In this interview with Ijeoma Rosemary Thomas-Odia of Guardian Woman, Florence Chikezie bared it all. She shared why and how she started her entrepreneurial journey, what her company – ReDahlia, Entrepreneurs.ng and ReDahlia Business Academy are doing to foster a sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem, and what we are doing to get more women to embrace entrepreneurship.
Florence Chikezie Interview with The Guardian Woman
“Florence Chikezie is an internationally trained entrepreneurship development expert. With a track record of guiding entrepreneurs and businesses towards sustainable success, she graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, with a First Class degree in Management. In her quest for business knowledge, she enrolled in the Hult International Business School, London and bagged a Master’s degree in International Business. She is founder of ReDahlia Workspaces, The ReDahlia Business Academy and Entrepreneurs.ng.
A coach, trainer and author, Chikezie is an official member of the Forbes Coaches Council. She is also a certified Business Development Service Provider with a practicing license from Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN). She has served as a development expert at the Transform Nigerian Youths Programme and as a judge at Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) Prize Competition (a Jack Ma Foundation), identifying and supporting promising entrepreneurs competing for grants.
In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, she speaks on her goal of raising a new wave of entrepreneurs who run sustainable businesses and the challenges hindering female entrepreneurs, among other issues.
Take us through your life trajectory. How has it formed your personality?
As a little girl, I wrote in my diary, “she is just Floxy whom the world is waiting for her debut.” The world indeed was waiting for my debut. I grew up in a family that was business-oriented. My grandmother ran a local gunpowder business, and I still vividly remember the process that got her products from raw material to finished product. Being exposed to business from a young age and having the most curious mind made me understand money early in life.
As I entered my teenage years, I knew I wanted to own a business empire but I did not know the business I wanted to run. I also knew the importance of capital when starting a business so I lived a frugal life that allowed me to save aggressively for when the business idea will strike. By the time I was in the university, I had already learned the fundamentals of not just saving but also investing and was a millionaire before I graduated from the university.
My first degree was from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Nsukka is known for its honey. I underwent tutelage from my friend who was trading in honey. We were both students at the time. That was how I started my first business: selling honey.
I initially aimed to become a doctor but circumstances beyond my control led to a change in plans. When that did not happen, I felt frustrated until one day my Pathology lecturer shared how one of his students had become a bank manager after studying Vet Medicine. I came alive again; it was like my hope was renewed. So, I wanted to find out how someone could move from Vet Medicine to a bank manager. I waited every day for the lecturer until we had a conversation and he guided me on the path to take.
Armed with this information, I enrolled in a post-graduate programme to study business management. Graduating as the best student, I was accepted into Hult International Business where I graduated with a Master’s in International Business. Upon graduation in 2012, I returned home, poured the business knowledge I gained into my family’s business, improved the business structure and expanded it with branches in different states.
After four years, when I was certain the business could run without me, I started ReDahlia as an online resource centre for entrepreneurs. I moonlighted ReDahlia for months until I took the leap to venture into the unknown. I relocated to Lagos where I had no family to build a new business from the ground up.
Firstly, I established a physical business – ReDahlia Workspaces, one of the biggest co-working spaces in Lagos, Nigeria. Secondly, we built Entrepreneurs.ng, one of the largest entrepreneurial platforms offering various support services to entrepreneurs. And ReDahlia Business Academy, a school for entrepreneurs with different signature courses that have been instrumental in activating many businesses.
You have built a career path as an entrepreneurial development expert. How would you describe your journey?
My journey has been an odyssey of relentless pursuit and continuous learning. It has been a long one because impact is at the heart of what we do. When you run an impactful business, you don’t follow the conventional route. Sometimes, the journey is longer than expected. It has been a journey that has taken a toll on every side of me, a journey of resilience. I didn’t just want to start any business; I aimed for an impact-driven business. That’s why when the ReDahlia idea came, it was a eureka moment.
ReDahlia was born because my friends consistently sought business advice from me. Knowing I would exhaust myself serving them one by one, I aimed to make the information and advice I share available to a broader audience. That was the primary reason I started ReDahlia.com; to democratise business knowledge. All three businesses I have founded have touch points in assisting business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs to start, set up and scale their businesses. It has been a journey and yet, we have not scratched the surface.
You are passionate about empowering and inspiring entrepreneurs to scale up their businesses across Africa. How are you championing your cause?
I have a true passion for helping entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs succeed.
Our mission is to support entrepreneurs from start to finish, and we have partnered with organisations to make it happen. We have developed platforms that offer not only resources but also practical guidance to entrepreneurs. Our reach extends to over a million entrepreneurs yearly. Our goal is to bridge the business knowledge gap and raise entrepreneurs capable of building and sustaining successful businesses.
Economic challenges have constantly been on the rise, also taking its toll on entrepreneurs. What is your key message to them at this time in rerouting and staying relevant?
