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SMEs And 2021 Targets, Hopes

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The year 2020, we all know, was a tough one, especially for operators of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) whose efforts were good though, but not enough to break the barriers set by natural and man-made occurrences like the COVID-19 pandemic and EndSARS protests, among others.
Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. Buoyed by this saying, many innovative companies shifted their businesses to e-commerce in a bid to break through. Some others shut down completely, waiting for the time when people would be free to open their shops and offices to customers.
Although the year has gone with its challenges, The Tide senior correspondent, Lilian Peters, when to town to feel the pulse of some entrepreneurs on what 2021 holds for the SMEs. Below is their responses.
Managing Director of  A.M.C Global, Mr. Tony Onwubiko, who deals on wholesale oil lubricants and parts in Igwuruta said, “My business in 2020 was beyond description. There was total restriction, no import, no export or inter state trade. It was terrible. And of course, this led to my inability to meet my 2020 economic target and even my family financial needs.
Onwubiko expressed optimism that 2021 would be better, saying that he decided to push ahead since his responsibilities as a man increase on daily basis, not minding the circumstances surrounding him as an entrepreneur
He said there was the need for the three tiers of government to assist entrepreneurs in the country.
“During the Coronavirus pandemic (first phase), most SME operators used their capital to keep body and soul together which was not even enough anyway.
“Most entrepreneurs cannot afford the capital requirements of their businesses. I heard and read on pages of newspapers about government and politicians’ palliatives, but majority of Nigerians didn’t receive or get anything. Please, our government should make credit facilities accessible to entrepreneurs.
“Personally, I have found it very difficult to restart my business and bring it back to the level it was before COVID-19. We truly need government assistance now”, he said.
Onwubiko stated that multiple steams of income had always been an answer to business sustainability which, according to him, also falls back to starting capital.
”As for me, I have decided to diversify my business in 2021 by being involved in e-commerce and multi-level marketing which COVID-19 can’t affect. Although the capital to start is still giving me headache but where there is a will, there is always a way”, Onwubiko said.

In the same vein, the Chief Executive Officer, Alpha & Omega Oil & Gas Resources Int’L Ltd, Tamara Richard, said 2020 was indeed a very challenging year for her business.
“The year came with the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the harsh economic situation in Nigeria.
This, she said, brought untold hardships to many business owners.
According to her, “The business terrain in Nigeria was adversely affected by quite a number of factors besides the pandemic. These range from lack of business fund to hyper inflation, poor electricity supply, bad government policies that hamper the smooth flow of goods and services within and across borders.
“I have set some skeletal goals in one or two areas I intend venturing into this year, though not encompassing, because I planned to be very intense in one or two chosen paths. I will visit the goals again to make them clearer and achievable”.
Richard said she was driven by passion and strong instinct to succeed, saying “the setbacks and challenges cannot deter me because I target becoming a phenomenal woman in the business world, obstacles and difficulties, notwithstanding.
“Government should encourage SMEs with good enabling business environment devoid of security challenges. The leaders should also create checks and balance security operations, provide infrastructural facilities, organise business empowerment seminars, give soft loans and grants to financially empower entrepreneurs.
It (government) should review SME operational policies from time to time to measure the workability of such policies to see if they produce the expected result”.
Richard, who described herself as an advocate of diversification said, “I am not only encouraging multiple streams of income, but I am diving into it. Creating multiple streams to me, is the crux of economic stability and sustainability. With the recent happenings in Nigeria and the world at large, it is evidently clear that one stream would not survive any SME”.
To the Chief Executive Officer of Olu P Creative Home, Mrs Oluchi Peter, “My business in 2020 was not that successful  because of the pandemic and lack of finance, coupled with other issues in the country”.
Mrs Peter said SMEs seriously suffered setbacks last year, leading to the closure of some businesses that could not manage the situation.
“The New Year comes with new zeal and hope which propelled me to list out my targets as well as drawing the plans on how to achieve success in 2021. The best thing to do is to critically look at the area I did not do well and what went wrong. This analysis is what has helped me in drawing my New Year resolutions.
“Most of the SMEs face financial setbacks and lack of publicity. I think that government should create a platform that would be able to make loan available for enterprises and also create publicity for us.
Peter, who deals on wholesale and retail lace materials, also noted that gone are the days when SMEs depended on single source of income.
“Mutilple streams of income is where survival is, especially in the harsh economic situation in Nigeria. An individual needs to have different sources of income just in case one fails; he or she will still be financially stable and can live comfortably.
“One of my major plans for the year is to launch fully into e-commerce and explore the benefits provided by the use of the internet to grow my business in 2021”, he said.

