Today, August 21, 2020 marks the ‘The World Entrepreneur’s Day’ a day set aside across the globe to create awareness for entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership.

In a conversation with Maurice Okon, the Senior Special Assistant on Entrepreneurship Development and CEO Made Studio, he talks about navigating the COVID-19 crisis, and how entrepreneurs should see this as an opportunity to innovate.

Read excerpts of the interview below:

Question 1:

Tells Us about your Journey into entrepreneurship and how it’s been over the years ?

My journey into entrepreneurship started in 2009. I left Federal University of Technology Minna for Calabar to do my Industrial attachment in Ministry of Lands. I was tasked by Paul Odey the president National Association of Cross River State Student , who I handed over to at the time to gather pictures and information of tourism sites in Cross River for Nacrissmagazine. In the process of gathering information for the association magazine I stumbled into Mofi News a Bi quarterly magazine of Ministry of Finance I read an article on Arc BasseyNdem, former Managing director of Tinapa I was inspired by the editorial so I decided to interview him for the Association magazine , I wrote to him and he gave me an appointment I assembled a team consisting of Edmund Richard Effa , Damian Tobi, Glory Oden, my friends and former executives of Nacriss, We drafted questions and went in the company of Dr betta Edu who Damian invited. The interview session went well; Arc BasseyNdem was impressed with our performance. After the interview I said to Damian and Edmund that the interview session was too good for a school magazine so I pitched the idea of starting a tourism magazine .During our brain storming session we noted that print magazine sales was declining due to social media and the internet revolution we decided to form a multimedia company that consist of print, electronic and cyber Media, advertising and a magazine that promotes tourism, culture, entertainment. We made 360 degrees Tourist magazine our flagship product which was launched on the 9th of March 2010.After the launch we produced a tourism Tv program for Nta International. Our magazine was produced during the end of the year and our income was seasonal, in other to diversify our business and earn daily income we decided to open a studio. Made Studio was opened on the 21st of March 2015 we decided against using 360 Studio due to trade mark issues.

Question 2:

What are the main challenges you faced that almost made you turn back.

Running made studio has been challenging in terms of financing, business environment, and the perception of photography in Cross River State. These challenges made us defer on our magazine business in other to focus on keep made studio running since the studio had so much promise. We kept investing in the business in other expand and stay competitive up until 2018. I will say that our journey has been adventurous filled with action, drama and tragedy. I say action to signify our victories and impact we have made , drama to represent the loses, bad deals, theft and learning curve, tragedy in the sense that we loot Damian Ogbudu tobi 19th January 2019. Basically everything bad that can possibly happened has happened but we are still here waxing strong and moving on.

Question 3:

Do you think business space in Cross River state is really encouraging for entrepreneurs?

Every business space has its peculiar challenges and opportunities. The various challenges can be traced to the low purchasing power of the people and the developing business environment. Form my interactions with fellow entrepreneurs,tax issues and low patronage are the recurrent complains. On the tax issue ; asymmetric information is needed in other to build confidence and compliance , asymmetrical taxation policy will also boast compliance and help business thrive , creation of more incentive for business such has the tax break given by His Excellency Senator (Prof) Ben Ayade is needed. Beyond this incentive it essential that stake holders meets to formulate a template that will facilitate ease of doing business in Cross River. An essential characteristic of an entrepreneur is adaptability. Entrepreneur can adapt their business to the market conditions in Cross River. As for low patronage, business owners can design their your product and services to suit their client budget, you can also have packages that target different classes of client. Entrepreneurs can also invest in building a cliental base online this can boast sales. Making sales online, placing product and services on e- platforms or having an online based business is essential for survival and growth in today’s day and age. In this age you need a diverse cliental base that not limited to a particular location or geographic base. For those who are still pessimistic about Calabar business environment, the can use their experience as a learning curve for bigger markets. Cross River State is a developing market, entrepreneurs should think about what Cross River will look like in the next 10 to 20years. They should view their business as selling a new culture, new culture are hard to embrace but when people get a hang of it the live by it.

Question 4:

What are the Basic requirements needed to information about starting a business?

