In collaboration with the Bank of Industry, the MTN Foundation launched the MTN Y’ellopreneur, an initiative designed to provide capacity-building and funding opportunities to qualified Nigerian female entrepreneurs.
In line with the MTN Foundation’s commitment to bridging the female entrepreneurial skills gap, 500 female entrepreneurs are currently going through a four-week virtual training programme in partnership with the Enterprise Development Centre.
The training, they say, is meant to ultimately empower more Nigerian female entrepreneurs in line with the Federal Government’s Sustainable Development Goals Agenda.
The top 100 Participants who meet the set criteria will receive equipment loans of up to N2m to enable them to grow and sustain their businesses.
Here, FABMUMNG speaks with nine MTN Y’ellopreneur beneficiaries who share their experience and how the initiative has impacted their business.
1. Amarachi Eze-Udemba, Founder, Chinnes Couture
FABMUMNG: Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey.
Chinnes Couture: I started my business in 2008, but I began with workers because I didn’t know how to sew. I only knew how to draft patterns. After going out to learn and get better at it, I officially started my own business and registered in 2015. At first, I started the fashion business while working, so I didn’t take it too seriously. And I focused on retail instead of manufacturing. Then when I lost my job in 2016, I decided to go full-time.
It was tough because I moved from Lagos to Abuja and didn’t know anyone here, so it was very tough.
FABMUMNG: What would you say is one of your most significant learning in running your business as a fashion entrepreneur?
Chinnes Couture: The most important thing is people management. Your workers are the core of your business. Like the tailors are the core of your business. They could make or break it no matter how good you are as a fashion business owner. Unless you don’t want to be bigger, you must have good hands, so I had to learn how to manage the various types of workers. Before now, I would tell myself that I am the team player, I am this and that, but with artisans, it is an entirely different ballgame. You need to learn how to be in their space and, at the same time, control them.
It was interesting, but I got the hang of it after a while, but that was the biggest challenge.
The second challenge is the consistent quality of our materials. To have what you want, you will search corner to corner, and you can’t find what you are looking for. Even if your suppliers will tell you it is becoming expensive and you will not stock it anymore. So getting the suitable material to get the job done is a challenge, and since covid, it has worsened.
FABMUMNG: How did you hear about the MTN Yellopreneur initiative, and how has your participation been so far?
Chinnes Couture: I was surfing Instagram when I saw it, and I registered in such a hurry and was impressed when I got that message, and they told me what it was all about. All I saw was the opportunity to be trained by the Enterprise Development Center because I know about them, and the training is mind-blowing.
I feel like I don’t know what I have been doing. It gets to a stage where you work and think you are seeing your profit, but you don’t know that you are underutilising your potential. Like the operations management, I didn’t even know that that is how I should do it.
It has been a wonderful experience. We learn, re-learn and unlearn many things I know, and I appreciate MTN for doing this at a time like this so we can implement all we have learned in 2023.
FABMUMNG: What three crucial things have stood out for you so far in the virtual training?
Chinnes Couture: I will say first, what I learned from inventory management, then next is what I learned from operations management, and finally, what I learnt from customer experience. Those three things. For someone who has spent over 13 years in customer services, I didn’t realise that I had no idea what I was doing in that light, and the customer experience training session was an eye-opener for me. I can’t wait to implement all that I have learned.
FABMUMNG: How do you think this initiative will impact your business?
Chinnes Couture: The training impact was immediate because I started using the inventory. Before now, I will just count cloth. I don’t even know how much I spent making the cloth. I will develop an operational business plan and see myself seeing the desired result without going far.
By the first quarter, when I do my finances, I will see massive feedback from even clients because of how we have done things now, and it will have a good feedback in the bottom line.
I want to say 100 per cent thank you to MTN. I don’t know if people know the value of what the cost is, but for someone like me who always looked at the EDC training as something I wish I could afford I wish I could afford it is a big thing that they have offered to us, and they are still adding if you felt you were left out. I say thank you. You are giving us something that a lot of us would not bring our money out to go and achieve, and yet it is essential to assist in scaling up our business.
Because if we don’t apply all these things that we have learned, how can we go on? We will just be eating from pocket to mouth. I can’t wait to share my success story.
2. Udeh Happiness Virginia, Founder Happy Cherryfoods Integrated Services
FABMUMNG: Tell us about your business.
Happy Cherryfoods: We are a food processing plant that is also into Agro farming. The leading food we process is rice, and we intend to go into palm oil. At the moment, we process stone-free, non-soggy, well-polished Abakaliki rice. Abakaliki and Ofada rice are different.
Abakaliki rice has a unique taste, and it is white rice, unlike Ofada rice which is brown.
FABMUMNG: Why did you sign up for the MTN Y’ellopreneur initiative?
