Blessing Akpan, 1st female MEGP Batch President, diagnoses ailments that kill SMEs

My Entrepreneurship Goal Programme (MEGP) is a platform set up to build business capacity for budding and existing entrepreneurs in Akwa Ibom state. It is the brain child of Governor Udom’s Dakkada clarion call for all Akwa Ibomites to become self-reliant. The Dakkada vision is well-interpreted by the SSA to the Governor on Marketing and branding Mr. Ime Uwa whose office breaks the vision down to the actual needs of entrepreneurs in Akwa Ibom state.
Most entrepreneurs lack the right business structure to enable them succeed in their chosen business, and this limits them from accessing opportunities that can help their business grow, just as the saying goes, “When opportunity meets preparation, success is bound to happen.”

The MEGP is a non-political platform as it focuses on the individual’s growth process. Its target is to grow sustainable businesses across Akwa Ibom state, irrespective of your status, with a direct impact of creating jobs, improving purchasing power of the people and making them self-sufficient and able to cater for their basic human needs.
Entrepreneurs, especially SMEs, are the building blocks of any society, as they have the capacity to create employment opportunities for at least 2 to 5 people. Having more successful entrepreneurs in Akwa Ibom state will create jobs for our people and directly reduce crime rate, hunger and poverty in the land.

I relocated from Lagos to Akwa Ibom state in 2017 in response to the Dakkada’s philosophy that everyone can build Akwa Ibom of his or her dream. As a business consultant, who specializes in creating business models for budding and existing businesses, and has consulted for Nigerian Army Post Exchange (NAPEX) in developing a business model for their over 49 retail stores across the country, and other top clients in different locations of the country, coming to Akwa Ibom opened my eyes to a lot of opportunities. And within a few months of working on my dream of owning a processing plant, I was able to create wealth and build Inyene Agro Processing Factory Ltd that processes Inyene Agro Garri.

I was also given opportunity to consult for Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME), working with 40 SMEs in the state to help them develop a business plan. That was an eye – opener, as it helped me to know that Akwa Ibomites are not lazy people when it comes to business. Rather, they lack knowledge of business structure.
I discovered that a lot of them had what it takes to build a sustainable business that will attract investors, grant them access to financial support from banks and gain international partnership. Unfortunately, they lack proper documents that will make them eligible for such business opportunity.

About 80% of the 40 SMEs I worked with didn’t have a registered business name with CAC and business bank account. They were using their personal account for transactions, which doesn’t give them the advantage of using a corporate account, as no bank will grant business loans on personal account. These SMEs didn’t even know they were to pay themselves as the CEOs (just like an employee) of the business. 90% of them were surprised when I asked them the golden question: “How much do you pay yourself?” Most reaction I got was: “Is it not my business? I can take whatever I want and no one can question me.”

By the time I explained to them why it was essential for them to fix a salary for themselves, rather than ‘stealing from their business,’ they had a better understanding of why their businesses were not growing as expected.
Those 40 SMEs who attended the training with me, particularly on business assessment skills, benefited greatly, as they could identify where the loopholes in their businesses were and also were able to also calculate their unit cost of production, for those into production. Those doing service businesses were also able to improve the quality of their services to match end users need.

In 2020 during the pandemic, I was the consultant that worked with Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and other SME offices in Akwa Ibom state to help register over 500 SMEs in Akwa Ibom state to participate in the COVID 19 Survival fund. Most entrepreneurs were not informed about it and those who were informed didn’t know how to go about it. 50% of existing entrepreneurs missed out of the opportunity as they didn’t have the right requirements for eligibility: CAC, TIN, business financial knowledge. The registration was free for all SMEs in Akwa Ibom state.

Have you ever wondered why whenever it rains in Akwa Ibom, you don’t find tricycles or keke on the road? I asked few of them why they stay away from the road whenever rain falls, their response was: ‘When it rains, we prefer to go home and sleep.’ But they forget that people are stranded most whenever it rains and are desperately looking for a ride home, even at higher charge.

I see a lot of opportunities available in this state but the above attitudinal issues are a major challenge to growth.

Quest News 24

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