With the hundreds of thousands of businesses that the Corporate Affairs Commission registers annually, the Nigerian economy and the GDP should be booming, but this is not the case. Statistics suggest that about a third of these businesses crash within the first 18 months, and another 20% crash before they clock 5 years.
Several others struggle for years, hardly growing from micro and small businesses to become the medium-scale businesses that the economy needs to advance. Still stuck at the micro-level, most of them do not get to the point of employing people and paying them well. It is to help businesses like these that Pennee Technologies exists.
Co-founder and CEO of Pennee Technologies, Mejero Emmanuella Kunu, was a guest on the Nairametrics Business Half Hour and explained that Pennee had sprung up to provide support to small and micro-businesses and help them advance to a point where they survive, grow and create better employment opportunities for others.
No economy can survive on just big businesses, or small businesses, so there is the need to push and support the small businesses to become medium businesses that can make some significant impact on the economy. Kunu and her Co-Founder started Pennee in 2019 to provide this much-needed support.
What kind of support can small businesses get when they decide to sign up with Pennee?
One complaint common to small businesses is the inability to access much-needed loans to scale and grow their operations. Pennee is solving this by giving them asset-based loans and overdrafts.
“We don’t want that kind of situation where someone presents the business to secure the loan, and spend it on something else. Any loan we are giving has to go straight into the business, buying assets, restocking etc, and our target is to improve your productivity so that you can easily repay,” Kunu said.
Sales and inventory management is also part of the package Pennee offers. With Pennee, small businesses can automate accounting, store transaction history, and download financial statements. This takes the huge burden of organising the books off business owners so that they can focus on running the business. Pennee also provides them with a mobile wallet for transactions, backed by Providus bank, and allows them to receive payments via transfers and cards.
“You might not be able to open a corporate account due to stringent requirements but you can open a corporate wallet with Pennee easily, and over time, have access to loans and overdrafts. You can save in your NUBAN assigned wallets and earn interests,” she explained.
Another critical support the business owners get is business intelligence and analytics which equips them to make better decisions. They can understand where their customers are coming from, where and when they make the most sales, how to target their ads, what products need to be purchased in larger quantities; and make decisions based on these, instead of randomly guessing their way through and groping in the dark.
There is also customer relationship management where Pennee helps businesses acquire customer information and use it to better manage the customers. They also get access to lots of resources that guide them through everyday business challenges.
“The core target is to help business owners become more business savvy, make better decisions and have the resources to actually grow the business.”
The money story
When Pennee started in 2019, the loans for business owners were sourced via peer-to-peer funding, where those with excess money supported those in need. In spite of the COVID-19 challenges of 2020, this model remained solid and most business owners adapted to the new normal quickly, moving their businesses online and selling items that were in high demand.
To support the peer-to-peer model, Pennee also keeps a decent 80:20% ratio on wallet deposits and transactions which is used to give asset-based loans and overdrafts to these businesses.
The company is also currently raising a seed round to get more funding and Kunu says, “Sustainability and scalability are some things investors look out for, and we have proven that we can execute what we are saying. I think this is what investors will be looking out for. We are also on the lookout for investors that really get our vision and want to be a part of it.”
Pennee intends to be serving 1 million businesses across Africa within the next five years since the small business challenge is common to developing economies.
How I rode on passion to win multiple-awards in a self-taught career – Shola Animashaun
Turning down an employment offer at 25, to take a gamble his passion seems to have paid off for Animashaun.
There tends to always be a bias towards motivational speakers, who give the “follow your passion, and money will follow” advice and they are mostly chided for giving advice that is not applicable to all climes.
But then comes Shola Animashaun, multi-award-winning visual storyteller, who proves that even in Nigeria, it is possible to follow your dream and make a lot of money out of it.
While serving out his youth corps year in 2002, Shola discovered his love for visual storytelling – an art that keeps memories and tells stories using still and motion pictures. He had gotten a camera while working in Ilorin, Kwara state before going for the service year, but then discovered that there were people willing to engage him to capture their memories in pictures and videos, and pay for it as well.
After the year in Ilorin, he abandoned the hobby which he regarded as a pastime and started the job-hunt, hoping to clinch some white-collar job with mouth-watering remunerations, but over the next three years, it became an endless search until he eventually got a job with an accounting firm based in Abuja.
Recounting his experience in the Nairametrics Business Half Hour show, Animashaun said; “I was offered employment and I was supposed to travel to Abuja to start work there. By the time I got home, I packed my bags to leave Lagos for Abuja. But one of my siblings held me back. He said if I don’t end up pursuing the passion I had in visual storytelling as a business, I may never end up doing it.
I listened to him, the next day I went to return the N5000 I had been given to take night bus to Abuja to start work as an accountant. At the time I turned down that job, I was 25 or 26 years old, and once you can’t get into a white collar establishment in your early 20s, it would be hard for you to do that. so when I was turning down the job, I knew that I had burnt my bridge literally. I knew that the decision would be difficult to take back, so I had no option but to be successful. ”
Turning down an employment offer at 25, to take a gamble on one’s passion is not what many would advise their siblings to do, but it did pay off.