Happy Cherryfoods: I have wanted to go for training because I am the operational manager and CEO. So my interest is what to do to ensure I take the company to a higher height, and training will help me achieve it.
I have been opportune to attend training with International Labour Organisation and ITC. Still, I wanted more, so when I saw this, I was happy because it helped me improve my technological know-how. The interest is going further, making sure we are distinct and relevant because, as a producer, you must meet up with the trending technologies.
The black seed is our challenge, for now, so we want to go for a colour sorting machine so when I heard that MTN is providing loans, I became more interested.
FABMUMNG: What was the first thing that struck you when you joined the training?
Happy Cherryfoods: Everything about the training is good because there are some things I overlooked in the past, like the marketing aspect. We advertise online, but I have never seen it as necessary until the training. I am not just advertising but selling the brand to the world. I got more encouraged to do that. Before, I thought a person in business should be bankable, but the training made me understand that it’s just you communicating what you want, and it is never too late to prepare for it.
Something else that struck me is staff training. I enjoy training my staff because we are in production, and they will give substandard output if you don’t.
The primary concern is that after training them and they leave your company; what next? During the training, our facilitator opened our eyes to how to train staff and make them loyal to you.
3. Pinkwat Bagas Gonzuk, Founder, Smart Pink Nig LTD
FABMUMNG: Please tell us about your brand.
Bright Pink: We started in 2018. The company is into filmmaking, event planning, media production, consulting, and food processing. What got us into the MTN Y’ellopreneur programme is food processing.
We produce pink zobo tea. We get the Zobo, mix and dry it, and we get the fruits, strawberry, lemon, or pineapple. We get the fruits from the farmers, dehydrate and mix them with the Zobo and ginger, and then package them in the tea bag.
FABMUMNG: Where do you source your raw materials?
Smart Pink: We source all our materials in Jos.
We farm strawberries in Jos, in the local government where I do my production. It is not cultivated during the rainy season, so we buy in bulk during the dry season and then dry dehydrate and store it for the rainy season, so we don’t run out of raw materials.
FABMUMNG: How did you learn about the training?
Bright Pink: I didn’t even fill out the form with an expectation in mind.
I forgot about it until I eventually got the email and was called.
When I told someone who works with MTN about it, she asked who I knew that got me into the MTN Y’ellopreneur programme because her sister tried it and didn’t get it.
I am happy I got in because it has improved me a lot, and it is straightforward to learn from this MTN Y’ellopreneur programme compared to other training I have attended in the past, like the class on a business plan. I kept running away from writing a business plan, and when I heard that there was going to be a training on it. I had concluded that I would not learn, but I am happy I attended the class because the training has made it easy for me to write a business plan.
The training is so engaging that you would want to take advantage of it.
FABMUMNG: As someone who is into Agro-processing, how has this training impacted your business so far?
Smart Pink: It has positively impacted my business. Now I have started putting the information I get into practice. Before now, I didn’t keep proper records of the different flavours, productions, and raw materials, but this month I did the record keeping.
Everybody at the factory asked why I was doing it, and I explained to them. They stole some of my ideas, and I had to teach them some things, and the manager was happy.
Now it feels easy to keep records by flavours, unlike before when I would mix everything, but it is easier now—customer care. My relationship with my customers and suppliers is now sweeter and improving.
Even if I don’t get the loan, I have learned so much from the training, and if I get the loan, I intend to build the business to employ other people.
4. Salamatu Mukhtar, Founder Of Amfeesat Global Venture ltd
FABMUMNG: Please tell us about your business.
Amfeesat Global Venture: My business is an organic cosmetics business for hair growth. I finalised my training in cosmetics two years ago.
How did you hear about the training, and why did you try it?
I love applying for training that will help me improve my skills.
FABMUMNG: How has the training been so far, and how did you find out about it?
Amfeesat Global Venture: I cannot learn from virtual training, but this one made a difference. I like listening to MTN.
I love the record-keeping class. I don’t usually keep details of my expenditure. I now know that I have not been fair to myself.
FABMUMNG: What is the most impressive thing you have learned from this training?
Amfeesat Global Venture: I never noted my production costs, but now I record everything in a book.
The business plan training also because I have had it in mind to expand, but I didn’t know what to do. With this training, I have started to plan on expansion.
I will expand and employ more staff if I receive grant money, equipment, and space.
FABMUMNG: What would you advise the organisers to do differently next year?
Amfeesat Global Venture: On record keeping, they should be able to train us on how to keep purchase records and give very detailed training.
FABMUMNG: At the end of the day, what are you looking forward to achieving?
I saw on the group that even if they will support us, it is not with money. I am not in for the money. I need equipment because I will only buy the equipment if given the money.
5. Ernest-Ene Vivien, Founder Wig-It Nigeria
FABMUMNG: Tell us about your business.
