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Aisha Babangida’s WENA hosts workshop to build business climate resilience for women

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As part of the ongoing capacity-building initiative designed to proffer practical solutions to the myriad of challenges faced by businesswomen across the country, Women Enterprise Alliance (WENA) organized a workshop with a view to assisting women to with stand the rigour of massive pressure facing small and medium scale businesses (SMEs) in Nigeria.

The workshop tagged “SMEs Stories” has attracted over 200 (Two hundred) SMEs. The event also featured product exhibitions from 50 (fifty) entrepreneurs across various sectors such as agriculture, fashion, and cosmetics, food, beverages, medical, health and wellness, technology, including service providers.  The goal of the workshop involved creating a safe space for entrepreneurs to tell their stories and to get practical solutions to their business challenges from business development experts. The workshop framework included a keynote address, panel sessions, product exhibitions, and BDSP consultations.

The MD/CEO of Women Enterprise Alliance (WENA), Mrs.  Oluwatoyin Matthew gave the opening remarks. She welcomed sponsors, special guests, and entrepreneurs to the event. She explained that WENA is a non-profit organization set up to raise world-class entrepreneurs with a focus on women and youth, providing mentorship, capacity building, and access to finance. She  further maintained that in a bid to address some of the  challenges  faced  by  entrepreneurs like lack of access to market, finance, and business development support services, WENA birthed an Entrepreneurship Development Services Centre with a vision to creating a one-stop shop to nurture start-ups and existing businesses, rendering business development support services to Micro Small and Medium Enterprises and creating an enabling environment for  strategic  partnership and entrepreneurial ecosystem linkages. She urged MSMEs to take advantage of the Centre.

The event featured two-panel sessions. The first panel session was for entrepreneurs who shared their stories and discussed major challenges faced in their entrepreneurial journey. Some of the challenges discussed include; lack of access to funding and support, emotional and mental stress, work and family life balance, lack of access to business   development support services, gender-related issues from the loss of a spouse, and the lack of a support system, etc.

It was an emotional session that had some of the Nentrepreneurs in tears while they shared their stories of the traumas and challenges they faced as women business owners.  They also highlighted strategies and coping mechanisms used in breaking some of the barriers faced in their respective businesses which include equity financing, angel investors, and leveraging on the support of family and friends.

The founder of the Women Enterprise Alliance, Her Excellency Aisha Babangida had some words of encouragement for entrepreneurs. She advised entrepreneurs to identify their niches and face challenges headstrong knowing that there will always be silver linings at the end of the tunnel.

The key objectives of the workshop were:

1. To create a networking hub for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to share their business challenges with professional thought leaders.

2. Address challenges faced by small and medium enterprises. Onsite business clinics for entrepreneurs.

3. To ensure access to market and finance for entrepreneurs

According to SMEDAN, Nigeria has over 38 million small and medium enterprises that account for more than 80% of jobs in Nigeria.

Business formalization and proper record-keeping are critical to business financing. Venture  capitals,   angel   investors,  and   loans  are   sources  of  funds  for businesses.

Discussions  and Observations

According to SMEDAN, Nigeria has over 38 million small and medium enterprises that account for more than 80% of jobs in Nigeria. Business formalization and proper record-keeping are critical to business financing. Venture  capitals,   angel   investors,  and   loans  are   sources  of  funds  for businesses. Internal accountability structure is critical to attracting Investors. Venture capitalists invest in necessities, when a business solves a regional or global problem, Investors will be interested.

But lack of business and financial management skills impedes business growth. Small businesses are engines of growth globally. Corporate governance system is essential for business financing. Moratorium, loan tenure, interest rate, and repayment terms should be considered when accessing loans from financial institutions. SMEDAN is committed to supporting small businesses in Nigeria.

According to the study at UC Berkeley reveals that 72% of Entrepreneurs live with one form of mental depression. Market research is a fundamental tool for capturing the  new  market and exploring existing ones. Market Research is important for business sustainability. Enterprises without organizational structure usually do not maximize potential and profit.

RECOMMENDATIONS

At the end of the workshop, entrepreneurs were encourage to plan for risks and identify mitigation measures, design thinking and innovations which will help businesses grow and scale up, hence entrepreneurs need to be more innovative. There is a need for entrepreneurs to properly identify their value propositions and customer segment in order to serve their total available market. Entrepreneurs should leverage technology for access to market. An understanding of the target market and the serviceable obtainable market are essential for market segmentation and development. Entrepreneurs need to take their mental health seriously and understand their mental thresholds.

It is pertinent for entrepreneurs to know the type of financing best suited for their businesses. It is important for SMEs to seek mentorship. Entrepreneurs need to be equipped with Business Model Canvas for their businesses. Business formalization is key to accessing finance. Entrepreneurs need to create a pitch for their businesses.

Grants, partner financing, and crowdfunding are good funding strategies for businesses. Entrepreneurs need to carry out feasibility studies and market research to ensure that the business is suited to their environment.

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