As the founding Managing Director & CEO of Endeavor Nigeria, Eloho Omame in a career spanning more than 15 years to date has worked with entrepreneurs, companies and teams across multiple industries, at a range of life-cycle stages. In this captivating interview, the former investment banker and private equity investor not only speaks with poise but with passion as well, on things that are dear to her and at the core of her work – creating a model to educate, empower and lead Africa’s new breed of High Impact Entrepreneurs.
Endeavour On a Mission
Endeavor Nigeria is a mission-driven organization supporting entrepreneurship. We help small and medium scale enterprises particularly in what we like to call the ‘scale-up stage’. It’s a very crucial point for businesses because within the tech ecosystems there’s a lot of support for start-ups at the beginning through seed investments and what not. A company could reportedly get a funding of $3 million dollars from an angel investor and everybody feels like they are doing well but that’s when we come in. We are not an accelerator or an incubator but what we do is to support these businesses with the infrastructure and network to navigate through the scale-up stage.
The economy is full of so many small businesses but only few really have the mindset to take it to the regional and global stage. Drawing from our experience in 40 different markets over the last 20 years, it’s clear that sustainability is the real problem that Nigerian entrepreneurs face.
We’re building a community of high impact entrepreneurs. We’re focused on the market frontiers and helping people within those ecosystems navigate through the process of scaling and growing into something much bigger. Take for instance a business like Paga. I believe Paga could easily be ten times bigger than it already is based on its gross potential and we’re currently working with Tayo Oviosu and the other co-founders to take them to that point.
Paying it Forward
Another thing we are keen on is helping industry leaders who have built and scaled top businesses to invest in smaller businesses and accelerate the local economy. This means we literally help them give back into the ecosystem. This is what we like to describe as ‘paying it forward’. Our targets really are high impact entrepreneurs even though generally we are interested in SMEs across Nigeria.
Now we don’t have any standard numerical criteria for selecting a small business for Endeavor Nigeria but we do have to make sure that the entrepreneur has circumvented the precarious challenges of establishing and scaling their business. Scaling is very important to us because of course, scaling means growth. It’s pretty audacious for small business owners to aspire to build something global or even pan-African. Many times, there’s a fear of failure or a lack of technical know-how and it’s these gaps that Endeavor Nigeria fills.
Leveraging Digital Tools in the Post-Pandemic Era
In my opinion, digital transformation is simply leveraging technology and digital media to perform and deliver faster and more efficiently. It means using simple low-access digital tools, especially in the post pandemic era, to transform customer experience. There are lots of resources, accessible technology and automated features online that can help entrepreneurs create better workflow within their businesses. Many businesses found it tough to adapt during the pandemic. It was generally an eye opener for all of us. That’s why I always advise small business owners to find cost-effective ways to build self-service tools and reduce the long offline process needed to make payments for their products.
I also advise small businesses to always try to meet customer needs essentially, whether through e-books, workshops, portfolios, digital experiences and digital products that facilitate transactions, inform customers and generally increase their efficiency.
Entrepreneurship in Nigeria – The Ups & Downs
My favorite part about the entrepreneurship landscape in Nigeria is that (most) people don’t romanticize the idea of entrepreneurship. It’s more of a necessary means of survival. A lot of Nigerians are eager to play with ideas and try out business ventures. The tech-entrepreneurship space is also one that is very promising and still even attracting foreign investors. I believe according to some recent reports that we have over 37 million SMEs currently in Nigeria. Government policies in recent times have made the entry barrier lower for SMEs and that has also contributed to those numbers.
However, as much as I love the overall entrepreneurial drive, there are still a lot of challenges that have not been addressed enough. One issue that I’m particularly passionate about is empowering and investing in female entrepreneurs. The ecosystem in Nigeria has had a lot of funding in the past few years but reportedly only 10% has been invested in female entrepreneurs. Those numbers need to go up. There is obviously an issue with representation and female entrepreneurs have a lot to offer if they are given the needed support.
Another issue that bears mentioning is access to capital. We need to develop better access to capital for small enterprises across the country. Lack of access to capital is one of the limiting factors for a lot of business owners who have the intention to scale.
The Three Keys of High Impact Entrepreneurship
There are three things to note in order to strive for high impact as an entrepreneur: Think big, scale it up and pay it forward. The journey to becoming a business with high impact isn’t an easy one but we’re there to help you on that journey. Employing and retaining talent, being a fair employer or building and managing an efficient team – these are some of the intricacies on the journey to growing your revenue from zero to million of dollars. But in the first place, entrepreneurs have to think big. There’s a high vulnerability of SMEs in Nigeria. Many are one-man businesses and some have only a few employees. That being said, we believe the focus should be on building the resilience of your business model. In order for many of these businesses to learn how to scale up we think it’s important to showcase the role models within the ecosystem and generate what we like to call the ‘multiplier effect’. By showcasing Nigerian businesses that are already thriving on global frontiers it becomes easier to build a blueprint for others to learn from.
What Does The Future Hold For Endeavor?
Right now I’ll say that we’re focused on being consistent with our mission. We’re reaching more entrepreneurs and helping them on the learning curve towards becoming high impact entrepreneurs. By reaching more people and educating them it increases the multiplier effect we already spoke about. When more businesses are actually scaling and paying it forward it would only help to grow the ecosystem as a whole. Endeavor Nigeria is committed to accelerating the growth of high impact companies within the growth stages and we’ve only been around for a few years but there’s a lot more to come.
Eloho Omame is an Entrepreneur & Investor with a strong desire to help advance Equity, Capital and Wealth for women in Africa through Technology & Entrepreneurship. She is a Co-Founder at FirstCheck Africa, a Founder at Mustard Seeds and a former Managing Director at Endeavor.