For small businesses to grow and scale up, experts have advocated practical ways in which micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the country can create purposeful and sustainable innovation.

Experts, who gathered at the Lagos Small Business Summit, organised by SME 100 Africa, stressed the need for business owners to build relationships, and do proper due diligence while accessing capital.

Speaking at the event, Executive Secretary, Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF), Akin Oyebode, said access to capital was a necessary but not a sufficient condition for success. Capital in any capacity will optimise refund/return that is either guaranteed or closed to.

Oyebode said investors are always seeking to put their money in businesses that would guarantee them returns, stressing that it was also important for business owners themselves to do due diligence on investors before allowing them in.

“On the equity side, when investors are doing due diligence on you as a business owner, also do a due diligence on them. On the debt side, people should know I have a lending target to meet, but many businesses are not just ready,” he said. He therefore urged businesses to ensure they had the right requirements that would enable them get funding from financial institutions, including the LSETF.

While talking to exhibitors at the summit, Oyebode said some of the entrepreneurs are struggling to register their businesses at the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), or the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), stressing that without such registration, their products cannot get to large distribution channels.

“These are issues around business environment, which we are working to resolve with the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC).”On her part, an Executive Director, First City Monument Bank (FCMB), Bukola Smith, said one way small businesses could overcome their challenges was by building networks.

Smith said building transformational businesses required change of mind-set, and urged entrepreneurs to update their leadership styles while building partnerships within the network.

She disclosed that FCMB had disbursed N3.1 billion of the CBN’s N220 billion SME Fund to several businesses, stressing that the bank is always ready to help entrepreneurs on business registration and other related processes.

Lagos State Deputy Governor, Oluranti Adebule, represented by Yinka Ayodele, said MSMEs should be given the confidence to grow, adding that business owners must be brave and constantly engage in capacity development to match market expectation.The Executive Director, SME 100 Africa, Charles Odii, said Nigeria has witnessed over the last decade, the emergence of innovative companies that are beginning to gain global relevance.

The question then becomes; is the Nigerian business environment one that enables and effectively sustains innovation?“When we hear the word ‘innovation’, we tend to think of technology, and the way it is changing our everyday lives and experiences; but there is more to innovation than technology. Innovation also speaks to how businesses can navigate difficult economic terrains and remain profitable, scalable and sustainable,” he said.

Odii said SME 100 had partnered with Google to train 1,241 entrepreneurs, growing its subscription network from 15,000 to 26,250 in one year, adding that the company’s target in 2019 would be to reach 100,000 entrepreneurs through its network.

Source: The Guardian