6 WAYS TO HARNESS AND MONETIZE YOUR MANY PASSIONS

https://sheleadsafrica.org/monetize-your-passions/

This article was originally on She Leads Africa.

6 Ways to Harness and Monetize your Many Passions

Asides the obvious fact that the recent economic downturn has forced several young people to have multiple sources of income, it is quite the norm these days to meet people who have a full time job and are running small businesses on the side aka “side hustles” or even full-fledged companies complete with all the bells and whistles.

Sincerely, it is now a reality that a single income cannot sustain a comfortable lifestyle and this has pushed the average young Nigerian to get creative and take a dip in the entrepreneurship pool.

Here are six ways to convert your many interests to money in the bank:

Leave your comfort zone

Starting and running a business is not for the fainthearted, it will constantly push you out of your comfort zone. For example, if you have a fear of speaking to strangers, you will have to overcome that when networking and marketing your services to potential customers.

Take on practices that will not only push you out of your comfort zone, but also work on improving your weaknesses. You don’t have to be an expert, just be comfortable enough to deliver value that people want and need.

 

You need more than passion

It’s great to be passionate about your business ideas, but don’t let your enthusiasm blind you from reality. Be honest with yourself! Ensure there is a market to tap into and you are ready to put in the work. Get honest feedback from people around you; even friends and family by offering your services to them.

You have to be truly good at what you do. Your passion could be making people’s faces up, but are you skilled enough to train others? Also bear in mind that as a business owner, you’ll be responsible for reporting taxes, marketing your business and sorting out your finances. Are you ready for all the responsibility?

 

Offer Real Value

What void can you fill in the market? For example, if you are a makeup artiste and there is no makeup studio around you, that could be a viable business opportunity. The goal is to take advantage of the gaps in the market, that way you stand out and enjoy greater returns before the copycats join you in that space.

You need to ask yourself how you can make the industry better? Is this the business that keeps your entrepreneurial juices flowing?

Let’s say your passion is making furniture. Why are you better than your competitors? Is it because your materials are sourced locally? Or your products are unique and one of a kind? That would be more appealing to customers as opposed to buying generic mass-produced furniture.

When I started my consulting company, I had used several competitors. I knew what made them great, but I also knew what I wanted that they didn’t offer. I knew how to better the services. I started it and here we are!

 

Convert your Passion to Cash

There are several ways to make money off your passions:

  • Selling an actual product such as clothing, beauty products online or in a store.
  • Sharing your knowledge about your passion by blogging, writing books or making videos. Between sponsorships, subscribers and selling your own products, you can make a decent living. For example, Arese Ugwu turned her passion for financial literacy into a book – The Smart Money Woman – into a book that is being sold in several countries in Africa and the UK.
  • Offering consulting services by giving advice on anything from law to skincare.
  • Investing in an idea you are willing to financially support.
  • Creating a software or gadget that makes life easier for people. For example, if you were a makeup artiste, you could create an app that helps people find the right makeup products for their skin tones.
  • Start an event around your passion, such as a regular meetup, seminar or a festival.

 

Make Fun a Priority

Maintaining your passion when starting a legitimate business can be difficult. Some people even forget exactly why they started a business in the first place.

To prevent that from happening, always make fun and passion a priority. Your passion should reflect in your company policies, your passion should be communicated to your employees when you are hiring and they have to be equally passionate about your business as well.

 

Improve Your Skills

It would be great if you have a lot of experience, however don’t be too hard on yourself, there’s always room for growth and learning. For example, a furniture maker may be great are creating unique tables, but not so good at creating sofas. You can learn as you go along your journey, don’t wait till you master the craft before you start your business.

Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in any field. Nonetheless, don’t let the perceived amount of time it would take you to be the best at what you do deter you from moving ahead with your plan. It may not take you that long to master your craft, as you long as you keep looking for ways to improve your skills. Always ask for feedback and track your progress.

