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think

March 28, 2020 Leave a comment

Pensive

Why are you in Nigeria?

I’ve been asked that question more times than I can count. My answer is usually the same – I have some ventures I’m looking to explore. Sometimes, there are looks of confusion, heavy sighs, or just good old-fashioned disbelief and head-shaking. But, I understand. Someone moving to Nigeria from Canada, at time when people are leaving Nigeria for Canada in droves, is puzzling. I guess my “interviewers” are wondering whether I know something they do not. Maybe I do.

I lived in Canada for eight years, and within that period, started three different businesses there that did fairly well (most popularly, Pearl Kreations) before I moved back. I came here to set Nigerian subsidiaries and explore other possibilities. I did I come with a mindset to introduce new concepts, disrupt/turn things around and rake in millions? Absolutely. Have I been humbled? Most definitely. Have I done well? Yet to be determined. I’m joking; by God’s grace, I’m doing well. However, here’s what I’ve realized about entrepreneurship in the Nigerian economy – there readily is no reward or support for competence, effort and ingenuity. The system largely favors those with access to power/political connections and rewards them with highly lucrative government contracts and ridiculous grants. Vusi Thembekwayo put it this way – if you look at how the top 25 wealthiest and most celebrated people in your country made their wealth, you can easily determine the type of economy you live in. Did the top 25 wealthiest Nigerians all build their businesses from the ground up (without backdoor deals and government favors)? You decide.

Of course, there are/will be exceptions to the rule, and certainly, you can live comfortably as an entrepreneur, especially if you’re a professional, like an accountant or architect. Anything other than those, would be tough, but not impossible. However, real wealth may elude you. As you may have concluded, there are very few entrepreneurs in this country who have built substantial wealth without connections or government contracts/favors. That says a lot about our business environment. This is particularly disappointing for me because a little over ten years ago, I had a totally different experience.

After running my first business for about a year, I applied to be a vendor for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. I noticed there were vendors for all manners of merchandises, but no one selling button-badges (which was my product). I saw that opportunity and applied. I got a response requesting for, what then seemed like, all sorts of random documents. I can assume now, in actuality, they were probably things like business registration documents, bank statements and so on. I replied the email stating that I was a freshman at McMaster University, had started a small business, saw an opportunity and decided to take it; I had none of the documents requested of me. A few days later, I was approved! I got sent all the documents verifying my business community membership by mail, and a congratulatory email as well. Just like that, I got in. No connections; except God, of course.

Small businesses are the backbone of any economy, and in recent years, it seems Nigeria has caught on. Things are still a little dodgy, with hints of favoritism here and there, but improving. I’m thrilled that with the impending COVID19 lockdown, so many people have gotten fired up to start a venture of their own, either to complement their income, or in transition from former employment. Whatever the reason, the best time to start is now.

However, in my experience, a lot of Nigerian SMEs aren’t equipped to take advantage of the new business environment and emerging opportunities. They are simply not very creative in their quests for business opportunities. They’re not entrepreneurial. I’ve discovered that what most people get into, and aspire to go into, once they have some capital is trading – purchase and resale of goods – and this makes them traders, not entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneur is a word that has become so loosely used, people think it’s a synonym for business owner. The fact is, not every business person is an entrepreneur. By the way, with the way things are going, except you’re selling foodstuff or hygiene essentials, you’re in the wrong business (as a trader).

The truth is, people pay for solutions, and entrepreneurs are solution providers.

Entrepreneurs create products and/or services that meet the needs of people for a profit. Entrepreneurs meet needs and get paid for it.

If you really want to be successful and wealthy, as an entrepreneur, you need to solve problems.

We tend to think too small here in Africa. The average entrepreneur is scared to be ambitious. Rather than thrive, they’re content with surviving. Well, I won’t stand for it. I’m incredibly passionate about small business, and for the past three years, have devoted most of my time into Herança Financial, the venture through which I work with/help budding entrepreneurs start, grow and manage their businesses. Coupled with my personal experiences, I’m somewhat of an expert in business (humble brag). So, with current state of the nation and the shape of the economy, I think now is as good a time as any, to share my knowledge and expertise with a greater number of people, and help them start the right way and avoid the unnecessary hardships that ignorance tends to lead.

