Learning to Overcome Hard Times

When the Going Gets Tough, Become Innovative

Are you like Nkechi?

She explained that ever since her papa died, it’s been one trouble or the other. She said that her mother’s search for an additional job had been in vain. She constantly wonders how a meagre 25,000 Naira salary can feed Mama and four children every month.

Our debts are steadily on the rise and I must say that money must be running away from us” was Nkechi’s conclusion. “I used to cry everyday,” Nkechi recalls. “I would cry when Mama was not watching because she would be very upset if she saw me crying. I would cry when she served us our meal and there was no fish or meat on it.” She said the tears would run freely when she had to queue in the bathroom for hours and as such get to school late.

According to Nkechi: “I would cry when the sun got incredibly hot and I looked up to see only an old rusty fan in our home that could barely work. I would cry when Mama forced herbal drinks down the throats of my sick younger siblings because that’s what she could afford.

Even though I love drinking garri, I would cry when I had to drink it in the morning, afternoon and night, because there was no other food.” She added: “I would cry when the electricity company officials cut our power supply and our neighbour, Obinna, immediately jerked his generator on, while we lit our candle.

Nkechi explained that she was always crying until the day the landlord served her family a notice to quit. She said, “I tried to cry but I could not find the tears. I was hardened; I knew I needed to do something. I needed to work to help my Mummy; I needed to keep this roof over our heads. That was the turning point in my life.

It’s not just your imagination – a lot of people are struggling to make ends meet right now.

Families are scrimping and saving to meet their monthly obligations and in some cases they still come up short at the end of the month. Young people need to open their hearts and take control of whatever situation they find themselves. Stop crying and look for work! If the problem is financial, look for a way out. Do something! Even if your parents give you all you need right now, nothing stops you from making some money for yourself too. You can relieve them of the duty. Trust me, they would be glad you did.

Let’s take a look at some business ventures that young people can be involved in and make some cool cash. Some of these ideas would need some start-up capital, while others would need absolutely no cash whatsoever, just skills maybe.

Painting: If you already like working with your hands and are artistically inclined, this could be a perfect business idea for you. Of course, you are still quite young and you do not need to spend all your time on this.  You could start by telling your neighbours to kindly turn in their old tables and stools, buy the paint and you would help them paint for the cheapest price they can get. To be a painter, however, you should be able to work carefully and pay attention to details.

Laundry Services: Everybody wants to wear clean and neatly ironed clothes, but most people do not want to do the washing and ironing.  Because of the busy and demanding city life, more people are willing to pay for laundry business to take care of their dirty laundry. Seize this opportunity to make some really cool cash. Guess what, all you need to start this business are your hands! The sun will always dry the clothes without any help from you; thank God for that. Soap, water and a pressing iron can come from your customers and you will still get paid at the end of your job.

Cleaning Services: Although this might not be an easy task, running a cleaning service is one of the easiest ventures young people can do. All you need is good communication skills in order to convince your customer that they can trust you to do a good job. All the materials that you need to carry out this service will most likely be provided by your customers and as such your handwork and commitment to duty is important for the money to keep rolling in.

Babysitting Service: Maybe you just noticed that your neighbour’s maid has stopped working for her and she is in dire need of someone to take care of her kids while she is at work. Convince her that her children are in safe hands with you and market yourself by telling her that you can also help them with their school homework – for an extra fee.

Hair Stylist: I have an aunt who started making hair for people at a very young age. Till tomorrow, we still cannot tell how she learnt how to do this so well.  She says she was born with the skill. If you are like her, take it up now. Make your friends’ hair, talk to your neighbours, and ask your mummy to tell her friends to give you a trial. You can only get better at this as you gain more experience.

Songwriter: Do you know that not all music stars actually write the lyrics of their own songs? Let your talent sell you. If you can write but cannot put a voice to it, sell it. For this business of yours to grow, you will need very strong networking skills. Meet people and never stop talking about what you do, you never can tell who they know.

Teaching/Home Tutoring: In this case, you want to talk to the administrator of that low cost nursery school in your neighbourhood and you just might be surprised they will need your services. Then you can discuss what time you would be available so that your classes can be scheduled at such periods. Some of the parents of these kids might also want a special lesson for their wards at home and that’s more money for you.

Catering Service Assistants: I am sure you have been to parties where there are young individuals going from table to table, taking orders and serving people. These young people are in most cases not the ones that cooked the food and might even be attached to more than one catering outfit. They are paid on a daily basis and their work is to simply take orders and serve the people at parties.

Call Centre: If you are willing, you can start with that your phone and few Naira notes. Put a sit outside your compound and a board that says ‘Make Calls Here’. To make much more profit, use a network that often gives bonuses when you recharge your phone. Imagine how cool it is when you are not directly billed for a call your customer has made and paid for!

Music Instructor: Believe it or not, more parents are beginning to allow their kid venture into the entertainment world. So you would be well appreciated and of course duly paid if you can teach children how to play one instrument or the other. You could also send your CV to schools in the neighbourhood. You never can tell what competition they are going for next; it could be musical.

Private Library Services: This is not to teach you to be wicked or stingy in any way, but if you do have lots of books, interesting and inspiring books, you could start a library service. Lend your books for a fee and have them return it within a stipulated number of days. Failure to do so also attracts a fee. So that your friends are not quick to judge you, you can start lending them the books for free, then overtime when they come back for more, you can tell them about your business idea and implore them to drop a small amount of money before they go away with the book.

Some other business ideas are errand services, repair services, modelling, usher at an event, Disc Jockey, photography, car wash services, jewellery making, sale of phone recharge card sales, bulk SMS services, reporter, social media marketing, party planner, dance instructor and so much more.

However, according to Jacob Ajayi at Ventures Africa, you need to take note of these suggestions to be a business entrepreneur:

  • Take time to understand your business
  • Spend less on expenses – improvise or find alternatives
  • Build your network
  • Keep record of daily, weekly and monthly performance
  • Focus on your operations – it is the blood of your business
  • Constantly ask yourself if you are doing well
  • Keep growing

For further reading check out:
“Diary of an Under 30 CEO: Start Small, Scale Big!” by Jacob Ajayi on Ventures Africa 

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