Nkechi Oguchi is the Managing Director of Ventures Park, a hub that houses many start-ups in Abuja. Recently, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo visited the park and interacted with some of the start-up companies. She speaks on how they are solving the challenge of space for start-up businesses in Nigeria.
Question: Tell us about yourself and the idea behind Ventures Park?
Answer: Professionally, I studied pharmacy but I have always been more keen about the business aspect of even pharmacy. In Nigeria, we meet a lot of challenges when it comes to starting a business. Whether it’s the registration process, or even finding an active location that suits the business you want to start, it is difficult. When you find a small office space, you will hear the amount they will ask; they even ask for two years’ rent. So most businesses that have little amount of money to start-up will end up spending it on rent and not on the business.
At Ventures Park, what we basically do is make it easy for you to start-up your business. We have office spaces that have been set for you. You have your furniture set, internet, electricity, everything you need to do business with set in a perfectly professional, wonderful atmosphere. And it’s so flexible that you can pay monthly. This allows you to have more money to run your business instead of spending all to pay for rent and buy furniture; you spend little on rent and more on your business.
We have a founder who started this, but he was looking for someone who had same vision to manage it and that is how I came on board as the managing director of the park. Venture Park is just a year and four months old.
Question: How do start-ups key into this facility and benefit from it?
Answer: When they come in, maybe on the lowest level of our membership, that is our one solo founder, we see them evolve from one person to have 10 staff. This environment enables them to do that because the person sitting close to you could be your next big business client so you are in a community of people doing different things and you can get support. Also, we like to bring in big partners that will help them. We have visitors from embassies and top government officials. We had the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, here recently because he needed to meet with a few start-ups to find out what they need. So, we try to find out what they need as a business and find a way we can organise skill building classes and knowledge building classes to help on how they can do marketing, business communication which they need for their business to grow.
Answer: What was the outcome of Vice President Osinbajo’s visit to the park?
Answer: When he came here, he met with a lot of the start-ups. He tried to understand what problems they are faced with. Sometimes, people in government do not have a full grasp of what people in the start-up ecosystem are going through. If you don’t know their problems, how can you build a solution for them? So, by sitting down and having a conversation with some of them, he knew what their problems are. Some said they built this wonderful product which people could not pay hence they had problems with payment solutions and he told them how they could solve some of the problems.
Question: How do you deal with the issue of electricity?
Answer: When there is no light, we have back-ups like generator, inverter and so on, to make sure electricity is constant. People need light to work. The Internet is working because people in the start-up ecosystem do a lot with it, so internet is very crucial. Some companies have 10, five or one staff. In a month, we have over 3000 people who come to the park to do different things.
Question: What is your educational qualification?
Answer: I obtained a B. Sc Pharmacy from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi and a Diploma in Business Management from Institute of Commercial Management, UK. I have a team of 20 people in Ventures Park manning various units that I have to manage. So, I have to constantly acquire more skills to do that.
Question: How do you combine all these with family?
Answer: I am newly married and it’s been tough trying to combine them. I am still finding out the best way to do that, but once you have a very supportive partner, it makes it easier. Age has been an advantage for me on the job as well. Being young, it means I am more vibrant, more energetic, and more prone to taking risk which is very important, because if you want to see new things happening, you have to be able to take risk.
Question: What are the things you are trying to put into the park to make it more efficient?
Answer: We are looking for ways of using technology to make this place more efficient; to make people have a better experience here.
Question: What is the cost of acquiring space here?
Answer: We are cost friendly. We can work out pay friendly space for N3,150 per day; we can work out a package for N26,000 per month. It goes from that to something for a team of 11 people.
Question: What gives you fulfilment in this job?
Answer: I like the fact that when start-ups come here (one person), they grow, and then their problem changes from how do we get a space to we want to recruit staff (we have a sister company that does that) and then their problems become, oh we want to do business with some big client and then we want to work out payment terms. I like to see how they evolve.
Source: Daily Trust