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10 Takeaways from Seven-Up Bottling Company’s SMEs Bootcamp

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Seven-Up Bottling Company, in partnership with Zenith Bank and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), recently organised a two-day Scale-Up Bootcamp for small and medium-sized enterprises, to provide them with needed information and strategies to scale up their businesses.The two-day session saw the Chief Executive Officers of 80 SMEs benefit from the growth experience of experts such as the Managing Director of Seven-Up Bottling Company, Ziad Maalouf, and GM of Marketing Seven-Up Bottling Company, Segun Ogunleye. The bootcamp also had impactful sessions facilitated by the GDM, Zenith Bank’s Head of Retail Banking, Lanre Oladimeji; National Director, UNIDO, Oluyomi Banjo; former Chief Executive Officer, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Agency, Babatunde Irukera, and the Founder, Thrive HR, Adeshola Aliogo Scale-Up Bootcamp 1.0 provided attendees with the requisite corporate, people management, and financial management strategies crucial for scaling. Below are ten key insights from the bootcamp:Identify your ‘sweet spot’: According to Ziad, a business aiming to scale must have the right combination of experience, passion and value to meet a global need. This combination provides the sweet spot. Ziad advised entrepreneurs that if their current business fails to match all three aspects, reconsideration is needed. Loan access tips: Presenting tips on how businesses can boost their chances of accessing loans from financial institutions, the Zenith Bank Head of Retail Banking, Lanre Oladimeji, said business owners need to be conversant with the five Cs of credit and know that character is key to accessing loans. He said, “SMEs must have a business continuity and succession plan and know the type of funding available to businesses in their sector.” He further explained that to access loans, “an applicant needs to help the banker understand the business and explore the options they provide to support the business. Make every effort to service existing loan obligations. If loans go bad, stick with your bank and work out a remediation plan. In this digital era, there is no running away when a loan goes bad.”Fear breeds errors: Entrepreneurs were also cautioned on the need to understand that employees will make mistakes and must learn how to manage people when such occurs. According to Aliogo, zero tolerance for error breeds error. When people are too afraid, they won’t try new things and growth won’t happen. Hence, entrepreneurs are advised to make their team learn from mistakes and become better.Team evaluation and incentives are crucial: While fresh and quality recruitment might be needed to drive business growth, there is also the need for critical evaluation of the team. According to Ziad, there’s a need to evaluate the team based on performance and value. Those below average should be allowed to go and the average and high performance should be motivated. “Create a performance and incentive framework. The majority of employees are not motivated by salary. Convert your employees to shareholders with incentives for performances and watch that team you think is average produce results that scale your business,” he said.Wrong recruitment costs more: In her people management session, Founder, Thrive HR Nigeria, Adeshola Aliogo, said employee engagement is a major growth driver for enterprises. She described engagement as the level of enthusiasm and dedication a worker feels towards their job. She said this occurs when employees find MAGIC – Meaning, Autonomy, Growth, Impact, and Connection in the business. She advised that entrepreneurs should set their value standards, and then find workers with the same level of enthusiasm and who understand how everything they do ties to the growth of the business. “The cost of not hiring right is more,” she stressed.Look-alike recruitment breeds stagnation: to scale your business, you need to have the right combination of people. To have the right mix, entrepreneurs should avoid the lookalike requirement trap. To drive business growth, a SABI(Strive, Accountability, Bonding and Innovation) formula was recommended for SMEs. The team should consist of stivers who get things done, the accountable ones with strict adherence to processes; the social ones and innovators who are the ideation hub of the business. SME funding opportunity at UNIDO: National Director, UNIDO, Oluyomi Banjo, at the bootcamp, announced that UNIDO is committed to advancing Sustainable Development Goal Number 9, which advocates industry, innovation, and infrastructure in Nigeria through its various initiatives such as the Global Cleantech Innovation Programme. He said participants who own waste recycling businesses, and others who fit into the sustainability space, should take advantage of the GCIP, to access business support for scale-up.Increase willingness to pay: This is tied to creating value that will make the customer want to pay more for your product or service. Maalouf said businesses willing to scale must provide functional, social, and emotional value. “What many entrepreneurs don’t know is that customers are willing to pay more if you offer the value. This is what gives an edge over a competitor. When you have the value that the world needs, customers will neglect other products for yours.”Regulation rewards innovation: former Chief Executive Officer, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Agency, Babatunde Irukera, while explaining the regulatory framework to attendees, noted that regulation is an existential threat to businesses worldwide. He however stressed that without regulation, SMEs won’t have a level playing field to survive and scale. Regulation secures everyone. Your businesses won’t grow if there is no regulator to check competition. It is important to keep everyone accountable to certain standards,” he said. He enjoined entrepreneurs visualize their growth and understand the regulatory scope within their business space. Explore incremental and architectural ideas: Entrepreneurs don’t necessarily need radical ideas to scale. Value doesn’t always revolve around novelty and disruption. Improving an existing product or service to make them better, faster, or cheaper is another route to scaling. You can also apply existing ideas or technology to new areas to create value for growth.