 

10 Insights For First-Time Entrepreneurs

Taking yourself out of your comfort zone and dipping your feet into the unpredictable whirlpool of entrepreneurship can be daunting, most people think about this all their lives and never get the courage to take this leap. If you have taken the proverbial leap off the cliff, good for you, if you are still considering taking a stab at your idea, testing if your business venture will pan out, I have a few tips I’ve learnt on my journey so far.

 

Focus Is Key

I read somewhere that at a dinner party, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet were asked what was the most important tool for success in life, both of them jointly replied with one word; FOCUS. You cannot undermine the need to focus on your business and build up its capacity. Majority of first-time entrepreneurs feel the urge to jump at every opportunity that comes their way. Avoid getting distracted, juggling multiple businesses will stretch you thin and decrease your efficiency and success. Start one new business at a time, run it well, not 20 businesses that are run poorly.

 

Know Your Stuff

It very easy to join a band-wagon business, rushing to start a venture because a friend told you they made a lot of money doing this business isn’t advisable. Don’t start a business because it is the in-thing or rumours have it that it offers large profit margins. Do what you love, find a market gap in an industry you’re interested in and fulfil that need. Building a business around your interests and strengths will give a better chance at succeeding. It’s not enough to create a profitable business, its imperative that you are happy running your business. You won’t be very successful at your business if you’re not passionate about it.

 

Perfect Your Elevator Pitch

An elevator pitch is a 15 to 30 second description of your business, always be ready to give a short, informative narration of what your business does. From coincidental encounters with investors to run-ins with potential customers, be ready to give a convincing 30-second speech on what your business does. State your vision, service and benefits in a clear and concise manner. Adjust your pitch to suit your audience, the simpler it is, the better.

 

Find Mentors

Nobody knows everything and that’s fine, it’s okay not to have the answers for everything. Seek mentors and advisors that will ease your entrepreneurial journey and help you become a better entrepreneur and leader. Ensure you find successful, intelligent people who share your interests and goals, they must see the value in working with you for the long-term.

 

Keep It Lean

CUT YOUR COSTS! Keep your spending as low as possible. Mark Cuban says he lived like a college student for most of the start of his business, because extravagant spending at the start of your business can cripple your business before it even gets off the ground. Separate your personal and business accounts, triple-check every expense and manage your cash flow effectively.

 

Learn On Your Way Up

The only way to learn how to run a business is by running one, no degree, book or business plan can fully prepare you for entrepreneurship. There is no perfect way to run a business. However, don’t jump into a business without adequately planning and thinking it through, also don’t wait months and years to execute. One way to become a successful entrepreneur is to innovate, another way is to be ready to be a firefighter – you get better at entrepreneurship when you get tested under fire. Never forget to learn from your mistakes, never repeat your mistakes twice.

 

Get Ready For Debtors

This is something no one warns you about, especially doing business in Nigeria. Customers will owe you, it’s not usually because they cannot afford to pay, I honestly can’t figure out why people owe, even big corporations are guilty of this. From day 1, I would advise you put systems in place to avoid customers owing you money, for example, you can insist on a deposit that would at least cover your expenses, before your sell your product or service. If your business is the type that would require customers to pay before service is rendered, you are in such a good position. Nonetheless, setup systems that would minimise the impact debtors would have on your business, because a lot of businesses have gone under, simply because customers refused to pay up.

 

Stay Healthy

I don’t mean to sound like your mother, but as an entrepreneur, you need to recognise that your health is a major asset. You would be more productive if you take better care of yourself, eat healthy, work out, sleep well. Entrepreneurship is not a 9-5 profession, it’s a lifestyle. Don’t make excuses, working till you’re exhausted will lead to a burnout, a burnout means you have to take valuable time off work to recover.

 

Don’t Believe Your Hype

If you can’t walk the walk, don’t talk the talk. It’s okay to blow your trumpet, but avoid exaggerating your abilities and telling tall tales about your service offerings. Market your product passionately, but in good taste. Let your business sell itself. To put it concisely, shut up and work.

