Our Founder, Florence Chikezie, was a special guest on Fidelity’s SME-focused radio program: The Fidelity SME Forum, which airs on Inspiration FM 92.3 to discuss the practical guides to empowering SMEs for growth.
So we decided to share the transcribed version of the feature with you. Florence bared it all in this feature- Practical Guides to Empowering SMEs for growth.
The feature takes a question-and-answer format. We will like to hear your thoughts in the comments. Fasten your seat belt.
Hi Florence, lovely having you here today. We’ve been impressed with your work in the entrepreneurial space, but for people who might not be as familiar, what can you share about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I’m a multi-award-winning entrepreneur, a strategy consultant, author, investor and more. I’m happy to be here to discuss the practical guides to empowering SMEs for growth.
I’m a nationally certified business consultant with a BDSP practising license from EDC (Enterprise Development Center of Lagos Business School) and SMEDAN (Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency)
I earned a Master’s degree in International Business from Hult International Business School, London, one of the world’s best business schools. In addition to running three successful businesses; ReDahlia Workspaces, The Business Clinic, and Entrepreneurs.ng, I have worked with entrepreneurs, start-ups and established businesses across different industries.
At Entrepreneurs.ng, we firmly believe that entrepreneurship is the solution to our economic problems. Therefore, I have spent the last ten years educating, nurturing, informing and inspiring entrepreneurs and constantly learning for the future.
My mission is to raise a new wave of entrepreneurs who will run sustainable businesses. We have democratised business knowledge and opportunities through our platform: Entrepreneurs.ng.
Through our work, we have built a network and community of entrepreneurs, founders and business enthusiasts.
We reached over 620,000 entrepreneurs in less than two years. Daily more than 3,000 entrepreneurs visit our platform- Entrepreneurs.ng
We are spreading the good news that there’s a better way to do business. Like a doctor goes to medical school and a lawyer goes to law school, entrepreneurship can be taught. So that’s what we are doing.
We have a program called ASK AN EXPERT, where you can book a session and talk to a certified business expert.
The services we offer our clients exceed the value we promise. And when it comes to customer service, you won’t find a better team. People can copy your product or service but cannot copy your customer service because it’s in your DNA.
Our watchword is Kaizen – a Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement. We improve our service offerings regularly. There’s continuous self-development for all team members, and we always ask why and research new service offerings and better ways to improve our existing services.
2) Some of us may think you got here by magic. Please also share what inspired you and what kind of research you did before you started.
It has been a long journey, and the journey is just starting. I started because I wanted to provide the right resource for business owners to do business right.
ReDahlia started as a resource centre for entrepreneurs. I wanted entrepreneurs and business owners to access resources that will help their businesses and make them better entrepreneurs.
When I returned to Nigeria after acquiring a master’s degree in International Business from Hult Business School, London, it was commonplace for my friends to think I was the ultimate solution to their career and business problems.
They would always come to me asking about what business to do. “Florence, what business can I start with N100,000; N500,000; N1m?” “Florence, do you think I should venture into this or that other kind of business?” The questions were endless.
I am always filled with ideas, and I would always pitch a business idea or two to them per my custom. And at some point, I would say, “You can do more research on the idea and develop it. Just google it.” But the responses would go: “Google what? You’d only see all these “oyibo” ideas that cannot be applied to our clime and peculiar circumstances.”
So, I took out time to find out myself. What I found was surprising yet interesting. I did not find a platform tailored to business solutions here; most popular sites were either focused on entertainment or gossip. The ones about business had been watered down with political content. That’s why I started ReDahlia.com then. The brand has evolved since then.
We have moved the work we started at ReDahlia.com to www.entrepreneurs.ng. Through the platform, we are helping entrepreneurs run sustainable businesses through our paid and free resources.
3) This next question remains a big challenge for most SMEs. How do you market your services?
We use inbound and outbound marketing.
Remember I said we started as a resource platform. Our audience, when we finally launched our brand offline, told us they wanted a co-working space. They also told us where they wanted it. By consistently giving value for free to our entrepreneurs through our content, they leave insights for us.
As a business person, it is now left to you what you do with those data.
For instance, during Covid, we changed our content strategy because we learned that folks were losing their jobs, so we wanted to create impactful value. Therefore, we started HOW TOs. How to start a pure water business, for instance. We take on one business idea- conduct primary and secondary research and put it out for free.
People call us and say, you mentioned this machine, please how much does it cost. At first, we were like, what kinda wahala is this? Shey, you cannot go on google and find the cost. But the entrepreneur in me later found gold in it.
We took the business, expanded the content and added the financial breakdown of starting the businesses, and that’s how The Shop Page on Entrepreneurs.ng was borne. We have over 45 researched business books on the shop.
