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The Art Of The Start: Brilliant Advice For Business Startups From Some Of Nigeria’s Biggest Success Stories



Ever thought of working for yourself and breaking out of the salary trap? I bet a lot of you have, after all, you’re all intelligent, passionate women with great ideas and who want the best from life. So what’s holding you back from taking the plunge?

One of the things we often get asked at WOWe is advice for people thinking about starting out on their own to help give them confidence that they’re “doing it right”; with this in mind we’ve asked some of the stellar speakers from the WOWe Nigeria panel to contribute their thoughts on what any woman should know before starting a business.

Preparation & Planning
Executive VC of XS Energy Deji Fisher told us that women are often better prepared for entrepreneurship than they think, he says “If she is a good home maker or if she is good at the things that define a woman- she is already well equipped for enterprise development. This fact gives the woman an advantage.” He goes on to explain that even so, preparation isn’t everything. “Entrepreneurship is a PRACTICE, not a science or an art. You learn on the job, and you will make many mistakes, just always be LEARNING. The Nigerian population is 160 million; Africa is 1 billion. There is the market, so think of meeting a need, think transactions, think of VALUE CREATION.”
International makeup artist and beauty campaigner Eryca Freemantle values the elevator pitch as the first key to success for the women entrepreneur, saying “She should know what her business is, and be able to sell it in 2 minutes flat.” She also stresses that knowledge of the competition, especially how you are valued vs. your competition and your respective prices is essential for success

This message is echoed by acclaimed author and playwright Sefi Atta who advises “Know your market, the industry you are in and how to manage your business. My business is unusual in the sense that it is not for profit and self-financed, but I make sure it sustains itself. My readers, existing and potential, are my market. My biggest hurdle was getting past other people’s inefficiencies and unscrupulous behaviour and I dealt with that by cutting ties when necessary and choosing the people I work with carefully.”
If you need more detailed guidance in preparation and planning, there are loads of great books around that advise on starting a business or any project successfully and these can help you prepare effectively, including Guy Kawasaki’s “The Art of The Start” whose title inspired our own.

The Right Skills
“Every woman should know that she should stick to her guns, be patient and don’t expect anything to happen overnight and learn to be extremely organised” says Hanneli Rupert, CEO & Creative Director at Okapi Luxury Handbags. Related to the point about organisation is advice from Ronke Ige, CEO & Founder of Bread + Butter Limited and Emi & Ben, “It’s not possible to do EVERYTHING, so don’t be afraid to delegate as your time is valuable, don’t allow others to waste it. Learn to separate work time from kids/family time (if applicable). It’s impossible to give the two the attention they deserve at the same time!”

The Right Attitude
Fatima Wali-Abdurrahman, CEO of The Filmo Group wants to stress “enjoy what you do, in fact, be passionate about it” and in practical terms make sure you “get a good accountant. Having a technical background, I had what I would call contempt for the management sciences, and thought I could run a business just by providing a product. As I grew, the neglect of background functions of HR, Accounting etc. cost me a lot”.

Finally, we received some fantastic advice from Clare Eluka, CEO of Premae Skincare who tackled one of the biggest challenges for women starting out on their own; their mental attitude. She says “you have to be hungry, committed and fearless. The biggest hurdles will be your own family, friends and your deep rooted lack of self-belief. You will wake up at night asking yourself ‘Am I really good enough? Can I really do this?’ Get out of your own way and find examples of people who have achieved what you are trying to achieve. I dealt with my own self-doubts through meditation, finding a good support system of 1 family member, 1 friend and lots of other entrepreneurs to bounce ideas with. It also helps if you have a loving, smart partner to come home to. Someone who doesn’t cause you stress and who can cook when you’re too tired!”

So there you have it, a broad spectrum of fantastic tips from entrepreneurs who’ve already made it happen, now it’s up to you to make your first move!

You can hear more from any of our contributors above at the WOWe conference taking place 20-22 June, more information is available from and for further information please contact: Tori Abiola by emailing [email protected] or calling +234 (0) 81 45999475 and +234 (0) 80 85978488. Don’t forget to join our WOWe Community on Facebook for inspiring update:
NEW STUDENT DISCOUNT RELEASED: Current students can attend WOWe for just N20,000 including VAT!


  1. Toke's accents

    June 7, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Wowe, I think this initiative is great, but I’m worried that you may not considered pricing appropriately. Most business owners are cash strapped, and N50,000 to attend is a lot. Most students are even worse off, and N20,000 is not even up to one month’s NYSC salary. I appreciate that you are trying to manage the crowd and this is an investment into people’s businesses, but I think lower prices would increase interest…..I may be wrong though,

    • omoibo

      June 7, 2013 at 12:49 pm

      There’s a quote that I like and think will put things in perspective for you regarding the cost to attend or as I would rather call it investment in yourself. Here goes “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance” 😉

    • Neneh

      June 7, 2013 at 1:48 pm

      Omoibo, in Toke’s defence, I believe she’s coming from the view of a small businesses generally having a limited budget so they have to spend wisely.

