I had a friend back in the university whose room doubled as his shop. We made fun of him because his room was filled with all sorts of things he sold; we nicknamed it ‘Mami Market’. Today my friend owns a big office building and rents part of it to other businesses. He turned out to be smarter than most of us, after all he was able to build a successful business with the little he had as a student, which you must agree with me was not much.

The Nigerian economy has been struggling to leverage the country’s vast wealth in fossil fuels in order to displace the crushing poverty that affects about 67% of its population. Majority of Nigerians are ‘poor’ and ‘unemployed’. The only way we can sustain the economic growth of this country and become one of the 20 industrialized nations of the world by the year 2020/2025 is for us to rise to the challenge and build successful business brands that can partake in a competitive global economy. It is for this reason that I’ll be sharing practical steps on how to start a successful business in Nigeria with little or no money! So let’s get to the business of the day!

 STEP 1 – Start with No Money;

Make good use of the other resources you have

Many fail at starting successful businesses because they focus on irrelevant things. There are people who have had beautiful business ideas that flunked because they were trying to meet up with expectations that were far-fetched. They looked at already made businesses and wanted to be like them overnight.

Most times what stops people from starting businesses in Nigeria, successful or not, has nothing to do with money! The irony is that we bother ourselves with ‘huge’ expectations and forget that they too come at huge costs. The first thing you really need to do is to strike off every item on your start off list that you cannot afford. If you’re still hoping for something or someone to give them to you before you start, then your chances of starting at all are quite slim. Always have this in mind “to start a successful business, your today should never be bigger than your tomorrow; create room for it to be smaller so that it can get bigger.” That’s how most big and successful businesses started.

Try not to focus on the money you need but on the other resources you have,no matter how little they may be. The bottom line is, do not let money stop you from starting out. Although my friend couldn’t afford to rent a shop when he first started his business but he didn’t let that deter his plans. He started right from his bedroom. This is probably a good time to create a list of all the resources you have and go ahead to putting them to good use.

As soon as you are able to get things off the ground, it wouldn’t be so difficult to figure out how to raise the money you need to run the business. So what are you waiting for?

STEP 2- Pursue Excellence, Not Money;

“Pursue excellence, and success will follow pants down” – Rancchoddas Shamaldas Chanchad ‘Rancho’ (3 idiots)

Anybody can start a business. But it is one thing to start a business and it’s another thing to start a ‘successful’ one. This is the point where many get it wrong.

A lot of people got into business solely because of the money they had hoped to make from it. Most of them were victims of the psychology that expects them to go to school, study hard, pass with good grades and get a good job. Then life happened. After going through the entire process for many years they found out the hard way that they still did not make enough money to satisfy their needs. For others, it was the frustration of not being able to get a job to pay the bills. So they decided to start a business in order to make money.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with thinking of the money you will make from the business you intend to start. Moreover you need money to run it. The problem is when you make money the major drive or the only reason for starting your business. To succeed you need to take note that there is almost nothing that you will set out to do that hasn’t already been done before; it is your ability to do it with excellence that will make you stand out from the crowd.

Excellence is when you are outstanding or superior in what you do. It is paying attention to details and not cutting corners. Excellence is not settling for average or remaining dormant!

A business isn’t successful based only on how much money it makes. Money is naturally attracted to success which is a byproduct of excellence. A successful business is one that can thrive in a competitive environment based on its unique and outstanding characteristics.

Don’t bother on how to make a lot of money from your business rather think of what you have to do to keep the money coming in. So start now, pursue excellence!

STEP 3 – Stay positive!

Live for and love what you do.

Most successful businesses were built by people who had a passion for what they were doing. Think of it as the zeal to do something even if you don’t get paid for it. This is the mindset you should set off with in business. Be ready to eat, sleep, think and dream of your business like it is a part of you.

The success of your business is largely determined by the vision you have for it. You set the boundaries to what you can achieve based on your faith or belief in it. According to J.M. Barrie “the moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it”. Your business is first successful in your mind before it is in real life.

Every business is bound to face challenges along the way. It is completely normal. But your ability to endure and not give up will lead you safely down the road of success. When you fall down, pick yourself up and try again. Stay positive!

I believe in the words of Fela Durotoye’s when he said that by December 31st 2025, Nigeria would be one the world’s most desirable nations to live in. But the time to act is now. We must position ourselves in various sectors of the economy so that we would be ready when the world comes knocking at our doors. The value of our lives is an embodiment of the contribution of our goods, time and talent to the development of our society and our world at large.

The steps outlined here do not capture all that you need to know about starting a successful business in Nigeria. I encourage you to study more especially in the area of your business and together, we will build the Nigeria of our dreams.


ABOUT US: Zimylink Brand Managers is a brand management firm. We’re a team with in-depth expertise in developing and deploying effective brand solutions for big and small brands. As part of our approach of bringing ideas to life, we publish our thoughts and theories on branding and also solicit the contributions and opinions of other industry experts. This is to help emphasise the impact of branding on the development of small and medium sized businesses towards building a sustainable economy in Sub-Saharan Africa.