How coronavirus and lockdown taught us the essence of diversifying —Womenpreneurs

As the world is still reeling from the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the socio-economic activities, in this piece, some womenpreneurs share the lessons they learnt during the COVID-19 induced lockdown with TAYO GESINDE. Excerpts:

 

STEPHANIE Chinelo Oduenyi, the Creative Director, Makani Couture:

When the pandemic broke out the fashion business almost ground to a halt because people did not have the need to make new clothes for Owambe or events. For close to three months, I did not sell anything. To be honest, I started to think about what to do to move my business forward. I knew it was time to diversify. I started teaching online courses and people actually paid for these courses. I went strictly into ready-to-wear pieces and I made sure they were as affordable as possible. People still needed to wear casual and affordable dresses. So, I keyed into that and business started picking up once again.

I have definitely learnt that once one door closes, we cannot just sit and relax; we should think of new ways to stay relevant to the present needs of the people around us.

 

Odinakachukwu Agbanoso, Kandora Cosmetics:

As a small business owner, I have learnt to stay ready because we don’t  know what life-altering event is around the corner. This includes having business continuity plan, being able to step out from our comfort zone to expand with the growing needs of our customers. For us, we were able to start producing hand sanitizers due to the high demand of the product for coronavirus pandemic.

We also learnt the need to spend time marketing and getting new customers. Social media platform is a big platform that enables small business owners reach out to their targeted market. We made sure we stayed relevant on Instagram and Facebook educating people on how to take care of their skin through proper hygiene and the use of good skincare products to prevent acne and breakouts that can be caused by increased stress-level during the lockdown and from wearing mask post-lockdown. Basically, it was very important for us to adapt to relevant marketing copy like Instagram, Facebook adverts and the use of e.mails to communicate with staff.

 

Angela Nnamezie of Casa Angeles

I learnt that one should never rely on  a single source of income as a business person. One needs to spread one’s tent and do businesses that would thrive in any situation like food and other consumables as well as skin care products. I  realised I  could actually run my business from home now that everything is digitalised. I discovered I don’t  actually need a shop to operate my kind of  business since almost everyone is wearing wig now and we hardly have customers walking in. I learnt that I needed to save more. I didn’t see the pandemic coming so I was almost stranded. Basically, I have made serious adjustments since the ease of the lockdown and everything is fine now.

 

Tolulope Bamidele, Zion Treats:

As an entrepreneur, the reality of connectivity comes into play. We are all in this together, everyone in business in varying degrees had a share. Since disasters can rarely be accurately predicted, proactive measures of creative ways for product marketing in business is vital.

For entrepreneurs, ingenuity is remotely displayed. Online marketing takes the front seat and online sales skyrocketed, especially for those already in it.

Customer service becomes paramount. We go the extra miles to satisfy our customers. They get our best attention in order not to lose them and we update them regularly, so they know we are still in business.

As entrepreneurs with multiple streams of income, we were able to sustain businesses by providing services for consumption. Also, the supply of ingredients for the actualisation of such services to customers becomes an added advantage.

The truth is, though we cannot always predict disasters, we can always prepare for them.

 

Hon Folasade Akinrinmola, A-Z Events

Coronavirus pandemic turned out to be a great blessing for me and my business. I was able to sign up for a six-week certificate course on Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies (EDEX) with Harvard University.

I also did a course at Lagos Business School on Women and Business: Navigating the challenges.

I was able to read online on how best to store goods with expiry date- LIFO – (Last in first out), FIFO- (First In First Out). I also focused more on record keeping.

 

Adanna Enwezor, CEO Photizo Life Foundation

Change is inevitable. Change is constant. You have to be alert in business and ready to adapt and adopt new strategies. It has made me more ‘solutions-focused.’

The inevitable change that the pandemic brought has stressed the importance of being proactive. Being very open-minded and unafraid to explore the business world. Business plans may change completely and there is nothing wrong with that. It is just the way the world works. Be ready for it.

It enabled me as a person other than a business person to reflect on my past and allow me to get to know myself even more. I discovered new ways of doing business. It increased my thinking capacity and has opened up my mind to other business opportunities. These newly found values will be brought to bear in my business dealings.

