Incubating the Incubator: What I Learned Working with our Nigerian Entrepreneurs

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As an end-to-end catalyst of youth entrepreneurship, Generation Enterprise engages across the development value chain, from training to financing to mentoring to resourcing (marketing, legal and other services) to connecting (with industry supply chains). We acknowledge that we cannot be experts in each area; our core competency is in the orchestration of this process: providing the links, engaging the community and commercial partners, and shepherding entrepreneurs along their growth path. It’s challenging work, but we’ve demonstrated our impact through jobs created, incomes generated, and outlook of our participants (per annual surveys).

After spending the month of July working with our team and our Fellows (the entrepreneur graduates of our programs), I’d like to share some of our progress and a few highlights.

Innovative Financing: Many of the businesses with whom I met face a similar problem: capital-accumulation.  The high cost of being part of the formal economy along with the overhead (e.g. having one’s own generator given unreliable electricity) render it challenging for businesses seeking to cross the micro to SME chasm.  At a certain scale it works out, but achieving that level is difficult without significant financing, which is also lacking for this segment of businesses given the perceived risks, informality, and lack of legal recourse.  We face that challenge with our own businesses, and have designed an innovative financial arrangement to manage the risks while providing the required capital to Omozuapo Cement.  Specifically, in addition to a 1yr term loan, for generally inventory needs, GEN has created a LOC (Line of Credit) along with an agreement to wire funds directly to the cement dealer for large, discrete customer orders.  Capital is only deployed as needed, customers are happy with the quick turn-around, and cash is returned to GEN within 48 hours.

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Ongoing Apprenticeship: A common refrain in Lagos is the need for skilled labor.  GEN continues to address this gap through direct mentorship and partnership with capacity-building orgs like LEAP Africa. We also spoke with many business and political leaders regarding needs in their industries and communities. An area of promise is industry-focused-programs that partner GEN’s comprehensive entrepreneurship system with the vocational training and supply chain connections that existing companies and/or associations have in place. Stay tuned for updates in the next quarter.

Leveraging Partners: One example of a productive partnership is Golden Value Fisheries and the Nigeria Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research, whose research arm incubated a fish-processing pilot with Golden Value, which has now launched as a premium dried fish product.  These kinds of ventures, whether with public bodies or established corporations, have the potential to yield more innovative businesses, while providing a preexisting partner for inputs, R&D, or sales.

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On the Team Updates front, there was much progress made, as the organization evolves from primarily training to both training and scaling businesses.  We developed a number of systems and resources to ensure a smooth transition for members of the team that are evolving from BDO to PE roles, the latter of which requires strengths in market research, basic financial modeling, and operations design.  In parallel, we are looking for two intrepid professionals with 4yrs work experience and a passion for entrepreneurship + development to join our ranks as Operational Director and Portfolio Director, respectively.  If you know of any interested stars, we welcome the referral.

And now, the fun begins: GEN will be engaging in an intensive fund-raising campaign over the next several months.  It will be a great opportunity to tell our story and get to know a lot of new folk and their own interests in economic development.  We’re developing a number of tools to make it intuitive and fun, for those who’d like to engage in outreach.  We also need designers, videographers, writers, and social butterflies, so whatever your preference may be, we have a place for you!  Reach out if you have some time and want to make a difference.

Cheers,

Michael

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