Fact checks. Do you know that in Nigeria, SMEs contribute 48% to the National GDP? They also account for 96% of businesses in the country, as well 84% of employment. You would think with these numbers we would have more small businesses thriving, but the reverse (sigh) is the case.
Apart from lacking access to basic services that will help their businesses grow, Small businesses are also challenged with making strategic decisions due to a lack of data for key insights into important issues that affect their business. Stuff like keeping records of your goods and services, managing your payroll and the people who work for you, making payments, and staying tax compliant are all things we need to stay on top of.
Now imagine having a platform that helps you store necessary business data, calculate the necessary payments, invoices, taxes, and provides you information and insights at your fingertips? Using technology and data, this is designed so you can make better-informed decisions on how you can create great customer experiences, motivate your team, and manage and optimize your stock of products or services.
We know these things matter to you, so let us tell you about Sparkle and their recently launched digital business management solution called Sparkle Business. Licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sparkle MFB is a digital bank, a lifestyle and financial ecosystem providing seamless solutions to individuals and SMEs by leveraging on technology and data. Sparkle is founded upon the values of trust, transparency, freedom, inclusivity, simplicity, and personalization. Sparkle is also deliberately focused on female-owned businesses and how Sparkle Business can provide necessary solutions for them to scale.
Sparkle Business is way more than your regular business account. With small businesses in mind, now you can easily manage tasks like payroll management, tax management, inventory and invoicing, customer management, and much more, all taking place in the Sparkle app.
So, what does this mean for you as a small business owner? You can know and manage all your customers. Avoid miscounts and stock loss. File tax deductions for your business and staff at the click of a button. Send invoices from the comfort of the Sparkle app, with the freedom to do much more.
Interested like we are? Click IOS or Android to download the Sparkle app with the Sparkle Business update. Do not forget to share your experience with Sparkle Business with us and other small business owners. When you win, we all win. Keep leading!
One of Abimbola’s greatest motivations is the look of pride on her little daughter’s face when she is excited about one of her mother’s products. This keeps the illustrious agro-entrepreneur going regardless of the harsh tides and seasons in her business. “I want to always make something she can be proud of. I want to always be someone she can look up to,” Abimbola says. Abimbola Oludare-Ojo spent 17 years in the banking industry before leaving to start Nareli Farms and Agro-Allied Business in 2017. Nareli Farms is a budding business in the agricultural sector that trades and packages items like Shea Butter, Black Soap and edible products like bread and spices.
This article discusses her journey and lessons from her experience as an entrepreneur.
You left a fulfilling career in banking after 17 years to pursue your agro-business, what spurred you to make that change?
Farming has always been a part of my being. Growing up, my father was a passionate farmer. He worked full time as an electrical engineer but he had a rural farm that he always took my siblings and me to. At the farm, he taught us how to plant corn, cassava and other local foods. He also taught us how to fry Garri.
I have always wanted to run my own business. After I graduated from the Master’s program at the University of Ibadan, I tried to get a job in the food processing industry. That was tough so I ended up getting a job at the bank as a Relationship Manager. In that role, I learned a lot about satisfying customer’s needs, I learned about different businesses and read a lot of feasibility studies.
While I enjoyed my job there, I always had this longing to leave and start something of my own. I kept saying, “one day, one day” but of course, one day turned to 17 years. I got moved to another sector and it made me interact even more with business owners. When I would see a business similar to the one I wanted to start, I would feel bad and thoughts of leaving would come up again.
Another thing that spurred me to leave was the feeling that I was not spending enough time with my family. It had been tugging at me for some time and starting a business where I could manage my time proved a solution.
One day, after some soul-searching I walked up to my boss and told him it was time to go. I made him realise that I had to leave. I had to start Nareli Farms.
If you could go back, would you change how your entrepreneurship journey played out?
No, I actually would not. Leaving was a tough decision, but I am glad I did it. Leaving took a lot of courage. In fact, some people thought I wasn’t normal. The pay in banking is good and when you think about how your next venture might not sustain the lifestyle you have, leaving seems less enticing. My supervisors could not believe it. They kept asking me if I was sure. But till now, I know I made the right choice.
