As he prepares for the day, Wilson Chinedu can hear his son splashing in the bathtub. His wife gently bathes their three-year-old son while Wilson polishes the young boy’s shoes and makes sure his uniform is ready. The couple work together to dress their son, gather his books, and take him to school.
Wilson then heads to work at the small customs clearance business he founded five years ago. “It’s always busy, from morning until evening,” he says.
It’s a far different picture today than it was a year and a half ago, when Wilson wondered if his business–and hopes for the future–could even go on.
The Beginnings of a Business
Wilson runs Vagmon E-Grup and Logistics Limited, a customs clearing and shipping logistics business based in Lagos State, Nigeria. The business serves marine, oil, and gas companies in all sea ports of Nigeria.
“When I was growing up, I always had the desire to own a business,” Wilson says. In his younger years, he wasn’t sure what kind of business this would be. However, while he was pursuing his Master of Science degree in chemical engineering in Scotland, the opportunity arose for him to work at a shipping company. After spending a few years at this company, he decided to launch his own.
“I felt like everything had come to an end.”
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses faced difficult circumstances. But in some states in Nigeria like Lagos State, these difficulties were exacerbated by nationwide protests against police brutality in the fall of 2020.
In the midst of the civil unrest, several businesses were vandalized, including Wilson’s. It compounded an already hard time, as his mother had died just ten days earlier.
“I felt like everything had come to an end,” Wilson says. “It was a really daunting and challenging moment for me. They even vandalized the vehicles. They destroyed everything. But I had the resilience to start up again.”
The days ahead were far from easy. Following the protests, the sales of Wilson’s business dropped drastically. But Wilson continued to search for solutions. He wrote to the Bank of Industry, the Nigeria Customs Service, and several organizations for aid. However, he couldn’t find the support he desperately needed.
This changed in July 2021 after TechnoServe invited him to join the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) Survival and Recovery Program. Funded by Citibank Nigeria Limited and implemented by TechnoServe, this program focused on helping small and growing businesses in Lagos overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and disruptions related to economic shocks.
How TechnoServe Supported A Determined Business Owner
Wilson attended the two-day capacity building workshop for small and growing businesses, and signed up for training to develop a digital marketing plan. He learnt how to identify and focus on target audiences, develop a unique selling proposition, choose the right social media platform, create compelling content, and more.
The training was part of TechnoServe’s time-tested approach to building small business resilience, especially important in times of crisis. Wilson’s enterprise was one of thousands that TechnoServe worked with during the pandemic to adapt and survive the sudden economic shocks.
“The most important thing I learned from TechnoServe was to sell transformation instead of products,” says Wilson. “I had to offer something unique to buyers of my products so that they’re not just buying the products, but are buying something of value to them.”
By harnessing the power of social media, the online presence of Wilson’s business improved significantly. And after the workshop, Wilson created a Google My Business account, a free Business Profile for storefronts or service areas. Today, his account has up to one million followers, some of whom have been converted into actual customers.
The Results of TechnoServe’s Support
“After the program, we increased our monthly revenue by 30% and employed two additional staff members,” says Wilson. “My company is gaining more visibility. More clients are seeing us, government agencies can access us, and staff strength is increasing. This is my greatest achievement.”
Wilson’s wife shared his happiness the day that he received his graduation certificate confirming that he was a high performing entrepreneur during the project from Citibank Nigeria and has been elated with where they are now. Following the program, the couple has improved their financial status. They’ve been able to finish building their house and now have the option to send their son to a better school.
Today, Wilson continues to work towards a brighter future. “My ultimate goal is to make this company global so that you can easily see us on Google and other search engines,” he says. “We want to be one of the companies to redefine logistics in Nigeria.”
Beyond furthering his own business, providing for his family, and bringing opportunities to his team, his desire to give back to others is ever-present. “With the relationship we’re building with TechnoServe, my goal is to become a donor in a few years,” he says. No matter how small the amount, Wilson plans on supporting others as he has been supported. “I’ve set that goal because I’ve benefited. I hope to make others benefit [from TechnoServe].”