      Education is important in all aspects of our life, and everyday we learn something new. However speaking from experience, you can go to so many of these events and workshops and feel you did not learn anything new or gain that boost to your confidence to leave your 9-5 for your passion!

    • Torera - Conference Director - WOWe

      June 11, 2013 at 2:30 pm

      Hi Toke, I understand your concern and I also hear what Neneh is saying about some events not being worth the money, we make substantial investments in the events we produce precisely so that they really do add value and hold real educational worth; small businesses have to be careful where they allocate budget but as Omoibo said, saving up for and investing in quality training and education is a smart move. We’ve nearly filled all the places at the event so you’ve no need to worry on our account but thank you for your concern; if you’re not in a position to attend the event right now, there’s nothing to stop you enjoying the free advice that’s being given out around it (have you seen our facebook page, that’s what it’s there for after all! Best of luck with your businesses!

  2. pynk

    June 7, 2013 at 11:38 am

    thanks. I needed this very thing this morning.

  3. Pretty

    June 7, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    it is too expensive jor. There are a lot of tins i need to do

  4. Neneh

    June 7, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    Such a good idea, unfortunately I won’t be able to make it.

    I have to say what’s important to me as a small business, is building awareness for my online store ( and services that we offer. In saying that I believe I speak for all start-ups and small businesses, that marketing can take you over your budget allocation, if not done correctly. Now I understand that each business is different, however the basic principle of creating brand awareness, in an effective and efficient way should be the same.
    What I would have loved to see are speakers from advertising agencies (i.e. insight), PR Consultants and perhaps a workshop titled “Creating Marketing Campaigns on a Budget” “The all wearing Hat Entrepreneur” (When you start a business you are the PR person, you are the accountant, you are customer service….. until you start making money to employ”) “Staring up on a Shoe String Budget”

    Just a thought for next year.

    Neneh (

    • @21AllenAvenue

      June 7, 2013 at 4:14 pm

      Gbam! Marketing no go kill me o.

  5. PREXec

    June 7, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    Neneh, great to hear about your interest and need as a business owner. I am a PR and Marketing consultant. Although not presently on ground, but you just gave me a fantastic idea for the subject area that I’d love to present in a forum or speaker series in the near future. I eat, sleep, live, and breathe pr, branding, advertising, and marketing and love helping start-ups/business owners so stay tuned.

    In the meantime, (if you aren’t already), I would advice that you curb spending on any huge marketing or advertising strategy but instead utilize cost effective new media tools and digital platforms that cost zero to none but just currency in resources/hours (i.e. facebook, twitter, pinterest, instagram, etc) to start marketing your site. Also, because you are an online store, I would strongly advice you engage in some SEO/SEM (find keywords germane to your industry) so that your site gets ranked on google and your foot-traffic that turns to sale.


    • Neneh

      June 7, 2013 at 11:23 pm

      PREXec, much appreciated, I shall look into your suggestions and get right on it. Please keep me informed on your future endeavours.

      Neneh ([email protected]).

  6. Cross

    June 8, 2013 at 5:33 am

    @ neneh. Nice job with ur online store. I think you need to reduce the length of the name. Yes, ‘little’ details like the name matters. If i were to forget any of the ‘it’ or change the order accidentally, i wouldnt hv access to ur site. A great name will be between 2-4 syllables

    • [email protected]

      June 11, 2013 at 5:54 pm

      @Cross many thanks for your comment. I wanted to give my business a funny yet catchy name that surrounds shopping; thats when I came up with NEEDITWANTITBUYIT. I do appreciate that the URL is quiet long to type in, however you can bookmark NEEDITWANTITBUYIT and you’ll be on my site in a click. You can also use this address which will also take you to the main site.

      Kind regards
      Neneh 🙂

  7. Bisi BusyBee!

    June 8, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    Great tips on startups. However, I agree on the use of cost effective tools/platform. I have been running my events business for over 3 years now and my no 1 marketing tool has been FACEBOOK, my blackberry has also been a strong tool and , Personal BRAND has also helped, not forgetting our interestesting website. Marketing/PR gurus should really find a way to support SMEs, there are many out there who needs their help. Cheers,

  8. joshua

    June 9, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    your website does not come up in search query (google). This is a bad thing for a startup. Most people turn to google as their number 1 resource point. If ur site is not suggested, then you are nowhere as far as the internet is concerned.

    • Torera - Conference Director - WOWe

      June 10, 2013 at 7:21 pm

      Hi Joshua,

      I’m not sure what or where you are searching but many of our attendees find us through search (it’s a good percentage of our traffic) – you’re right to say it’s a concern for all businesses though,.


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