BusinessDay
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COVID-19, its effect on our businesses

…Coping, CSR initiatives, need for corporate and government interventions

Folake Coker

Founder/Artistic Director, Tiffany Amber

On the 27th of February when it was announced that we had our first coronavirus case in Nigeria, I sensed that it was only a matter of time before we got to where we are today even though I hoped I was wrong. Today, Nigeria and indeed the rest of Africa is facing increasing cases of coronavirus infections and deaths, just like in many other parts of the world.

Like many of you, my family and I are at home where we are safe; and like many business owners, I took the decision to put the safety of my clients, employees and suppliers first, by suspending the production of Tiffany Amber’s ready-to-wear collections, while also thinking hard about how to ensure that this business interruption wouldn’t negatively affect the many hundreds of families that depend on us for their livelihood, directly and indirectly. At the same time, I was also acutely aware of the challenges our healthcare sector is facing in Nigeria and indeed all over Africa at this time, especially in the areas of medical supplies. As a result, in the middle of March, I took the decision to temporarily halt our production of ready to wear items and convert the production to that of medical apparel, including overalls, coverings, sheets, masks, specialist garments and the likes.

My brand, Tiffany Amber, has deployed over 5 tons of fabric and in this effort, my staff and I have been working tirelessly under the strictly recommended safety guidelines of the World Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health of Nigeria to produce and make available these much needed supplies for the hospitals and medical facilities that need them.

This effort by our company is not-for-profit and is our own way of contributing towards combating the coronavirus pandemic in our country in our own way – by helping to reduce the impact this pandemic has had on livelihoods during this period with some being reduced drastically and in some cases cut short completely. We will continue to do so to the best of our ability and with every resource at our disposal.

As we continue to strive in these challenging times, we remain immensely grateful to all the people, professionals, institutions and governments working tirelessly to bring this pandemic to an end especially here and of course all over the world. Let us remain strong because with God behind us, this too shall pass and we will remain positive for a better future.

EFFECT OF LOCK DOWN ON BUSINESS

Tiffany Amber is a luxury fashion and lifestyle company. At an unprecedented time like this luxury, I assure you, is the last thing on anybody’s mind. Like many business owners, I took the decision to put the safety of my clients, employees and suppliers first, by suspending the production of Tiffany Amber’s ready-to-wear collections, while also thinking hard about how to ensure that this business interruption wouldn’t negatively affect the many hundreds of families that depend on us for their livelihood, directly and indirectly.

ADVICE FOR CORPORATES, PRIVATE ORGANISATIONS AND THE STATE/FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ON SUPPORTING SMES

SMEs are probably the largest employer of labour in our economy, and by inversion, they are the backbone of our economy. Many SMEs are experiencing hardship or even closure at a time like this, just as can be observed all over the world.

I believe that there are various ways private organisations and governments can intervene to help alleviate or mitigate some of these hardships, some of which have already been implemented; for example, the household food stimulus packages which have been distributed to low income houses. I would like to applaud the various HNIs and Organisations who have made personal donations to the COVID Relief Fund.

From a financial perspective, loan moratoriums can be issued to help manage the now observed lack of cash flow in many companies. The Federal Government and CBN will need to work with our commercial banks to put in place initiatives to support businesses out of the crisis, given low cash flow from revenue loss.

Banks can also support staff with easier access to loans, with lower rates and extended payback periods to help alleviate loss of income given the current economic climate.

COVID-19, its effect on our businesses
Folake Coker, Founder/Artistic Director, Tiffany Amber

THE IMPORTANCE OF GIVING BACK IN THIS SEASON

I’m a firm believer that if you take from the system, you have to give back to the system; that way you maintain the equilibrium of the system. Similarly, if you take from life, you have to give to life, that way you maintain the balance of life.

Having become acutely aware of the challenges our healthcare sector is facing in Nigeria and indeed all over Africa at this time, especially in the areas of medical supplies, I took the decision mid-March, to temporarily halt our production of ready to wear items and convert the production to that of medical apparel, including overalls, coverings, sheets, masks, specialist garments and so on. This effort by our company is not-for-profit and is our own way of contributing towards combating the coronavirus pandemic in our country in our own way – by helping to reduce the impact this pandemic has had on livelihoods during this period with some being reduced drastically and in some cases cut short completely. In addition to this, we are producing 10,000 masks to be shared amongst the less- privileged. We will continue to do so to the best of our ability and with every resource at our disposal.

 

Funke Soyibo

CEO HNK Interiors Ltd

COVID-19, its effect on our businesses
Funke Soyibo, CEO HNK Interiors Ltd

The last time I stepped out of my house was exactly 10 days ago!! Oh ! How I so much miss having to wake up very early to meet up with early morning appointments, going to my various showrooms, meeting up with clients, going about to inspect my various projects, coming back home so late…..tired and exhausted, getting my outfits ready for the next day. I never thought or imagined that a time like this will come when movement will be restricted in a town like Lagos!

The most intriguing part of this whole situation is the fact that the cause of this restriction is a pandemic that is worldwide, Covid-19.

I guess God truly wants to show us how MIGHTY and POWERFUL he is… Sigh!

My team and I were in the middle of a lot of interesting projects just before the lockdown order was given.

Everything is now at a standstill….we are all waiting and wondering, for how long will this go on for? Will there be a way out soon? Will the world ever go back to normal?

