SMEs Need Proper Business Education
INIOBONG AKPAN is a successful mediaprenuer and CEO of Media Mall, Eket. He is an inspiring story on starting small and growing big. Years ago, he started providing clientele with high-end graphics and media content for websites from his one bedroom apartment; he saw the future and remained consistent. Today, he runs the biggest all inclusive media company in Eket, with a chain of topnotch clientele.
He has also been involved in manpower development of talents in several media skills, including: scriptwriting, film production, photography, website designs, graphics, content development and print production services. In September 2022, Akpan was vested with the role of providing a holistic media content for Ibom Ignite Conference, held at Ibom Hall, Uyo.
He was also the leader of the monitoring and evaluation team for post event engagement with beneficiaries of the grants given by then Governorship candidate of PDP, Pastor Umo Eno. His discovery during the exercise has necessitated Elder Iniobong Akpan to advocate for business education for local micro businesses. Excerpts by JOY NKERUWEM HANSON
How would you encourage SMEs to profit from this government?
We have a Governor who himself is an entrepreneur, so as entrepreneurs, already we have a place in the Government House. The SMEs community is very much happy and excited that one of us is at the helm of affairs. His Excellency, Pastor Umo Eno, has made his plans for SMEs very clear, as captured in the Arise Agenda.
If you take a look at his vision statement, it says, “A vibrant, inclusive, diversified economy with life-long opportunities that engender improved social welfare conditions and a more broadly-shared prosperity.”
So that vision is directed at the enterprise sector of the economy to fulfill the vision of a highly industrialised Akwa Ibom. So, expect the emergence of a golden era, when small businesses in Akwa Ibom state will have the capacity to grow, and no longer struggling.
so, how will entrepreneurs benefit from this administration? The Governor understands what entrepreneurs are passing through. He knows the pain of businesses, he has been there for 25 years running his own business and he understands the pain.
So, I believe that we will benefit in ways that will help us address our challenges. The major challenge of businesses in Nigeria as a whole is power. His Excellency as the CEO of Royalty Group knows what I’m talking about, he himself can tell how much of his business funds go to power expenditure. I believe that with the license granted Ibom Power Plant to distribute power, the Governor will be able to work with the Federal Government to make it happen.
Also, on business financing, we are very much expectant that this Government through Bank of Industry, will simplify the process of obtaining loans. It has been extremely difficult to obtain loans from commercial banks. I believe the new government will play a greater role in financing through helping facilitate access to funding projects through the Bank of Industry (opening office in Akwa Ibom State).
So far, we are excited about the spontaneous actions of the Governor towards micro businesses. He has been spotted twice, giving out business seeds of fifty thousand naira each to those women. This commendable move towards strengthening enterprise will go a long way to supporting their growth. Micro businesses are not looking for much money. For instance, I gave a loan of one hundred and twenty thousand naira to a lady who promised to refund within a year. She bought a used photocopy machine and ran the business close to a tertiary institution. She was faithfully paying back the money monthly and ended up buying a piece of land to my greatest amazement.
What micro businesses need more is a seed capital; something that will help them commence the business.
Are entrepreneurs ready for what is coming, what advice do you have for them?
Our local entrepreneurs are yet to brace up for what is coming. I was part of Ibom Ignite Monitoring and Evaluation Committee that was set up by His Excellency, then a Governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party. What I witnessed firsthand shows that a lot of those who claim to be doing business are actually joking. You cannot run a business without book-keeping. An entrepreneur is a self-employed person; you are your own enterprise, so you should keep good records of your business transactions.
I started business from my home many years back; I had a proper book-keeping for my business. It was from that record I knew I was making money. If I wasn’t keeping records, I won’t know because the money was coming in small amounts. It was from my records that I discovered then that I was making more money than someone I knew who was working in a bank; that spurred up my confidence in my business.
So to prepare to benefit from this administration, businesses need to have proper book-keeping records in place, because I believe His Excellency is a very systematic person. He likes things done in a systematic manner. So, he will support businesses, but it is not going to be a funfair. It is not going to be something that is just thrown on people; your business’s records are going to be verified. So, if you do not have that now, this is the time to rise up and ensure you put records in place.
While conducting monitoring and evaluation on fisheries and poultry farms, I discovered that there were no records of sales for months. They claimed to have it offhand. No serious business operates that way.
To benefit from this government, the business community can come together in clusters and form some cooperatives. This will help for proper accountability. We need proper business education for SMEs, especially on channeling of funds to achieve set targets. Some people have abused business grants by diverting them to something else.
Why youths do not go into business?
Business success is hinged primarily on one’s passion. So, if you are not passionate about business, don’t venture into it. Some youths see themselves as incapable of succeeding in business, especially when they look at the tough economic situation in the country or met someone who started and failed.
Notwithstanding, the youths need to know that government job opportunities are shrinking and the population of the unemployed persons in increasing daily. As getting jobs become very competitive, the youths will have to turn into business and carve a niche for themselves.
I have coached a lot of people, it is always at the point of starting a business that they find it difficult. Unless you start a business, you may not know the opportunities that are available to you. Our youths need to be encouraged to start a business. This year’s Ibom Ignite will hold around September, the youth should be prepared to leverage the programme to help them start a business.
If you have never thought about doing business in Akwa Ibom State, this is the time because the Governor is one of us and if he has said he will support businesses, he will surely do it. He has already started, so we have a huge opportunity before us.