The only thing I would have altered was my spending habits. While I was working, I spent a lot of money on equipment I thought I would need for my business but till date, I have not used many of them.
There’s this idea that when you are on the right path as an entrepreneur, there won’t be challenges, has that been true for you in your journey? What are some of the challenges you have faced in the course of running your business and how have you been able to manage them?
There will be challenges regardless of whether you are on the right path or not. When I initially started, I had a million and one ideas in my head. I did not know which product I wanted to launch first or how to really go about it. So I joined a network- NECA’s Network of Entrepreneurial Women.
The amazing women in this network helped me to figure out my business in the early days and held my hand through the process. Joining this network was also instrumental to me leaving my job. Before joining, I did not have the courage to actually take that step. I was three months into the network when I realised that I could do this, I could actually start something for myself.
I was also a part of the cohort at the last FCMB SheVentures program where I learned about growing and running a business. In fact, it was like attending Business School. I would have made some wrong business decisions if I did not attend some of the Masterclasses in the program. My amazing mentor, Cynthia Umoru helped me to challenge myself as an entrepreneur and I grew from that.
To learn more about Abimbola Oludare-Ojo and Nareli Farms, read the rest of this article on the FCMB Business Zone.
This feature article on Abimbola Oludare Ojo is sponsored by the First City Monument Bank (FCMB). FCMB is passionate about empowering female entrepreneurs, helping them build their businesses, and improving the overall success rate of businesses owned or run by women.
The art of balancing a 9-5 job, side business and managing a family cannot be underrated, it is the work of a superhero! Taiwo of Ejire Onigarri describes herself as industrious, ambitious and a go-getter not just because she has her way with words but it is a description of who she truly is.
She started her business,Ejire Onigarri, to fill in a gap in her community. Repeatedly, people had complained bitterly to her about the dirt-filled Garri they buy at the local market. They would always ask her to buy Garri for them from her hometown. This she turned into a business, added a unique twist and has since then been evolving.
Her business journey is one filled with challenges, successes and lessons learned to help other female entrepreneurs map out their way in the business world.
How did you become an entrepreneur, where did the idea of your business come from?
My mum used to work in UBA, and that always excited me. I dreamt of working there or any other bank of my choice. Everything was going well for my mum until there was an overturn in the banking industry that made banks lay off their staff. This was a major struggle for my mum because she only knew about the 9-5 life. It was difficult for her to get another job or enter into the business world. This hit me deep and ever since then I made the decision that I wouldn’t rely on a 9-5 job. The urge to start a business sparked in me.
I personally don’t buy Garri from Lagos, it always has stones, dirt and other impurities. For those who do not know what Garri is, it is cassava grained into dry edible granules. Anytime, I travel home, my colleagues and friends would always tell me to bring Garri for them. This demand kept on increasing and I thought to myself why not start a business out of it. Garri is a fast-moving product that people can affordably buy. No matter what is going on in the economy, people will always eat, food will always be a priority.
What’s the biggest factor that has helped you become successful?
I won’t say I am there yet, I’m on the path to success! I see feedback as an opportunity to do better. Customer service is key! I don’t do transactional relationships with my customers, I go beyond that and invest in building a long-lasting relationship with them.
What significant struggle have you faced running your business and how did you solve it?
Financial:Funds are usually needed to scale up an enterprise from being a hobby to growing into a profitable business. To achieve this upscale, I began monthly contributions.
Having to get equipment for the business: At inception, my Garri bags were handmade by me. However, as I interacted with colleagues in the industry, I learnt there were machines available that will save time, manage resources and maximise profit.
Social media: Social media can be a hard nut to crack sometimes. My degree in English couldn’t save me as the terrain spans beyond that. To succeed, I enrolled in digital marketing courses as well as conducted research.
What has been the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur?
Having something to call my own and building my dream. I am building something that generations behind me can take over. As a mother, I want to leave a worthy legacy for my daughter.
Beyond Garri I am preserving the Nigerian heritage, providing crunchy nourishment and creating customer satisfaction and happiness.
What are some lessons you have learned?
Being an entrepreneur is not a walk in the park, it is definitely not a bed of roses. There is a lot of struggle behind the smiling face, behind that exciting post you see on social media. As a 9-5er, I have to balance the orders, package the Garri, prepare for work, get the kids ready for school and put the home in order, I’m still learning, I learn new things every day.