Wig-It Nigeria: Over time, my business grew organically and then expanded. For five years, I have trained over 300 women in seven states about wig recycling don’t know. I can’t just employ people, and I have to raise my workforce. We grew to the extent that I could set up a branch apart from our recycling centre in Port Harcourt.
I experienced my first big challenge, which was staff management. I hired some interns that stole my products. They stole wigs worth up to seven figures, so I realised I needed to know how to manage people.
I started looking for opportunities to attend training that would teach me how to manage people.
I saw the Y’ellopreneur opportunity, took advantage of it, and they chose me.
FABMUMNG: What are some of the things you have learned so far?
Wig-It Nigeria: I want to know customer relations, staff management, and financing for my business.
FABMUMNG: So, has it met your expectations?
Wig-It Nigeria: Yes, it has. The videos are fantastic. I have always preferred virtual training, but this exceeded my expectations.
Now I am ready to expand and be able to manage the people I work with, no matter the geographical area.
Because of the training in record keeping, my customer base has grown fast. I began to keep a record of every sale and started giving receipts to my customers.
I have used it to stay in touch with and know returning customers.
I am grateful for the course because I understood the importance of what I had and learned how to communicate well with my staff, keep them happy, and be on the same page with them as teammates and not just as a boss.
I learned more about a business plan. I had a business plan starting, but I understood that your business plans change as you grow.
6. Oluwayemisi Atobatele, Founder Of YKG Farms
FABMUMNG: Tell us about your business.
YKG Farms: We cultivate plantain into plantain flour, encouraging healthy eating. We are targeting diabetes patients. Our farm is in Osun state, but I live in Lagos State.
FABMUMNG: How did you hear about the MTN Y’ellopreneur programme?
YKG Farms: I heard about it through a friend who always sends me opportunities, and I signed up for it because I have been looking for grants and loans to boost my business.
The business is very capital intensive, so I need to invest good money in it to get good profit. We can’t meet up with customers’ demands right now, so we source from other farmers, and when we do that, the profit margin is minimal. Hence, we need to expand, and I have been looking for opportunities.
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When I saw this opportunity, I just applied, was called and sent an email and was added to a WhatsApp group. It has been a very wonderful experience. I didn’t know such things existed in Nigeria.
FABMUMNG: What was the biggest eye-opener for you?
YKG Farms: How to develop a business plan. I have always run away from it because I have a husband who can help, but after the training, I have developed a flair for it.
FABMUMNG: What will you be implementing in your business?
YKG Farms: I will implement more of the marketing training I received because I market more on social media, but now I know I can explore other ways to put my business out there. I am already working on my business plan.
7. Rebecca Onoja, Founder Of Beckoncepts Exquisite
FABMUMNG: Tell us about your brand.
Beckoncepts Exquisite: We import footwear for all categories of people.
Last year I applied for the Tony Elumelu foundation programme, but I wasn’t picked, but I still maintained the WhatsApp group that was created at that time, and they sent in links and opportunities, so when I saw this, I applied.
So I’ve been updating them because at the beginning of the MTN Y’ellopreneur programme when we had our orientation and the first Zoom meeting, they told us that even those that applied and were not selected would still reach out to them.
So I had to keep updating them so those they did not choose would eventually be contacted one way or the other.
FABMUMNG: What have you learnt so far?
Beckoncepts Exquisite: As a footwear importer, I wasn’t importing directly. I was getting from more prominent importers in Ibadan and Port Harcourt. The wholesaler will announce on our WhatsApp group that a particular shoe is available in 1000 pairs, and we will all order the quantity we want until the 1000 or 500 are collected.
During the training, I decided to expand, so I started independently.
I started training on importation and started getting my link here and there. I started getting the plan on the ground to begin importing myself.
I have been a customer service personnel for about ten years for customer service training. I understood many concepts, but the interactive programme was eye-opening for me, even in the customer care service training.
For bookkeeping, I used excel before for my recordkeeping, but I learned that there are apps that you can use to record your income and expenditure.
My business is online. I have done a business plan. I did that during the financial training MTN Y’ellopreneur programme. MTN foundation simplified the business plan. It was bulky when I did it the first time.
FABMUMG: What next?
Beckoncepts Exquisite: I have also started sensitising women, especially full-time housewives. You can’t tell me that you’re a full-time housewife and your husband told you not to do anything.
There are opportunities like MTN grooming female entrepreneurs, businesses, and women who will be very active in society.
The business world is not just about men; women are taking over. MTN should also do more sensitisation so that more women will participate next time
8. Ofiaju Monica Chioma, Founder Of Auston Rainbow Net Digitech Ent.
FABMUMNG: What does your business entail?
Rainbow Net Digitech: Graphics designing, POS services, and internet services.
I have been running my business since 2013.
FABMUMNG: How has business been before this training and so far?
