HAMID Fatimah Omotayo (Pen Babe) writes,
“It’s not until you have a huge amount of money before you start a business. I started with 70k. As an entrepreneur, you need to have savings; [it is] not all the profit you make you will be spending because there are times there won’t be sales at all.”
These were the words of Barakat Alli Gbagba, a 200-level student of the Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto’s Faculty of Education and Extension Services who is also an entrepreneur.
Ms Gbagba started out her entrepreneurship journey as a caterer. However, the stressful and time-consuming nature of the craft pushed her to try selling footwears and she has remained in the business ever since.
It gladdens her that she has been able to meet some of her expenses, relieving her parents of the stress to cater for such needs. She has been able to live up to the expectations of her parents that her being a business owner means she would be able to take care of most of her expenses.
While Ms Gbagba has been able to augment the efforts of her parents in providing for her needs, thanks to her business, being a student-entrepreneur has not been all rosy for her.
Asides periods when she didn’t record any sales, she has had greater challenges. She disclosed to PEN Press that she once lost about two hundred thousand Naira to bad debts. Based on her unfortunate experience, those are not the only challenges that come with being a student-entrepreneur.
She has also had a fair share of irritable customers who disregard the customs and excise taxes on goods shipped from abroad, expecting parallel prices with locally-procured alternatives.
SHE IS NOT ALONE
“It’s not easy doing baking business in school since I’m staying in the school hostel. I can’t bring my oven to school since it’s a gas and electric oven and the school management doesn’t permit gas and strong electrical appliances in the school hostels,” Khadijah Olanike Adigun, a 200-level Danfodite, who doubles as a confectioner, weighed in on the challenges student-entrepreneurs face.
However, she noted, gratefully, that the challenge affects only her personal finances as “I’m not sponsoring my education with my business. It’s just for me to have little change with me so I’ll not be disturbing home every time I need money for some things”.
Speaking further about her challenges, she confessed that she also suffered losses as a budding entrepreneur. She once charged a client for a cake and pastries and ended up spending the entire amount she charged for the package on just the materials, without making any profits.
THE HIKE IN PRICES EFFECT
Ms Adigun bemoaned the increase in prices of goods and services, “especially here in Sokoto, where transport fare is not smiling at all”.
She disclosed that she mostly disagrees with customers on prices, explaining that things are expensive everywhere.
“We’re not buying rice at the same price we were buying it in 2020. So they should not expect to be baking cakes at the same price always,” she justified her pricing, attributing the fluctuation in prices of baking ingredients to the inflation in the country.
She also rationalised the hikes, explaining that factories producing flour embark on occasional strikes and refuse to produce anything, causing a scarcity that will enable people to sell their existing stock at outrageous prices.
“I’ve learned as a business owner to always produces quality, not quantity, because it’s the quality of your products that will speak for you anywhere,” she added, maintaining that she doesn’t have to settle for mediocre alternatives to run her business.
WHAT I ORDERED VS WHAT I GOT
Dhirah Kehinde Agboola, a 200-level student of Linguistics, couldn’t agree more that being a student-entrepreneur is a baggage of challenges as she has suffered a good number of heartbreaks herself.
In Ms Agboola’s bead-making venture, like every other business, losses are inevitable. But unlike Ms Gbagba and Ms Adigun, her losses did not come through bad debts or difference in material prices.
In her case, she has had problems with customers who were disgruntled by the final look of the styles they requested, having seen impeccable visually-appealing versions online. In the end, her business suffers the brunt of her customers’ breakneck expectations because of their obsession with the virtually-enhanced products they saw online.
“Some clients can be funny at times. They’ll tell you that it’s not exactly what they saw in pictures that you replicated for them. I do tell them that pictures deceive sometimes; that what you want may be bigger in the picture and small in its real size,” Ms Adigun, the confectioner, lamented.
“Since it’s my work I’ll make sure I tell them the sizes they should be expecting by illustrating with sizes of baking pans,” she added.
STRIKING A BALANCE WITH ACADEMICS
Despite the chain of setbacks in her business, Ms Agboola has not been losing on both ends as she devotes a chunk of her time to her studies. She told PEN Press that she’s been able to cope with combining academics and entrepreneurship by refusing to be swayed by the influx of orders. She doesn’t take many orders when she is in school as she prioritises her education
Ms Adigun shares Ms Agboola’s reservations and applies them strictly to her confectionery business.
In her words, “My primary assignment here [in UDUS] is to learn. I don’t take emergency orders in school. I only take orders with at least a week’s notice before the time of need. By then, I’ll have known how to adjust my schedule so my time does not disappoint clients or disturb my academics.”
Hamid Fatimah Omotayo is the Financial Secretary of Pen Press UDUS