To learn more about Taiwo Oludairo and Ejire Onigarri, read the rest of this article on the FCMB Business Zone.
This feature article on Taiwo Oludairo is sponsored by the First City Monument Bank (FCMB). FCMB is passionate about empowering female entrepreneurs, helping them build their businesses, and improving the overall success rate of businesses owned or run by women.
While this year has been challenging for most, we’re spotlighting non-profits and social enterprises that have worked hard to continue making an impact despite the added challenges that 2020 brought. If a story connects with you, please support the organization and founders in this series. Be part of our community of outstanding women by joining She Leads Africa today.
ABOUT CHASHI FOODS (ZIMBABWE)
Most people know that global hunger is a pressing issue — but what you may not know is that food waste is equally concerning.
Food wasted every year in the continent could feed up to 300 million people, according to the United Nations. In just Uganda alone, up to 40% of fruit and vegetables end up being discarded. Post-harvest losses have a negative impact on the environment as food decay releases methane, which is 28 times more harmful than carbon dioxide, and is associated with global climate change.
However, where many would see a problem, Chashi Foods saw an opportunity.
“Much of what’s sold in markets is wasted because farmers cannot store the food. So they have to return home and pick fresh fruit and vegetables to sell the next day. During the dry season very little grows so people go hungry. Moreso due to strict government-mandated measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus we could potentially spark food shortages around the country.” – Forget (Product Development Director)
Chashi Foods is committed to providing sustainable solutions in reducing food loss. By the use of smart technologies and agro-processing, Chashi Foods has been able to increase the shelf life of farm produce. But their mandate goes further, coining them the three P’s, Chashi Foods concentrates on people, planet, and profit.
By helping farmers prolong their product shelf life they have managed to increase their income per capita. More nutritious food will be available to rural and urban dwellers, especially children as they can eat the dried produce. Their main target is to hire mainly women to manage the operations and collection of revenue at Chashi stations. All the while stopping food waste will be beneficial to the planet.
DEALING WITH THE MARKET MAFIAS & COVID-19
Just before the COVID-19 lockdown started in Harare, Forget had been in a plight to eliminate intermediaries or market mafias from the supply. The market mafias have garnered a reputation to buy produce from the farmers at a very low price and then exorbitantly sell them to the consumers.
However, as the lockdown was imposed their focus had to shift. Suddenly, they had no product to buy as the rural farmers found it hard to commute to the city center. But their call to action was even stronger as farmers’ harvested produce went to waste since large markets were closed. Eventually, Chashi too had to close their production and their impact seemingly came to a halt.
Beyond buying from rural farmers, Chashi continued to support farmers by providing mentorship and training in post-harvest management and agribusiness. During the Covid19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown period, they trained over 100 farmers in post-harvest management and helped reduce over 5 tons of produce from being lost.
Forget shared a beautiful success story of a female farmer in Guruve, a small village center in the North of Zimbabwe. “After receiving our training manual, this lady was able to dry about 300kgs of tomato harvest which she sold to the local hotel. I haven’t met her personally but she’s come to refer to me as family. That’s what we are aiming to do at Chashi – improving people’s livelihoods.”
As it became apparent that the pandemic would drag on for long, Shareka looked for new avenues of selling their products. As you might guess, the top of the agenda had been gravitating to selling items online and getting them delivered to doorsteps.
While this sounds easy in theory, it brought all sorts of challenges. Professional storefront to be built, photography to be taken, secure payment methods, delivery drivers and transport, and getting the message out there that they’re virtually open for business is not an easy job.
So Chashi came up with an easier plan, they leveraged already existing platforms like Facebook and Whatsapp.
“The pandemic has only enhanced the need for more supply chain resiliency, and for us to make the most of the food that is being produced, disseminated, and purchased not only in Africa but throughout the world.” – Forget Shareka
ADJUSTING TO MAKE IMPACT IN A GLOBAL PANDEMIC
“We created a WhatsApp group in which we were facilitating the selling of farmers’ produce. We identified a common hotspot of activity and traffic in the city, and then created a meeting point for farmers to sell their products and push volumes. We did this free of charge and it was fulfilling seeing the weight we lifted off their shoulders.”
