Rémy Martin: #OneLifeLiveThem with Arese Ugwu

I’ve been too shy to post my Rémy Martin commercial lol! Even though its been showing on Tv for a min 😊. That day was filled with so many obstacles we started filming at 7am in the morning and didn’t finish till 11pm at night because of all the mishaps in between….by the time we were done hair and makeup were not the same again😂…but Remy Martin had put together a great team that was committed to getting it done (even though @bidemizakariyau bailed on me at 10pm *sideeye* )

*permit me to be deep for a second *😂 the video shoot was like a metaphor for life…you have a great vision, life throws you obstacles but if you want to succeed you have to learn to roll with the punches and stay resilient

Watch the ad below

#remymartin #onelifelivethem #brandinfluencer #pacesetter #thesmartmoneywoman #thesmartmoneymovement

How to raise money for your small business

Brothers and sisters, times are hard! At this point it’s probably safe to say we are in a struggle economy, so the prospect of raising funds for small businesses has become even harder and more expensive. However, it helps to be prepared so that if you are lucky enough to get in front of a potential investor you can ace it.

I find that creative entrepreneurs especially in this part of the world may have brilliant ideas but don’t know how to effectively pitch those ideas to investors. Omotola could be the best fashion designer in the world, master of her craft but if she can’t articulate how investing in her business will realize returns she will be unable to raise funding for her business.

An investor is like a client; you are selling them something so you need a compelling story they can buy into. The art of fundraising is basically looking at the person in front of you and figuring what part of your story they will resonate with the most.

3 tips that could help:

Get clear on the value proposition
Great ideas are fantastic but in order to raise funds for your business, you need to be able to explain to an investor how your business idea is going to make money. To do this you need to have a clear understanding of the problem your business solves and a good handle on the financials that underpin your business. Do you understand the business model? What are the revenue streams? What is the cost structure? You don’t have to become an accountant but you have to be able to interpret the numbers and what they mean for the business.

Articulate why you are raising this money
I’ve had several conversations with entrepreneurs that sound like this. ‘If I just had N5, 000,000 I would be able to grow my business’. However, when the conversation goes a step further, I find that many entrepreneurs are not able to articulate or justify how that money will improve the bottom line. They may have a vague idea but no actual facts. At the end of the day what an investor would like to know is how the money they invest in your business will translate to profit. What kind of returns are they likely to get? What level of risk is involved? When will they get their money back? So it’s important to be able to explain the how. For example, Omotola the fashion designer could say, I need N5, 000,000 to buy machines that will increase production of my fastest selling lines by 40% which will translate to at least a 25% increase in profit margins because there is pent up demand for the products but limited supply.

Demonstrate an understanding of your industry
You will need to explain the market opportunity. What is the size of the market? What percentage of said market are you targeting? What’s the competitive landscape like? What is your customer acquisition strategy and what makes you uniquely placed to tackle this market.

Overall, funds are limited so your case has to be compelling enough to convince a investor that the should take a risk investing in your business as opposed to putting the funds in the stock market, real estate or the next kid with a bright idea.

Are we glamourising entrepreneurship?

Are we glamourising entrepreneurship?

Just ten to fifteen years ago, in Africa becoming financially successful and making your parents proud generally meant that you had to become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, accountant and maybe even an investment banker. Pursuing a university degree, then deciding to become an entrepreneur would have caused mayhem in most Nigerian homes. You were expected to choose a profession, work hard at it and then climb the ladder as far as you could.

However with the scarcity of ‘good’ jobs and unemployment on the rise, starting a business has become the new normal for many graduates. In fact, entrepreneurship has become one of the most sustainable ways to solve Africa’s unemployment problem. However are we glamourising it to the detriment of our long- term success?

Three things we should probably reconsider

Selling the idea that entrepreneurship is the ONLY guaranteed way to success.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard, ‘If you don’t follow your dreams, you’ll end up working for someone who did’, ‘no one ever got rich working a 9-5’,these are over-generalizations that have consequences because the fact is not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. Plus if we all become our own bosses who is going to work for who? Who are the employees going to be?