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SMEDAN Disburses N4.6m Grant To Akwa Ibom Cooperatives

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The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) disbursed grants totalling N4,620,000 to 16 cooperatives in Akwa Ibom State on Saturday.
Each of the cooperatives received N288,750 together with certification of training in agribusiness development.
The distribution of the grants held at the close of an Agribusiness Development and Empowerment Programme for selected cooperative societies, self-help groups, trade associations and organisations held by SMEDAN.
South-South Zonal Director of SMEDAN, Mr Egbuna Ilona, who represented the Director-General, Dr Dikko Umar, said the programme was to foster emergence of new businesses among youths and women.
He said the training was to ensure speedy and healthy competition among entrepreneurs and to encourage diversification of the economy away from oil and gas.
“The objectives of this training include to encourage the target beneficiaries to embrace agribusiness development as a viable business option and to strengthen entrepreneurship skills of potential and existing beneficiaries of agribusiness development schemes.
“It is also to facilitate networking and exchanges among beneficiary farmers and their peers for value addition and inclusive value chain development.
“Consequently, as part of our engagement here, 16 agribusiness cooperatives from this intervention are from Eket and Uyo,’’ Ilona said.
In her remarks, the Cooperative Officer in Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Rural Development and Cooperatives, Mrs Iniobong Akpan, commended SMEDAN for its timely support for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the state.
She represented the commissioner, Mrs Enobong Mbobo, at the occasion.
Mrs Akpan advised the beneficiary cooperatives to use the grants diligently to generate further incomes.
“I must say that I am pleased with what Federal Government has done through SMEDAN today.
“This money being given today as grant will help you go a long way if you make proper use of it. Don’t divert the money meant for business to pleasure,’’ she said.
In her remarks, the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Welfare, Mrs Ini Adiakpan, also warned the beneficiaries against mismanagement of the funds.
She advised that the grant should be invested in income-generating ventures.

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Managing Business Risks Amidst Challenges

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Risk management has always been an important issue in starting or running any business. 
Most times the economic situation of the business environment plays a major   role in determining the level of risk. Risk can destroy a business suddenly in the absence of risks management strategies to prevent, or  mitigate the damage from that risk.
The Tide Senior Correspondent, Lilian Peters moved to the business community to feel the pulse of entrepreneurs on how to contain with the many risks involved in running a business, as there are External and Internal risks.
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The Principal Officer of Puregold and Puregrace Ltd,  Madam Helen  Ibeanu said, “a business risk is the resultant effect of action or inaction that stifles the growth of a business or organisation which leads to the liquidation of same”.
Ibeanu who is also the  chief consultant of Ubaku farms identified different types of risks which should be guarded against to ensure the continuation of the business.
“We have, ‘Recruitional process risk’,  compromising the recruitment process. ‘Security risk’, which has to do with subversion of the best practices in security and ‘Operational risk’, that concerns itself with the day to day policies and process of running the business. This can make or mar the vision and mission of the business.
“There is also, ‘Financial risk’, which deals with accounting & investment and ‘Reputational risks’, that has to do with the integrity of a business entity”, she said
She noted the need for  business operations to be run  professionally, saying, “Consultants should be used to help in implementation and assessment. There are various softwares now that can help manage a business.
“Companies also should employ risk  management personnel. This helps in the management,  especially financial risks that can be undertaken, she said.
She also noted that, “one cannot totally prevent business risks but can eradicate it. Risks can also be healthy too. It can help in building experience and growth.
“Entrepreneurs contribute majorly to risks because they are decision makers and are in a position to hold everyone accountable. To minimise the risks they should be interested in training,retraining and appraisals.
“I have been in business for over 20 years. We have experienced lot’s of risks.
“Recruitment of efficient staff has helped. Supervision has also helped to minimise risk but more importantly, effective accounting system has been the saving grace most of the time”.

