Making Ekiti state economically buoyant with a virile private sector taking over from government as the largest employer of labour is one of the objectives of Entrepreneurs’ Hangout (EHO) designed especially for practicing entrepreneurs, rookie entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs as well as civil servants in the state.
Others include: Seeing successful businesses conceived and birthed through the programme with many millionaires emerging who would be able to tell their success story in relation to EHO’s influence and impact; Government involvement/partnership in a way that helps to scale up and reach more people as well as host captains of industry nationwide as guests on the programme and scaling up EHO to become a programme that will reach other parts of Nigeria.
Explaining what led him to start the programme, the Chief Empowerment Officer, Heritek Support Services Ltd, Pastor Tope Popoola, said when he relocated from Lagos to Ekiti in 2012, one of the first things that struck him was the abject poverty and the lack of drive to change the situation.
“I studied the environment well and came up with some findings. A significant part of the population looks up to government for survival. The paucity of industrial presence means that the largest employer of labour is government, followed by government contractors, a lot of whom don’t’ necessarily reinvest the money in Ekiti. Secondly, people seemed resigned to the status quo. So, when government’s ability to pay wages became an issue, the gravity of the situation was palpable.”
Poised to change the scenario, Popoola who is also Team Lead, Leadership Engagement, Advocacy and Development (LEAD) Initiative in Ado-Ekiti and the Founding Pastor, The Business Church, launched EHO in August 2018 with the first edition holding on Thursday 2nd August 2018. So far, they have held six editions. “The 7th edition took place last week while the 8th will take place first Thursday of March 2019. The turnout has been good, averaging between 80-120 people per edition. We plan to expand the scope to cover more participants,” he explained. He is thrilled by the preponderance of the younger generation of entrepreneurs who attend the programme. “I guess this is because of the platform on which we run most of the publicity, i.e. social media. This actually excites me because we have the opportunity to guide and mentor them before they start making mistakes that could prove very costly in the long run. Participants are largely educated people and the language of instruction is English.”
For now, the programme is run free of charge but according to Popoola, “specialised programmes that are organised based on the identified needs of participants will attract a modest participation fee.”
His vision for Entrepreneurs’ Hangout is that God would use it to grow as well as incubate businesses that will shape the trajectory of economic development in Ekiti state and nationally. “I have a vision to raise through the programme, millionaires who will change the narrative that ‘there is no money in Ekiti’ and who will become instruments of poverty eradication in the state.”