 

Learn From Failure

I don’t know why people are afraid of failing, there is more to learn from failure than success. Don’t let your ego ruin you, always stay truthful to yourself and know when its time to quit.  If your business idea doesn’t succeed, identify your mistakes and learn from them. Reflect on what you would have done differently. Use these hard-learned lessons to improve yourself and your future entrepreneurial ventures.

Failure will never overtake you if your determination to succeed is strong enough. Success is the result of hard work, learning from failure, focus, and persistence.

 

Building A Business While Working 9-to-5

One of my major struggles is juggling my 9-5 job with my businesses and its tough to be honest. A lot of long nights, a lot of hilarious stories that were not as funny when they were playing out and a lot of sacrifices. I’ve had my fair share of failed business ventures, I’ve been successful in most, not quite where I want to be but I get better each passing day. My job allows me experiment with different business ideas without jeopardising my steady source of income. I love my job, I love trying out new business ideas, why do I have to choose? It is difficult to juggle both, but it’s been a pretty interesting journey so far.

Entrepreneurship is the rave right now, owning your startup is the new cool. A significant number of young, professional Nigerians I’ve met have a side hustle apart from their 9-5 jobs. For some, side-hustling is a way of fulfilling their passions, for others, it’s an extra stream of income, for most, it’s a bid to survive the dreadful Nigerian economy and supplement low wages in an economy with high inflation (Thanks Buhari!).

In my journey so far, I have come across some fundamental principles that have helped me manage the complexity of my situation. Here are some pointers on how to build your business, deepen your knowledge and better your chances of success while juggling paid employment with entrepreneurship.

 

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

In today’s world of apps created less than 10 years ago declaring higher profits than conglomerates built over 50 years ago, the clamour to be an entrepreneur is understandable. Entrepreneurship has been incredibly glamourised, that some entrepreneurs mock those in paid employment, let me be the one to tell you not to kill yourself joining the bandwagon. For those looking to make the switch, your 9-5 job is the vehicle that you would use to drive that your entrepreneurial dream. It may make you too comfortable to set up your own business, however it gives you experience, skills and insight on how to run your own business. Your day job will fund your dreams, even your dreams can’t fund your dreams.

Set SMART goals to enable you plan better and achieve more in both your business and career.

 

Manage Your Time

Running a side business while working 9 to 5 allows you test your ideas without putting your income flow at too much risk. A side hustle is a stepping stone to creating an additional income stream and a great way to test your business idea without the risk of losing your current income stream. The 5 to 9 life is probably more tasking than the 9 to 5 life, being that you would use your free time for hobbies, socialising, resting, chopping life etc., to work on your business.

You don’t need a prophet to tell you the major crux of working while building a business is time management. You have to be principled and incredibly disciplined to manage your time effectively to be productive at your job and run your business successfully. Do not under any circumstance skimp on your job for your business, if you cannot manage both at once, its best you focus on just one. There are a ton of time management apps that help with managing your schedule and achieving your goals, check some of them here.

 

Share your work

Whether on social media or a website or youtube channel or a podcast, find a way to share your work. It helps you build a community, and also establish yourself as an authority in your field. There is absolutely no point of building a business or a brand without also building a platform to showcase it, you don’t necessarily have to be the face of your brand, you can build a brand without the public knowing you’re the brain behind it. Also, sharing your work, essentially is a marketing strategy, so it’s a win-win situation.

 

Learn from Experts

Learn from other people’s experience, you don’t have to suffer, Nigerians love to glamourise sufferhead. Avoid falling into the entrapment of doing things the hard way just to have a rag-to-riches story, do things the smart way by learning from those who have experienced what you are going through. Ask for help from those who have gone before you, there is no shame in reaching out to someone who is the same field as you for guidance.

 

Collaborate

Because you have limited time, you would most likely progress faster when collaborate with people who share your vision. You have to be careful not to pick a business partner solely because you are both alike and the person “gets it”. You have to pick a co-founder that complements you, that has qualities you don’t have that is required to make your business a success. Learning to delegate tasks based on strengths from the early days will go a long way in creating structure for your business that allows you have time to do more and lays the ground work for business continuity.