It is wonderful that non- traditional avenues to earn money have opened up in the form of entrepreneurship but why do we always have to have two extremes.

Mark Zuckerberg may be the founder of Facebook and Sheryl Sandberg is Facebook’s COO and author of ‘Lean in’ which has helped millions of women around the world in the workplace. Just because she isn’t the founder of Facebook it doesn’t make her less important because she focuses on being a value driven individual.

Shouldn’t the focus be on encouraging people to be entrepreneurial in their thinking whether they work in a corporation or run their own business? People who are entrepreneurial in their thinking are value driven. They adopt critical thinking and embrace innovation and continuous improvement. They are the ones you see solving problems everyday and are getting paid to do so regardless of whether they are the founders of the company or not.

Are we choosing entrepreneurship for the right reasons?

With entrepreneurship growing in global popularity, everyone wants to be a boss, many graduates don’t even bother joining the rat race anymore, they come out of university saying ‘I don’t want to work for anyone; ‘I want to be my own boss’ and a great proportion of the ones who are already on the corporate ladder can’t wait to jump off and start a business so that they too can escape the rat race.

The thing is becoming an entrepreneur isn’t about avoiding the discipline of a 9-5 job or jumping into the next ‘it’ industry because other people seem to be making money there. Becoming an entrepreneur is about finding a problem that you are uniquely placed to solve, that people will pay you for. You shouldn’t be thinking about a me too or copy and paste approach because the idea of working for yourself sounds appealing, the thought process should be, what skills or resources do I have to execute that idea? Am I passionate enough about it to pursue it and follow through?

The Myth that good ideas are the key to business success

We live in a world where the future of success is touted as becoming an entrepreneur so the focus of most graduates is to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Sara Blakely and create the next Facebook or Spanx which is great. But contrary to the message that is popularly conveyed that becoming an entrepreneur is about the next big idea, ideas are a dime a dozen and execution and the ability to solve a series of problems is the actual key to success.

Becoming an entrepreneur means you are responsible for an enterprise and beyond the idea, a successful enterprise has to have structure, a business model and a value proposition.

Instead of glamourising either end of the spectrum a 9-5 or entrepreneurship lets focus on encouraging people to be value driven and solve problems where they are and focus on finding career paths that suit their skill set and temperament, where they can thrive.

Watch the Video on Guardian TV

Small money…big branding

Last year I had the most amazing encounter at the WIMBIZ conference with a lady that has now become synonymous with well-packaged ‘Akamu’ in Nigeria. She walked up to me after my speaking engagement and said ‘ Hi smart money Arese, I follow you on instagram. I laughed and asked her name and she introduced herself as ‘Nwanyi Akamu’ aka ‘Iyalogi’. I was amused by this introduction because I couldn’t reconcile this well dressed woman with titles that were usually used to describe women who sold ogi on the road but she certainly had my attention. She went on to explain that she was the founder of Bubez foods a company that had basically found a way to produce Akamu in a more hygienic way, with several variants including strawberry and ginger in packaging that looked like international yogurt.By the time, the two day conference was over 5 out of every 10 wimbiz associates I spoke to asked me if I had met that ‘Akamu lady’. Even the host of the event mentioned her on stage at some point. To be clear, she was merely attending the conference. She wasn’t a wimbiz associate and she wasn’t speaking at the event but she had found an ingenious way to sell herself and sell her market.3 branding lessons we could learn from Nwanyi Akamu.

