What I leant in 2015

Five ways Africa can become a global force in farming.
2016 Update

What I leant in 2015

I’ve being thinking about what my first blog post should be, I’ve started writing and then I stop because I just wasn’t feeling it. Then I come across the caption below on twitter and then I get inspired…I hope you enjoy reading it because I gave it a lot of thought 🙂

It is true that there is no formula to be an entrepreneur, I’ve met all kinds of entrepreneurs who have achieved different levels of success in different ways, some have inspired me and some have well…God bless our hustle sha….

Grit: Defined as courage and resolve; strength of character. Listen if you are an entrepreneur in this my great country Nigeria you need a triple dose of grit and even more if you are in the Agric sector. The margins are low and the work is ‘high’ aka A LOT. 99.9% of my plan did not go according to plan and there were days I won’t want to get out of bed. There were a lot of tears, a lot of worry and a lot of anxiety but in the end I just had to pick myself up and move on. As the months rolled by, the worry and the tears reduced because somehow things worked out, not perfectly but it was good enough to keep me hopeful. Also I think I just got over the whole thing and moved on. Even when something horrible goes wrong it doesn’t throw me off-balance as much as it used to because of my past experiences, the tough times made me stronger and I’ve exercised my faith muscle long enough. You really have to believe in your idea and have the audacity to follow through regardless of the storm. Through grit and perseverance we expanded out product range from just tomatoes.

Humility: Defined as the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance. When you start out, you have this quiet or loud confidence about what you are going to achieve, you have a plan and a good idea of how you are going to execute. Then you start and you are like oh ‘SHITTT’ this wasn’t the plan. Then you begin to realise that there are a lot of moving variables you assumed you could control only to realise that you can’t. Then after a while you abandon your plan and go into survival mode. Your environment forces you to change your priorities and quite frankly some of your original goal. Your goal goes from generating 500,000 naira to covering operating expenses. It’s kinda funny now but then it wasn’t a joke o. I began to realise that I needed to focus on the tiny bit I could control and try to find the most efficient way to work successfully with factors outside of my control. Everything is truly by the grace of God. I’m a very humble somebody now o, I’ve learnt to listen more and speak less. I don’t have a point to prove. You must treat everybody with respect, they might be potential customers or business partner or source of valuable information. Just as important I learnt that I must treat every challenge and failure and a great teacher. I can’t waste my mistakes, I have to get someone out of it. This is not about false humility, it’s genuine. I humbly state that we grew from 2 green houses to 7 green houses this year!

In Feb we had only 2 green houses

By November we had the equivalent of 5 and by December we had 7 (2 are missing from the pic).

A locally fabricated green house, which presented a number of challenges. Work in Progress….

Empathy: Defined as the ability to understand and share the feeling of another. I’m not really sure about this one. I was very empathetic to my staff till they started messing up, will expand on this later. However one way I have tried to show empathy is to my fellow farmers like sharing information willingly and connecting them to the market whenever I can. But during financial negotiation I show empathy for only me and NextGen o! Please the hustle is real!!!

Fan the flames of luck: To truth is, in spite of everything that has gone wrong a lot of things have gone right. I’ve been incredibly lucky. Please bear in mind that luck is when opportunity meets preparedness. We started out with 2 green houses in February and we closed the year with 7 green house. 2 of which were gifted to me. Chai…God is Good. Then I got the opportunity to meet the President and tell him about what we were doing at NextGen. Then on top of that I was in The Guardian and The Nation online with President Buhari and other high level civil servant officials. Then next thing I’m talking to the first lady of Lagos state Mrs Ambode about NextGen and then Dizengoff decides that it’s in their best interest to include me in their documentary (I remain humble 🙂 ) Is it beans…abeg jo…helep me and thank the Lord.

Photo: International youth day celebration

With THE President Buhari

With THE Mrs Ambode

With the Dizengoff crew!

Friends and Partners: For most entrepreneurs our friends and families are our first clients. But my people they cannot make you rich o but they can help you keep the lights on. I’m super grateful for them because I’m very certain that I won’t have made it this far without their support.

You have to be very careful about bringing partners on board. I’ve had a few failed attempts and for that reason I’m not bringing in any partners till we are fully stabilized. Working with people presents a lot of opportunities with a sprinkle of challenges. I’ve come to realize that it’s much easier to work with people who have similar core values, who are aligned with your vision and have similar work ethics. I’ve found that people talk a good game but when it comes to execution it’s a totally different story. Quite frankly I’m weary of people who talk too much and over promise. I find it quite distracting actually.

My team working with one of our partners to set up their green houses. We are now in the business of training and consulting, unofficially

I totally agree with the 3 main management challenges in a start up

Time: When you are heading a start-up you wear many hats. I’m CEO, CFO, Head of Strategy, Agronomist, Delivery woman and I’m actively involved in all farm activities from sterilizing the soil to harvesting the tomatoes. I’ve tried to delegate but I’ve achieved only a limited amount of success. But I can never ever delegate CFO duties…counting my money gives me great pleasure :-). I’m actively trying to rebuild my team, it’s apparently an ongoing process. I’m spent most of my time in 2015 getting a thorough understanding of the business. 2016 I’m going to spend it building structures, processes and a strong team.

People: How you hire, manage and fire. I’ve had a 100% turnover and that’s terrible. I’ve unfortunately had to fire most of them and 1 left on his own free will. To be honest I hold myself responsible, I was new in the game and didn’t know who was going to be a right fit or not. I’ve had to let them go for several reasons from lying to stealing to consistently turning up for work late to laziness. The thing is that when you are dealing with people on that level you can’t really blow grammar, bottom line is that can they work hard or not, lying sucks but as long as you are not stealing that’s ok. This experience has helped me structure my business and processes more efficiently

Money: The business is self-financed from savings and United Bank of Dad, Mum and Family. All grants and funding applications I have made has been unsuccessful but we thank God. The good thing is that when you know you have to manage the small money you have, you become more diligent.

The journey to this point has had a lot of challenges but it has definitely been worth it. Knowing what I know now would I have done things differently? HECK YEAH!!!!!

Reaching for the highest point I can ever reach

Guess I’ll see you at the top

Happy New Year guys!!!! Thank you for taking time out to read this. Hope this year is better than last year! Have a good one!

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