If there is such a term as ‘accidental entrepreneur’ then it aptly captures my foray into the world of entrepreneurship because the life of running my own business kind of chose me rather than me choosing it. Having spent almost a decade of my professional career in paid employment I was well entrenched within the corporate system and loved the allure, ‘security’ and ‘predictability’ in 9 to 5. I had built a career in Integrated Marketing Communications and had grown through the ranks to become an Account Director in an experiential marketing agency in Lagos, Nigeria; to think that I will leave all of that to embrace the cold and lonely journey into entrepreneurship is something I would have challenged anyone and argued to the contrary even if the person had a crystal ball that enables him/her see the future, in fact Nostradamus himself would have lost that argument with me were he to still be alive when the idea of entrepreneurship was first mooted to me. When life throws me a curve ball, however, I have learnt to change my strategy to deal with it and still see how I can ‘bat the ball’ by keeping my eyes on it and getting ready to do whatever it takes to hit a home run.
I woke up one morning dissatisfied with my job and I took the bold step to resign in order to take some time out to figure out what I wanted to spend the next chapter of my life pursuing: my moment of epiphany was actually long way coming just that I had developed a knack for suppressing the obvious when they stare me in the face but alas, it reached its tipping point that day and something had got to give, I dropped the letter before I could change my mind even though in retrospect I would still have asked myself “what came over you?”. I am one who has always loved challenges and so in one of my private soliloquy I challenged myself to create something out of nothing and voila, my journey into entrepreneurship began. I knew that one thing I needed to succeed is to learn the ropes so I booked an appointment with a few friends of mine who are accomplished entrepreneurs in different sectors to learn from those who have gone ahead in that space. I enrolled in seminars, master classes, attended an entrepreneurship academy coupled with loads of online training to prepare me for the business world in general. The transition was not a walk in the pack but with determination and discipline, I was able to bite the bullet and damn the consequences in the face of overwhelming contrary indicators.
I’ve always heard would-be/budding entrepreneurs complain about capital being the major challenge in starting a business but the words of a certain wise man whom I had the privilege of listening to keep on ringing in my mind. He said “there is a small version of your big vision, start from there and work your way up”, that arguably was the best piece of advice I had hitherto received. I had loads of visions but I know I needed to ‘proof my concept’ first on a small scale before I think of scaling the business. Understanding that the higher you go the greater the fall should keep one circumspect in planning as I have come to discover that it is better to ‘fail on a small scale’ and learn than to launch big and crash ‘bigly’. With that philosophy, I launched out first with ‘Youniversity of Ideas’ – a brand strategy outfit that focuses on SMEs with the little capital I had. I reckoned that there was no need to rent an office space when I could work from home and if push comes to shove, there are loads of shared office spaces in the city where I could work from with little financial commitment hence from the get-go, getting an office was not my immediate concern: I simply started from my living room. Truth is if we really want to do something, we’ll find a way if not we’ll find an excuse, I decided ab initio not to let myself off the hook so I knew it was either I sink or I swim but the harbour must be behind me.
The launch of Youniversity of Ideas gave me the courage to come up with another business offering and after series of surveys, planning and iterating, Efanda was born. This at best is vertical integration because the industry I was going into was not only completely different from what I had done up until that moment, but I also had to manage the process from end-to-end. It is a steep learning curve for me but I have always opined that ‘education is an ability to see through yourself so that at every point in time you can see yourself through’ hence even if the space was alien to me, the fact remains that the fundamentals of running a business are the same with tweaks here and there hence I only needed to apply myself to learn the technical and operational aspects of this new adventure and I will be fine. Since Efanda came on stream, I’ve been overwhelmed with the magnitude of things we can achieve if only we dared to step out. Launching the brand into the seeming ‘saturated market of the leather crafts industry’ meant we needed to come up with a value proposition that is exciting and well situated within the needs of the target market, our test of the market indicates that we are well on our way to building a strong brand out of Nigeria for the rest of the world, just less than two months after launch, we got our first orders from outside the shores of Nigeria. We see ourselves as a proudly Nigeria company that is out to showcase to the world that products do not have to be foreign for them to be of high quality. Our shoes and belts which are sold strictly online at the moment are gradually becoming veritable fashion pieces among the upwardly mobile.
I think my journey into the world of entrepreneurship could be narrated as that of courageous risk-taking and child-like believe that providence sure has a way of stirring our hearts in directions that will ultimately lead us into paths where we can conquer territories with God on our side. I cannot talk about my journey in life (in whatever respect) without referencing God, not as a cliché but as a matter of personal creed because I have no speck of doubt whatsoever that my life couldn’t have taken the trajectory it took without divine input, it is not a matter of religion but that of a personal relationship I have cultivated with divinity over the years, the landscape of my life is dotted with overwhelming evidence that indeed God rules and reigns in the affairs of men, my life is a living proof of that and I have no apology for referencing him in all I do.
By FEMI BABATUNDE
Facebook/ Instagram / Twitter: Efanda Femmy Babs
Write up: Entrepereur Africa