First of all, I’ll reiterate. An entrepreneur identifies a need and works towards satisfying it, or works towards improving upon an already existing product/service, or creates demand for a product/service of value i.e. creates a need and provides the solution. The provision of the solution brings the reward – money. The bigger the problem, the bigger the reward for its solution.

Once you have a solution, please ensure the product or service has a Unique Selling Point (USP). A USP is the mark of distinction of any business. It can also be referred to as your value proposition. In all likelihood, your company won’t be the only one offering that product/service (at least, not for long), so it’s important to have either a feature, advantage or benefit that’ll separate your business from current and prospective competition. Without a USP, you won’t stand out. Please note, lower price is not a good strategy for a small business; it’s just not sustainable.

Next, identify your target market. Never make the mistake of assuming your product or services will appeal to everyone. You’re dreaming. However, your target customers will want and appreciate your products or services. They can be grouped into primary, secondary and invisible; I’ll explain later. Just know that they are the persons or businesses with the highest probability of buying your products or services. Once, you’ve identified them, profile them. Your profile should include their locations, spending habits, hobbies, and age group. These will help you know how much they would be willing to spend on your product/service and the best way to reach them. I like using Indomie Noodles as an example. Their target market isn’t everyone, it’s children. Children are their primary target market. That’s why their ads are so playful and colorful; why they invented “The Indomitables” (Superheroes) figurines and stickers; why their ads are on television and radio, not Facebook, Instagram or Twitter (most children are not on social media). They have bigger sizes (like Hungry Man and Belleful) for adults, their secondary target market.

With the proper identification of your target customers, you need know your competition. Your competition is the person or business who offers the same products/services or benefits (as perceived by your target customers). They can be grouped into direct, indirect and invisible. Direct competition are those that offer the same products/services you do; for example, Coke and Pepsi. Indirect competition are those that offer the same benefits; for example, Domino’s Pizza and KFC – different products but same benefit (fast food). Invisible competition are those you didn’t consider. They usually the bigger players that have the capacity [and potential desire (especially if you’re successful)] to offer the same product/services or benefits as you. By understanding your competition, you gain competitive intelligence. Competitive Intelligence is the process of learning, collecting/gathering and using information about your competition for the purpose of growing your own business. It helps you to keep improving upon or redefining your business model, so you’re not easily surpassed.

I’m sure I’ve given you more than enough to think about, so I’ll stop here.

The first step is to sit down and think! Find a need, preferably in an area you’re passionate about. Ask God to reveal the solution to you, and provide you with the means to execute it. Entrepreneurship isn’t just about the idea, but the execution of the plan. And as you execute, remember, please think globally. Find the application of the solution not just within your locale, but regionally and worldwide. The world is bigger than Nigeria.

All the best!

plan

May 29, 2016 Leave a comment

It’s my birthday today. I’ve gotten lots of great gifts from my lovely family and loved ones. I’m feeling so happy and magnanimous that I’ve decided to share what goes into the preparation of an excellent business plan; well, the way we do it at Herança Financial. I’m expecting guests from 2:00 pm, so I’ll make this quick.

planThe first part should be the Executive Summary. As part of the name implies, it is a summary of the entire document. This means even though it comes first, it is usually prepared last. Essentially, it should have briefs on the most important aspects of the company to banks and prospective investors – profile, market analysis, start up cost, and projections.

Next is the Company Overview. This is where you put in the profile of your company (logo too, if you have one), your motto/slogan, your clear-cut mvvpp/mission, vision, values, philosophy, and positioning statement; your products/services and the pricing, your management structure, and the equity distribution of your company.

The Marketing Plan comes next. It is most likely going to be the bulkiest part of the plan. It should have a comprehensive profile of your primary and secondary target markets, analysis of your competition (direct and indirect), SWOT analysis of your company and the competition, your competitive strategy/unique selling point (usp), your market share analysis and potential, and your marketing strategy for making sales to your target customers.

Next, if you choose to or would find it advantageous, develop a Networking Plan. This will basically list places where you’d regularly socialize (to market yourself and your business), your goals (to meet mentors, investors, and/or prospective customers), your budget, and the frequency of attendance.

Then, it’s time for the Operations Plan. Here, you list prospective location options and analyses of the various locations (including zoning and the layouts), required personnel (yourself, included) and respective job descriptions, and the compensation plan (wages/salaries, overtime pay, bonuses, severance packages, study leaves, maternity/paternity leaves, and so on).

