How to grow your small scale business in Nigeria

Compared to what we have in some developed countries, starting and growing a small scale business in Nigeria and most developing countries can be quite challenging and very difficult.

A lot of the times, most aspiring entrepreneurs do not realize this until they get started with their businesses, only to be shocked at the reality they get to face.

Usually, “acclaimed” experts will always tell you; it is possible to build anything from scratch, start from anywhere and make it to Forbes list but in reality, this is not always the situation, in most cases.

Take for instance, according to a recent report, within the last few years, Nigeria has recorded about 61% failure rate for small businesses. Meaning that 6 out of every ten startups have failed within the period under review.

This stat is not much different from most other African countries and a majority of the developing world. And this is what a lot of business gurus are not willing to talk about.

Truth be told, even when it is always very possible to build your business around ideas and principles that are applicable universally, your geographical location, target market and other local factors are distinct elements that will affect your strategies.

And this in turn, will affect the success of your business.

With this in mind, you have to realize that beyond what you read from foreign gurus and business experts, you still need to key into some homegrown strategies that can work for your own business.

And for these strategies to really work for you, they have to be realistic and tailor made for you, based on your own realities and possibilities, if you really want to build a successful small small scale business.

That said, in the following paragraphs I will be sharing with you some of the top homegrown strategies you can use to start and grow your small scale business below…

Separate Fantasies from Realities

There’s this popular myths that anyone can start a business with nothing and grow it into a billion dollar company. I’m sure you must have heard this and probably seen lots of example.

As exciting as this may sound, you have to realize that for every successful one billion dollar worth business ideas, there are tens of thousands of failed business ideas. So, you get to ask yourself, what are the odds that my business idea will fall into the one percent of the one percent successful ideas?

Now, while you’re trying to answer that question, I want you to keep the following in mind before starting your small scale business:

  • Starting and building a successful small scale business is not as simple as those digital marketers tell you in their eBooks. There are going to be ups and downs, good days and bad days. So, you have to plan ahead.
  • You can copy other successful ideas and strategies but, learning and using what works for your business based on your own peculiar situation, market and economic realities is very important.

Get rid of the idea that starting an online business or a small scale business is less complicated or will not require the same smart thinking, resilience and pragmatism that will be required by any major business idea because it will.

Regardless of how small it is, start strong with a solid plan and a workable system that will bring your ideas to life.

Separate Hobby from Business

First of all, to grow a small scale business, regardless of whether this your business idea is also a hobby or not, you have to decide that this is actually your business and not a hobby. And going forward, you are taking this seriously and giving it all the attention it deserves as a business, not a hobby.

Find out your WHY | Credits: Pexels

After that, get to take the following measures to put things in their proper perspectives by finding out;

  • Why you’re a digital entrepreneur, or small scale business owner; It is not enough that you’re an entrepreneur, you have to know exactly, what you’re going to do that will differentiate you from others.
  • Where you’re going with this idea; You need to know where you’re taking your business and probably a time frame to get there
  • How you’re going to grow until you break even. You also need a strategy or an idea about the things you can do to actually get your business to the destination you want for it.

The reason you have to decide to see your idea as a business instead of a hobby is because a lot of digital entrepreneurs usually see their business as a hobby hence in some instances, they fail to put in as much effort to grow it as they should.

If you are really serious about growing your business then you have to work and treat your business as something very important.

You have to show up when it’s time. Build systems and models. Attend to clients and give your business all the attention it deserves.

Systematize your Business

You need to build workable systems for your small business if you really want the business to grow.

By systems, I am referring to workable structures or templates that can work for you, your business and your clients. These systems should be easily re-usable so that you don’t have to create new designs each time you want to use them.

For instance, if you’re going to do a lot of email marketing for your business, instead of coming up with a new email structure all the time, you can create email templates that can be used for your purposes either automatically or manually.

Where you have a blog for your business, your readers and potential clients should be able to know the days they’ll find your content to read when they check you up.

If it’s about design or other services, they should be able to tell when and how their jobs will be delivered.

They should also be able to identify the way you do your stuff from others.

Unlike your hobby which you’re doing whenever you have time, basically for the love of it, your online business should be distinguished and attended to as something that your aspirations and that of so many others will depend on.

You should be able to see it as your work. Have a well defined schedule for carrying out business related tasks and stick to it.

It’s not that you will not fall out of the dateline sometimes. But a commitment to sticking to the systematic schedule will really help you gain traction with your business.

If you’re completely a solo entrepreneur or working with a very lean team, you can simplify things by writing down all your business related activities and allocating specific hours and days to them, based on your schedule.

Spend your Time Wisely

As an online entrepreneur, time is one of the most valuable resources you’ll ever have. Unfortunately, like every other person, you have the same 24 hours we all have in one day.

So, managing your time effectively is going to be one of the biggest decisions you’ll make for your business, especially if you’re running a one man business or a lean startup with just a few staff.

You’re going to have to divide your time into lucrative and non-lucrative hours.

And this should be able to take care of your Capital task (activities that will bring in the money like working on a client’s project.) and Recurrent tasks (Activities that you do to keep up with other part of your life or personal development).

To grow your business, learn to spend your time wisely | Credits: Pexels/Tima Miroshnichenko

Supposing you’re operating a very lean startup in a country with very unsteady electricity supply, you might even want to divide your time into hours you’ll have electricity and hours you won’t etc.

Let’s call this division, Recurrent and Capital hours.

Every single day, your recurrent hours are going to be spent on those tasks you’re going to do over and again which might not add direct increments to the money you’re making through your business.

You can call this the normal day to day activities like sleeping, doing house chores, attending non work related meetings, hooking up family and friends and other non money generating business activities etc.

