As IBM prepares to celebrate its centennial anniversary in mid-June, the Enterprise Challenge 100, a business mentoring project in Nigeria, is drawing to a successful close, thanks to the volunteers and use of the SME Toolkit.
The Enterprise Challenge 100, a joint initiative of the Enterprise Development Center (EDC), a department of the Pan African University Lagos, and IBM West Africa, connected 100 IBM volunteers with 100 Nigerian entrepreneurs who were selected from more than 700 applicants. The entrepreneurs represented a diverse range of businesses, from salons to farmers, from IT companies to security experts.
Peter Bamkole, the executive director of the EDC, commented, “If other big corporations would emulate IBM and offer budding entrepreneurs access to their business experience, there would be visible improvement in the mortality rate of start-up business in Nigeria.” He noted that small businesses need guidance and mentorship and that’s why the EDC partnered with IBM and utilized the SME Toolkit, a free business tool created by the IFC and IBM to give small business owners access to free software, business forms, tools, training and more.
Smart goals created
In March, at the beginning of the 100 day challenge, each entrepreneur was asked to think of a “smart goal” they could work toward achieving with their mentor within the 100 days.
Blankson Aci, an entrepreneur specializing in the provision of warehouse and facility logistics was matched with Ronke Kiyomi, his IBM mentor. “Ronke helped me restructure my operational objectives and provided clarity to my company’s vision,” said Blankson. “With her advice and guidance, I’ve been able to run my services more efficiently.” Blankson’s 100-day goal was to sign at least two new corporate clients and develop a business plan. So far he has signed a one year renewable contract with two major corporate organizations. “My mentor showed me the way and I followed,” explained Blankson. “She cared for my business, she understands my business, and I now have a business plan.”
The glamour business
Jessica Okeke was matched with her mentee, Love Olaleye, a make-up artist specializing in bridal make-overs. Love operates from a make-shift studio in her living room. “Jessica literally transformed not only my business, but my personality. The first day we met, she was blunt with me. She said, ‘You’re in the glamour business, so you have to put in that extra effort to make yourself glamorous. When people see you, they need to see the glamour in your business.’”
Love credits Jessica Okeke with helping her transform from a one-woman operation to a business with a staff of three. Love had two goals to achieve in 100 days. First, she needed to attract five additional high profile clients, and, second, she wanted to develop a marketing plan that would increase her brand visibility without breaking her bank. With Jessica’s counsel, she managed to book the desired number of clients and create a stronger brand presence online via social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. She has also engaged the services of a website designer to create a website that will wow her target audience. According to Jessica, “Love was just a diamond in the rough. All I had to do was polish the rough edges to bring out the truly great potential for success.”
Six top businesses selected for awards
The mentors were required to have contact with their mentees at least once a week over the 14 week (100 day) period and submit a weekly progress report at the end of the 100 days. On June 15, there will be a celebration and award ceremony to mark the achievements of all. A panel of judges will award prizes to the six businesses that achieved their goals and made the most progress.
Remi Abere, a Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs team lead and the brain child behind the project, admits she was not sure how all of this would come together, but it turned out to be a win-win situation for all concerned. It helped create a sense of community among the IBM volunteers, who inspired the entrepreneurs to achieve their goals. As Remi put it, “100 entrepreneurs, with 100 smart goals, taking a journey of 100 days and bringing together IBM skills to foster economic development in the community. Isn’t that just a great way to celebrate our centennial?”
IBM is marking its centennial year with a worldwide celebration of volunteer service. Throughout 2011, IBM invites everyone to join our global community of employees, retirees, families and friends as we support the communities where we work, live and learn together.