 

Chioma Ebubedike Igbokwe, Creative Director, West n Couture Garment Factory and CEO, Zapel:

The coronavirus pandemic taught me that as an entrepreneur, it is important for one to plan for unforeseen challenges. I had to adapt to big changes in my company, changes such as how we communicate with our clients, what and where they buy, and how they experience shopping. You have to act fast to keep your business afloat amid a pandemic; you need to work quickly. Businesses that were swift in their response to COVID-19, and those who embraced new technology diversified and prepared for the worst-case scenario will be able to bounce back faster. For me, because I run a bulk garment factory, I quickly diversified to making face masks before the government shut down the states. Presently, we have supplied thousands of face-masks to organisations, companies, individuals, churches, government parastatals and ministries. This swift action of diversification has kept us afloat.

Businesses must learn to be prepared for the worst challenges and embrace digital technology. Having an e-commerce website for any retail brand is very important. Having a home office/workshop where one can work from is also necessary and one will save so much money when you embrace the digital future.

I also realised that being resilient is very important. This is something my dad who was a serial entrepreneur taught me. A business man or woman must be resilient and resourceful. I always look out for opportunities in any situation, and look for a way to work around it. The COVID-19 has changed so many businesses and taught us how to be resourceful. We learnt that it is important to make the most of what you have. If you cannot have the conference you planned, do not cancel it, but move it online. More businesses are moving online and utilising their online presence to generate profit by organising webinars and collaborating with other brands on a product or a service.

In summary, the crisis provided me with important lessons that will help me navigate future challenges. Diversifying my business was one of them as I switched quickly to making face-masks. This kept us open all through the lockdown. A business that operates in multiple areas is less likely to suffer catastrophic damage from even the worst kind of unforeseen challenges. Also, businesses need to have cash reserves; emergency fund is capable of seeing them through challenging times as such. Maintaining and giving confidence to our clients also helped. We have all gone through a period that reminds us that the client is not just a consumer but an individual with common feelings. At this point, we gave our clients free face masks and brought forward messages that gave confidence, empathy and direct hope.

 

Diyemowei Lily, CEO of Hustlersquare, a home for online entrepreneurs in Nigeria:

Coronavirus made me realise that it was a blessing to be an online entrepreneur. This is because people avoided physical contacts and turned to buying things online. Many that had previously declined patronising online businesses embraced the idea of shopping online. I even sold more on my shaper page on Instagram @Adorableshapers during the lockdown than before the lockdown.

Those that sold offline complained bitterly. This taught me that selling online is the king of business transactions for the 21st century. Many offline businesses died while online businesses boomed.

I also realised the food and health sector did very well while the pandemic raged on. People kept on eating amidst the pandemic and they tried to stay healthy to keep their immune system at optimum levels. Businesses within these sectors made a lot. I know of someone that was into event management that started a catering business and another that was a tailor that started cooking home made meals. Businesses that were not doing so well began to diversify!

With the dollar increase and closure of airports, we still had to find a way to buy goods. Our import agents helped us courier our goods via a cargo service which took more time and money. Only people that stocked up goods were in business.

 

Olusola Beecroft: CEO, Asologe stiches

There is a shift to digital business. People now sell more online. There is increase in e-commerce. Financially, there has been decrease in sales, reduction in cash flow; insufficient finance and working capital led to liquidity constraint . Urgently, there is a need for flexible financing.

There is also an adjustment in operations like adjusting  products and services to customer need; diversification of supply network because we now use technology to engage both customers and suppliers, online payment with the use of mobile phones and adoption of alternative distribution channel like the use of motorbikes in delivering goods.

The mental aspect of it can never be overemphasised because there is increase in care demand like children and the elderly ones and it has reduced time spent on business. uncertainty surrounding how to manage risk and losses related to COVID-19 and how to provide protection for our employees.

There is also increase in anxiety and fear of the unknown, which has greatly reduced  productivity. Supply chain has been disrupted;  we are unable to deliver existing contracts due to challenges in logistics, inventory delay and shortages, labour shortages due to quarantine and fear and low cash flows, shipping delays, inability to source raw material. These are some of the challenges we are still battling with.

 

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