Four Lessons for today’s Entrepreneurs from Nollywood

Four Lessons for today’s Entrepreneurs from Nollywood

Nigeria, today, is fraught with a myriad of bad press: Boko Haram, sex trafficking, corruption, bad governance, economic decline; and it was offhandedly labelled a ‘shit-hole’ by Donald Trump. But right in the centre of its mess stands Nollywood, the country’s million-dollar film industry, built by dogged entrepreneurs in a world without major cinema chains, world-class film equipments or million dollar funds.

Nollywood’s success proves that with a few right ticked boxes, any entrepreneur, even you, could grow a successful venture from scratch. Below are the four boxes that you, and your business, must tick:

  1. Focus on being remarkable.

In his 1993 Ted Talk, bestselling author and marketer, Seth Godin defines remarkable as, “something worth making a remark about.”

Marketers also have another word for this: a differentiating benefit. And even another: standing out.

Having an appealing benefit that only your brand can offer is the key to entrepreneurial success. This rule works irrespective of the type of startup that you run: Type A startups attempt to tap into a proven, efficient and already existing business model (like a tailoring or a web design startup) while Type B startups are an experiment to find and dominate an untapped but viable business model (like the celebrated tech startup, Amazon).

Being remarkable – possessing a stand out benefit – helps your brand get noticed and easily remembered.

But does this concern Nollywood?

Nollywood were apostles of this theory.

Prior to the industry’s birth, Nigerian filmmakers shot films on celluloid that were exhibited in elitist cinemas. Most of these movies catered to the need of the “few” wealthy in urban cities and only left the poor thirsting for a rare taste of cinematic beauty.

But it was not until international sanctions crippled the Nigerian economy during the early 90s, strangling theatres and forcing filmmakers to seek alternative means of income did they opt to make movies with cheap video equipment, sell them on VCDs and connect with the average Nigerian. Nollywood’s local appeal ensured it spread like wildfire throughout Africa, even without outrageous marketing budgets.

Even Google, You tube, Facebook and Amazon are examples of remarkable businesses. These companies shot right to the top without the need for expensive marketing budgets because people cared enough to talk about them.

  1. Build on your strengths.

When critics realized the kind of local, unsophisticated output that Nollywood was churning out daily, they were scandalized. It was a descent from the promising days of celluloid filmmaking to amateurish productions and they were unpleased. But they were no less scandalized when the same industry scaled heights that no other African film industry had aspired, becoming Africa’s largest and most popular film industry.

Nollywood had built on their strengths, and turned disadvantages to advantages. Without the typically big budgets of Hollywood and Bollywood, they were producing a lot of video films within weeks, paying no attention to preparing proposals to big corporations for film financing.

Fortunately, the market loved their content so much that they mostly overlooked the errors in filming.

Also, since theatrical exhibition was elitist and limited only to urban Africa, Nollywood used video to connect with a waiting audience in both urban and rural settlements. They also benefited from the low access to foreign films in Nigeria at the time for average Nigerians. And solving this problem put Nollywood firmly on the map in Africa.

That’s why the next generation of billionaire entrepreneurs must be ready to turn problems to answers. Your brand’s strength emanates from the weaknesses of your competitors and how well you are able to utilize this for your own good.

  1. Win where it matters the most.

And where does it matter the most? In your customer’s mind.

How your business is perceived among its customers is its true market value. And facts do not always equal perception.

During its early days, video Nollywood’s output was amateurish and of low quality when compared to Hollywood – and to a large extent, it still is. That was the fact and many critics hampered on it. But how many average Nigerians cared about this? Very few. And this was Nollywood’s market, not the audience obsessed with Hollywood. Small wonder then that Nigerian filmmakers kept making their low-budget movies.

Today, Nollywood’s stars are recognized around the world, and even better, new businesses are now springing up in Africa to take leverage of the industry’s runaway success. Jason Njoku’s irokotv, now tagged the Netflix of Africa, is a multi-million dollar example of this.

Building a profitable perception demands that you create something remarkable in a positive way, at least for your target market. If anyone outside your target market does not appreciate the kind of value your brand provides to your market, you should not be bothered in the least. For example, Nigerians living in Britain and South Africa still watch Nollywood movies regularly to relive the Nigerian experience.

  1. You should be profitable.

There’s no need to make something that no one is going to pay for. Most billion-dollar entrepreneurs, while designing their products or services, had a clear idea of how they were going to get paid for their efforts. This may require teaming up with someone who is more business-savvy than you are.

While it is true that most businesses hit rock-bottom in the first few years after inception, you should aspire to make turnovers while you are still small. This will afford you the leverage to attract more investors and build on past successes to greater heights.

In Conclusion.

You must realize that no one can succeed at entrepreneurship without the right mindset. You must be ready to fail, you must love the unpredictability that comes with self-employment and you should build your business with a purpose.

The four factors are essential ingredients that will add value to your business and increase your chances of success. And when you fail, you can always use them as a guide when revisiting your mistakes and hunting for the next business idea.

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