This article is the first of three articles on entrepreneurship. This is a topic after my heart because I have been a female entrepreneur in Nigeria since I turned 16.
This journey started in secondary school when I realised that those who stayed in the boarding houses always had a thirst for home-cooked meals. My mother had no idea that the enormous plate I presented to her for my lunch pack was actually not for me to eat, but was for my budding business. I started selling my breakfast from SS1 to my classmates who were boarders at 50 kobo for a forkful of porridge. I insisted we had yam porridge every morning when school was in session. The success of this venture led to the expansion of my business in the school by providing lifestyle solutions that boarding students might need beyond the four walls of the school. This early experiment of running my own business launched me into the world of entrepreneurship.
An entrepreneur is a vision bearer; the custodian of the flame that drives the essence of a brand. An entrepreneur assumes the entire risks of a business while also earning the profit when the business does well.
This risk can be shared if there is a partnership in place. Often times, entrepreneurs have been known to ask this question: “Am I crazy?”
Entrepreneurship is one of the scariest and hardest things anyone can be involved in, especially in Nigeria where the environment for growth is very hostile. Most entrepreneurs grow up with the decision to run their own businesses while others stumbled into the business by chance. Usually, those who stumbled into running their businesses find it very difficult to sustain the process; while those who have had a calling that led them down the entrepreneurial path often end up successful.
All entrepreneurs agree on one thing: that entrepreneurs are not born. Sheer grit, moving strategically in developing their genius ability, applying the X factor to processes and a dogged spirit are the things that make them.
Entrepreneurs develop a core of steel that enables them to have the mindset to get up and try in different ways to run their businesses each time an idea fails to yield result. This dogged resolve and will to overcome serial disappointments, mistakes and failures is known as the entrepreneurial spirit. Entrepreneurial spirit is a major difference between the employee and the vision bearer. It is also a major influence between the success and failure of a business. There are other factors that influence the timing between the start of a business and how successful an entrepreneur can make it. These factors are capital, business environment, articulation of business niche, vision, mission and value with an intelligent support team, creativity and innovation.
Nigeria is not only blessed with natural resources, it is also has talented and innovative citizens. The average Nigerian can write a little book of business ideas especially the Igbos, who see business opportunities at every corner. Sadly, most of these innovative ideas die a natural death due to the lack of funding to turn them into thriving businesses.
The Bank of Industry is doing a lot to support the manufacturing and agricultural sector. However, macro small and medium-scale enterprises and small and medium-scale enterprises that operate within the service sector still find it very difficult to grow beyond two to five years before shutting down due to lack of funds.
Every environment has either a positive or negative influence on businesses operating within it. Government policies can either accelerate the entrepreneurial train or derail it. The financial environment and foreign exchange rates also affect how successful entrepreneurs can be. These impediments affect entrepreneurs the world over. The peculiar nature of the Nigerian environment makes it more difficult for businesses to survive. The basic amenities such as water, power, food, health and safety, which are necessary to survive, rank highest on the expense list of organisations, spiking overheads and making growth nearly impossible.
Business niche, vision and value
One thing I can say about businesses in Nigeria is the love of business people for thriving venture or the bandwagon effect. Once a new idea comes into the market and becomes successful, the next thing you know, everybody wants to do that same business.
Entrepreneurs must pay attention to their business processes, operations, customer segmentation and age cycle. This can be achieved by articulating who the company is, what they are bringing to the market and what makes their business idea or product unique and different from similar products in the market.
Therefore, the pertinent questions to ask, prior to launching out as an entrepreneur, are these: What are the organisation’s unique selling points, value proposition, mission and vision? How much capital is available? Is there a simple business plan that can guide initial start up process of the business? Articulating these factors will help every business venture to move towards a unified goal regardless of whatever growth stage the organisation might be.
Intelligent support team
Nothing kills an idea or a business faster than when an entrepreneur surrounds himself with pedestrian thinkers and a mediocre workforce. Smart entrepreneurs make up for their weaknesses by surrounding themselves with those who are smarter than them and have a niche professional experience. An eclectic workforce made up of mathematical thinkers, dreamers, builders, supporters, team players and the vision bearer is an indication that the organisation is poised for strategic growth.
Creativity and innovation
“Capital is not so important in business. Experience is not so important. You can get these things if you try hard enough. The important things are ideas. If you have ideas, you have found the main asset you need, and there is no limit to what you can do with your business and your life.” — Harvey Firestone.
In today’s fast paced and globalised society, it is only sane to state that if businesses do not innovate, they will surely die. Creativity and innovation keep us at the head of the game while developing an entrepreneurial spirit provides business leaders with the ability to innovate and manage change.
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