Founder, Seyi Sowunmi, of properguy.com and Motherland Krooks tells us of his decision to move to Nigeria with the opportunity of taking a stab at the entrepreneurship atmosphere after being one of the 1000 entrepreneurs chosen by The Tony Elumelu Foundation. He walks us through his challenges and how being in survival mode caused him to change his mind on the whole entrepreneurship thing.
A week ago marked exactly 7 months since I decided to move to Nigeria, for a chance to take a stab at the new entrepreneurship atmosphere. My move was actually motivated by the opportunity I received from The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TTEEP) as one of the 1000 entrepreneurs selected from the 45,000 plus applicants hoping their business idea will impact the African economy.
The idea responsible for my TTEEP opportunity is online based and content driven, called properguy.com – a platform curated for African men; providing definitive guidelines, resources, products, and events in culture, grooming, entertainment and style. In respect to the experience and knowledge the TTEEP program has given me, doing business in Nigeria (I’m sure in other parts of the continent as well) is beyond your business plan and projections. There are systems and methods one must learn to adapt to in order to carry out simple business necessities.
For example, my team and I wanted to do an outdoor photoshoot with a fitness trainer in Lagos; as part of properguy.com’s campaign to promote fitness in Nigeria, we first went to a public park where we were told to visit the park’s office to pay a fee, or make an arrangement with the security guards in order to get the photoshoot done. We experienced a similar situation at a public beach later that day.
Our budget at the time did not include space fees for public location; simply because I was used to bringing my camera out in New York City at any public place without interruptions. It is imperative to understand that it is not about corruption or under-the-table dealing, it’s just simply the way things are done. It has become a norm to make such arrangements with people surrounding you, whether or not they play a part in your business – from the production crew at an interview to the community boys surrounding your parked car. While attending an event, you hear comments like ‘anything for the boys’ which can be heard 3 to 5 times a day and you can’t really blame them as you are getting your free publicity or security for your parked car. More than a few of these people rely on your ‘anything’ to eat, drink or transport them for the day.
I digress; from making this about Labor laws in Nigeria. As an inspiring business owner and a simple citizen, I have noticed that unstable oil prices, dollar exchange rate and government sanctions on imports motivates Nigeria’s economy. These factors make it difficult to predict monthly business operational cost and personal living expenses.
I started running low on Naira due to the unpredictable flow of income in Nigeria, where my need for survival forced me to entertain the idea of getting a 9 – 5. I played with the thought of getting a creative position with a creative company located in the nicer part of town but acting on that thought would have defeated the sole purpose of moving to Nigeria.
On the other hand I had been exposed to challenges SMME businesses face; to name a few – irregular electricity, unsatisfactory delivery logistics and lack of government assistance for SMMEs.
With that being said, I still think this is the time to take a leap of faith and establish whatever idea you think can fill up the gaps in Nigeria or Africa. With all the challenges we face in Nigeria, there is overwhelming evidence that the economy in Nigeria is currently one of the fastest growing in the world. Foreign investment is at an all time high and there are more private funding opportunities for entrepreneurs in Nigeria now more than ever. Starting a business anywhere is tough but it’s how much you apply yourself and the focus your agendas receive that will carry you through the tough times.
I started properguy.com to impact Africa the way GQ has done for the western world and others. Our mission is to enhance the lifestyle of African men to become better sons, brothers, husbands, fathers and citizens of their community. We are looking to collaborate with anyone that can relate and assist with getting this mission carried out.