How SME 100 plans to unveil 25 innovative U-25 entrepreneurs

SME 100 Nigeria has concluded plans to showcase 25 innovative entrepreneurs in the country that are under the age of 25.

SME 100 Nigeria is a leader in youth-driven entrepreneurship training, which specialises in finding preparing and connecting young entrepreneurs with the resources, training and support they need to run successful businesses.

Six months ago, SME 100 Nigeria invited members of the public to nominate under-25 entrepreneurs with compelling growth stories and who were making quality impacts on the economy.

More than 3,500 entrepreneurs were nominated, which was subsequently whittled down to 100.

The number will further be slashed to the final 25 after voting  and the winners will be awarded on August 26.

The award will go to young entrepreneurs in fields such as cyber security and technology; fashion; arts, crafts & culture; food; health & skincare; education, as well as energy & sustainability.  Others are media & ICT, photography; music; software & design as well as event and planning, among others.

To be selected for award, the business must be in Nigeria and must be duly registered at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), among other criteria.

Speaking at a press conference weekend in Lagos, Charles Odii, founder and executive director, SME 100 Nigeria, said the award is meant to encourage the entrepreneurs to make much more impact.

“It is important we encourage those who are doing something. For some of these entrepreneurs, this is their first award. Imagine when you say to them, ‘Well done’. The difference between this award and others is that these people are founders, innovators and CEOs of their businesses,” Odii said, adding that the shortlisting is based on the impact the entrepreneurs make.

Brian Oji, co-founder and programme director, SME 100 Nigeria, said despite that there are many young people in the country complaining of lack of jobs, there are others that are making visible impact on the country.

“There is no day in Nigeria that young people don’t set up businesses,” Oji said.

“The award will encourage young people complaining about jobs to say, ‘If these people can do it, we also can’.  The award is not much about money, but it helps to send a message across for anybody who is nominated,” he said.

Mimi Ade Odiachi, CEO of Omar Gardens, who is a board member of SME 100 Nigeria, said she started her business at 24 and wished there was a platform like this then.

“At 24 or 25 entrepreneurship is usually a lonely journey. I thought of taking on paid employment several times even as an entrepreneur at that age. So when you see a young person taking on responsibility, you need to commend them,” Odiachi said.

Emeka Opara, director of corporate affairs at Airtel, said the telecoms firm would support the event.

“I think it’s high time we started encouraging people who work hard. The event will give those nominated the visibility. One of the things that are lacking is mentorship and mentor-mentee relationship should not be about money,”Opara said.

Ifashe Mark, head, emerging businesses, retail banking, Diamond Bank, said the bank would bring the winners to its platform and provide financial services for them.

“It’s time the society began to celebrate entrepreneurs with clear sources of wealth,” Mark said.

“The economy is always vibrant when you have government and individuals supporting SMEs. Diamond Bank has a history centred on entrepreneurship and we have a convergence in philosophy with SME 100 Nigeria,” he said.


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