Imperatives of capacity building for women entrepreneurs
Notwithstanding the economic challenges in the country, a network of women entrepreneurs have urged women-folks to take the bold step and start their own businesses.
The group, under the aegis of NECA’s Network of Entrepreneurial Women (NNEW), explained that there is abundance of opportunities for start-up businesses, who do not wait for the perfect condition to venture. However, they warned that successful entrepreneurship must be accompanied by learning, discipline, awareness of needs to be met and branding.
President of NNEW, Lola Okanlawon, at the group’s entrepreneurship summit to commemorate the 10th year anniversary of the network in Lagos, noted that business clime in Nigeria is not favourable, leaving everyone to either sit-back to complain or stand-up to the situation.
“But if you just sit down and start complaining that things are not happening, then you will never go anywhere,” Okanlawon said.
She noted that the network, comprising of 2000 registered members, today parades entrepreneurs that had taken the bold step few years ago and are already a success.
According to the president, women entrepreneurship started about 30 years ago, in what she described as “a silent revolution” to help the status of families and ease the burden on men.
“The businesses that used to be for men alone is no longer the case, because women are beginning to compete for such space. But I don’t want the men to start getting afraid that the women want to take over. Fact is that about 50 per cent of the population are women, but the percentage of men have been taking care of women for so long and that is why we have not been able to go above where we are right now.
“It has been proven that 70 per cent of the men are youths. 70 per cent of the women are girls. So, what we are saying is that 30 per cent of the men should take care of the remaining 70 per cent. That is why you have a lot of young men dying at the age of 40, 50 years because the pressure is so much on them. And that is why we are just trying to elevate families and not for us to take over,” she said.
Okanlawon added that capacity building is imperative for women entrepreneurs to survive, thrive and have a business that could outlive them.
Her words: “What is peculiar to women entrepreneurs is that when women do businesses and there are issues in their families, especially with the children, the woman is often too quick to dip a hand in the purse forgetting herself and the business such that the money coughed out is not replaced. That is not business-like.
“That is why we are teaching ourselves. Often will you find that businesses run by women tend to die with them or that it thrives for a while and stop. The reason is that we take from the business and don’t replace. That is why we are trying to re-orient our women to keep proper records,” she said.
Director General of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Segun Osinowo, commended the network for the milestone, especially for building the capacity of over 3000 women in the last 10 years.
Osinowo, however, added that the group must pay attention to funding opportunities for entrepreneurs, and improve advocacy for business-friendly environment to help businesses to survive.
“Access to credit is important for NNEW to focus on. I do know that there are quite a number of institutions out there set up by government, the purpose of which is to make available affordable credits to businesses. One of the responsibility to which this group (NNEW) will have to take up moving forward is to try and track all these credit source and then assist her members to assess these funds.
“The second is in the area of advocacy. The environment is important in determining the success of any business. While we will not expect any entrepreneur to wait for the perfect environment to make the jump into entrepreneurship, the fact still remains that good policies — monetary, fiscal and good infrastructure are quite key to the success of any business in this environment. And we expect NNEW to add their voice to the numerous other voices of the BMOs that are around in getting government to do the needful in terms of creating an enabling environment,” Osinowo said.
The DG, with about three decades of experience in the private sector, noted that there is no doubt that the future of women empowerment and youth employment is self-owned businesses, but without a concrete focus on business survival (the demand end of labour market), it would lead to more frustration among the people.
“If the economy is unhealthy, no matter the effort you put into it, such as entrepreneurship skills and improving education, it will not be able to get businesses to thrive. Yet it is businesses that provide jobs.
“The focus simply should be sustainable enterprises and it should actually be the open door to job creation. If you are able to sustain enterprises and make them thrive, then jobs will be created,” he said.
Chief Executive Officer, ENL Consortium, Dr. Vicky Haastrup, charged the women to be courageous in starting their own businesses, citing that the opportunities are quite huge.
Haastrup stressed that the country avails all the freedom to choose their line of business, be it farming, hair dressing, hospitality, fishery, construction, real estate, publishing, rental, block-making, trading, transportation and logistics, warehousing, tourism, supply chains, telecommunication services and so on.
“But to become successful entrepreneur, we must think globally and let experience, knowledge, good service delivery, quality drive our passion in creating platform to harness the potential of our human resources in making a brand that is recognised beyond the local network but to meet with international standard,” she said.