Basically you need an idea; one that you are passionate about. You need a feasibility study to ascertain sustainability and profitability of the business. You need a mentor to guide on how to start a business. The South South Entrepreneurship Development Centre has a 1 week course that enables first-timers learn the basics of entrepreneurship for 10,000 naira only. They also issue participant certificate for the course. That certificate is important because it is part of requirement to secure CBN loan facilities. First timers can also register with Cooperate Affairs Commission CAC for 10,000 to obtain business name certificate that enables them run their business, banks require the CAC certificate to open a cooperate account. Corporate Affairs Commission ( CAC) and Federal Inland Revenue (FIRS) have reached an agreement whereby when a CAC certificate is issued it comes with your Tin number that’s tax identification number ;So with twenty thousand naira you cankill 3 birds with two stones.’ Registering with small and medium scale Development Agency (SMEDAN) online will grant first timers businesssupport information.

Question 5:

In regards to access to fund, what are the opportunites Entrepreneurs /SMEs can take advantage of?

Business can take advantage of the CBN fund for SMEs and Bank of Industry etc , This institutions offer single digit interest loans. There’s also the Tony Emelulu grant.

Question 6:

How can business owners adjust to the new realities occasion by the global pandemic

Every business should have a social media handle, their social media pages should serve a digital store for goods or services , there are also digital platforms that host digital stores online , first timers can also place their products on established platform like Jumia, konga etc, For beginners who don’t not internet savvy can take a digital course on Google skills for Africa;their courses are easy to understand and their ideas are easy to implement.

For entrepreneurs who have brick and mortar stores, it is important they have an online presence because the can sale to customers all over the world. I want to encourage people in art and craft, fashion, services, that there are massive opportunities on social media and online plafroms. There stand a chance to boast their earnings even in foreign currency. I want encourage young people to put their phones to use by photographing or recording their products to sell online

Question 7:

The pandemic has promoted tremendous growth in the use of digital service delivery and E-commerce. In your view, what are the long term opportunities that you see emerging from the new normal created by the pandemic?

In my opinion, entrepreneurship and internet access is a fundamental human right this needs to be domesticated in Nigeria for her citizens, especially those in the rural area.. It is true not everyone will be a business person but everyone has to have a business mindset. If everyone in Nigeria is empoweredwith skills and internet access this will facilitate wealth creation and the economy my will grow. As of January 2020 e -commerce transaction in Nigeria was estimated to be at 12 billion dollars and projected to reach 75 billion dollars by 2025.I implore entrepreneurs to believe more in themselves and take advantage of the brick and mortar (physical store) businessestransitioning online innovate them and render those services online. I refer to those business ideas as transitionalopportunities. Take for instance you don’t need to have a brick and mortar office to design business logos, advert and profile for companies. You just need your laptop, internet access and Photoshop skills. You don’t necessary need a restaurant to deliver food to clients; you can cook at the comfort of your kitchen, display your menu online and get a logistics company deliver your orders. Since more brick and mortal are try to establish their print online there opportunities for digital shops platforms especially specialize or sectoral ones, PR and online marketing services crypto currency platforms, etc . Basically brick and mortar business can be digitalized for ease of access and efficient service delivery. Some brick and mortar business that refuse to have an online presence will die a slow death. Inthis age business positioning , online presence marketing , soft skills and efficient service delivery online are essential for success; you can get patronage from anywhere in the world as far you are online. Entrepreneurs need to prepare for the fourth industrialization.

Question 8:

Projections for business post covid 19?

Although business has been damage due to the impact of covid19, business are likely to rebound with the ease of lockdown, government stimulus and increase in consumer confidence. There never been a better time to start business than now. Covid19 also gives world leaders the opportunity to put in place a new economic system place that will guarantee universal health care , Improve terms of trade, facilitate universal basic income and create inclusive society for everyone.

Question 9:

Who are your mentors and Do you have mentor young people?

Richard Branson, Bill Gate, Warren Buffet, Tonye Cole andMichael Williams . Yes I do mentor young people have used my platform to train young people as leaders. I don’t have staffs, I have leaders. I try to encourage young people to exploit and refine their potentials.

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