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Debbie Larry-Izamoje : Stop Glamourising Entrepreneurship



IMG_6260I’m starting this article by clearly stating that we need a day in the year that celebrates the Nigerian entrepreneur. And for all of you probably rolling your eyes, yes! I know no one asked us to start businesses. But if you think about it, maybe people did. I know how many responses I’ve received from people who read my articles and feel more empowered to chase their dreams.

Sometimes you have a friend who is so great at something, you persuade him or her to turn it into a “hustle”. You start from one client to 10, to 50; and before you know it you’re in the same boat as most people trying to figure this entrepreneurship life out.

I have a few friends who own businesses in different parts of the world, but I will outrightly tell you that nothing prepares you for running a business in Nigeria. So yes, we deserve our own day to be celebrated.

We are loaded daily with information from different sources, some are tested and tried, some are not. I can’t count how many social media ads I see daily inviting me for master classes, workshops and seminars with some of the biggest business gurus lined up. But I’ve found that just a handful of these successful entrepreneurs are honest and talk about things that are difficult to find on a search engine.

Most only discuss mirrored content. Things that even a secondary school kid who has never run a business can tell you about. They share their successes and the big clients on their portfolio, but they fail to tell you that they sent proposals up to 5 times and each was rejected, or that they had their ideas stolen and had to go back to the drawing board…because they couldn’t afford a lawyer to take up a fight against a big organization.

Why do we have a culture of keeping mute when things don’t go well? Why do we only discuss success? And why do we try to motivate people with half-baked stories?

How many people really start businesses with the true picture of what to expect? How many role models are honest enough to tell their mentees what running a business really means.

Oh, don’t get me wrong! It can be a wonderful experience. I mean you get to chase your dreams, add value to the world and the joy from credit alerts is second to none, but so many aspiring entrepreneurs have such high and unrealistic expectations and this is probably why 50% of businesses fail before they reach the 5-year mark. The ones that have gone ahead and succeeded barely speak up!

They talk to you about branding your business, the importance of business cards or networking, about structure and much more. They never go into detail. Everyone is talking about what is on search engines but very few are sharing real-life experiences.

Entrepreneurs don’t tell you that loyalty has almost gone extinct, that the economy is so bad now that your employee will jump ship to start a business that competes with yours, right under your nose, with your diesel, internet, office rent and monthly salary. If you dare to sack them you become the next negative trend on social media. Loyalty has given way to self-interest. And so everyone is harming each other and no one is really winning. But no one is speaking up either!

I speak to entrepreneurs weekly and it is alarming to see what people go through. The price to chase your dreams is quite high! Sometimes I find myself asking if things were always like this, and I was just naïve to the hardship in our economy.

Don’t get me started on clients that owe you money even after you deliver your product or service. Then there’s also the mental strain of finding investors or how you’re literally your own government!

Only a few speak up and most people will rather express their hardship to a fellow entrepreneur who dares to be honest.

Entrepreneurship has been so glamourized in our society that so many people go in for the wrong reasons, unprepared for the journey ahead! Those that are seen as successful will rather attribute it to “grace” than tell you the whys and hows. And somehow, it has become better to “package” the lessons that we should be using to teach a new generation.

And so I’m really just trying to say that we all need to be more open. Speak up so others know their struggles aren’t peculiar to them. We need more entrepreneurs that can keep it real. So the next generation doesn’t deal with what we have dealt with and so they don’t repeat our mistakes.

You don’t need a stage or microphone to be heard. You probably have mentees you speak to. Don’t paint a picture that isn’t real. It’s good that these people look up to you, but they should be informed of what it costs to really be you. Let us teach the next generation what we had to learn by ourselves.

Change has to start somewhere; let it start with you.

Debbie Larry-Izamoje, with Certificates in Innovation and strategy from Harvard University and user innovation from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is the Founder of a fast growing digital agency in Nigeria and the group operations coordinator of Nigeria's only sports radio station, Brila Fm Twitter and Instagram: @dee_larry @imageboosters_ Email: [email protected]


  1. Ogba

    November 13, 2017 at 9:49 am

    Why have you decided to be this honest Debbie? This is so real! Well done. Takes courage to do what you’ve just done. It has actually opened my eyes to something I might likely face in my struggle to startup summfin’. Tnx.

  2. Black Enterprise

    November 13, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    The worst of it are people that won’t stop begging u for money just because u ve a business…..

  3. Bukki

    November 13, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    True. Very true. The way entreprenuership is being portrayed these days, one would think that starting a business is so easy that those who are still employed are dump and stupid and have made a wrong choice in life. The most painful aspect is that when it comes to the issue of financing their businesses, only a few Successful Entrepreneurs tell you how they couldn’t afford to buy body cream and under wears for themselves for years and you begin to wonder why you are the only one who feels like giving up on life because your business isin’t thriving one year into it.
    It’s not bad to encourage people to become entrepreneurs but let the coaches and the mentors and boss ladies and what have you, tell the complete story, always!

  4. john

    November 13, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    damn this article touched me .. I felt it…Honestly, this type of unique article is the only reason I visit this is worth it

  5. Akara Pancake

    November 13, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    Very well written and structured article.

    My 5 kobo is this: everyone has the right to chase their dreams. That is the beauty of capitalism. However what irks me is when business entrepreneurs look down on 9-5 workers. This is quite common place in our country

  6. LL

    November 13, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    Thank you Debbie. I’ve had a difficult year as an entrepreneur and I couldn’t understand why my business was growing and yet I was always stressed, broke, unhappy, irritable and much more. Two weeks ago, an entrepreneur tweeted on how he had been steadily losing joy since he became self employed. I understood immediately. Being an entrepreneur is not rosy…far from it. I reached out to two friends, my husband and my brother, expressing my difficulties to them. They helped me break down the business, find out some things I wasn’t doing right, made some decisions and I felt much better. If I bore it alone, I would have closed down the business on that particular day.
    As for conferences etc, I stopped attending years ago as a lot of speakers came to have their egos fanned.
    If you have an entrepreneur as a friend, spouse or sibling; pray for them, encourage them, light up their lives when you can because it’s dark for them on many days. Most of all, patronize them.
    For entrepreneurs, let’s take time out to review what really matters to us. Sometimes a great job gives better peace of mind and financial security than a thriving business. Don’t let anyone lie to you.

  7. iou

    November 14, 2017 at 12:26 am

    I couldn’t read this article and move to the next without saying a big thank you for your honesty . Very much appreciated

  8. Uberhaute looks

    November 14, 2017 at 1:16 am

    I started my small business in Abuja, moved to Lag and now I am in Abeokuta.
    I have made so many mistakes and at a point, I was so bitter and hated myself.
    I looked and searched for jobs but none so, a family member lent me money and I started my business.

    1. Landlord wahala!
    2. Power issue
    3. Entitled customers
    4. Unbalanced book
    5. Low patronage
    6. Family discouraging without patronizing.
    7. Immediate family issues that takes you 20 steps backwards

    Those are the things I can remember for now. I almost lost it 2 months ago but hubby encouraged me to keep striving hard then, I laid my hand on a copy of ‘The Richest Man in Babylon’ and I’ve been applying his principle to every aspect of my life.
    Hopefully, 2018 will be rewarding.

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