The nearly instantaneous economic recession triggered by the COVID-19 shutdown has wreaked havoc on businesses large and small. For Chashi what has kept them going is reploughing all their sales proceeds into the business towards operational expenses which include salaries and maintenance of their machinery.
Forget testifies that the pandemic has taught her and the organization an important lesson in resilience. The pandemic now presents additional challenges for managing mental health and other economic challenges.
Loss and suffering may change a person, but much will influence its trajectory, including biological, environmental, behavioral, and psychological components. “Any life stressor, to some degree, is out of our control. How long will the pandemic last? When can we go back to school? To work? All valid questions, but they are also unknowns and uncertainties; we don’t want to get stuck ruminating about them,” says Forget.
Lastly, Shareka made a warm invitation. Women constitute nearly 50% of the agricultural workforce and own one-third of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Africa, they are a key pillar of Africa’s food systems. As the challenges related to COVID-19 come into force in various countries, women’s livelihoods and business activities are threatened, ChThasi food is inviting all women in farming, leadership, and business to join them in their journey.
“We have the expertise to change the trajectory of female farmers, we’re inviting investors and business developers to help us increase our reach.” Forget says as her last words
While this year has been challenging for most, we’re spotlighting non-profits and social enterprises that have worked hard to continue making an impact despite the added challenges that 2020 brought. If a story connects with you, please support the organization and founders in this series. Be part of our community of outstanding women by joining She Leads Africa today.
In a bid to deal with the abundance of invasive water hyacinth plants clogging up local waterways, Nigerian entrepreneur Achenyo Idachaba-Obaro founded Mitimeth, a startup not only improving environmental sustainability but also producing beautifully-handcrafted artisan products.
Where others saw a pest, Idachaba-Obaro saw an opportunity
Water hyacinth, she explains, is a species of aquatic plant with violet flowers. It looks attractive, but this invasive weed is actually horribly destructive to the communities along the rivers where it grows in thick mats. The plant keeps fishermen from reaching the fish and students and others from traveling on weed-choked waterways. It may look pretty, but it’s actually devastating to a whole way of life.Water hyacinth at first appears to be an utterly worthless invader, something that just needs to be ripped out and thrown away. But Idachaba had other ideas. Working with local communities, MitiMeth takes water hyacinth, an evasive destructive weed, and upcycles it into personal and interior accessories.
“We are making this product in Nigeria, and we are making a product that has global appeal.” — Achenyo Idachaba-Obaro
In the face of this global pandemic, Achenyo had to take immediate action by protecting the level of the impact of her organization. Achenyo shut down operations way before the local authorities imposed the lockdown. The next step was assuring her employees that she would do everything in her power to keep them employed, “we’ll make it through this together” she said. Immediately she could see the positive change it sparked within their attitudes as they knew they had one less thing to worry about, contrary to the tales they heard from their mates and neighbors who had been furloughed.
Not all hope was lost
The government in Nigeria went on to close state borders and introduce other aggressive responses to COVID-19 in the form of travel bans. This heavily interrupted the supply chain of Mitimeth.
On the environmental level, Mitimeth continued to make an impact as their artisans continued to harvest the water hyacinth for weaving. However, the products could not make their way to the main production hub. “If there’s one silver lining from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that it’s helped expose vulnerabilities in their supply chain” – Achenyo mentioned.
At present, there is less demand for their products since home decor and accessories are hardly seen as an essential service. “We see this problem trickling down the supply chain. So we find ourselves with a warehouse full of raw materials because we made a commitment to our artisans that we would take all their products”, Achenyo said.
Instead of seeing it as a setback, they took this time to do some much-needed R&D and they’re currently exploring the possibility of using the water hyacinth as a textile. “Since most people are sheltering in place, we have seen the consumers’ affinity towards wanting to make their outdoor spaces more appealing. And so we have been afforded the opportunity to expand our outdoor and garden collection”.New ideas are also brought into the communities MitiMeth works with.