Another optional section is Government Assistance. You can include this for your personal use and/or to demonstrate you’ve done your homework on grants available to entrepreneurs and SME owners in your industry and proposed area of operation.

Finally, the most important section to banks and investors, the Financial Plan. This will house your balance sheet or personal net worth statement (if your company is not yet operational), start up cost/SUCs (include the utility bills projections and wages for defined length of time), your revenue model, sales forecast/projections (monthly, quarterly, and Year One to Year Three/Five), loan repayment structure, and [projected] income statement.

If you want to go the extra mile, like we do, put in a Customer Service Plan. This will have your code of conduct, dispute policy, employee discipline and evaluation practices, social media decorum, and so on). You can also add your Corporate Image Package/CIP. This will simply have samples of your brochure, business card, invoice, letterhead sheet, and flyers).

That’s it.

If it seems like a lot of work, it’s because it is!

You can always contact Herança Financial for assistance.

All the best!

 

wave

May 26, 2015 Leave a comment

After discussing the possibility of a consulting partnership with Omasan O*, an ambitious gentleman I met in Abuja late last year, he told me to also consider working with an equally ambitious lady passionate about helping young people take charge of their destinies. He couldn’t say enough good things about her – she’s smart, went to ivy league schools, driven, and so on. My interest was piqued. I looked her up, and indeed, Misan Rewane is all he said and more. Her vision – West African Vocational Education (WAVE) Academies – is to train West African youths in relevant vocational skills and empower them to gain and maintain employ-ability, place them in suitable, stable jobs with its employer partners, and support them through monthly workshops and mentorship.

I’m also passionate – about helping people start viable business ventures, business ventures that, in due time, will create employment for others. So, Omasan thought our passions intersected at some point, and I agreed. On that note, I sent her an introductory message on Facebook. I told her about Herança Financial, our offerings like entrepreneurship coaching, supervisory training, and so on. I told her I recently returned to provide similar services to Nigerian businesses and entrepreneurs. She responded favorably in a timely fashion, and got me in touch with her associate, Folakemi O*, who connected me with Morinola O* and Modupe A*. I explained my angle to them – there might be a few students every batch, if not all, that would benefit from a crash course in small business management, and there might be those who don’t want a job and would much rather be in business for themselves, or have a long-term goal of being self-employed. They agreed, and even suggested an alternative where WAVE could offer a special course in entrepreneurship development/training for youths considering starting their own business.

Anyway, long story short, I gave my first lecture at WAVE yesterday. I used my usual Entrepreneurship 101 format. It was fun. The students, or trainees (as they are called) were attentive and had a lot of questions too. Modupe A* had a few of them share what they learnt when I was done, and I was very pleased to know that it all sunk in.

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Afterwards, I finally got to meet with Misan in the flesh. She definitely is passionate about solving unemployment in West Africa. From all I saw firsthand, and all she told me, as startups go, they’re definitely not doing badly; especially for a not-for-profit. However, they have a long way to go, and they require more funding – preferably in form of grants – to get there. They (Misan Rewane, Karan Chopra, Bryan Mezue, and Navid Rahimi) were initially able to start by winning a grant through the Harvard Business School (HBS) New Venture Competition – Social Enterprise Track. Now, they also generate funds themselves – from tuition fees (currently ₦10,000.00 NGN), and job placement commissions (one-third of first month salary), but primarily from the job placement of the trainees; essentially, they don’t get paid if their graduates don’t get placed. That’s what I call commitment.

Wave Infographic

Naturally, being Nigerian, the project started here in August 2013 with 12 trainees. It has since grown – 128 trainees (on a budget of $125,288.00 USD) between 2013 and 2014. They’re focused on 500 trainees by the end of this year (on a budget of $410,000.00 USD), and the goal is 25,000 trainees (on a budget of $1,040,000.00 USD) every year from WAVE centers all over West Africa by 2019!