 

Prioritise Customer Satisfaction

The fact that you’re working for someone while running a business does not excuse you from putting not out the best service and product with great customer service. I have come across several business owners that expect you to understand that their service is subpar because they are busy with their day jobs, this is utterly unacceptable. Your business should be properly structured and run efficiently for you to deliver top notch service. Your customers do not need to know the details of your struggles, save that for your Forbes interview. Do the needful and deliver the best service you can, whether in paid employment or in business.

How To Overcome Difficulties Nigerian Professionals Face

 

Let’s face it, working 9-5, running a business, following your creative passion, hustling, even just breathing, almost everything you’re doing in Nigeria is more difficult here than it is anywhere else in the world. It is easy to fall into that trap of, “Oh! My village people are after me”, and literally give up, then start waiting on a phantom helper to send dollars from above, but that’s not happening anytime soon. I believe in God, however the honest truth is prayer and fasting cannot replace putting in work to achieve tangible results.

Pro tip: Stop working hard, start working smart!

Focus on doing one thing at a time and assess your results. Ensure you stay on track, so your work doesn’t slack because of things that may be going on around you. Everyone you see is trying to figure out this maze called life and hacking it out day by day, so don’t let the people stunting on social media get you down, a lot of young people are struggling to get ahead. There are a thousand and one tips I can share to help with dealing with the realities of working and balancing life, here are a few major ones.

 

Maintain a Positive Mindset

People are continuously faced with challenges, difficulties and setbacks, they are inevitable and part of life, how you handle these challenges determine your ability to succeed. You grow as a person by learning to manage stress and maintaining a positive attitude when faced with challenges. Successful people do everything possible to stay problem-free, when challenges arise, they respond with a positive attitude, learn their lesson and keep moving forward towards their vision.

You have to resolve in advance to not let your situation get you down, respond to difficulties in a positive and constructive way. Neutralise all negative thoughts, speak to yourself in a positive way, whatever is expressed is impressed, what you say to others will be impressed on your subconscious, so actively make positivity a part of your personality. Focus on your vision and goals and never forget it is impossible to grow without difficulty, challenges are preparation for the next level, so level up!

 

Build a Network of Positive Minded People

Surrounding yourself with positive minded people will help you focus more on achieving your dreams even when your situation seems tough. Keeping the company of negative minded people would corrupt your mind and without realising it, you lose your focus and drive. Build a network of people that share similar goals and visions, it is easy to focus on yourself and keep working, however you would arrive at your goal faster if you are surrounded by people that are motivating you.

Resolving issues on your own may be overwhelming, admitting that you need help is not a sign of weakness, but an indication of strength, maturity and wisdom. Start building your trusted network with the people around you, your friends, family, co-workers and connect with people outside your network that are on a similar track as you are.

Talking about things going on with you is important for several reasons. If you have issues bothering you, it would be relieving to have an outside source to give some advice or at least be a good listener.

 

Avoid Burnout

Any career path you choose – paid employment or entrepreneurship – would exert a lot of your energy, if you are truly committed to your work. Hence, you need to pace yourself to avoid breaking down, because you cannot afford to. We all know that we need to exercise more, eat better, and sleep better. The key is how to do this with the time demands on our schedule.

Safeguard yourself from a burnout by scheduling regular social activities, working out, find a hobby you can commit to, volunteer for charity causes you believe in. Having a good sense of humour helps with gloomy situations, I think this is a collective trait with Nigerians, we find the joke in every situation and honestly it helps with dealing with the difficulties we face.

 

Stay Resilient

As a young professional, you often meet people that do not take you seriously. This may be because you are at the start of your career or your business, hence they think you have it all wrong. Do not let the opinion of others deter you, challenges are not a personal affront, see it as a stepping stone to your promotion.

 

The biggest tip I have for overcoming difficulties is having self-belief. If you don’t believe in yourself, who will? There is nothing you can’t achieve if you put your mind to it.