MitiMeth essentially provides distribution platforms for the community and match up the appropriate skills with the products to be created.The company provides training for communities the company works with through collaborations and partnerships within the public-private sector. This involves running workshops, held within the communities to understand how things work.
“Funding definitely has been a challenge this year for the organizations that we partner with. So we are seeing some reductions in the number of training we do. But I think the important thing is keeping the momentum going. And I’m glad that with one partner that we’re working with, in the next two weeks we’re going full steam ahead with the training despite the situation that we’re in right now.” Achenyo adds.
One of the challenges the organization faces is they’re unable to hold the training using online tools since the communities they work with are reside in network-deficient areas. “Perhaps in the future, there could be the provision of smartphones which can enable remote learning along with the training seminars for the artisans.”
Most of the funds Mitimeth gets are plowed back into the business, having more than 150 artisans and a commitment to procure their products, nocent goes to waste. They also have to take care of the operational costs of the business including shipping and wages.
Due to the drastic drop in sales, Achenyo had to ensure that they maintained sustainable financing by making good use of their cash reserves from previous years. “A big lesson this year taught us was it’s important to save for famine during the seasons of abundance.”
Hard work certainly pays off as Mitimeth was able to open a new branch in Lagos on the 21st of June. “It’s been tough, but we certainly don’t regret making that decision. So we still grow even during this time”, she said.Achenyo went on to invite other women on her journey.
“They can support what we’re doing, by purchasing our products, knowing that with each purchase, they’re actually supporting a fellow African woman or a fellow African youth, and it is going back into the economy, it’s going back to help people fulfill their obligations.”
There is a United Nations Environmental Programme Map, which illustrates where water hyacinth is prevalent in different parts of the world. If you look at the map of Africa, 44 countries have this infestation problem. Achenyo makes a call for action that if other women can replicate this business model and solution in several other countries, the impact would be amazing to those communities most affected by it.
This feature article on Onome Ikhimoya is sponsored by the First City Monument Bank (FCMB) SheVentures proposition. FCMB SheVentures is empowering female entrepreneurs, helping them build their businesses, and improving the overall success rate of businesses owned or run by women. Please click here to learn more about how FCMB SheVentures can support you and your business.
Onome’s love for fashion is only rivalled by her drive to be the best and her businesses are proof of this. Onome Ikhimioya is the founder and CEO of Mistics Couture and Mistics Sparkles.
Mistics Couture is a fashion outfit that specializes in making bespoke outfits. Their outfits include English wears, traditional wears, casual wears, beach wears, and so on. Mistics Sparkles is an arm of Mistics Couture that brands and designs t-shirts, fabrics, throw pillows and much more. She has styled celebrities like Yemi Alade, Kim Burrell, Oge Okoye, Funke Akinokun, Ngozi Ezeonu, and so on.
This piece discusses Onome’s journey in the fashion industry. It also talks about some struggles she has encountered and insightful advice she has learned from past mistakes.
Running Mistics Couture requires you to be very creative and that can take a toll if you are not inspired. So my question for you is, where do you draw your inspiration from?
God inspires me. Every inspiration I have comes from God because he is the creator of the world. He sees me through my day to day life and guides my path.
Secondly, my inspiration comes from a knowledge of myself. Knowing that I have a lot of talents in me, seeing that I have a whole lot to actualize in my time here on earth. After my first degree and my Masters, I did not want to work for anyone. I think I worked for a while- maybe like a month before I started my own thing. I felt like I had a lot in me waiting to burst out and I was not going to be able to let it out while working for someone else. One talent I have is that I can look at you and sketch what will suit you. I can do a lot of stuff with fabric generally. So I decided to go into fashion design.
My inspirational fabric- if I can call it that- is Ankara fabric. Looking at Ankara fabric gives me this joy that I don’t understand. I look at the fabric and I want to do a whole lot of things with it.
My mum is another person that inspires me. Growing up every Sunday, people would come out and peep at my mum on our way to church and they would call her, “to match, to match.” Even till now in her 60s, she dresses so beautifully. Her age has not really made her step down in her dress sense and she has a lot of strength, faith and hope which she passed on to me.
So in all, I get my inspiration from God. From my belief in myself, the fabrics that I love to work with and my mum.
