Bukky George defied the odds in Nigeria’s healthcare industry when she founded HealthPlus in 1999, Nigeria’s first Integrative Pharmacy and the fastest-growing pharmacy chain in West Africa. She saw the gaps in Nigeria’s health and beauty industry and found a way to establish HealthPlus Group’s presence in the market.
In 2004, Endeavor coined a term that would set these unique individuals apart from the rest of the entrepreneurial world — high-impact entrepreneurs. They are the out-of-the-box thinkers, risk-takers, innovators, dreamers, outliers and creators. High-impact entrepreneurs create scalable businesses that have the potential to grow, create jobs in their local economies, make visible impact in their communities and inspire a generation of new entrepreneurs. When we opened the Nigeria office in 2018 to select, support and mentor the founders of scaleup businesses, high-impact entrepreneurs like Bukky George — who were pushing boundaries and taking risks — were precisely the kind of people we were looking for.
Innovators and creators who launch businesses in emerging markets like Nigeria have proven to be especially resilient despite the existing financial and socioeconomic challenges. While SMEs are recognised for their role in providing opportunities within local communities, they are often unable to achieve the more far-reaching impact of creating significant wealth and high-quality employment at scale.
Nigeria, like most developing countries, is in desperate need of more successful high-impact scaleup businesses to boost its economy and grow its ecosystem. So, how can aspiring entrepreneurs look beyond starting small businesses as an income supplement and aim to tackle big-picture problems, contribute significantly to economic growth, and drive innovation in their ecosystems?
Small business owners must be intentional about setting audacious goals and taking bold steps to achieve their dreams. In 2010, Olagoke and Abimbola Balogun founded Fruitvegies to give fruit lovers a convenient and cleaner way to purchase fruit and vegetables. What started as a small business eventually grew to become SoFresh Nigeria — a health food chain that employs 150 people across Lagos and Abuja.
Dreamers are fueled by their passions and build disruptive businesses and unique products. Dreamers see the world through exciting lenses and start companies with the help of people who share their vision. Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Martha Stewart are examples of entrepreneurs who went out to achieve the big dreams they had for their businesses.
If you examine the story of every Endeavor Entrepreneur, it starts with a mission to solve a big but simple problem. In 2016, Endeavor Entrepreneur Etop Ikpe co-founded Cars45 to address the fragmented used car market in Nigeria. He dreamt of creating a process that would allow used cars to be inspected and sold in a secure, quick and transparent manner. Since the company’s arrival in Nigeria’s automotive industry, it raised a $5 million Series A round and expanded into Ghana and Kenya.
Invest in human capital
Hiring the best talent is an almost guaranteed way to take your business from startup to scaleup. High-impact entrepreneurs need to work with people who are equally as determined to use innovation to drive economic growth, reinvest in their communities, create wealth and build products and services that matter. The journey to becoming a high-impact scaleup will have its difficult moments and will require CEOs and founders to set high expectations for their team members. It’s vital to hire highly motivated go-getters who are dedicated to their roles and aligned with your business’ core values, mission and vision. This will often mean not only recruiting the right talent, but also investing in your people for them to develop and grow with the business.
Treat your business like a scaleup business from the beginning
Most SMEs tend to start out with quite informal processes. Small business owners confess to not keeping detailed records, tracking their numbers, and treating company funds like a personal account. When these companies want to grow, they often find it difficult to audit their business or curtail these behaviours which have become company culture. The lack of formal data collection usually has a negative impact on these businesses as they are unable to track consumer behaviour to improve their strategies.
SMEs, no matter the size or industry, must endeavour to treat their businesses like startups from inception. It means they must start to document their processes, put policies in place, track their expenses, and implement a formal salary scale for all team members, including the founders. Knowing your numbers and data points makes your business more attractive to potential investors and automating your processes enables you to scale quicker.
Reinvest and inspire
High-impact businesses understand the power of laying strong foundations that their peers and like-minded entrepreneurs can build upon. At Endeavor, we encourage entrepreneurs to support their ecosystems by creating jobs, generating revenue and attracting innovators to their communities. Since launching Paga to promote financial inclusion in Nigeria, Endeavor Entrepreneurs Tayo Oviosu and Jay Alabraba have empowered nearly 25,000 agents and business owners to process digital payments, and amassed over 15 million customers who use the platform to send and receive money — with a reported $2 billion worth of transactions in 2019.
Small business owners who desire to reinvest and inspire the next generation of dreams and innovators, must be committed to creating value not just within their communities but in the broader ecosystem. The larger you grow your business, the more lives you impact, the more wealth you create not only for yourself but for your team, and the more likely you are to inspire another person’s entrepreneurial journey. Many founders within the tech ecosystem today are alumni of prominent companies.
Despite the negative growth projections made by the International Money Fund concerning Nigeria’s economy in the wake of COVID-19, now more than ever founders must continue to dream big, take more risks and utilise available tools and resources to scale their businesses.
Contributed by Koromone Koroye