Over the next few months, Shola focused on building a portfolio of editorials, documentaries, videography and related productions, and within three months, Animashaun’s income had quadrupled the offer he got from the accounting firm.
With referrals, he soon got his first big offer – the Globacom campus storm – which took him travelling around the country with the likes of Basketmouth, Jimmy Jatt, and Ruggedman.
“It is very important to have a portfolio because even when people refer you for the right jobs, they would always want to see what you have done before then. A little talking and more showing, and the results that you seek will come,” he said.
Animashaun also focused on building a good interpersonal relationship with his clients, to build more rapport and attract more referrals to sustain the business. He also got a deal as the in-house photographer for Nigeria’s number one urban lifestyle and music magazine, Hip Hop World; and has since then worked with several concerts, magazine covers, blogs among others.
At different times, Shola covered the Eyo Festival, Lagos Carnival, Nigerian Tourism Expo in Atlanta Georgia and Barbados respectively.
None at all, Shola says.
“There was never a time I regretted my decision. I love the freedom of time, the freedom to take up a job I want. I am always excited but when I was looking for a job for years, that excitement died totally and I started feeling like I was not good enough. Returning to the camera brought back the excitement and that is what I need to fuel my energy.”
The accounting graduate, now turned visual storyteller, has churned out hundreds of productions over the years and gotten several awards and recognitions. Despite starting out as a neophyte and learning through multiple trials and errors, Shola has now become one of the most notable names in the industry. He has executed several jobs within and outside the country and continues to stun the world with better and better productions every single time.
He was recognised Best Model Photo of the year, Nigeria Photography Awards 2011, and again in 2012. Shola also won the Best Wedding Photo of the year, and the Best Event Photo of the year, Nigeria Photography Awards 2012.
Shola Animashaun was 2nd runner-up, EyeEm We Are One FIFA14 World Cup Int’l Competition 2014; and the Visual Art Winner, Creative Industry Awards 2015.
How your housing problem can be solved with Bongalow
In subsequent years, the company aims to build a mobile banking app to allow people save for a property and shop for a mortgage.
If you have ever heard of someone being defrauded while trying to get a land or home in Nigeria, then you are not alien to the kind of problems Bongalow seeks to solve in Nigeria. However, the company has evolved into a lot more than this since it started.
Bongalow started in 2019, as MyAwayHome, to help Nigerians in diaspora who wanted to get homes in Nigeria with a secured and entirely digital process to access home loans, mortgages at competitive prices and without the risk of being defrauded.
At the Nairametrics Business Half Hour Show, Bongalow founder, Kelechi Nwokocha noted that the company rebranded into Bongalow in December 2020 as a way to accommodate a larger market and move from providing diaspora mortgage solutions for African immigrants living in the US and the UK, to become an all-encompassing, Africa-focused, digital mortgage platform.
Nwokocha recalled that the inspiration to start the company came years ago when his mother lost some significant sum to fraudulent agents in Nigeria while trying to get a home in the country.
“I thought that if she had suffered this, then there could also be others going through the same challenge. So, I decided to come up with a platform that would help them source the property they need safely, and where necessary secure the right mortgage that suits their needs,” he explained.
With a simple application on Bongalow, clients both in Nigeria and diaspora access no less than 16 mortgage offers from different banks, and can then make a choice based on the available information. This cuts out the length of time that would have been spent walking into the different banking halls in search of the best rates and creates a transparent and entirely digital process that ensures that applicants get the best terms possible
Bongalow operates an asset-light business model, with about 15 staff in its Lagos office, and makes money off commissions. The applicant simply needs to tender a credit report, and also prove his income source, alongside other documents to get started.
Challenges for the mortgage business in Nigeria
While European countries are probably well adapted to the mortgage business and terms, the same cannot be said for Nigeria.
According to Nwokocha, the first challenge for mortgage business in Nigeria is affordability. Many families cannot own a home because of their income, and the same income further restricts the size of mortgage loans they can access for the purpose.
“To secure a mortgage, the individual needs to have up to 30% of the value of the property to cover the initial costs and the closing costs, and this means we are talking about N15 million if we have a property worth N50 million. Most people cannot afford this, not just because of the living standard in Nigeria but because of a poor savings culture.
No mortgage bank will give you a loan size that will put you in a position where you have to spend more than 33 % of your monthly take-home in repaying the loan. That means the income level also affects the loan size one can access, and it is a challenge for a lot of people who wish to own their homes,” he explained.
To resolve this challenge for clients, Bongalow is set to roll out the “rent to own” product that will allow clients start with as low as 10%, and raise another 10% of the property value within the first 2-3 years before they are moved into the traditional mortgage plan with the mortgage banks to gradually pay off the rest.
This eases off the burden on the clients, allowing them achieve their housing goal at their pace.
In subsequent years, the company aims to build a mobile banking app to allow people save for a property and shop for a mortgage. “We want to be the number 1 name in the mortgage market. We are excited about making affordable home financing more accessible for every African.”
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