Your capital hours on the other hand are going to be spent on everything you do that will in one way or the other grow your business or add more money to your bank account.

These capital tasks may include: Writing your blog and social media posts, Promoting these posts, Building and tweaking your brand reputation, Writing free books etc.

You have to be able to understand where each of these activities will come in, how many hours you’ll allocate to each of them and how you’re going to stick to this schedule, in order to grow your business.

Read this post to learn more about how to boost your productivity as a small business.

Don’t Quit your Job Immediately

As someone starting an online business, don’t put all your eggs in one basket by quitting your job or whatever you’re doing to focus entirely on your small scale business.

No. It’s not advisable. It’s better you start your digital business as a side gig. Focus on what’s already paying your bills while building up your hustle by the side.

You should only focus fully on your new business when it has started generating adequate income to the point you’re confident it can sustain you.

Quitting your job to start a business without a strong financial backup can be suicidal.

It will lead you to expecting an instant returns on investment (based on the effort you’re putting in) even when it’s not yet time.

And when these expectations are not realized immediately, you’ll get discouraged. And probably even quit the business.

This is one of the main reasons so many digital businesses fold up, after the first few months. If you want to survive past your first year, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Keep your daily job while building your digital business by the side.

Don’t niche-down Immediately

If you can do more than one aspect of a digital business, do it.

Supposing you’re a graphics designer and you can also do digital photography, add it up.

Whatever complementary service you can add to your digital hustling, add it up. It’s going to help you. Especially at the initial stage.

You can then micro niche your business to a particular aspect of the business you want at a time you might have gathered clients and adequate capital, to help you target a particular micro niche.

Some other established digital entrepreneurs are going to ask you to niche down as soon as you get started.

This doesn’t work all the time, depending on your market and target audience. You have to forget about niching down or focusing on a very tiny audience right now because it won’t help you.

As a start up digital entrepreneur, you need potential clients to know about you and your business so, you’ll need recommendations etc. And for this reason, you’ll have to reach out to as many people as you can.

When you feel satisfied with your established client base, you can then niche-down to focus on a few more sophisticated target audience.

You can only niche-down from the onset if you have done your research and you’re sure you have a relatively large market to grab.

Brace up for the down times

Whether online or offline, most businesses will always experience a period of rising growth and reduced growth.

Sometimes, these are going to be influenced by market forces beyond your control, as an entrepreneur.

In order to avoid getting caught up unawares in times like this, you need to prepare ahead by taking some drastic measures that will keep you in business if or whenever you experience a downturn.

The following are some measures you can put in place to prepare ahead of time;

Save; One of the first ways to brace up for any eventuality is to save. Saving ahead can help you in cases of any urgent monetary needs so you don’t have to spend all you make from your business.

Plan Ahead; Even when your plans may not work the way you want all of the time, planning ahead gives you heads up on what to do, if there’s any eventuality.

Create Systems; Put up some ideas together to take care of eventualities like customer satisfaction issues, content automation etc.

In any case, whether you’re running an online or offline business, you’ll do well to remember that all business go through different stages of growth. Yours can be slow or faster and then slow…

However it turns out, brace up and get ready for the time your business will undergo these stages of growth.

Build your Credibility

Small businesses thrive on credibility. As a small scale business owner, you probably have a lot of big names competing against you on the fringes.

You naturally may not have what it takes to compete against these big fishes but you can build for yourself credibility, by evolving a brand that delivers on its promise.

Instead of competing against the big brands, find out the blue ocean areas. Identify what these brands are not doing for their clients. Focus on doing these things exceptionally well.

Understand, running a small business or an online business in particular is slightly different from doing your business offline.

So, there are things you won’t take for granted if you’re planning to have a successful business.

Things like honesty should form a core part of your value system. I had to write that boldly..

Because you’ll have to do more than enough to get people who’ll probably never meet you physically, to trust you with their money.


As a parting shot, i want you to take note of the following;

Keep a clear picture of where you’re going with your business

Be able to create a convincing picture of what you want to achieve in the long run, where you’ll be in 2-5 years and what you’re going to achieve when you get there.

Always refer to this picture during those days you get discouraged. Hang it somewhere you can see it more often.

Have mentors and role models. People who are already successful as digital entrepreneurs, whose story you can relate with. They will show you the rope and cheer you up during tough times, either directly or indirectly.

Understand that commitment to your hustle or business is not the absence of other options…

Commitment is a decision to stick to something you believe in… Because you’re convinced it’s going to turn out successful, against all odds.

So when you feel discouraged, don’t begin to think oh maybe I’m not committed anymore. Identify and acknowledge that feeling for what it is, a part of the process and then move onto achieving success with your business.

Now, there you have the key strategies to build a small scale business in Nigeria and other developing countries. For further assistance, reach out to our support team let’s hold you by the hand to build a successful business.

Now, it’s over to you. So, what’s your biggest challenge as a small business entrepreneur?

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    Victor Winners

    Victor Winners

    A Nigerian trained Law graduate and British LL.M candidate, using his widespread experience in tech, law and innovation, to evolve cutting edge and growth driven solutions for brands and businesses in Africa and beyond.As a Law-trained tech expert, Victor brings in over 7 years experience working in the Digital Marketing, SEO, Web Development, Online Publishing, Social Media and Legaltech sectors, to create result driven content and innovative solutions to brands and businesses.Named as one of the top 50 Web Design Influencers Globally, Victor Winners started one of Africa's most widely read blogs on Digital Marketing and Strategy.With this platform, he has impacted the lives of over 2 million readers spanning more than 135 countries in 8+ years

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