Resilience: Doing her business with her full chest

By Angelica Uwaezuoke and Ogechi Nwonye (on behalf of the Resilient Young Entrepreneurs Network, Enugu, Nigeria)

Image: Environmental entrepreneur, Ogechi Nwonye, with other environmentalists at the unveiling of waste recycling fabricated bins at Unity Park, Enugu, Nigeria. The bins help to curtail the incessant littering of waste around the park and to encourage a clean and green environment.

With about 83 million Nigerians living below the poverty line and the youths contributing to a large percentage of the nation’s workforce, it is no surprise that many young Nigerians are embracing income diversification as a means of keeping body and soul together. In 2019, Statista ranked Nigeria 131st out of 190 countries for ease of doing business and this assessment was based on countries with business-friendly regulations.

For most Nigerians, entrepreneurship was either born out of the need to fill a void in the opportunity market or to circumvent unemployment. So, you can imagine our enthusiasm when we received the email that we have been selected to participate in the Resilience Project for young business owners in Enugu state. It soon dawned on us that this was a golden opportunity as business owners to network and discuss our ventures which range from health and fitness, food businesses, photography, fashion designing, waste recycling to blogging.

Entrepreneurship is not all about the glitz and glamour of being your own boss, booking the next available flight to your dream vacation spot or showing up at work whenever you wanted. It is about running to family and friends for money to pay off debts, selling your valuables to raise capital, and sometimes, losing the woman of your dreams because she doesn’t understand why you would resign from your salaried job to ‘mess around’. Of course, the story may not be the same for every entrepreneur but one trait common to all entrepreneurs is a burning desire to grow our business into profitable ventures.

For most of us, it was our first time of being exposed to such a vital and promising platform and we wanted to bare it all. We shared innovative ideas and learned newer and better ways of pushing our brands further. The researchers were very professional in their modus operandi and they encouraged us to talk about all the amazing work that we do in Enugu state. We had various breakout sessions, where we were divided into subgroups to enable more intimate discussions and learning. It was eye-opening for us as we gleaned from the experiences of the experts who were eager to understand our pain points as young entrepreneurs in Enugu state, Nigeria.

The Resilience project has shown that words like laziness, unambitious and fear only exist in the imagination of those who are yet to meet us. During the workshop, we understood that creating value for positive change requires that we as individuals had values comprising of courage, passion, adventure, integrity, support, patience, wealth creation, consistency, etc. What began as a call for research participants has resulted in an avenue for exchange of ideas, workshops, zoom interactions and networking among young entrepreneurs in Enugu who are solving real problems in different capacities.

Ideas can only come to life in an enabling environment. This was emphasized in one of the breakout sessions where we talked about areas where we were performing well and areas that needed some adjustments. Years ago, people laughed at the idea of the internet: an invisible web of information but presently, the internet industry is worth over 2.1 trillion US dollars. That is the power of an idea. However, one unfavourable policy, bad decision or costly mistake is enough to crumble all one has built like a pack of cards. Therefore, we will be pleased to have more workshops and trainings on building effective teams, fundraising, accurate documentation and account keeping, proper ways of approaching grey areas as business owners, etc.

Some of us are boldly carrying on with business, despite the peculiarity of our circumstances as young people living in a resource-poor country, which earned one of the participants the statement of “doing her business with her full chest,” in that she holds nothing back or hesitates to pursue the growth of her business.

We are excited about the next phase of the Resilience Project, our respective businesses and hope that we remain ardent about the sustainability of our projects. We are investing time and resources in exchange for knowledge expansion, capacity building and skills acquisition because we have seen that the entrepreneur must be prepared for anything. On the bright side, beyond the zoom meetings, some of us have made friends with fellow participants and are greatly encouraged by our collective zeal to build sustainable brands. The goal is to win together, right? We believe that someday, we will look back at our days of little beginnings with a great sense of accomplishment.


Written by:

Angelica Uwaezuoke and Ogechi Nwonye (on behalf of the Resilient Young Entrepreneurs Network, Enugu, Nigeria) as part of Brigstow funded Ideas Exchange “Resilience through international networks”.