So we market through creating and sharing valuable content: We also understand that people consume content differently- long and short forms.
- Writing on Entrepreneurs.ng and social media- I have a personal newsletter on LinkedIn.
- Long YouTube videos and live videos across social media
- Short contents – Reels and stories
We infuse our products and services in our content. And listen to our audience so we can continue to improve our offering and innovate.
Outbound marketing- Going all out to look for sales through cold emails, calls and events.
4) Can you talk to us about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back, would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
We are facing the same problems that most Nigerian businesses face: the epileptic power and the resulting high energy cost. More importantly, we don’t shoulder these burdens for ourselves; we also shoulder them for other businesses at ReDahlia Workspaces, so you can imagine how challenging that can be. However, we made a promise to the Nigerian entrepreneur, and we intend to keep that promise.
Another challenge is the policies of the government. All of us as entrepreneurs in Nigeria are feeling the effects of the continued devaluation of the Naira because we use a lot of tools from the American market, and they are priced in dollars, so you can imagine how that affects the bottom line.
Also, getting the right people to work with who belief in the vision of the company is a challenge we face every day. I believe this: “You can’t get it (right) all at once; you keep learning every day and implementing what works.”
Learning to be a leader that embodies strength and empathy is the most challenging, and I’m learning on the go.
Entrepreneurship has made me more patient and resilient. t has also taught me how to deal with people.
It has not been smooth; however, every experience we have had running ReDahlia and Entrepreneurs.ng has prepared us to where we are now.
I don’t think running faster or slower would have made any difference because every month and year in this journey has been packed with unique lessons that have been instrumental to our growth as an organisation.
5) Still On Practical Guides To Empowering SMEs, Entrepreneurship can be quite a lonely journey. How have you been able to power through it?
Something has to always give. n the cause of building ReDahia and Entrepreneurs.ng, my social life suffered. However, I’m thankful that I have a sound support system, family, and friends who have always been there for me through thick and thin.
It’s a joy to have a circle that understands my path and doesn’t count my not constantly being available as wrong; they even make excuses for me. I am making a conscious effort, though, to strike a balance between work and life.
I have built a network of other entrepreneurs. We discuss issues and look for solutions together. I have found that entrepreneurs like you often have experienced what you are currently passing through. It brings a lot of relief when you realise that you are not alone in whatever you are going through.
6) What would you say are the qualities of a successful entrepreneur?
Resilience, determination, and grit. The ability to finish what you start.
To be a successful entrepreneur, you must understand your business and know how every part fits together. It’s like a building block; every part must align to make it whole.
You need to know how to attract and retain the right people in your organisation.
You need to know how to lead, give up control of certain things, and let your team do their work.
There are so many other things.
But most importantly, you need to learn how to sell. Sell your market, market your market, sell and sell shamelessly. The bills are there, and they have to be paid. Not just ‘them bills’, but the bottom line has to make sense. Revenue must exceed expenses.
7) What are your tips for employing and empowering a team, and how is your business structured to reflect same?
This is one of the biggest challenges that entrepreneurs face. We have tried different recruitment methods to understand what works- Outsource the whole process, hybrid and in-house.
Sometimes you will get it wrong, and sometimes you will get it right.
If you get it wrong and have trained and done all necessary to get value out of a team member without result, please let them go immediately.
If you get it right, create the right environment for them to thrive, be empathetic, train and give them autonomy to do their work.
The pay has to be industry competitive.
Our people are our greatest asset. We communicate that to them- you acknowledge when a job is well done and correct and guide when productivity needs to improve. Our remuneration is industry competitive. There’s room for growth.
We have created a culture where we work and play. And we operate an open-door policy of mutual respect and accountability.
8) Final Question on Practical Guides To Empowering SMEs For Growth. What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Before you get carried away by all you have read about the pros of starting your business, it must be said that, as with everything in life, nothing good, valuable or profitable comes easy. There are challenges with starting and running a business, and a truth I want to leave with you is that entrepreneurship is not for everyone.
Entrepreneurship is not as glamorous as portrayed on social media, and there is no basis for shaming anyone who opts for a regular 9-to-5.
As a matter of fact, entrepreneurship is built on the back of 9-to-5s. It is a legitimate and steady path that has proven to be just as rewarding and fulfilling for many people. So, rather than talking down 9-to-5s, advocate that whatever one’s hands find to do is done diligently and with all might. I have been on this hustle long enough to know better.
Therefore, it becomes imperative that you identify your ‘why’ before starting your own business.
Put in the work and structure things as early as possible. Where possible, bootstrap; you will learn many skills that way. Keep at it.
Put in the work. Just put in the work, and every other thing will follow.
That’s the end of the discussion on Practical Guides to Empowering SMEs for growth.
You can reach Florence Chikezie at 08038874148 or firstname.lastname@example.org