The Burden of an Entrepreneur
Nothing changes one’s world view or life trajectory like having a challenge or a burden. For me, the burden of becoming an entrepreneur in Nigeria has been interesting and quite transformative.
I became the founder and chief executive of DU opensource, an Out-of-Home Advertising company, in 2008, and I must say that my ascension to the position (in particular the events and challenges) and the years that followed have helped broaden my understanding of the challenges of being a start-up or an entrepreneur in Nigeria.
My entrepreneurship journey began early in life, as my aspirations and dreaming began while in the primary school. My mother took notice when I engaged in petty trading: selling kerosene in bottles and locally made soda soap in the village markets. Not “for want of means” but because I wanted to acquire basic selling skills and business knowledge.
She would always encourage me each time I came back complaining of losses. She advised me to ensure that my pricing was appropriate and to avoid selling below cost price because I wanted a quick turnover. These basic business advises would go a long way in preparing me for bigger business challenges.
After several years as an employee traversing the length and breadth of Nigeria as a Sale Executive for some companies, I decided to start the planning process of setting up my company in 2005. I thought I had learned a few things about business and I have gathered the necessary skills needed to run a business.
I started by putting my business ideas together, wrote a business plan with fantastic financial projections. I named the company, got the business name registered as an enterprise with the Corporate Affairs Commission. I opened a business account for the company with a new generation bank and was now ready to rollout but got constrained by lack of operating capital, office space, office furniture and equipment.
With nowhere to turn, I decided to approach the bank where I opened my business account for a loan but my application was turned down. I went to another bank and this time I demanded to see the branch head. The first gate keeper demanded to hear my brief first before she would let me through. I reluctantly told her about my business idea and my mission to the bank. She, too, reluctantly sent me to a SME unit where I met a fellow who began our discussion by asking how old I was. I answered.
After which, he asked if I was living with my parents or alone; to which I answered that I was living alone. He then asked if I was married or planning to get married soon given my age, at which point I sensed something was wrong, and that this man was out to mock and insult me and my “well written business plan.” I was wondering why he began by asking me questions about my private life instead of questions about my business plan. He then said he was sure I was looking for money to rent a house and get married.
At this point I couldn’t bear his insults any longer I walked out of the bank and began marketing my service from my single bedroom apartment and the big break came in less than 6 months the same year. The rest is history as they say.
All these events have helped shaped my mental strength as well as business and leadership skills over the years as I conquered one challenge after another in the course of doing business with several companies in and out of Nigeria.
The truth is that there are endless challenges facing entrepreneurs in Nigeria: from access to capital; to energy supply; to skilled labour; to regulatory hurdles; and to the unwillingness of financial institutions in Nigeria to lend to start-ups and SMEs. These challenges are enough to dampen one’s spirit if one does not have determination. It is even more difficult for an unprepared entrepreneur who ventures into business out of frustration or due to a lay off.
If our government would pay close attention to the SME sector of the Nigerian economy and ease access to capital for those with genuine business plans or proposals, the continuous upsurge of unemployment would be replaced gradually with availability of jobs.
I dare say that the Nigerian market for many sector remain untapped. Recently, I read about a house bought by a popular Nigerian blogger (Linda Ikeji) in an exclusive location (Banana Island) in Lagos said to worth about half a billion Naira ($2.5M). That is a successful start-up made in Nigeria and there are many like that out here.
After I read the story I received inspiration to see vast amounts of wealth domiciled in Nigeria as a result of opportunities not seen by many or the failure of many to make an attempt.
The burden and challenge of entrepreneurship in Nigeria requires a fearless spirit; boldness; uncommon courage and determination. The government cannot take away all the challenges but it can create an environment where more success stories are possible.
For further enquiries, please call 01-342 7023, 0803 916 3770, 0808 559 7663, 0802 832 5833, 0803 413 9103 or click on button to send us a message or have us call you.