Stay hungry, stay focused, stay resilient. The world would be worse off if people like Angela Merkel, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs had given up on their dreams. Be persistent. Keep trying and with time, you’d experience that breakthrough you’ve always wanted. We are all learning. No one gets it right every time.  A more compassionate attitude toward ourselves only helps us to stay in the game.

How To Create Effective Marketing Strategies For New Businesses

Happy New Year!!!

Welcome to 2018!!!

I’m not one to be excited about New Years, because I believe every new day is a blessing and you should not wait till a new year to start living your best life, but for some reason I am super excited about 2018!!! Anyway, back to blogging business.

I’ve been getting emails and messages from readers, which are all centred around marketing their products, so I decided to share a few basic marketing strategies, that would help grow your business by asking these five simple questions.

 

What is the current situation of your business?

This is called a situation analysis, it basically defines your company, your products and service offering, it also highlights your unique selling point, which gives you an edge over your competitors. As an entrepreneur, you need to go beyond knowing your product and have a firm understanding of who your competitors are, what they are offering and be able to prove that your product is of more value to the customer. Identify the strengths of your business by observing the way your products are better than others, or what makes your service superior. On the other hand, take note of your company’s weaknesses, what could hinder your business growth? Lack of skilled employees?

You need to analyse your product’s features and identify what makes your products distinct from your competitors. Also, identify what would motivate your potential buyer to pay for your product. What is your unique selling point? High quality standard? Ease of purchase? Affordable pricing? You can’t offer everything, discovering what your customers want would help you determine what to offer.

 

Who is your target market?

Creating a simple, one-page profile of your potential customer would help you identify your target market. You can distinguish customers by grouping them according to their demographics – gender, age, location, disposable income, their jobs, lifestyle and so on. You need to know if your customers are traditional or modern? Introverts or extroverts? Homebodies or adventure seekers? Leaders or followers? Why do they buy your products? How frequently do they use your service? Ensure you narrow down who your target audience is, as this would be your guide in determining what marketing tools or publicity campaigns would be best suited for your product.

 

What are your marketing goals?

What do you intend to achieve with your marketing strategy? For instance, are you hoping to double your sales revenue this year? Clearly define what your aim is, write down your goals, make them measurable within a timeframe, so you’ll know when you have accomplished them.

 

How do you market to your target market?

This is the heart and soul of your marketing strategy. An effective marketing plan targets customers at all phases of your sale cycle. Marketing tools such as advertising, direct marketing and online marketing, are good for targeting cold propects. Warm prospects – people who your marketing has reached previously, will respond better to email subscriptions, customer reward programs, and so on. Your best prospects are people who have seen your marketing campaign and are ready to make a sale. Usually, interpersonal contact – either face to face, by phone or email, combined with marketing lead to more sales.

Outline your marketing strategies, then include a variety of tools you’ll use to reach potential customers at any point in your sales cycle. For instance, you might combine Instagram adverts, fliers and Google adverts to reach cold prospects but use email marketing to reach warm prospects.

Identify the ideal marketing mix for your business by finding out what media your target audience use to find out information for your type of product or service. Focus on targeted marketing as opposed to broad marketing tools such as billboards, this might attract your target market, but marketing for small business should be more targeted.

 

What is your budget?

Having a marketing budget is essential so you don’t go overboard, it is ideal to dedicate a percentage of your sales to your marketing budget. If you are starting a new business and funds are not so abundant, there are different marketing tactics available to reach your audience, that would fit even the smallest budget. That does not imply, you should aim to spend nothing on marketing, your budget should increase as your business grows. Always remember, marketing is vital to the success of your business, the trick is to never stop marketing.

There you have it, the tricks of the trade. I tried to keep it as simple as I could without any of those marketing buzzwords, however, if you need help with your marketing strategy, you can email me at: tolani@tolanithomas.com.

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10 Business Goals You Need For The New Year

If you are setting goals for the new year in the second week of December, then you, my darling, are not proactive enough. For brands and businesses, the month of December should be for reviewing the past activities of the year, re-strategising for the next year, balancing your books, creating a budget for next year and so much more. What the next year holds is at the top of every entrepreneur’s mind, given that Nigeria is still recovering from a recession. I’m sharing ten goals to bear in mind to push both entrepreneurs and career folk to the next level next year.