Rainbow Net Digitech: When I started this business, I was residing in the student area in Awka at Nnamdi Azikiwe University. After I got married, I relocated to Onitsha. Over the years, I have gathered experience, but because of this MTN Y’ellopreneur programme, I have learned a lot.
In terms of bookkeeping, everybody is pointing in that direction.
If you are not keeping records, you are not doing anything. It shows that you are managing your business but need to know what you are doing.
FABMUMNG: Why do you say so?
Rainbow Net Digitech: At the end of the day, you will need to know your profit or expenditure. You will only know if your expenses have surpassed your income. But with record keeping, you’ll be able to tell if your business is moving forward or not.
I have been keeping records, but with this MTN Y’ellopreneur programme, I have seen that I need to do it correctly. You might do an invoice for somebody, or decide to write out the actual costs, what it took you to produce the invoice, and give the client the real profit.
But with this training, I can now list everything and write down my expenses as they are supposed to be.
FABMUMNG: What would you do differently if you were to start your business again with your knowledge now?
Rainbow Net Digitech: What I will do differently is to start with record keeping.
The second is customer relations. Although I am social and relate with my customers well now, I will do it differently and better.
FABMUMNG: How have you been running your business in the East with all the unrest?
Rainbow Net Digitech: It hasn’t been easy, especially with this business. I can even follow you to the bank to make sure that we solve your problems.
It has helped me a lot, and even if I am not there, my staff must treat you the way I do; they don’t do otherwise.
9. Abubakar Fauziya Kure, Founder Of Trend Adornments Multipurpose
FABMUMNG: Tell us about your foray into fashion design.
Trend Adornments: I love fashion and am passionate about modest fashion. I worked in a bank but had issues with dressing modestly, even though I wanted to look elegant.
I asked myself how I could combine dressing modestly with fashion, which was how I started my business.
My target is working-class women, students and children, so we are into sustainable fashion.
FABMUMNG: How did you learn about the training, and why did you apply?
Trend Adornments: I belong to many entrepreneurship groups on WhatsApp and other social media platforms. The link was sent to one of those groups, and I just applied the minute I saw it, I just applied.
Interestingly, it is for women, and I love anything for women. I also applied because I have been looking for ways to expand my business, but it has been challenging.
FABMUMG: What new things have you learnt from this training?
Trend Adornments: I am an accountant, but the training I have gotten here is an eye-opener. I am good at record keeping but not with things like business plans and marketing.
Fortunately, I also worked in the marketing department at the bank, but it was only accessible once I attended the training. The training has made marketing very easy for me.
Right now, I am considering implementing things I have learned, like making myself visible and boosting my business.
My Instagram page was hacked, so I plan to open another one. Simplified marketing methods, especially for online sales, have opened my eyes, so I plan to do more.
For offline marketing, when I make my wear and bring it out, it is so different and unique that people always comment about it, but I have issues with the pricing.
The materials we use are expensive, and sourcing them here is not easy because we use eco-friendly and other friendly materials that will not cause degradation to the soil.
Many others use leather material, but we are looking for something that we can always change because we also do upcycling.
It means that when you have your old clothes, we can upcycle them, but if the materials are not eco-friendly, we cannot do that.
In looking for a solution to this challenge, we are doing our best to see how we can work with some other prices and to see how we can do some simplified methods so that people can patronise us more.
One of the things I gained from the MTN Y’ellopreneur programme is that before now, I usually leave some cost behind, which is where I feel there is a problem but with the training I have gotten from MTN, I have been able to identify the problem, and I have been able to correct it. With that, I will be able to make profits.
FABMUMNG: If you want to go back and start your fashion business all over again, what is one thing that you would do differently?
Trend Adornments: I will start with a business plan. A business plan guides you to reach your goals, and I have yet to do that, but with this training, things will change. I would like to thank MTN and the organisers for this training.
10. Etemi Ebieto-Etemi Of Couture Enterprise
FABMUMNG: Tell us about your brand.
Etemi Couture Enterprise: I am into fashion design. I produce clothes for both men and women. I have been running my business for over six years, but I changed location when I married from Delta to Lagos.
FABMUMNG: Before the Y’ellopreneur initiative, what were the challenges you had in your business?
Etemi Couture: I had challenges with the business plan, customer service, financial management, and marketing. Now, I have learned a lot from it. I have also known how to relate appropriately with customers.
FABMUMNG: What was that thing you used to do wrong that you now know how to do better?
Etemi Couture: I will say it is marketing. I used to do it, but it needed to be more appropriate. I could have utilised my social media pages better, but now I know better.
FABMUMNG: What is the biggest lesson you have learned from this training?
Etemi Couture: Operations Management which includes how to plan my day-to-day activities. I’ll work on that and my customer service very well.
I want to thank MTN for this MTN Y’ellopreneur programme. It is an eye-opener for me.