Several entrepreneurs go into business for economic survival usually due to push factors such as lack of jobs, lack of education, low skills, discrimination and sometimes due to absence of or unsatisfactory opportunities. A research by InfoDev, supported by world bank, identifies a person who engages in entrepreneurial activity chiefly as a means of providing subsistence income to himself/herself as a subsistence/necessity entrepreneur. Necessity entrepreneurs typically do not aspire to grow the business to the point of creating employment opportunities for workers outside of their immediate family. These kinds of entrepreneurs or businesspeople are usually prevalent in retail and personal care sectors and are typically one person operations, generally range from street hawkers to educated hopefuls with limited access to formal employment.
As would be expected, these category of people lack basic entrepreneurial skills, managerial skills, have poor book keeping skill sets and are not constantly looking for ways to improve their offerings because they are just trying to make enough money for the next meal. Due to the poor economic situation of the country, there continues to be an alarming rise in the number of entrepreneurs being produced out of necessity.
Where there are extensive necessity entrepreneurship endeavors taking place in the form of micro, small and other forms of business undertaking, improving the competence of the business owners will contribute positively to the survival rate of these necessity driven businesses to ensure that they realize the powerful economic potential they inherently possess. Most necessity driven entrepreneurs have sparse capital, education, skills, and knowledge, thus are unable to develop innovative products and services. Some of the issues of unemployment, gender inequality and inclusiveness can be solved, or at least can be reduced, by expanding entrepreneurship. While most entrepreneurs may be quick to say funding is a major problem, education and entrepreneurial training have proven to be important for the success of any venture. Higher education increases the probability of being pulled by opportunity rather than being pushed by necessity into the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Most businesses created out of necessity either crash or plateau for years. Mama Mariah, your favorite fish selling customer in the market has remained in that tiny kiosk for 16 years, selling the same products. This is however not always the case, there are a number of outliers who find opportunities within their micro businesses to expand to begin to solve real needs. A typical example is Ijeoma Ndukwe, the CEO of bubez pap, a food processing company currently processing, and packaging raw pap fortified with vitamins and minerals in different variants, who started out selling pap from her house. While running her business, she identified the existing challenges of time involved in its preparation from scratch, poor hygiene concerns from purchasing from an open market, and especially monotony in taste. Today she has over 10 variants in the market and exports to the UK and US. This did not happen overnight; she took steps to improve not just her business acumen but developed herself as a person and as an entrepreneur. She is one out of many as there are now women who were motivated by necessity when they started their enterprise but are now taking advantage of the various opportunities for growth available that are targeted at the specific needs and rights of female entrepreneurs and access to financial opportunities.
Necessity entrepreneurship will create jobs and meagre income which may be seen to curb social problems associated with unemployment in the short term, but it will not advance personal growth or national economic growth in the long run but the unsatisfaction from hand-to-mouth entrepreneurship will result in quick exit from their business ventures. With a lot of the inequality faced by women in the corporate world, entrepreneurship can provide a level playing field for anyone to succeed. Unfortunately, this is not the case, as we still experience less women navigating and succeeding in their ventures.
It is one thing however to provide training for these female entrepreneurs but it also important to have follow up and feedback mechanisms, support and hand holding opportunities where necessary. This is also a call for the successful heforshe entrepreneurs to intentionally mentor women in business. A female mentor will help navigate through the hurdles that she has gone through as a woman or may understand but a man can help understand the other parts that we may be missing as women.
Weyinmie is a development expert with special focus on Gender, Financial Inclusion and Enterprise Development. She has over 8 years working experience across several sectors – oil and gas, extractive sector, not for profit management, leadership, and the entrepreneurial ecosystem. She is the founder of Wevvo Nigeria, a resource and community-based platform that supports single female breadwinners.