Recession and what it means to be an entrepreneur

The other day at the entrepreneurship class I take at a local church in Ibadan, a question: “what does recession mean to entrepreneurs in Nigeria?” was quickly followed with another: “how do small businesses survive recession?”

While I tried my utmost best to answer these questions and a few more others as accurately as I could, I admit, at a time like this, it is hard to be an entrepreneur, let alone to encourage anyone to become an entrepreneur.

In addition to the biting recession everyone has to deal with, difficult situations (some particularly peculiar to Nigerian entrepreneurs) make doing business in the country very hard to do.

However, many entrepreneurs are finding ways to flourish in this tough economy. Some have looked into investing in real estate, tech, agriculture and other service related businesses, while using the proceeds from those businesses to run their main business. Some swear this strategy work for them.

While it seems almost unavoidable not to complain about how the economic situation has collapsed some businesses, robbed people of their jobs (media reports have it that more than one million jobs in Nigeria were lost in during the second quarter of the year due recession) and about the attendant high cost of living, among other woes the recession brought with it, it is pertinent to, once again, take a stock of who an entrepreneur is and hopefully by the end of the day, some would be reminded why they are in business in the first place and would find the necessary push to keep them going.

In the course of writing this piece, I asked what the term “entrepreneur” meant to several people. Most of my respondents defined an entrepreneur as a person who has started his or her own business. Whereas this is one way to define an entrepreneur, it does not capture, to a larger extent, the true essence of what it means to be “a risk-taker, innovator and individual willing to carve his or her own path in a world that doesn’t always take kindly to people who fail to follow the status quo,” as Paula Fernande put it in her Entrepreneurship Defined: What It Means to Be an Entrepreneur.

As Jennie Ripps, CEO of Owl’s Brew put it, “entrepreneurship is all about embracing challenges. When you’re building something from the ground up, you need to get into the weeds and problem solve.” This, she said, allows for a “better big-picture strategy — why did this happen? How do I solve it? How do smarter people than me solve it? With a young company, when you experience a new challenge, it’s usually a growing pain. So while it can be difficult to get through, it’s for the best possible reason — your company is getting bigger!”

I find this definition about entrepreneurship deeply true. Of course, there are many challenges bedeviling Nigeria, but the world does not celebrate those who complain about the problems, but those who find solutions to it.

This recession presents an opportunity for entrepreneurs to develop the big-picture strategy and find ways to make their businesses survive the test of time. After all, being an entrepreneur is about giving everything you have when the going gets tough and never giving up. Like the saying goes, if you truly love what you’re doing and you believe in it, you won’t give up on it.

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