What about my staff? People that have served and have been loyal over the years…what if this continues indefinitely or all through the month of April as we have seen in other countries? Will I not pay them their full salaries? If I decide not to, how will they survive? What about the various bills that I have to pay? So much money is tied down on goods at this time and we are just going to have to wait this out?

Hmmmmmmmmn………these are a few of the questions that has been going on in my head. I have had to cancel 2 business trips that were scheduled for March and April. One was a conference and an award night in Dubai and the second was meant to be my yearly trip where I go around different countries to get more ideas, new innovation and designs for my business.

All these and so much more have been placed on hold indefinitely. One thing I have learnt over the years is that when I’m faced with a situation that I have no control over, I submit to the ONE who has control over all the affairs of life.

So, I have submitted to God, to his Sovereignty, to his Power and his Might, to his faithfulness, believing and trusting that this too shall pass.

My mum in her blessed memory had a saying that has kept me over the years and the saying goes…’ when there is life, there is hope for a better tomorrow ‘

What is important now is to stay safe by staying indoors and using the time to reflect on life. I’ve also been researching for various Apps that can add value to my business, and trust me there are loads of them waiting to be discovered.

And when I’m not searching for Apps, I spend time to pray, and when I’m not praying I listen to music and other times I just Netflix and chill.

 

Raliat Ahuoiza Oyetunde

CEO/Lead Consultant at Prinsult Global Consulting Limited

Raliat Ahuoiza Oyetunde, CEO/Lead Consultant at Prinsult Global Consulting Limited

COVID-19 came in a rush. Although, I was mentally prepared for a possible shutdown, it still hit me very rudely.

It took me a few days of only sleeping, waking up, eating and helping the children with their online schoolwork before I could get my bearing and put my acts together.

I then set up a routine for Monday-Friday to keep me mentally alert as well as use the opportunity to begin some personal projects. I have always wanted to write a book, so I’m now able to dedicate three hours every afternoon to my writing. I also stepped up my spiritual activities and bonding with my family by playing board games and cooking competitions. I got to teach my eldest daughter how to use a mortar and pestle for pounding yams.

This season has allowed me the time to examine my cash flow. I have decided to prioritize my spending and to place some things on hold. It has also allowed me to pause on life and reflect on my personal experiences, relationship with family, friends and colleagues.

For me, the greatest lesson of this lockdown is that, in the end, we are all mere mortals. We came to this world with nothing and we would leave it with nothing. Only the legacy we build will remain.

I am presently grappling with the effects of COVID-19 on my business. I run a consulting company that is also a Business Development Service Provider (BDSP) to small and medium scale businesses. In addition, we are very active in capacity building for youths in Nigeria and within the continent. We have had to shut down our offices; however, we are still working virtually. Here, now is when technology is most useful to us as an enabler.

Our services are tailored to present SMEs as potential ‘Brides’ (investment-ready and viable businesses), for their ‘Grooms’ (Investors, Banks). We offer advisory services on how they can structure their businesses, access financial capital and be markets ready while building sustainable business that will outlive them.

The lockdown has also affected our revenue negatively as we had to cancel or postpone our face to face (F2F) advisory services and classroom training. To remain in business after COVID-19 will require managing our cash flow judiciously. We are also using this period to reinvent our business model to integrate digital learning as well as develop digital products for our target market.

Many analysts have projected financial turmoil and a deep recession after the pandemic. Critical production and services are currently on hold or deferred, leading to huge losses. However, we believe in the resilience of the Nigeria economy and the people, we shall ride through this together.

 

Ada Osakwe

Founder/CEO of Agrolay Ventures

Ada Osakwe, Founder/CEO of Agrolay Ventures

Dear financial institutions, there is need for a grace period as regards to loans with banks. Taking money out in interest payments at a time when no cash is coming in, no revenues, makes no sense to me and nobody is talking about it. The government, CBN are not saying “let us support each other” or as a bank to say “let’s support our clients”. They are not even asking how we are doing or how we are coping as a business neither are they asking “how can we help?” It is not happening. My view, just as I have been saying in the past few weeks, just the simplest things, give a grace period of six months on existing loans, yes you can limit it to customers who have been performing on their loans but give us a break, give us a breather because with no money coming in, it makes no sense when you want to be debiting accounts when there is nothing in our accounts.

Secondly, do something around reaching out, there are different things your loan desks can do right now. Entrepreneurs need help, they need to know that their businesses may survive or what they can do to weather this storm.

Another thing is on ATM charges, some of these SMS charges, just put some of these things on hold at a time like this. At the end of the month, my phones get bombarded from banks on different charges. In some other countries, some banks have removed ATM charges so you can go in a time like this to withdraw money because you don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring. You guys are making enough money, we see your dividends, we see your results, don’t say the charges being removed was done automatically or the IT system has it programmed already, this will be very helpful. We are living in uncertain times; it is business unusual so we need to act like business unusual.

To every entrepreneur, write to your banks, speak up about what is going on and let’s hold financial institutions accountable right now to supporting their clientele.

To this end, I have put out a petition on www.change.org/NigeriaSupportYourSmes and I will encourage you all to please sign this petition for the government to support SMEs through this trying time.

SMEs make up 86 percent of our workforce, according to the Nigerian Bureau of statistics, and having this lockdown as a result of this COVID-19 epidemic is severely affecting us. We do not have revenues coming in and as a result, we cannot meet our short term cash obligations. Nigeria can do better. If you feel the way that I do, this is a chance for all of us to be heard.

 

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