SME 100 Nigeria Empowers 25 Youth Entrepreneurs


By Ferdinand Ekechukwu

Statistical results in Nigeria show that seventy percent of small and medium scale enterprises hardly survive after takeoff. This, according to Charles Odii, the founder and Executive Director of SME 100 Nigeria, is not necessarily as a result of lack of finance, but as a result of lack of moral support and encouragement.

Speaking at a press conference to unveil the SME 100 Nigeria 25 Under 25 Entrepreneurs Awards 2017 in Lagos, recently, Odii noted that some of them just needed someone to complement their initiative and that such moral support helps to boost their confidence, saying that it was required to help reduce the high mortality rate of small businesses in Nigeria.

For the 2017 awards, the finalists will be presented in 25 categories, in fields such as cyber security and technology; fashion; arts, crafts and culture; food; health and skincare; education, as well as energy and sustainability.  Others are media and ICT, photography; music; software and design; event and planning; creative writing and content creation; public relations and advertising.

Explaining the process leading to the selection for the award, Odii stated that the business must be in Nigeria and must be duly registered at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), among other criteria.

He added, “It is important we encourage those who are doing something. For some of these entrepreneurs, this is their first award. Imagine when you say to them, ‘Well done’. The difference between this award and others is that these people are founders, innovators and CEOs of their businesses.”

The process to nominate under-25 entrepreneurs with compelling growth stories and who were making quality impacts on the economy was opened some six months ago by SME 100 Nigeria to members of the public and more than 3,500 entrepreneurs were nominated, out of which 100 nominees were shortlisted. “The Awards Central Working Committee, which has been working tirelessly for the past two weeks, have shortlisted all nominations to the final 100 nominees. We would be sending this list to our board for approval before it is published,” the organisation stated. The number will further be slashed to the final 25 after voting and the winners will be awarded on August 26. The short-listing is based on the impact the entrepreneurs make.

Commending the efforts at rewarding the young entrepreneurs, Odii further observed; “In this actually, everyone is a winner and we trust that the ultimate winner is the Nigerian youth who through this platform and series of events have been made more aware of the options available to him/her and can now be driven to achieve great things.”

The 25 Under 25 Entrepreneurs Awards, in partnership with Diamond Bank is an annual award by SME 100 Nigeria to recognise, celebrate and encourage some of Nigeria’s most innovative entrepreneurs under the age of 25. The goal of the award, according to the organisers of the project, is to stimulate an entrepreneurial culture among the youths. “We identify young people doing phenomenal work across the country, shine the spotlight on them so that all others can see them, and aspire to set up businesses as well.”

Mark Ifashe, Head, Emerging Businesses, Retail Banking, Diamond Bank, said the bank would bring the winners to its platform and provide financial services to them. “It’s time the society began to celebrate entrepreneurs with clear sources of wealth,” Mark said. “The economy is always vibrant when you have government and individuals supporting SMEs. Diamond Bank has a history centred on entrepreneurship and we have a convergence in philosophy with SME 100 Nigeria.”

Mimi Ade Odiachi, CEO of Omar Gardens, who is a board member of SME 100 Nigeria, said she started her business at 24 and wished there was a platform like this then. “At 24 or 25 entrepreneurship is usually a lonely journey. I thought of taking on paid employment several times even as an entrepreneur at that age. So when you see a young person taking on responsibility, you need to commend them,” Odiachi said.

Emeka Oparah, Director of Corporate Affairs at Airtel, said the telecoms firm would support the event. “I think it’s high time we started encouraging people who work hard. The event will give those nominated the visibility. One of the things that are lacking is mentorship and mentor-mentee relationship should not be about money,” Oparah pointed out.