Dear Nigerian Graduates,
Congratulations for your graduation; you have done well.
Today, I have some words for some of you on entrepreneurship. Yes, I have been getting some notes on one idea or another. You want to start a company and move to the mountain-top, immediately upon graduation. In America, they even drop out. But here, you have at least graduated. There is nothing that should stop you [you think].
As I have maintained, it is pure illusion to think you could find success as a fresh graduate in Nigeria in the entrepreneurial world [sure, that does not mean it cannot happen]. It is not really about you. It has to do with our system. Nigeria is not America where there are VCs that could mold young entrepreneurs into elite operators. Most of those founders you read have executive coaches who are like private teachers. Also, there is a different culture which makes execution easier when compared with Nigeria.
While you can hire people as you grow, it is very likely you would do most things at the beginning. So, it makes sense to learn how to do those things while working for another person.
Entrepreneurship is a high intensity call – it is not a vacation. Do not be deceived by Americans that dropped out of college to build empires. No one would tell you that most have “mini-teachers” or executive coaches helping them. And the VCs that pump those millions into them are super-mentors which could be like teachers. We do not have these elements yet in Nigeria. That is why working for at least 3 years would help your vision
Do not get me wrong. I understand that government wants everyone to go into entrepreneurship. It is the buzz thing around the world. But I can assure you that if you have the discipline to work for someone for say 2-3 years, you would find higher success.
Of course, where there is no job, my recommendation breaks. Here, I am assuming that you could actually find a job. To have top-grade skills, with confidence to open your shop, upon graduation, implies you have something people would pay for in Nigeria.
Being an entrepreneur is different from being a small business owner. While you can operate easily as a small business owner without prior work experience, becoming an entrepreneur would be challenging.
Today, I responded to a graduate who wanted suggestions with a simple answer that ended with “Go and Find a Job First!”. My point was driven from my personal experience. Profitability does not come easily in Nigeria – it has a long gestation period. During the period, if you have not carefully planned the voyage into business, you could have serious problems. Being a fresh Nigerian graduate complicates that process further. Besides, there are very few VCs and angel investors across Nigeria that would support any vision when the executor has zero working experience.