How Young Female Entrepreneurs are Changing Nigeria’s Business Landscape

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Joycee Awojoodu 

Adeshola Komolafe

An encouraging trend in the Nigerian business sector is the influx of young female entrepreneurs; defying all odds, these women are making a living and a name for themselves in the business world. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, women own 30 percent of registered entrepreneurial businesses in Nigeria, and according to a survey by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 41 percent of business start-ups are run by women.

A graduate of Economics, Joycee Awojoodu is one of such women. From a young age, Joycee acquired the nickname of Ms. CEO because of her many business ideas, start-ups and ability to monetize opportunities. Despite her zeal and interest to start up her own business, Joycee was savvy enough to know the importance of experience. She took up jobs, sometimes as a volunteer, in the private and public sectors to gain experience before starting her own business. Having acquired the necessary experience, Joycee Awojoodu launched her own enterprise, the ORÍKÌ Group, in January 2015.

ORÍKÌ cuts across different sectors – manufacturing, retail and personal grooming/beauty. “ORÍKÌ Group is a leading luxury all-natural personal grooming brand that fuses botanical ingredients with scientific research to create innovative, extraordinary products for women and men.” The company’s nature based products is its selling point.

Ms. CEO Joycee is aware of the changing times and of the increasing care consumers have about the ingredients in what they eat or drink, and products they use on their skin. Her target clients are consumers who are conscious and interested in natural methods of skin care. Many people are not very informed on natural skin care and its advantages; part of the appeal of the ORÍKÌ Group is the education and information it offers to the consumers on the best natural skincare products. “We believe that our consumers deserve the best,” says CEO Joycee, “and most importantly, we believe they deserve natural skincare that works.”

The ORÍKÌ Group even has a spa, the ORÍKÌ spa. There is also a Men’s Grooming Parlour and Hallo Hair Clinic, all housed at the ORÍKÌ headquarters.

The success of the company lies in its founder’s hands-on approach. To run her business, Joycee Awojoodu has to wear many hats. She is the Chief Financial Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, Chief Information Officer and more. She supervises all the competent hands she employed as department heads for critical facets of the business.

It is not all rosy testimony for CEO Joycee Awojoodu and ORÍKÌ Group. Despite its success, the company is still weathering its own storms. Being an entrepreneur and running a business, especially in Nigeria has its difficulties and challenges. Nigeria currently stands 170 out of 189 in the World Bank’s ease of doing business ranking. Power supply is one of the greatest factors entrepreneurs like CEO Joycee have to combat. To run a company—especially one with a manufacturing division— mainly on electricity powered by generators is highly capital intensive.

From the onset, Joycee’s intention was to manufacture all 32 products in the ORÍKÌ range in Nigeria, but the power supply problem and absence of an existing operational factory specific for the company’s needs forced the company to manufacture a portion of the products outside of Nigeria. Another challenge is the promotion of proudly African products. “We have a long way to come in consumers accepting products that are not spearheaded abroad.” Says Joycee. “This challenge has also been a great opportunity for us as the team works daily to promote the ORÍKÌ brand.”

Another problem facing female entrepreneurs is the issue of gender inequality, which places women in business at a disadvantage. It seems however, that the biggest problem facing female entrepreneurs in Nigeria is the difficulty of doing business in the country, a problem which behoves the government to tackle.

Awojoodu rightly believes that the Nigerian government should enact policies that will assist would-be entrepreneurs to acquire the capital they need to get started. A pool of federally guaranteed loans should be established as well as increase of grant schemes. She asserts that a country’s tax code is one of the best tools it has for promoting small-business growth, and as such, the government should create the proper tax and regulatory environment.

She also says that the government needs to protect Intellectual Property. According to her, any government that wants to encourage small businesses would have to produce laws that protect the innovations of entrepreneurs. “Innovation is at the very heart of small-business growth,” she says, “but if innovations are not legally protected, entrepreneurs will be unlikely to engage in the risks necessary to invent new solutions to societal problems.” Accordingly, policies that protect patents, copyrights, and trademarks are critical if small businesses are to flourish.

Because support and mentoring is critical for start-ups and young entrepreneurs, CEO Joycee advices that government and other stakeholders should initiate platforms that will tutor people on entrepreneurship. This can be achieved through business incubators, workshops and creating linkages between successful business leaders and budding entrepreneurs. She encourages young entrepreneurs to take advantage of these platforms. “It is critical for the young entrepreneur to engage in personal development programs, attend career seminars and conferences and also try to acquire skills. It is beneficial for one to volunteer in an environment they would love to work in, thereby gaining experience.”

The ORÍKÌ Group is a success and it’s bound to be more so because of its understanding of customer retention. “In today’s tough economic climate, says the CEO, the businesses that survive will be those that can create and retain a loyal customer base.”