How Akwa Ibom supports its entrepreneurs

Reporting by Festa Ukafia, Enobong Akpan, Ndifreke Jackson, Edidiong Etukafia and Faith Uko

The unexpected order

Nsima Enyongedi is the founder and chief executive officer of Courage Care Bakery/Decor & More. She had just opened her shop that morning in September, and she was ready to provide bespoke services to her customers as she usually does.

Courage Care Bakery/Decor & More is a small-scale business in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital. The company employs two young people who are also learning on the job. It was just another ordinary day, and Enyongedi and her two employees never expected anything out of the ordinary. However, something happened that forever altered not only the course of their business, but also their lives.

That morning, one of her loyal customers called and placed a significantly larger order than she had ever done. Enyongedi, ever perceptive and inquisitive, inquired as to the reason for the increased order. The customer told her it was for the “Made in Akwa Ibom Trade Fair,” one of the programmes planned to commemorate the state’s 36th anniversary celebration.

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Enyongedi’s entrepreneurial spirit immediately ignited. She saw an opportunity to demonstrate her talent and broaden her business horizon. Nothing was going to stop her. She gathered her products and hurried to the bustling trade fair grounds.

Nsima Enyongedi, MD, Courage Care Bakery/Decor & More

Nsima Enyongedi, MD, Courage Care Bakery/Decor & More

Was I supposed to be here?

The Made in Akwa Ibom Trade Fair was a thriving hub of local talent, showcasing the diverse products and services of over 400 entrepreneurs. Enyongedi set up her stand and displayed her bakery and décor offerings, demonstrating her inventiveness and entrepreneurial spirit. Boom.

Visitors began flocking to her stand, and she quickly made significant sales. The trade fair organisers may have seen something bigger than what she brought to the market – her potential to become a leader in the local business community. They offered her a place in the prestigious Ibom-LED Entrepreneurship Accelerator Programme (EAP).

“I went to the trade fair, sold some goods, and went back to the shop,” Enyongedi recalled. “Not long after, I was invited to Ibom-LED Entrepreneurship Accelerator Programme. They said I was qualified to be a part of the programme.”

The Akwa Ibom State Government launched the Ibom Leadership and Entrepreneurial Development Centre (Ibom-LED) in order to close the skills gap in leadership and entrepreneurship among business managers in the public and private sectors of the state’s economy. Enyongedi is just one of the 400 young entrepreneurs who have benefited from this initiative.  The centre offers specialised learning experiences and programmes designed to improve Akwa Ibom State’s socioeconomic development, as well as that of other areas.

Liberty Jackson, the Information/Media Officer at Ibom-LED explained that the state government launched the Entrepreneurship Accelerator Programme (EAP) on October 19, 2023. “The programme is not just about giving money to young entrepreneurs. It is about sharpening their leadership and entrepreneurial skills and competences to make a difference in their respective businesses,” Jackson said.

Explaining further, he said that at the end of the training, each young entrepreneur would get a grant of 500,000 naira to help them scale and support their businesses.

Speaking about her experience at the leadership and business hub, Enyongedi expressed gratitude to Umo Eno, the state governor for giving young people the opportunity to learn how to grow their businesses. “I am grateful to the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Pastor Umo Eno for his contribution to our lives. The governor has made a significant impact on us.

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“Before I came here (EAP), I only had two employees and two outlets. What they have taught me is how to keep records in my business, market analysis, develop core values, and how to add value to your company. We have gone a long way. I have registered my business with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in the course of this training. I’m about to trademark my brand because I’ve seen how well it works.”

Nkebono Nglass, Managing Director of Menmi Integrated Services

Nkebono Nglass, Managing Director of Menmi Integrated Services

For the Managing Director of Menmi Integrated Services, Nkabono Nglass, the EAP has made a huge impact on his life and business. The young entrepreneur from Eastern Obolo who is a pharmacist and manufacturer of home and industrial cleaning liquids said the entrepreneurial landscape in the state would witness a boom in the next few years if the government continues to support the EAP initiative.

Speaking at the E-Library Complex where the EAP programme is being coordinated, Nglass said, “I am very grateful for the opportunity to be here.  The curriculum has been quite comprehensive. What we learned here is equivalent to what people pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in institutions to learn over a six-month period.

“One of the advantages of participating in this programme is that it has broadened our network, allowing us to connect with others who are doing similar things and on whom we can rely. We have learned about several opportunities we did not know existed. Apart from that, we have had the opportunity to reassess and restructure our businesses in accordance with global best practice.

“I am confident that the entrepreneurship landscape in Akwa Ibom will be fantastic in the next three to four years, provided people apply what they have learned.  I will encourage anyone who can afford to register for the programme and make himself or herself available, I am sure it is something you will not regret,” Nglass advised.

Arit Imoh, MD, Rity World Cakes & Home Essentials

Arit Imoh, MD, Rity World Cakes & Home Essentials

Another entrepreneur, Arit Imoh, said the EAP has changed the way she does business and has opened her eyes to the benefits of networking. Imoh, who is an indigene of Okobo Local Government and the managing director of Rity World Cakes and Home Essentials, said the programme has made a huge impact on participants.

“It has had a significant positive impact on my business, particularly in terms of collaboration and networking. I know that this programme has come a long way and that it will have an impact on the lives of those who do business in Akwa Ibom State by bringing us together. When I stepped out, this programme was the talk of the town, and people were saying, wow, Akwa Ibom is doing so well, just like in Lagos Business School. “What we were looking for in Lagos and Sokoto is now available in Akwa Ibom.”

An Uyo-based business services consultant, Sunny Ikot, expressed hope that the EAP and other programmes at Ibom-LED would help the Akwa Ibom State economy.  “In any developed society, it is the small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) that grow the economy. In Akwa Ibom State, Ibom-LED is something that will create employment opportunities, make the economy grow faster, and we know that we have ample resources that are yet untapped, and many of these resources will be developed through this programme,”Ikot said.

The Ibom-LED Entrepreneurship Accelerator Programme is designed to support and nurture entrepreneurs with the aim of promoting their business management skills, and sustainable growth. The programme is open to both existing and aspiring entrepreneurs and provides them with the necessary training, mentoring, and funding to transform their ideas into successful businesses.

This report is supported by GuardPost Nigeria’s Free Writing and Storytelling Initiative aimed at creating responsible and credible government engagement with the citizenry

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