The key thing every business must do is diversify – create multiple streams of income with your existing expertise and assets. If your business has only one stream of income, ensure you diversify now. Also, businesses must take their online presence seriously and understand that their audience is on various online platforms. Ensure you spread your digital footprint with valuable content. Find where your audience is and provide them with value.
Money follows value. Entrepreneurs must also adapt and steadfastly commit to continuous learning. Know when to pivot and innovate, and do it swiftly. Most importantly, equip yourself with the right tools and knowledge to navigate turbulent times. If you lack the necessary tools and knowledge, seek them from someone who does. Don’t waste time.
What drives you?
I want to contribute immensely to reducing unemployment in Africa. I aim to raise entrepreneurs who will not only lift their families out of poverty but also become employers of labour.
The profound effect of providing entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs with the necessary resources, support, services and guidance to succeed fuels my drive each day. In over a decade of starting and growing businesses, I have had my fair share of challenges and gone through the trenches with business scars. I have come to learn what works and what does not work. I have experimented with it all, learned and relearned. I have put myself through the most difficult and rigorous learning processes and have constantly improved and reinvented myself.
I aim to contribute to reducing the statistics of businesses that fail. I don’t want people who encounter me to make the same mistakes I have made. That is why we created ‘Start Your Business in 30 Days’ to teach aspiring entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs the fundamentals of business – how to plan a business, how to market a business, how to structure a business and how to run a sustainable and successful business.
Are you satisfied with the number of female entrepreneurs? What are some of the challenges they encounter and how are you helping them surmount them?
According to a report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) titled ‘Country Data Overview,’ women now own a remarkable 40 per cent of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) nationwide. A recent CBN study reveals that there are about 42 million small businesses. This means that women make up about 40 per cent of this number.
While the progress is commendable, there’s still room for growth and enhancement in terms of the representation of female entrepreneurs. Regarding satisfaction with the current number, while there has been significant progress, I believe there’s always an opportunity for improvement.
Female entrepreneurs in Nigeria face myriads of challenges, including limited access to funding, societal norms, balancing work-life responsibilities and accessing necessary resources and networks. To help surmount these challenges, our organisation provides tailored programmes, mentorship and community support specifically designed to address the unique needs of female entrepreneurs.
Additionally, we aim to bridge the funding gap by offering access to financial resources, providing mentorship programmes aimed at building confidence and skills, creating networking platforms and advocating for an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem.
How do you combine your many roles and still be at your best?
It’s about striking a balance and channelling each facet towards a common goal. I ensure that every venture or activity I undertake aligns with my mission of empowering entrepreneurs. Also, I have a strong support system in the form of family and close-knit friends.
How can we get more women to become successful and rise to the top as you have done? What tips do you have for younger women?
Training, mentorship and funding are key. The government should collaborate with entrepreneurial development organisations like ours to develop programmes tailored to women. Our organisation has programmes tailored to women and 90 per cent of our workforce consists of women. That’s how we are addressing the challenge of gender inequality.
I’m aware that many programmes exist for women, but what is lacking is awareness of these programmes. Therefore, we must find ways to amplify and communicate the availability of these initiatives. For younger women, it’s about instilling confidence, nurturing ambition and showcasing diverse role models.
Dear young woman, there is greatness in you. You can achieve anything you set your mind to if you work hard at it, remain diligent and consistent. You must know there are no easy paths, and you have to take everything you see on social media with a grain of salt. Choose the right role model and build a legacy-filled life.
What do you hope to see Nigerian women do differently?
I aspire to see more Nigerian women unapologetically embracing entrepreneurship. I would like to witness more women fearlessly showcasing their businesses; many women are running amazing businesses in secret. I want to see them boldly market their businesses. I want women to stop building in secret and instead build and showcase their businesses with pride. I want women to consistently show up for themselves and when they achieve milestones in life and business, to give themselves their due recognition, like we say, give yourself your flowers. Women should collaborate more and uplift each other. I want women to build and join communities of other women who are making an impact.”
I hope you enjoyed this interview of Florence Chikezie with the Guardian Woman issue of The Guardian Newspaper.
How I Can Work with You to Start And Grow Your Business?
If you want to work with me to start a profitable and sustainable business, then enrol in the Start Your Business in 30 Days Program. I will take you from idea to starting your business in 30 days.
Every week, I teach practical business lessons that have helped thousands of entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. If you want to benefit from my teachings, click to sign up for the weekly business lesson here.
I am an internationally trained award-winning entrepreneur running three profitable businesses and a member of the prestigious Forbes Coaches Council. I help aspiring entrepreneurs start and set up their businesses through my program- Start Your Business In 30 Days. And, I work with companies and established corporations to scale their impact and revenue. Reach me at Florence@entrepreneurs.ng or WhatsApp- 08038874148 if you would like to transform your business.
This interview with Florence Chikezie was first published in The Guardian Woman.