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Doing Business in Nigeria: Interswitch Founder reiterates need for focus on business’ unit economics

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As Nigeria, arguably one of the principal economic powerhouses of Africa, continues to attract global attention against the odds as a destination which cannot be ignored for investment and business opportunities, the 2024 edition of the ‘Doing Business in Nigeria Conference’ which held on Saturday 13th April in Lagos, the nation’s commercial capital served as a pivotal event for entrepreneurs, investors, and business leaders seeking to tap into the country’s vibrant business landscape. Delivering a keynote on the theme ‘Doing Business in Nigeria: The Opportunities, Challenges and Realities’, Interswitch Group Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Mitchell Elegbe set the tone for deliberations at the conference, sharing robust insights and perspectives hinged on over 22 years operating in Nigeria, from where the company has expanded into other African markets, being in the driver’s seat of one of Africa’s most influential digital technology businesses. Among other incisive pointers, Elegbe walked participants through the dynamic trajectory of Interswitch’s business operations, starting from 2002 when key infrastructural elements such as power and telecoms were at a nascent stage. The Interswitch Founder acknowledged that Nigeria is probably not one of the easiest markets in the world to do business, however stressing that compelling business opportunities exist only where there are challenges, pointing out that regardless of the challenges and constraints in the local operating environment, some particular industries and sectors have consistently bucked the trend and shown great promise. In his view the performance of these outliers is attributable to factors such as the ability to adapt and innovate within the local market hinged on pragmatism and nimbleness, understanding of consumer behaviour and agile responses to changing business landscapes. According to Elegbe, who set things in context through the lens of fintech businesses, there are significant differences between the typical Silicon Valley business model and what is necessary for sustainable success in a market like Nigeria, particularly in the current global investment climes. In his words, operating in the Tropical Savannah that Nigeria is, as he described it, warrants the business to ensure products/services are designed to meet people at their points of need, whilst essentially ensuring proof of concept, focus on unit economics and scaling to achieve volumes in spite of thin margins, with a view to driving profitability as an early priority. He emphasized that Unit economics are instrumental in evaluating the economic sustainability and profitability of the business model, providing insights into whether the business is generating sufficient value to justify the associated costs. Other keynotes were delivered by Wole Adeniyi, The Chief Executive Officer, Stanbic IBTC Bank, who was represented by Olu Delano, Executive Director for Personal and Private Banking as well as Binta Max-Gbinije, Chief Executive, BMG Seven Limited, each bringing unique perspectives and expertise to the discussions. The conference agenda was thoughtfully curated to address key themes and topics relevant to doing business in Nigeria, with sessions covering market entry strategies, regulatory compliance, risk management, investment incentives, innovation, and sustainability, among other salient themes. Beyond the informative sessions and workshops, the Doing Business in Nigeria Conference 2024 provided platforms for networking and collaboration, including a business pitch session targeted at emerging entrepreneurs.

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Interswitch Kicks Off InterswitchSPAK Nigeria 6.0: Calls for Registration, Doubles Value of Winnings