This feature article on Adebimpe Osanyintuyi is sponsored by the First City Monument Bank (FCMB) SheVentures proposition. FCMB SheVentures is empowering female entrepreneurs, helping them build their businesses, and improving the overall success rate of businesses owned or run by women. Please click here to learn more about how FCMB SheVentures can support you and your business.
If there is anything Adebimpe cares about intensely, it is business- talking about it, running it and growing it. The normally introverted business founder comes to life when she is asked about her experience as a business owner or about healthy mouth-watering treats.
Adebimpe Osanyintuyi is the founder and CEO of Dios Dlite– a healthy food company with outlets in Lagos, Nigeria. Dios Dlite’s products include healthy yogurts, salads, sandwiches, fresh juices, and so much more.
Before leaving the corporate world in 2018, she worked in marketing and branding for companies like GlaxoSmithKline and Nutricima Limited.
In this article, she shares her wealth of experience with Dios Dlite and gives valuable tips on how to manage a demanding business and a full-time job amongst other things.
Starting the business was not out of a financial need because when I started Dios Dlite in 2015 I had a great corporate job. I ran the business for three years before I decided to resign in July 2018.
I have a sweet tooth so I wanted to have healthy alternatives for all the sweet things I enjoy. Most times, when we think of healthy food, what comes to mind is boring food- food that doesn’t look or taste nice. I wasn’t going to settle for that.
Frozen yogurt appealed to me because it is a healthy alternative for ice cream which is delicious but has way too many calories. So I started with frozen yogurt and we kept to that for over a year.
It was going well but along the line, our customers started requesting fresh yogurt. They wanted to be able to take it to their homes and not have it melt or spoil. So we decided to cater to this and along the way, we were getting helpful feedback from our customers.
You mentioned that you were working a corporate job when you started Dios Dlite, how were you able to manage both commitments?
The processes I put in place made it easy for me to manage both. On some days I was too tired from work to stop by the store and see what was going on. Other times, the outlet may have closed before I am done with my work for the day.
Some of the major things I did to manage this was:
Invest in software–
One major thing that helped was sales-tracking software. With this software, my staff would punch in their sales and I could easily look at the numbers. I could see which products were slow and which products were doing well. That software helped me to have a hold on what was going on in the store without necessarily being there.
This article is sponsored by the FCMB SheVentures proposition. FCMB SheVenturesis empowering female entrepreneurs, helping them build their businesses, and improving the overall success rate of businesses owned or run by women. Please click hereto learn more about how FCMB SheVentures can support you and your business.
We’ve seen time and time again that we are only going to be able to move forward as a community, if we all use our skills and talents to support each other.
Over the past three months, several incredible women served as mentors for the FCMB SheVentures Program. These experts shared, connected, and bonded with the fourth cohort of this mentorship program supporting women-led businesses in Nigeria.
Some of the feedback from the mentees, shows how impactful this program was to entrepreneurs across Nigeria.
To learn more about how SheVentures supports the growth and aspirations of Nigerian women in business, visit www.fcmb.com/she-ventures.
Over the years, the United States Government has funded a number of agencies and platforms to support African companies to do business with both the U.S. government itself and with the U.S. private sector.
To provide more clarity on ways in which the U.S. can assist in growing African businesses and entrepreneurs through trade, investment, and technical assistance, Africa.com is organising a one-day Virtual Summit – if you are a Motherland Mogul looking to expand your business into the United States, this is not the one to miss!
This Virtual Summit will bring thousands of c-suite executives and decision-makers of African businesses together with high ranking U.S Government and business officials. It will be held on Wednesday the 14th of October 2020 with the following panel sessions:
Panel 1: View From The Very Top The Summit kicks off with keynote remarks by the highest-ranking U.S. government official responsible for relations with Africa, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, The Honorable Tibor Nagy. Then, the Chairman of the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa (President and CEO of GE Africa) Farid Fezoua, will deliver keynote remarks from the private sector perspective.
Panel 2: Hear It From The Agency Heads A panel discussion featuring the Chief Operating Officer of Prosper Africa, a new U.S. government initiative that brings together the resources of over 17 U.S. Government agencies to connect the U.S. and African businesses with new buyers, suppliers, and investment opportunities. Joining this panel are the ‘Africa heads’ of some of the key U.S. Government agencies that do business with Africa, including the International Development Finance Corporation (formerly OPIC); The Export/Import Bank; USAID; and the U.S. Africa Development Foundation.