  1. Improve your understanding of which market strategies yield the most profit for your company.
  2. Analyse your market to better evaluate the expectations of your customers and how to satisfy them.
  3. Develop strategy that will convert more leads to sales by breaking the barriers between sales and marketing.
  4. Network and get more involved in your industry.
  5. Stay informed about new technology that will keep you connected to clients.
  6. Launch an important, valuable project for your company.
  7. Identify and understand trends that would affect and change  your industry in the next few years and plan ahead for it.
  8. Incorporate lessons learned from the past year into next year.
  9. Learn to delegate, stop micro-managing.
  10. Give something back to your community.

I’m trying to keep the articles shorter and more straightforward, so there you have it. You can focus on all or just a few of these goals, as it applies to you. If you want to talk about your business or career, or even how to go about incorporating these goals into your strategy, email me at: tolani@tolanithomas.com.

 

 

5 Simple Ways To Improve Your Business

Recently, I have been speaking with several entrepreneurs and noting the issues that are common to new entrepreneurs. These issues revolve around keeping their finances in order, social media management and are as simple as just having someone to consult with on how to run their business more efficiently. I compiled a list of five ways entrepreneurs can improve their businesses.

 

Hootsuite

Social media management can be a hassle, even for those who are social media mavens, its almost a full time job running your social media alongside your business. Publishing individual social media content in real time is a massive time drain and a recipe for low engagement. By signing up for Hootsuite, you can manage multiple social profiles from a single dashboard. Schedule posts, track mentions, engage with followers, and measure the effectiveness of your social media content, at zero cost. It’s the ultimate tool for keeping your social media accounts in harmony.

I recommend Hootsuite to clients, especially those that are not conversant with social media, it puts all your social media on one page, making it easier to run.

 

Wave App

This free accounting software is a good solution for small businesses with a small budget. I use this app to create and send invoices and keep track of my transactions for my business. Wave offers customised and branded online invoicing templates and tools to provide a fast, accurate and convenient way to send and receive bills, all you have to do is upload your logo and details, and voila! Professional looking invoices at your fingertips.

By providing access to capital (Lending), improving cash flow (Payments), delivering money to employees (Payroll), helping businesses get paid (Invoicing), preparing for tax time and providing business insights (Accounting, Receipts), Wave covers the spectrum of a small business owner’s financial life, and helps businesses grow and thrive.

 

Canva

Canva is one of the best things I ever discovered, it’s the best graphic designing tool for people who are clueless about design like me. There are tons of design templates for logos, quotes and social media posts on the app, it almost completely eliminates the need for me to pay a graphic designer (apologies to all my graphic designer friends).

If you want the look of professionally designed graphics for your social media pages without the cost or the expertise? Canva will be your new best friend. Most of the templates are free and idiot proof, so anyone can use it, its super user friendly.

 

A Tribe

I’m always preaching about networking all the time, but it’s important to have a form of advisory board. This advisory board should comprise of business people that are ahead of you, on your level and upcoming, simply put, your advisory board should have someone you respect and admire, someone you consider your peer and someone that looks up to you. These three people would give you a well-rounded perspective, being that they would give different views because they are at different points in life which would be solid advice for you when you need it.

 

Tolani Thomas

Cheeky, but, I am here for all your business consulting needs. I write business, strategy and marketing plans. My strength is business development, so I analyse businesses from all angles with the aim of making sales and profit for businesses. It is imperative as a business to have a solid strategy for your business to thrive and surpass expectations. Shoot me an email at tolani@tolanithomas.com for consultations today.