Over the past year, not only have they been able to secure a training center in Lagos, Nigeria – WAVE Hospitality Academy, 3 Spencer Street, Alagomeji, Yaba, under Misan’s leadership, they have also been able to partner with 55 employers and achieve a 70% successful job placement rate for their graduates – 156 of them have been able to double their income; now earning $200.00 USD (about ₦43,000.00 NGN) monthly. Come August 12th, WAVE Academies will be two years old, and moving to a new office site! It is still in Alagomeji, Yaba, but at 51 Hughes Avenue, off Herbert Macaulay Road. Oh, and did I mention they have been nominated for the UN Impact Sourcing Award?! It is a big deal, so please take a moment to vote for West African Vocational Education (WAVE) via link. Show our very own some love.

By the way, if you’re reading this, and would like to enroll for their 3-week training program, please click. You can also get in touch with them by calling +234-1-291-6586 / +234-817-723-6025, or visiting waveacademies.org.

I have no doubt that in no time, with continued support from organizations like, Agora Fund, Berke, Box.org, Cordes Foundation, Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, Echoing Green, LinkedIn for Good, Salesforce Foundation, and private individuals, like me and you, WAVE Academies is going to be an even bigger success story – changing the lives of the over 50 million unemployed and underemployed youths – not only in Nigeria, but in Benin, Niger, Togo, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia, Senegal, and Cape Verde 🙂

entrepreneurship 101

April 13, 2015 Leave a comment

Every time I’m invited to give a lecture, or speak on entrepreneurship/starting a business, I have an outline I usually work off, and then, I give illustrations the audience can identify with to expatiate. Today, I’ve decided to share that outline for the benefit of those whom I may never have the privilege of speaking to (physically or virtually); at least, my words/writing may exceed/extend my reach.

Entrepreneurship 101

ENTREPRENEURSHIP
 Entrepreneurship starts with a need, and then, an idea on how to satisfy that need.
 Entrepreneurs are people who identify a need and work towards satisfying it, or improving upon an already existing business concept. They provide products and/or services to satisfy specific needs while making a profit.
 Entrepreneurs need to be POP – Passionate, Opportunity-Seeking, and Persistent – in order to be successful.
• Passionate: Passion is the intense love you have for and the satisfaction you derive from what you do. If ego, family, or money is the only reason you decide to become an entrepreneur, entrepreneurship may not be for you. A lot of times, it is only the passion for what you’re doing that keeps you going.
• Opportunity-Seeking: You have to develop the ability to see the favorable chances/uses for your product or service everywhere.
• Persistent: Don’t get easily discouraged. Be prepared to hear “no” a lot of times before you get a “yes”.

SMALL BUSINESS
 A small business is any business one plans to start, or an idea one plans to introduce to the marketplace.
 Any entrepreneur can be a business owner, but not every business owner can be an entrepreneur. This is because an entrepreneur is unique in his/her approach to business.
 If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail; 30% of small businesses fail after two years of business because they had no business plan – not enough research/planning, little funding, poor management, and/or no adaptive measures.

BUSINESS PLAN
 A solid business plan is the foundation for any successful business.
 A good business plan has an executive summary, company overview, marketing plan, operations plan, financial plan, and sometimes, a customer service plan, funding plan, and networking plan.
 A business plan gets you funding from investors, not a business proposal.

PRODUCT OR SERVICE
 Unique Selling Point (USP) is the mark of distinction of any business. It is what separates your business from current and prospective competition. It generally should focus on FAB (features, advantages, benefits), not pricing.

TARGET MARKET
 Never make the mistake of assuming your products or services will appeal to everyone. There is no such thing.
 Your target customer is the person or business with the highest probability of buying your products or services – primary (high demand for your products/services), secondary (needs convincing to buy your products or services) and invisible (never considered would require your products or services).

COMPETITION
 Your competition is the person or business who offers the same products/services or benefits, as perceived by your target customers – direct (offers the same products/services), indirect (offers the same benefits), and invisible (has the capacity and desire to offer the same products, services or benefits).
 Competitive Intelligence is the process of learning, collecting/gathering and using information about your competition for the purpose of growing your own business.

FINAL WORDS
 Know when to move on to the next idea. Entrepreneurship isn’t just about the idea, but the execution of the plan.
 Always refer back to your business plan, and update it as your business evolves.
 Funding options – Family, Friends, Grants, Angel Investors, Partnerships, Bank Loans and Venture Capital.
 You cannot do it all alone – build a team or support system (family, friends, partner etc.)
 Customer satisfaction, not money, should be your primary goal.
 There will be good times, and there will be bad times, but it’s an exciting journey. Enjoy it.

