By Chinwendu Obienyi
Inability to access credit and the laissez-faire attitude to capacity development have been identified as two key challenges facing small business owners in the country. As such, it was a pleasant surprise to meet Mrs. Chinonye Umahi, Managing Consultant of Cauna Resources & Technical Services Limited who traveled from Enugu to Lagos for a capacity development programme. She spoke with our correspondent.
Me and my business
I am Chinonye Umahi, a medical laboratory scientist and an entrepreneur. I offer business development services and the name of my company is Cauna Resources and Technical Limited. I am the Managing Consultant. Our areas of specialization are training, recruitment and consultancy services.
Challenges facing Nigerian SMEs
SMEs in the country are exposed to a lot of challenges. That is why I am happy with the Ease of Doing Business bill that has just been signed into law by the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. People used to find it difficult to register their businesses before, but now they can do that online and the process is a lot easier now.
Access to funding is also another challenge. Most times, SMES pick the wrong type of financing for their businesses. Knowing the right type of financing for your business, whether you are at the start-up level, seed level or you are expanding is very important. There are various types of funds that are available, so people need to be schooled on the right type of financing.
SMES need to be schooled to know the appropriate finance that matches their businesses so that they can use it appropriately and be able to repay their loans.
Another challenge to SMEs is the new marketing, which is social media. A lot of SMEs are still into traditional method of marketing, which is no longer in vogue. The open space has taken over marketing and any SME that is not on the internet is going to lose a lot of market share.
How I encountered Sterling Bank’s MSME Academy
I have a business account with Sterling Bank and I got an email from them that I was shortlisted for the academy. I regularly get emails from them. Unfortunately, since I stay in Enugu, South-East Nigeria, I have not really been opportuned to attend any of their programmes and then the opportunity for this training came, and they said they are giving it to the first business account woman and man who respond to the mail and that was how I got shortlisted for this wonderful training programme. Hitherto, I have been following their email updates because this is an IT era and you can be anywhere and get information from there.
How relationship with the bank benefited me
As a registered SME with the Sterling Bank Academy, I have been receiving updates from them which give me ideas on how to run my business better as an entrepreneur. It is great and that is one of the strategic things which I have really gained from my relationship with the bank.
Nigeria is also evolving into a knowledge-based economy and up-to-date information really helps in running a successful business and that is what I have enjoyed in my relationship with Sterling Bank.
Suggestions to help bank improve relationship with SME customers
They should carry on with what they are doing and invest more in capacity development for small business owners. I am saying this because I am a capacity development specialist and I have found out that small businesses are collapsing because they do not have skills and knowledge required to grow to the next level.
Some people always make the mistake of thinking that money is the most important thing needed in business. But from my personal experience, money is in the middle. You need information and knowledge to run a successful enterprise. There is need for more capacity building especially for women because they are entrepreneurial in nature.
A lot of businesses operating in Nigeria are not captured in the data base of the federal or state governments. When the country went into recession recently, it did not affect some business people who were doing well. Somehow, they were not affected by the adverse effects of the recession.
There is also the need for business owners to register their businesses, have business accounts and be prudent so that they can be attractive to banks like Sterling Bank.
Advice to potential entrepreneurs
There is no better time to become an entrepreneur than now. Moving along the streets of towns in the country, I see a lot of business opportunities but the problem we have is that we are still used to this white collar job syndrome. There is nothing like being on your own, being productive and solving consumer problems. That is what is trending across the world now.