Panel 3: Hear It From African Business Heads The third portion of the summit is a panel of very senior African business leaders who have done business with the U.S., who will provide their perspectives on their experiences and guidance to those who seek to follow their footsteps. Panel 4: Views From Ambassadors Country-by-Country The fourth portion of the summit is a panel of U.S. Ambassadors to several key African countries who will speak about the resources available specifically in their markets to support African businesses.
This event is free so don’t miss this opportunity to take your business international!
Not everyone owns up to their purpose especially when it takes you from one continent to another. Ugochi left the United States to pursue purpose in Nigeria.
Ugochi is the founder of Reliance Clinics. She’ll be sharing insights into her life as a medical practitioner, health tips, the numerous challenges she faced and how she was able to overcome them.
Who is Ugochi Nwosu?
I was born in Nigeria and lived there until I was 7 before my family immigrated to the United States. That was where I did all my schooling. After my undergraduate degree, I did my residency training in the States also until I returned back to Nigeria in 2019. This kick-started my goal to start a business that provided quality private healthcare services.
What are you passionate about?
Healthcare! I really want to live in a world where everyone has full access to adequate healthcare. In Nigeria, the rate at which people in their early 40s and 50s die is really alarming. All of these can be avoided.
I just want to help people live healthy and productive lives where they get to see their grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. Although this would be beautiful, it’s not easy. If people want to live till their late 80s, it starts from now. So, I want to keep educating people about this.
What ignited the spark to start Reliance Clinics?
For me, the inclination to work in healthcare came since my undergraduate studies. I learnt about the possible challenges, the requirements and mapped out the areas to make an impact. It was important to be properly grounded in what I was planning to do to avoid making any silly mistakes.
I also worked with a whole lot of NGOs to ensure I had a feel of what I was about getting myself into. I didn’t really plan to start a business for myself. The decision to do that came after I kept searching for an NGO to work with but couldn’t find any at that point. This made me start looking for other possible opportunities.
During my residency training, I met people who were interested in digital healthcare services and connected with them. They encourage me to just do what I need to do because no one makes actual change by talking and observing. It was great for me because I didn’t see myself as someone that could take up that level of responsibility upon myself. The plan had always been to work for someone who was already doing the things I needed to do. That’s basically how the business came alive.
How was the startup phase of your business?
I’m not going to deny the fact that everything was new to me. Firstly, we had to scout for a suitable location, then we had to figure out a way to get supplies for the clinic and basically test these supplies yourself because everything had to be reliable 100%.
For funding, I met the founders of a health insurance company during my residency training so things sort of worked out for me in the sense that they needed a trusted clinic that they could send patients to so they kind of gave me the initial funding for the clinic.
What business challenges have you faced and how have those challenges shaped your mindset?
One major challenge has been hiring and training staff. For those in healthcare, the quality of services offered has to be nothing but excellent. Most times, doctors, pharmacists, nurses etc expect some things to be done in some certain way based on what they’ve seen before or something which might not necessarily be the right thing.
When you tell this category of people that there’s a standard that should be met and we’re not going to overlook that standard just because we’re operating in Nigeria, it turns into a situation where it feels like you’re telling them that they’re not properly trained or something so that was a major challenge for me.
Another challenge we had, in the beginning, was dealing with patients and staff who were used to things being done in certain ways and then we do them in totally different ways. For instance, most patients that come to our clinic are used to being given so many drugs even for not so serious cases. When we give them just 1-2 drugs, they feel like we’re not treating them the right way or we don’t really care about their wellbeing which is why we’re given them little amounts of drugs and that’s not the situation at all.
What have you learned so far from running this business?
When it comes to hiring, you have to ensure that those people actually have the skills they claim to possess. It’s mandatory that you do. I’ve learnt over time that you have to be very intentional when deciding who to bring on board, how to evaluate their skills and how to train them so that from day 1, they can actually deliver.
Ugochi is a participant in the High Growth Coaching Program 2020. Catch up on her business journey on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.