Connect Nigeria: Lessons From Africa’s Biggest SME Event
By Lanre Elufisan
On Saturday 18th of February, hundreds of business owners and professionals gathered at Connect Nigeria’s e-business fair 2017. The acclaimed Africa’s biggest SME event is an annual business and exhibition conference that focuses on growing micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in Nigeria. It was occasioned at the conference hall of Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos.
The event which is yearly hosted by Connect Nigeria has successfully seen thousands of SMEs in attendance over the years, with high-profile speakers discussing the best ways to grow businesses using technology, is in its sixth year.
Talk about the inspiring sessions, the exhibition hall, the speakers and the networking opportunities. In fact, it is an event that every business person should attend always. Indeed, the Connect Nigeria fair could have been worth a fortune, but given the organizer’s mission and sponsors maybe, it was free registration for participants.
Although, a Yoruba adage says, ‘Telling is never like Seeing’, my intention here is to tell you a few things I learned from some of the speakers briefly but first let me share my experience with you.
I vividly remember the handshakes we had during the breakout sessions, the delivery of elevator pitches, trying to sell your business to a potential client in a minute and of course
someone, I mean many people also trying to sell to you. Isn’t that the essence? To connect Nigeria?
Talk about the exhibition hall too, it was colorful, and I mean it. Quite a number of companies had stands where you could meet with their representatives, I could go on and on mentioning names but I particularly remember the Federal Inland Revenue’s stand promoting tax payment. (Lol. Does anyone like taxes? Well, good citizens oblige, we do too!).
There was Sage One the accounting company. Gidi Cartel the fashion business. My ads Global helping you reach customers on their platform. Etisalat, Connect Nigeria the host and a whole lot more like Dressme outlet and so on.
For me personally, networking and learning from successful entrepreneurs was the highlight of the event. Here are some things I learned.
Director and Head of Brand Strategy at Platform Branding Company Uju Obuekwe gave an insightful talk on how to build powerful brands. She emphasized the need for small businesses to differentiate themselves by giving the market a reason to choose them over competitors through a consistent communication of values. She added that the most important thing for small businesses is to make and keep their promises to customers.
Mr. Ayotunde Coker, the Managing Director of Rack Centre, a Premium Data Centre provider in Nigeria which was the recipient of 2015 Data Centre Dynamics Award for Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region in the Data Centre Impact Award Category area gave a talk too.
Mr. Coker articulated the importance of technology to enhance business growth and pinpointed that If a business or nation’s IT is down, the business is down.
Somewhere else, Bankole Oluwafemi, the Editor in Chief of TechCabal gave a talk about using technology to make life and business operations easy. He advised that small business owners should take advantage of technological and digital innovations to improve their start-ups.
Another inspiring session from the day was the celebrity fashion entrepreneur, Creative Director of Mai Atafo Inspired. Mai advised entrepreneurs to ensure they understand the core of their business. He narrated a story of how he used to outsource part of his enterprise, and the effect of that on his business later on. His advice to young entrepreneurs was to own the core of their business and to use technology applications to their advantage.
Olatorera Oniru, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Dressmeoutlet engaged the audience by sharing her story of hard work since teenage in the United States, she mentioned that there was a time in her life when she worked 24 hours, according to her, she only did that for a week before she gave up one of the jobs. Many years later, Olatorera Oniru left her banking job to start a fashion retail business in Nigeria and in her words, the sleepless nights are more than they were when she worked 24 hours years ago.
The E-business fair 2017 was an inspiring event that offers great opportunities for business owners. Nevertheless, the lessons learned must not be forgotten if one wants to succeed in doing business.
In conclusion, the importance of digital and technological innovation to aid business growth can never be overstated. Hence, without technology, you do not have a business.