the focus for many was on how to resuscitate the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that are the mainstay of the Nigerian economy. In August, a Lagos State Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment Summit held for stakeholders. Peter Bamkole, Director at the Enterprise Development Centre (Pan-Atlantic University) responsible for building a network of SME leaders in Nigeria, encouraged Lagos to be strategic and intentional.

He harped on the need to match demand with supply while solving the problem of MISFITS: Market Access, Infrastructure, Support Services, Finance (access), Information, Technology (access), and Secured environment.

Solving Nigeria’s challenges requires substantial investments and resources going into our science and technology ecosystem. The LASRIC fund was specifically set up to resource our innovation, science, and technology ecosystem. It recently awarded 7 tech startups and 16 Applied and Needs-based science research initiatives across universities in Lagos state.

The beneficiaries, Farmz2u, Doci Healthcare, and GIVO Solutions among others are innovating and solving problems in the area of Food Security, Manufacturing, Health Management, and COVID-19 alleviation. Those in the STEM ecosystem are encouraged to apply for the next LASRIC grant of N5m in any of the 6 areas of focus on or before November 6, 2020. Completed applications will be assessed using the “ARISE” framework.

Following the support of IFC – International Finance Corporation Global Business School Network, the EDC commenced its flagship program – the Certificate in Entrepreneurial Management #CEM with the 1st cohort of 20 in 2005. Since then, it has built the capacities of SMEs across Nigeria enabling them to start and run businesses effectively. Now in its 50th edition, there is a 5% early bird discount in addition to the offer of automatic Life-Membership for new enrolments.

FATE Foundation has continued to wax even stronger in spite of the pandemic. Under the leadership of Adenike Adeyemi, the organisation has deepened its entrepreneurship research and data gathering capabilities to better provide ecosystem insights and guide entrepreneurship policy strategies.

Like its alumni event, the FATE Foundation Annual Celebration scheduled for Thursday, December 3, 2020, will also be a virtual event. They will be graduating entrepreneurs supported in the course of the year, give out awards to outstanding performers, and celebrate everyone who has supported their journey for the past 20 years.

The charge to be resilient

As Winston Churchill once counseled, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

While they expressed shock at the development, many Nigerian entrepreneurs quickly adjusted once the Covid-19 global pandemic eventually necessitated a lockdown in many parts of the country. Several measures were adopted, such as remote working, while online meetings became the new normal.

For instance, the 5th FATE Foundation Alumni Summit held via online mediums.

The guest speaker and Lagos state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu encouraged entrepreneurs to be resilient. “As entrepreneurs, always face roadblocks. Entrepreneurs should embrace receiving feedback and improving their product offering as this is essential for success,” he said.

Nnaeto Orazulike, the chairman of Genesis Group talked about “Strategies to Navigate Turbulent Times”. He told entrepreneurs that crisis is always present in the journey of entrepreneurship and that building resilience is a necessary skill that must be honed to ensure every season. Here are more salient points from his discussion.

Entrepreneurs need to believe in their story and vision of their businesses despite problems that might arise along the way. He encouraged entrepreneurs to find gaps in their market place and work on solving those problems and create a market for them.

Dr. Stella Okoli OON talked about how to embrace change and transformation during the period of uncertainty. Everyone needs to be on the lookout on how to take advantage of opportunities that arise in the time of crisis.

Entrepreneurs need to learn how to adapt to the needs of their employees in the time of crisis. This can help is improving service delivery. Entrepreneurs also need to be creative during a crisis, which may require changing your revenue model in the time of crisis to survive.

She encouraged entrepreneurs to be frugal and focus on the financial needs of their businesses when starting up. Even when family and friends may turn you down it is important to stay focused and persistent in your dream by avoiding unnecessary expenses.

Thriving during the crisis

Each year, on the 21st of August, World Entrepreneurship Day is celebrated to create awareness for entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership around the world. There have been several reasons to celebrate this year, despite the global pandemic.

An alumnus of the Enterprise Development Centre (Pan-Atlantic University), Ehime Eigbe-Akindele, CEO Sweetkiwi just launched her yogurt product line at Whole Foods Market in the U.S.

Whole Foods Market Inc. is an American multinational supermarket chain headquartered in Austin, Texas, which exclusively sells products free from hydrogenated fats, artificial colours, flavours, and preservatives.

In the same period, Nuts About Cakes opened its seventh store in the heart of GRA Ikeja. Founder and CEO, Nike Majekodunmi celebrated the milestone in July by quoting …”I didn’t come this far to only come this far.”

Also, Lady Ranchers, a group of women from different professional backgrounds have concluded on how to transform the way the livestock sector and its value chain will be handled henceforth in the country.

Aderoju Odunsi, President of the Lady Ranchers (Ikeja) Cooperative Multipurpose Society Limited gave the indication while speaking at the inauguration of the Cooperative Society in Lagos.

She said the initiative started last year when the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo inaugurated the livestock transformation agenda.

Odunsi stated that Nigerians should look out for better nutrition through livestock; cattle and goats, and that as far as beef is concerned that the Lady Ranchers are determined to hygienically produce natural meat, processed meat for local consumption.

“If you have started and not do a cooperative there might be a limit to what you can do, but with this, you can do a lot. The edge that you have is registering yourself as a cooperative, it will assist you financially and because you are in a group it will make it easy for the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other financial institutions to deal with you,” he added.

To succeed, entrepreneurs need to identify and communicate well with people who will be willing to buy the product/service that is offered, according to Governor Sanwo-Olu who described himself as a “former entrepreneur.”

Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli MFR said entrepreneurs need to have the vision to redesign, disrupt the value chain, ecosystem, and the way business operates. Having empathy as a skill is required now more than ever and not just for your staff but also for external stakeholders.

“You must learn to collaborate with others – your competitors, customers, suppliers, and in ways, you have never done before. It’s also important to be frugal and plan for the next 12 – 18 months for different scenarios – the best case, mild and worst case” she said.

Mrs. Nwuneli, who is the co-founder of ACE Foods, wants entrepreneurs to get involved in shaping policies for their ecosystem at the local, state, and federal level in order to create an ecosystem that works for them and for others in the same industry.

She also encouraged that technology and innovation need to be incorporated into the ecosystem, a suggestion harped on by John Obaro the CEO of SystemSpecs who talked about “Leapfrogging with Technology”. He talked about how his business grew while trying to solve an internal problem his organisation was having.

Mr. Obaro said being at the forefront of change means having the ability to move rapidly through the adoption of modern systems without going through intermediary steps. It also requires a lot of creativity and listening to your different types of customers.

Entrepreneurs need to be able to build a team that can deliver consistently. To do this one has to build a culture of trust and service. A tech company requires top talent to grow and the ability of your company to attract and retain skilled people contributes to growth.

“Integrity when no one is looking: it is important to always do what is right from the beginning. In areas such as bookkeeping and carrying out activities related to your business. This speaks for your business and can help build a sustainable business over time. One that will attract people and partners that will accelerate your growth,” he concluded.

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