Craft an Authentic brand message

There are generally no new ideas, so there’s no need to try to hard to reinvent the wheel but there’s also no need to copy and paste. To make your story authentic you need to add your own Maggi and pepper to it. The combination of things that make it unique to you, your voice, your experiences and your skills, I don’t know the exact history of Ogi in Nigeria but it has probably been eaten by thousands of people over several decades, so there is nothing new about selling Ogi but Nwanyi Akamu has found a new and interesting way to put a spin on it. First of all she has added value to the process and ultimately the customer experience by providing a cleaner more accessible way to consume Akamu. She has also found an engaging way to tell her brand’s story by the fascinating way she introduces herself and goes on to tell people she started what is now a successful million naira business with less than N200.

Leverage on social media to build your network

The world is changing and social media has become such a powerful tool in building a network. It is not just the way we interact with our friends, it’s a new way to build an audience, showcase our products, acquire customers and ultimately grow our businesses. However, to play the game you have to understand the language, what makes you interesting to your target audience? What are their likes, dislikes, hobbies? What kind of conversations do they find engaging? What kind of value can you offer them because ultimately every relationship is about an exchange of value social media or otherwise. Nwanyi Akamu is one of a few awesome people I’ve met on instagram that are now legitimately my friends and have added value to me or my business in one way or the other. Interestingly, this particular interaction had such an impact on me that she landed a cameo in my new personal finance book ‘The smart money woman’ showcasing how to make the best of a networking situation.

Deliver on your brand promise

Your brand promise clarifies what your brand stands for and people have to be able to trust in its fulfillment. In other words your brand has to do what you say it will do. The days are gone when people can afford to spend money on great advertising but not deliver on a great product or service. The advent of social media has changed all that. It means that people now have platforms to voice their opinions on their experience with your brand. So if people have positive experiences with your brand it will lead to great referrals but equally if they have negative experiences with your brand the bad news is guaranteed to spread like wild fire.

Click here to watch the video on Guardian TV

Are millennials jumping into business partnerships too quickly?

This post originally appeared in The Guardian 

A while ago, a friend of mine ran her business idea by me and I thought it was brilliant but several months later she still didn’t have it up and running. Why? Because she was looking for a partner. She gave me a few names and I was a little confused because I struggled to see what value they would add. She had the capital required to start the business, she had access to the same network of people and potential customers as her proposed partners and she had a better grasp of the numbers.

After a few conversations, it became clear that her hesitation to start the business boiled down to fear. The fear of failing, the fear of putting herself out there, the fear of failing alone, to her it would be less terrifying if she had a partner and wait for it…. the fear of social media!!! Social media was a big part of her sales strategy but she was convinced she was couldn’t hack the whole social media ‘thing’ and was willing to give up 40% of the equity in her new business to someone who had a better understanding of that terrain than her.

I found this hilarious but sad at the same time. She would be making the same mistake a lot of millennial entrepreneurs tend to make, giving up equity instead of hiring for the role. A business partnership is like a marriage; you have to think long term from day one. It is inevitable that over time people evolve individually within the partnership, so is this a partner you would be willing to deal with over the next 30 years? Partnerships can be great because as the saying goes, sometimes two heads are better than one but there are several things to consider because of the high rate of failure when it comes to business partnerships.

Here are a few of them.

Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of each partner

You have to decide very early on, the value that each person brings to the table. An ideal business partner has strengths where you have weaknesses. For example one person could be good at sales and marketing while the other is great at operations and the financials of the business. Most people go into partnerships with an abstract notion of what these strengths and weaknesses are but fail to clearly articulate, define and put in writing each person’s roles and responsibilities and this could be a recipe for disaster.  

Shared Long-Term Vision

Even more important than having a partner who knows what you don’t know is having one that has the same long -term vision for the business as you. Many people make the assumption that because their partner believes in the idea of the business they have the same long -term vision and this can cause disruption later on in the business. You can both love the idea but have different opinions on how the idea should be executed. Have discussions early on about your values, objectives, operation and marketing strategy and even exit strategy to make sure you are on the same page.

