Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) Workshop on Business and Entrepreneurship with Paul Swider
By Happy Zirra
The workshop was hosted by the Public Affairs Section of the U.S Embassy Abuja in collaboration with Kaduna State University (KASU) for young people, some of who are members of the YALI Network, to share their challenges as entrepreneurs or small-scale business owners.
Some of the challenges they listed includes: sustainability of business, discouragement as a result of lack of fund and support, risk of quick profit making, poor implementation and lack of access to loan from banks and investors, poor business plan and limited access to means of addressing locals in rural communities on the need for large scale farming and also poor youth involvement in empowerment programs.
A female participant shared her passion for agriculture. She talked about existing opportunities for young people to make gains by tilling the soil, or by using chemicals to produce soap, pomade, and detergent or explore the use of waste for organic manure.
“But again how can we work without support?’ she asked. “We are at a disadvantage because at some point one gets discouraged due to lack of funding. We have Bank of Agriculture, Micro Finance and other government programs [that] is suppose to grant loan to young people who want to start up a farm or a small business, but [these Banks rarely work in our favour].”
Another lady raised the issue of sustainability as a challenge. She said, “I am a business woman who has a printing shop here in Kaduna and [another in Abuja]. How do I sustain the cost, my employees and management as I intend to establish more offices in other parts of the country such as Lagos? For without sustainability, there will be no growth in business.”
Paul Swider responded to her question by saying, “If you have been able to secure two offices it means you are sustainable. What you are after is growth and enlargement of your business? What you need do, is to look at your customer rate, if what you do is in high demand where you are right now, you should open more offices first in same state. Try to run it properly looking at the cost, time, employees and products. If you can manage two offices within a state for a period of time, you can as well relate it to having an office in another state and work on the differences, which by then you are already used to. All you need do is to adjust due to distance.”
On how to tackle to other concerns raised by participants, Paul and Bella, team members of YALI talked about the need to use such workshop opportunities to network and connect with other young people who share similar vision. Paul also pointed out the need for young entrepreneurs to maintain a high level of professionalism in order to attract the right investors. He also advised on how to start small and grow big by through consistency, patience and hard work.