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Interswitch, Africa’s leading digital payment and commerce company, has announced the commencement of the sixth edition of its annual National Science Competition, InterswitchSPAK, in Nigeria with a significant boost in prize monies and added incentives for more participants, as the company doubles-down on its long-term support for STEM advancement across Africa. The competition, a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative of the Interswitch Group, now in its 6th edition in Nigeria (and 5th edition in Kenya, where it also runs) aims to foster interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects among senior secondary school students across the country. Schools in Nigeria can now register up to twenty (20) SS2 Science Students each, marking an unprecedented scale of participation. Registration for students will be open until May 10th, 2024, and it is free of charge to all applicants. The qualifying examination is conducted entirely online, allowing candidates to take it from the comfort of their school, home, or any convenient location. The Computer Based Test (CBT) exams are scheduled to hold from Tuesday, May 14th, to Saturday, May 18th, 2024, from 8 am to 6 pm daily. Participants have the flexibility to choose the most suitable day, time, and venue for their exam, with two trials available. Following the online qualifying examination, the top 81 students will proceed to the semi-finals and finals to compete for the coveted title of Nigeria’s Best STEM Student. This year’s edition, with a prize pool of over 30 million Naira, marks a 140% increase from the erstwhile 12.5 million Naira in prize winnings, demonstrating Interswitch’s unflinching commitment to educational development by doubling cash prizes for winners. The first prize winner will receive N15 million tertiary scholarship spread over 5 years, a laptop, and monthly stipends. The second-place winner gets N10 million spread over 3 years and a laptop, while the third-place winner will get N5 million for 1 year. In addition to the top three prizes, cash rewards are also available for the participants who secure the 4th to 9th positions. Furthermore, the top 18 semi-finalists will also receive cash prizes. The competition also recognizes the contributions of teachers and offers cash rewards for the top 27 contributing teachers. Interswitch will also purchase JAMB e-PINS for the top 200 preliminary qualifiers to enable them register for the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) examinations free of charge. Speaking on this year’s edition of the competition, Cherry Eromosele, Executive Vice President & Group Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Interswitch Group said “We are excited to kick off another edition of InterswitchSPAK, the 6th in the series in Nigeria, and this year promises to be bigger and better than ever before. By doubling the prize pool and expanding opportunities, we are not only investing in the winners but also in the entire ecosystem of STEM education. We are thrilled to see the impact this initiative has had over the last 5 editions and look forward to witnessing the brilliance and innovation of Nigeria’s young minds in this year’s competition”. The last edition saw Abraham Daramola, a student of Hallmark Secondary School, Ondo State, emerge as the winner, while the duo of Emmanuel Omoegbeleghan from The Crescent International School, Ogun State, and Emmanuel Angelo-Hyuwa from The Ambassadors College, Ogun State, came second and third, respectively. Secondary schools are hereby advised to visit the InterswitchSPAK portal to register their best science students in Senior Secondary 2 (SS2) for the competition. All eligible students and schools are encouraged to visit the website, www.interswitchspak.com, for more details on how to participate in the competition.

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Ecobank MySME Growth Series: Proper Packaging and Basic Certification are Critical for SME Exports, Says Expert

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Lagos, April 9, 2024 – Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria have great potentials and opportunities to earn foreign exchange (forex) if their products are well branded and packaged to meet international standards. Managing Director/Chief Executive, Export and Sell Limited, Nduka Udeh made this submission in his presentation titled: Earning FX By Exporting to USA and Canada, delivered at the Ecobank MySME Growth Series webinar. He stated that it was important for exporters of SME products to take into consideration the nature of their products while packaging and making shipping arrangements as well as an effective use of multi sale channels in US and Canada. According to him, many foreign markets particularly, United States and Canada are interested in Nigerian products and the SMEs can gain greater penetration in these markets that have huge potential but sadly most of their products are often rejected because they are not properly packaged and lacked necessary certifications. “SME products from Nigeria have great potentials in the export market. However, over 70% of food products are held at entry points because exporters don’t pay attention to packaging, local licensing and certifications needed to meet US specifications. The right process can save you so much. Exporters should pay attention to products that would give them maximum profitability, low shipping costs and effective distribution channels. It is important for them to be familiar with the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)”, He said. Mr. Udeh who is also Chairman of African Import Export Solution, Houston, Atlanta, US advised exporters to explore the opportunities provided by Ecobank and his firm to train and support them on how to navigate the export market, adding that their products are in high demand, and they stand the chance to earn huge foreign exchange. Ecobank MySME Growth Series which started in February this year is designed to empower SME operators across the country. It is part of the bank’s commitment to train over 1 million SME operators in various sectors of the economy in 2024. The training will provide resources for starting a business, registration processes, industry statistics, and essential considerations for running a business. The series cover key topics such as accounting, credit, sales & marketing, taxation, and inventory management. Additionally, articles on key topics like increasing sales, advertising ideas, business management practices, case studies, and leveraging technology will be provided. Ecobank also plans to launch an SME Mentorship program to collaborate with successful entrepreneurs. Taken together, the MySME Growth Series reflects Ecobank’s dedication to fostering growth and success within the SME community.

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