Opinion: Ignore the Lies. Anybody can be an entrepreneur

by Oludami

On the night of 18th March 2017, I published a series of what I prefer calling rants on Facebook about getting jobs and doing business, and I was obviously leaning more towards the business part.

As a business person myself, it’s just natural to be biased for business, but that wasn’t the major reason I published those unplanned rants. I gave my reason later that night on Facebook when it seemed that I was in the midst of a lot of controversies.

While many commenters agreed with my posts, some other people called me out on Facebook, saying most of the things I wrote were either wrong or delivered wrongly – perhaps I should have been more polite or diplomatic.

One common objection I however strongly disagree with is the idea that not everybody can be an entrepreneur.

I’d have agreed if they said not everybody will be/want to be an entrepreneur; yes, that’s a truth. But that’s just because most people don’t think they can be entrepreneurs. Saying “not everyone can” is not just very wrong, but very misleading.

By experience and research, I’ve found that anybody can be an entrepreneur, and everybody should be. All it takes is the willingness to do the work required. Yes, I know it’s not as easy as it sounds, but that’s all it takes.

Firstly, it should be no longer news by now that truly wealthy people are those that have multiple sources of income. Anyone relying on just one source is running a very big risk, especially if that one stream is a job.

This is why many people commit or attempt to commit suicide when they get laid off at work, especially when they’ve worked so many years and are no longer far from the top of the ladder.

You should at least try to start building something on the side, even if you can’t leave your job to leap fully into entrepreneurship. Countless people already do this, especially those who have enough extra time, like civil servants.

One other common phenomenon is; by the time people retire here in Nigeria, especially women, they go into their own businesses, even if it’s just opening a shop and selling provisions. Those who retire from well-paid establishments and multinationals tend to start more capital intensive and highly lucrative businesses. Think importation, real estate, retail, etc.

The question is: why do people start their own businesses after retiring from paid employment or after being laid off?

You can argue that they’re able to put down the capital necessary to start a business by that time, or that they now have no other choice than doing business – since they’re almost unemployable at that stage, and even if they are, they might not be able to stay long enough to reach the top of their new careers.

Those look like valid reasons, but I’ll say the reason is that entrepreneurship is an inherent trait of man. Doing business after leaving paid employment (willingly or not) is just proof that anybody can be an entrepreneur, even if they need to be pushed to the wall to do it.

This is also evident in the Nigeria of today.

Over the past few years, there has been a huge rise in the number of people that do small businesses in Nigeria. It’s now common to see university graduates doing businesses they wouldn’t have imagined themselves doing as a graduate 10 years ago.

In the not-so-distant past, hairdressing and tailoring, for example, were seen by Nigerians as trades done by school-cert leavers – people who couldn’t go to higher institutions.

In those days, youths leaving secondary school had two choices: go to school or learn a trade. Nobody, especially if your parents can afford to further your education, would intentionally choose the latter.

Now, however, the story has changed. The narrative is now: go to school and learn a trade!

The reason isn’t farfetched: the high rate of unemployment in Nigeria, which is one of the reasons I was ranting on FB by the way.

It’s just very unfortunate that people have to wait till they can’t find a job or until they get laid off or until they retire before they begin to consider entrepreneurship – when it’s already in them.

How’s entrepreneurship already in everyone? You might ask.

In ancient times, before civilisation and government-trying-to-make-life-better came around, our forefathers survived on bartering. There was no money in the literal sense of it.

I’m a farmer, you’re a blacksmith. When you need cutlass and hoe to work on your farm, you approach me with tubers of yam and palm kernel to feed my family. We exchange our products. Win-win.

Or a more complex situation, I’ll give you a stone axe if you help me kill a mammoth. Product exchanged for service.

To acquire farming or blacksmith skill, you either learn from your father (family business), or you become an apprentice under someone else, after which you can confidently have your own business – and also gain higher bartering power.

No schools. No big corporations. No government allawee. No grants from NGOs and multinationals. No banks to loan you a kobo.

If you work for me on my farm, you get some yams at harvest – nothing more! If you want something else, you find someone you’d exchange your yam with. That in itself would involve market research (find who needs yam), a great deal of negotiation, and some patience – skills that are entrepreneurial in nature.

Unfortunately, these natural human traits of work and harvest or having products/services to batter with have been killed by the desire for an “easier life”. Now, world population has blown and the “powers that be” can’t get the “easier life” to go round anymore. Hence, people “bartering” their time, energy, skills, and more, for a tiny fraction of their worth instead.

Entrepreneurship is the obvious way out.

Here’s how I put my reason on Facebook:

Nigeria is officially in recession. (Like that one is news!) The GDP contracted by 2.06% in 2nd Quarter of 2016 alone. (I bet it’s worse now.)

Nigeria’s unemployment rate was recorded at 13.3% in the same Q2 2016, and that’s the highest recorded since 2009.

Has it gotten better 2017? It’s worse bruh!

What do you see here? (And please don’t get me started on government and corruption!)

Entrepreneurship is the obvious solution to Nigeria’s problems.

For those who think not everyone can be entrepreneurs, forget that big English name it bears, and see a very basic example of how someone close started business (not as basic as barter, though).

While my wife was still my fiancée, she travelled to Lagos one day for a job interview. As usual, things weren’t looking positive.

The next day, instead of waking and heading straight back to Ibadan, she withdrew her last kobo – everything less than 8k – and went into the Idumota market to buy accessories and “costume” – as she calls them.

On getting to Ibadan, she started telling her friends and social media contacts – and everyone that cared to listen – that she was into selling accessories and costumes. She snapped some of her merchandise and uploaded on her social media, especially BBM. She also took her goods along EVERYWHERE she went, even church.

Gradually, she started selling and delivering to buyers.

In about 2 weeks, she was going back to Idumota. She already sold almost everything she bought and had already made back over 100% of her capital, even after deducting transportation and other logistics.

Needless to say, she bought more than before. Her business started expanding. She started adding other things like slippers and sandals, wrist watches, etc.

She also started getting smarter; started finding where to source her goods for less, and started having loyal, repeat customers – those she called first as soon as she landed with new items.

With time, she started having enough extra money. She stopped disturbing her parents or even me for basic needs like airtime, transportation, pocket money, etc.

Beyond that, there are few ladies I know that she taught same business model, and are all doing fine by now. It’s a lot of work, but better than slaving your time away for little to nothing.

She, however, had to slow down because of pregnancy and childbirth. I’m sure she would have had her own fashion shop by now if she didn’t slow down. She’s now a professional makeup artist and also now sources some of her goods for sale through importation – and every little opportunity she finds to reach Idumota.

We’d been dating for 6 years before then, and I always prayed to God to change her “I must get a good job” mentality. I never knew she had that much entrepreneurship fire in her.

This is just a very basic example – buying and selling for profit. And trust me; the biggest entrepreneurship skill you can acquire is selling.

There are countless simpler and more complex examples of entrepreneurship, but you get my gist: You can – and should – be an entrepreneur. Anybody can!

How hard you find entrepreneurship depends on the path you choose.

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Oludami is a freelance copywriter and certified digital marketing professional (CDMP). He helps to build brands by leveraging on the various digital platforms available. Catch him on Twitter @TheOludami or visit RenegadeCommerce.com

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