Aramide Abe is a real mensch. She’s very thoughtful and always quick to offer her help. Her speciality is helping entrepreneurs or businesses show their best self to customers or the public at large.
How do I know this? Well, on several occasions she’s done that without any prompting. The last time she did so was for a BTNG dinner, where through her connections other entrepreneurs were informed about the event.
That’s why it’s not entirely surprising that Aramide is the CEO and founder of Naija Startups. Naija Startups is an online community of entrepreneurs and business owners. She has grown her startup from an Instagram page to a full-fledged community with offline events and workshops.
We met up in Fenchurch Street some weeks ago and below is an edited version of our conversation.
Who is Aramide Abe?
I am a media professional who is passionate about entrepreneurship and providing valuable digital content. I started my career working in technology and then marketing, after which I went to business school, and after that worked in banking and strategy.
I am continually evolving as an individual, passionate about being true to the core of my purpose. At the moment, the lack of information or difficulty of getting the right information to address real issues in the world winds me up, which kind of speaks to my passion. The correct information for me translates to finding the right people or accurate data. In business, this can make a difference to how you operate or your bottom line.
I continued to advance in this purpose journey and I am currently creating a platform to impact small businesses by amplifying their business online and providing them needed information to move to the next level. We are using Naija Startups as a platform to bridge and solve that information problem.
When was the day you decided ‘hey I’m going to chase my calling’, and you realised that 9-to-5 job, is not your thing?
It has been a gradual journey as I had been one leg in, one leg out’ for a while. I stumbled into my business to solve a need, and not with the intention of going into the entrepreneurship solely.
Subsequently, I realised that there are substantial financial rewards available if one can address core needs and gaps existing with business owners. As it evolved, I have understood this could be the start of something phenomenal.
A lot of people always need some backup plan before abandoning their stable jobs. Did you have a backup plan?
In my case, I thought about financial security. At the time, I was working and saved up a fair bit which made me feel somewhat prepared for the unknown.
However, my primary backup plan is having the mindset that nothing is final. It means I was able to go ahead knowing that if it didn’t work out, I could do something else, whether that was full-time employment or another business.
And having the ‘nothing is final’ mindset works both ways. It means no current situation whether good or bad cannot be improved or changed.
In the same vein, for Naija Startups – this current phase is not the last bus-stop, I certainly hope. I am driven to do more, including putting the right structures in place to achieve a goal of connecting African entrepreneurs.
Speaking of entrepreneurs, from your perch at Naija Startups, you interact with a lot of entrepreneurs. What’s the surprising or counterintuitive thing you’ve learnt from them?
To an extent, it is known that entrepreneurs are risk takers, what is not so known is that their ability to be nimble and adaptable is what keeps them in business.
A typical behaviour I have observed is how many entrepreneurs struggle with structure – including myself. One would expect more entrepreneurs to focus on making more effort in this area, but as is with human nature, our number one focus is revenue and profit. However, it is the structures that help maintain and expand this propensity to earn, which is what I have learnt.
The flip side of this is that there a few firms who provide business process/evaluation and re-engineering services. Unfortunately, their services are usually deemed expensive and priced out range for startups to afford them. We cannot always afford to pay those prices to get the services we need. Then it becomes a vicious cycle that cannot be escaped.
Having worked with several different SMEs, it is fair to say that the benefits of having proper structure and processes in place are that it will unlock value and efficiency which can, in turn, leapfrog small businesses
The good thing is that there are loads of resources online, but, making sense of it all to know what is useful, valuable and worth the time becomes a challenge.
And that’s where the Naija Startups platform comes in.
While we and others do the heavy lifting research and scour the net if need be (we also partner with other entities organisations), the platform pulls it all together in a digestible and appropriate way for small businesses.
In respect of Naija Startups, was it intentional that you started on Instagram?
The initial plan was to launch a business directory. Instagram was going to be used to test the hypothesis; will business be willing to partake and list their business in an online catalogue. Gradually, we understood how to engage with companies, began to learn what their primary needs were (one of which was social media presence, growth and marketing) as well as other needs, and it took off from there. Currently, we have a reach of 43,000, with a 60% to 40% split between female and male entrepreneurs, and with about 85% of this following within the millennial age bracket. We also have a growing entrepreneur database with drilled down details of these businesses.
We have employed other channels including workshops, events, videos, webinars and Instagram live training as well as newsletters. Ultimately, we want to provide an end-to-end content resource for startups in Africa using different mediums.
I’m very intrigued by your evolution. I feel you have a master plan. What’s the next thing for Naija Startups?
While being open to an increasingly evolving ecosystem, we have a master plan – in the last two months, we have critically reviewed our core strategy to position ourselves not just as a community, platform and content provider but as a business.
In the pipeline, we see a revamp of our website, more contributors to our various platforms and more quality content. We are hoping to move the needle for entrepreneurs this year and leveraging our community to help people to reach their goals faster.
Finally, how would you like to be remembered?
As one who made a mark in building sustainable businesses in Africa. The reality is that viable companies are rare in Africa. Our grand vision for Naija Startups is to play our part in creating lasting firms on the continent.
As an individual, I want to be known as a connector. I relish the opportunity to bring people and ideas together. Success is one thing. But to be truly successful and happy, you have to find fulfilment, and I gain this from serving.
If you are in London and want to hear more Aramide’s journey, then register for the next BTNG event themed Celebrating African Women in Tech . Aramide is one of our speakers and she will sharing more about her passion Naija Startups and all things entrepreneurship.