How To Validate Your Business Idea For The Nigerian Market

Entrepreneurship comes naturally to Nigerians, the average Nigerian millennial has two or more business ideas that he or she believes would catapult him into instant millions overnight. I believe this stems from a lack of structure in the Nigerian economy; zero infrastructure equals zero industries which ultimately results in a dire lack of sustainable employment opportunities across the nation. This makes the average Nigerian forced to constantly think outside the box in order to earn a living, this “compulsory creativity” also drives the youth to resort to illegal ventures as a shortcut to making it to the big leagues, but let’s stay on course.

Now, you have a product or a service that you believe can be successful in the Nigerian market or you have aspirations of your business being a global brand. It is great you have a vision, you need to have the perseverance and focus to back it up as well. Several ideas are put on hold because of the period of time it would take to achieve them, in that period you’re stalling, another person may have identified this market need and built the business of your dreams. If you validate your idea, the process becomes easier then on.

Here are some fundamental tips to consider for your big idea.

Research

There is very little research data on business in Africa, that entrepreneurs need to make informed decisions before starting a new business. Asoko Insight is working on resolving this lack of data, but nonetheless, it is vital that there is a market need for your service offering. One needs to have facts and figures on the market where your business would operate, to be able to ascertain how profitable the business would be.

Research can be as simple as googling your idea to find out if it has been done before. If the idea already exists, don’t give up, you may find a better way to improve on the product. Can you add more value to the business idea? Can your customers be more satisfied? If yes, then proceed.

Perceived Value

Your business idea must solve a problem and your customers must feel like it adds more value than they paid for. Ask a few trusted friends for their honest feedback on your idea, take notes and compare with the research you’ve done.

Your business has to offer enough value for a customer to pay for it and create revenue for you. If you are the only one who thinks your business idea can work, then you need to re-assess.

Build an MVP 

If your business idea has enough support, then it’s time to build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), to determine if it is a product customers would actually pay for. Start now by building the simplest, quickest version of your business, it may be a simple website. It doesn’t need to have all of the features you envision, an MVP is just a working prototype to test your idea.

If it is an idea that requires specific skills, such as software development or fashion designing, and you do not have the skills, don’t focus on learning before you test your idea. Find someone with the skills you are lacking and negotiate an agreement to pay what you can afford at the moment, pending when the business starts making profit. Once you have the MVP, use it, test it and have others do the same. If it turns out to be a product you and your friends would never use, scrap the idea.

Branding

If the testing process goes great, congrats, you have a winning idea. Now you need to build the brand identity of your business, are you a mass market brand or a premium brand, this would be interpreted from your branding. The voice of your brand has to appeal to the Nigerian audience and reach this audience through the right media.

Understanding how the Nigerian market works and knowing the demographics of customers that would find value in your product is the key to crafting your branding the right way.

Product-Market Fit

This is the single biggest reason why businesses fail. Most entrepreneurs believe with a minimum viable product, they can launch and start getting customers. However, if your intention is to build a sustainable business that lasts, the market your business is targeting needs to have the following:

  1. Large number of potential customers
  2. High growth of potential customers
  3. Ease of customer acquisition

In the Nigerian market, you need solid evidence that there is a market for your business, there is no point of creating a product that no one would buy. Your business has to generate enough revenue to stay afloat, if the market is small, then you do not have a company. An Igbo businessman once said to me, if your business makes money in the first six months of existence in Nigeria, then it is a good business. How true that statement is, I leave it to you.

Customer Acquisition Plan

Before you start marketing your business, you need to structure a proper plan to acquire customers. It goes beyond marketing, you have to ask yourself:

  1. How do I acquire and retain my 1st customer?
  2. How do I acquire and retain my 1000th customer?

You may write the most detailed business plan ever, without a proper customer acquisition plan and marketing strategy. A customer acquisition plan goes beyond getting customers to buy your products, but to make them lifetime customers.

First mover advantage plays a major part in differentiating your company from competitors, so if your business idea is proprietary, start as early as you can. Always remember it is easier to build a business based on demand than build demand around a business.