There are no illustrations, but I do hope this makes a difference in your business life. All the best!

agric

November 8, 2014 2 comments

I came to Nigeria a few months ago to explore some business opportunities. During the course of my stay, I’ve met up and run into a few friends; people I’ve managed to keep in touch with all these years. One of those friends, Onyew B*, has been a friend of mine for over thirteen years. During one of our many talks, she told me about an organisation she has working with – Quintessential Business Women Association (QBWA), under the Quintessential Young Leaders (QYL) arm. From what I understood, the aim of QYL is to prepare and train young people for leadership roles in various aspects business. However, the parent group, QBWA, is laser-focused on the development and empowerment of women and young people for business in the agriculture and solid minerals sectors.

I told her my SME Advisory firm, Herança Financial, has clients in that industry, but I’ve never personally cared for business in agriculture. She tried to encourage me to consider it, but I wouldn’t budge. Last week, she invited me to a conference the QYL was organizing in partnership with QBWA and the Federal Ministry and Youth Development in Abuja. I was going to be  Abuja that week, so I accepted.

Friday, November 7th, I found my way to the National Centre for Women Development. It wasn’t hard to find, so I got there at about 8:35am. It was to start at 9:00am.

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To my surprise, unlike a couple other events, I had been to in my short time back, it started relatively on time – about 9:30am-ish. It was called White Collar Job In Agric. They meant business lol. Everyone got a lanyard with a participant card, plus a branded pen, folder and notepad. I thought that was quite impressive. 

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They had ten speakers, but I could only stay for the opening speech (which Onyew gave) and the first presentation (which I was most interested in) on business in agriculture by a representative from the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN). Before the SMEDAN representative began, there was a short charge by Shimite Katung, Founder of QBWA. She was quite electrifying lol. I could tell she’s very passionate about developing people for leadership as well as helping develop highly successful businesses in the Agriculture and Solid Minerals industries.

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The presentation was quite informative. I hardly get excited about things, but yesterday, the speaker piqued by interest. QYL hoped for five hundred attendees, but they made about half of that while I was there. To help out, I’ll share what I learnt about QYL and starting/owning a small business in Nigeria’s agriculture sector.

Agriculture is a major branch of any economy, most especially the Nigerian economy. It has the potential to generate employment for up to seventy percent (70%) of the population. Unfortunately, Nigeria relies more on imports than being self-sufficient. Nigeria is at a point where the export of crude oil isn’t going to cut it anymore, and requires its youth to become agro-entrepreneurs.

Nigeria is so richly blessed that each of its thirty-six (36) states has at least two unique agricultural products it can contribute to the economy – for both its populates and for export, but the opportunities aren’t being properly explored. The Nigerian agricultural industry has the raw materials to mass produce and export beef, cassava bran (garri), dairy products, fish, fruits, goat, groundnuts, grass-cutters, poultry, rice, snails, variety of vegetables, and waste-to-work materials.

If you’re wondering, as I was, how successful a business in agricultural produce can be, here are some numbers we were given at the conference: Africa spends thirty billion dollars ($30,000,000,000.00USD) annually on the importation poultry products, and Nigeria spends fifty billion naira (N50,000,000,000NGN) on the importation of fish annually. That’s a lot of money in any currency lol.

With all this potential, there is very little interest because of the stigma attached to agriculture in Nigeria. A lot of young Nigerians think agriculture and farming are synonymous, and they are not interested in being farmers; and there lies the misconception. Agro-entrepreneurs aren’t farmers; they are people who make money from running successful businesses in the agricultural sector. As was pointed out during the conference, there are different avenues available – beef production, cattle raring, fish farming, poultry farming, mechanized farming, development of devices and machinery for farming, frozen foods facilities, logistics and transportation, packaging facilities, and warehousing.

I have a lot on my plate, but I think I wouldn’t mind investing in an agric start up, or partnering up with someone or a group of people looking to take advantage of the opportunities in the Nigerian agricultural industry. Apparently, even the government is giving grants to companies looking to develop quality agricultural products for local consumption and exportation.

Alright, that’s about it. I hope I’ve inspired someone to take a chance. As Sir Richard Branson once said, “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity, and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.”