Consider working on smaller projects together first

Many people often have different personalities in social and work situations. So you can know someone socially but you’ll never know what they are like professionally if you’ve never worked together before, so consider collaborating with potential partners on smaller projects first to see if your work styles are compatible. For example, one partner could be someone who likes to take decisions, execute quickly and fail fast and the other partner could be a slow decision maker and takes their time to plan extensively before they take decisions. Neither of these is a bad approach but could cause disruption in the business if both partners don’t understand each other’s work styles early on.

Corporate Governance

In my opinion, every business should have a board of directors or an advisory board from the beginning. Even in the best partnerships, disagreements occur so having a group of people who have the best interest of the business in mind and can be relied on to take the final decision in situations where partners can’t agree is crucial.

Click here to watch the video on Guardian TV

Is debt ever a good idea?

This post originally appeared in The Guardian

In Nigeria, there seem to be two extremes when it comes to people’s general attitude to debt. On one extreme, there are people who are afraid to entertain the notion of any debt at all because they see it as dangerous and would rather pay cash for everything.  On the other extreme there are those that are so comfortable with debt that they don’t pay back and become known as what Yorubas call ‘onigbeses

However, debt can be a useful tool to attain financial success but how you use it matters.  There is good debt and bad debt. Wealthy people use debt as a tool to leverage their investments and grow their cash flow, but poor people use debt to buy things that make rich people richer. Only borrow to acquire an asset that will appreciate in value.

People with bad debt habits will typically go into debt buying things their income cannot support. They will borrow money to purchase big-ticket items that don’t appreciate in value and most likely can’t cover the cost of the debt over time.

Debt is typically considered good when you use it to acquire an asset that has the potential to appreciate in value and bad debt is when you do the opposite and take a loan or rely on credit cards to purchase things that depreciate in value i.e cars and consumer goods.

However, whether debt is good or bad there are some grey areas.

3 Commonly asked questions about debt

Should I take a loan to pay for my education?

Getting a good education is generally considered a positive thing because in principle it increases your chances of employment and the potential to earn more but we like degrees in Nigeria sha. In fact, we can be quite extreme, the more degrees the better is our motto when it comes to education. Its completely normal for someone to have 2 MScs in what I would consider meaningless degrees and still be trying to acquire a PHD. However, the reality is that multiple degrees do not guarantee employment let alone high paying jobs. These days it’s about how well you are able to apply knowledge in the real world. So in my opinion, if you take a loan to further your education it should be a degree in something that puts you in the best position to increase your earning potential enough to be able to pay back said loan. Otherwise, the consequences can put you in a situation where you are living from hand to mouth trying to repay said debt.

Should I take a loan to invest in real estate?

Real estate is a fantastic investment in the medium to long term and its generally advisable to take debt to acquire real estate assets. However, this can turn from good to bad debt if you haven’t considered your options and circumstances carefully. For example, if you take on a loan to buy a rental property, it’s a good loan if the rental income from the property can cover the cost of the loan (interest etc.) and in the best-case scenario even have some change left over. However, if you take a loan to buy land with the hopes of capital appreciation because of the high interest rates Nigeria is notorious for this might quickly turn into a bad loan if anything changes in your income and you can’t service the loan or capital appreciation does not happen fast enough because in the land scenario, the asset isn’t generating any immediate income so it might be advisable to either pay cash or save towards a real estate investment like that.

Should I take a loan for my business?

Access to capital is often cited as one of the major obstacles entrepreneurs in Nigeria face and to a large extent I agree. However, I find that raising debt or equity for your small business can be detrimental if your business model is faulty. The extra money will only help to amplify the problem as opposed to solving it. A N100, 000 problem can easily turn to a N1, 000,000 problem.  I often hear entrepreneurs complaining about making a loss and say things like if I just had ten million I would be able to grow my business but when asked further questions about how exactly that money would impact their bottom line they struggle to give a straight answer. Taking on debt for your business is usually only a good idea when you know said business can generate enough positive cash flow to pay at least the interest on the loan.

Click here to watch the video on Guardian TV