If you want to discuss your business idea, shoot me an email at tolani@tolanithomas.com

6 Things You Need To Know Before Starting A Nigerian Business

The Nigerian author, Ayo Sogunro wrote a book titled, Everything in Nigeria Is Going to Kill You, as unpatriotic as it sounds, I somewhat agree with him. The system in Nigeria works against it citizens, the odds are constantly against you. Not to digress from the topic and start a rant about the dire situation of things in Nigeria. The bottom line is doing business in Nigeria can be an absolute nightmare if you do not know how to navigate the system to your advantage.

I came up with a few pointers every Nigerian entrepreneur should bear in mind for their business.

Get The Basics Sorted

Majority of Nigerian small businesses are not incorporated and do not operate a business bank account. In order to ensure the longevity of a business, one has to put the proper structures in place, hire a lawyer to assist with company incorporation and setting up the proper structure for your company from the ground up. Also, it is imperative you have your books in order, if you cannot afford an accountant to manage your finances, use a book keeping application till you can afford accounting services.

The Nigerian in you might want to skip all these steps and run your business as you wish. I can authoritatively tell you that is a recipe for disaster, skipping the basics has killed several Nigerian businesses. If your aim is to build a business that would survive the Nigerian business terrain, get the basics sorted and maintain a proper organisation structure.

Protect Yourself With Contracts

A non-disclosure agreement should be signed before discussing your ideas at length with anyone. If you are discussing business ideas with someone other than your team, do not disclose your trade secret or your unique selling point.

If your business is a partnership, have your lawyer draft a shareholder’s agreement, have all directors roles clearly stated and documented with a binding contract to avoid issues of conflict. At the genesis of Facebook, the Winklevoss twins discussed their idea with Mark Zuckerberg without having a proper contract in place. This led to a court case which the twins won and got a huge settlement, however that doesn’t compare to being CEO of Facebook and sitting on a billionaire-dollar empire.

Build a Dedicated Loyal Team

Richard Branson says, clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients. In Nigeria, its difficult finding workers with good work ethic, dedication and skill to work to the capacity that would take your business to the level it should be.

Nigerian employers often get carried away with the hiring and firing game, thinking that no one is indispensable asides the CEO. It is a disservice to your company if you develop a reputation as an organisation where staff do not stay for long, at the same time, do not accept mediocre work from your employees. Nonetheless, it is vital to build a core team of employees who believe in your business vision, possess the skill and are dedicated to deliver great service that would drive your company’s success.

Get Your Financials In Order

If you are not an accountant, do not attempt to handle the finances of your business by yourself. Even if you are the most certified accountant on earth, delegate financial management to an accounting firm or an in-house accountant.

In the first year of your business, you may get away with doing your accounts yourself, however if you want your business to grow to full capacity, learn to delegate. Several small businesses are running from the personal account of the CEO, this is wrong on so many levels. You should see your business as an entity that exists outside of you, your aim should be for your business to grow beyond you, hence your financials should not be run as a personal fund.

Most importantly, ensure you have enough funding for the business you are about to start and enough savings to fall back on if things do not pan out as planned.

Be Realistic With Your Business Idea

I have witnessed several business ideas that were successful in America or the UK being implemented in Nigeria and failing to attain that same level of success here. It may sound cool saying you want to start a business selling fur to musicians to use for their music videos and red carpet appearances because your cousin’s classmate in America did the same and has “blown”. You may have the business plan written out and a few supporters encouraging your folly, this idea would obviously never work in Nigeria, as the climate does not agree for your product to sell at all.

Do your market research to ascertain if there is a demand for your products or services. Understand the different demographics that need your products and develop the best strategy to reach them. Most importantly, your business has to offer value to your customers, always leave your clients feeling like they got value for their money.

Find Your Tribe

As an entrepreneur, there are several problems you would encounter that you might assume are unique to you. That is usually not the case, there are other entrepreneurs and career people who have experienced the same issues you are dealing with. Connect with people who are focused and as ambitious as yourself, the people you spend time with and the conversations you engage in will feed your focus and fuel your aspirations. Bouncing your ideas off people you trust would help you streamline your thoughts and goals you should focus on, it would also hold you accountable to said goals.