To the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of   EMELIKE UKAZU LTD, a business development consultant, business risks are factors that expose businesses to danger, loss or unfortunate consequences.
The CEO identified five common types of business risks; “Strategic Risk. Even with a well thought out plan, a company’s  strategy can become less effective. Operational risk. This is day to day exigencies/demands  arising from daily routines.
“Financial Risk.  There are always possibilities of financial losses from short fall in revenue, sales, competitors eroding your clientele base. 
“Reputational Risk. This has to do with business relationships being built  on trust/ reputation and breach may result in a run down of the business. Compliance Risk.  Every business must endeavor to comply with the industry laws, government laws and regulations that are applicable to their line of business
Ukazu noted that the the first step towards preventing business failure from the risk is to identify the risk, “for a risk like strategic, you need constant and never ending improvement. A constant review of the effect of these risks are necessary.
“The risk factors cannot be eradicated. It can only be managed. Entrepreneurs do contribute to the risks. Some have limited knowledge of the business environment they operate in, some depend on the knowledge that worked once and don’t care about improvement. Like I said earlier constant and never ending improvement is the key”.
The CEO noted that he has been in his line of business for more  than six years now, adding, “risks are part of every business life and mine is not exempted. To manage business risks, one had to be involved in Training/Studying and always look out  for alternatives/improvements.

By: Lilian Peters

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SMEDAN Introduces Entrepreneurship As Primary, Secondary Schools Subject

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The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) began a capacity building workshop on entrepreneurship for primary and secondary schools teachers in Bayelsa on Wednesday.
Its South-South Coordinator, Mr Egbuna Iloba, said the agency was introducing  entrepreneurship to primary and secondary schools across Nigeria under the National Schools Entrepreneurship Programme known as “Mind Shift’’.
He represented SMEDAN’s Director-General, Dr Dikko Radda, at the opening of the workshop.
Iloba said that the agency was collaborating with states’ Ministries of Education to prepare teachers to teach entrepreneurship as a subject.
He said inculcating entrepreneurship into schools curricula from the basic level was fundamental to redirecting the mind set of school leavers and graduates from being job seekers to entrepreneurs.
This would enable them to seize available opportunities to solve problems and create jobs, he added.
“Children are expected to unleash their innate wealth-creating potentialities by exploiting opportunities that abound in their respective communities as well as engage themselves in productive economic endeavours while in elementary school.
“What we are doing at this stage is to enhance the capacity of teachers who will in turn prepare pupils and students and convert them into entrepreneurs.
“In addition, after the training, schools are expected to create entrepreneurship clubs and schools enterprises.
“The clubs will compete for laurels at the regional and national levels where cash prizes will be given to the best three schools that will represent the country at global youth entrepreneurship events outside the country in 2022,’’ Iloba said.
In his remarks, Director in charge of Secondary Education in Bayelsa, Rev. Jacob Osusu, urged teachers to take advantage of the opportunity to pioneer the programme and lay a solid foundation for youths.
He represented Mr Gentle Emela, Bayelsa’s Commissioner for Education at the occasion.
Osusu also urged teachers to look beyond the immediate benefit of the workshop to embrace entrepreneurship and propagate same to their pupils and students.
He noted that the benefits of the training were life-long and would also prepare them for retirement life after the classroom.
Mr Tiamiu Ibrahim, a SMEDAN resource person at the workshop explained that the curriculum had 12 modules and was developed by the agency and the state’s Ministry of Education which is expected to take the programme to all schools in the state.
Mrs Lilian Kakiri, a participant and Head Teacher at Ebisam Group of Schools, Yenagoa, applauded the policy for involving private and public schools and hoped that it would contribute to tackling youth unemployment.
Also Mr David Singabelle, a teacher at Government Model School, Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa said the programme was long overdue and would lay a foundation for refocusing the school system beyond issuing certificates.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that 100 teachers drawn from private and public schools in the eight local government areas of Bayelsa are participating in the three-day workshop.

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