A Nigerian woman techpreneur building a powerful business focusing on online solutions, e-learning and IT security, and taking Africa’s tech sector by storm.
Nkem embarked on the first stage of her professional career in Germany at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Psychiatric Research in the department for Statistical Genetics and Proteomics, later working at Affectis Pharmaceuticals AG, Germany before returning to Nigeria. She graduated from the Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) & Technical University Munich (TUM), Germany, where she received a BSc. Hons in Bioinformatics. Her entrepreneurial journey really started with her company Future Software Resources, which was a business initially incorporated by her father, Chris Uwaje, Nigeria’s foremost IT policy maker, on her behalf with the intention that when she was ready, she would take it over. In 2008, she fulfilled that vision when she not only took over the reins of the company, but rebranded it and refocused it to concentrate on online solutions, e-learning and IT security. She has been at the helm of the business ever since.
"Understand that being an entrepreneur means living a few years of your life the way most people won’t, so that you can live the rest of your life like most people can’t."
Today, Future Software Resources provides online solutions which include website design, web hosting and online social media management, basically everything a business needs to go online and survive online. Every company requires online services and somebody to manage it for them and this has sustained the relevance of Nkem’s business. The company’s e-learning and IT security services are also key selling points. With the growth of technology in this market, e-learning is becoming more and more relevant as well as IT security too. This is because people now realize that it’s not just about having a network in place but making sure that they have relevant solutions to secure that network and also even secure their computers and other gadgets too. The company is about to launch an e-learning platform called I-connect e-learning solutions and it’s basically an e-learning platform that’s focused on science subjects for secondary school students. Students can go there and access these materials, peruse past question papers, and learn at their own pace using any device such as computers, mobile phones or i-pads. The company also offers corporate solutions for e-learning, where firms can set up their own e-learning environment.
"Be prepared to sacrifice, and to work harder than you’ve ever thought possible, Be prepared to work around the clock, to be laughed at and called a dreamer, and to be told several times that your ideas will not work."
For Nkem, the rationale for becoming an entrepreneur in the first place was based on a number of key factors. She wanted to be able to manage her own time and work on projects that fulfilling her personally. Secondly, she wanted to be able to create, innovate and be part of those shaping the technology industry in Nigeria. Finally, she wanted to create employment and grow as a leader and visionary, making a positive contribution to the Nigerian online space.
Entrepreneur Advice..."I always say there is a market share for everybody, no matter how big or small you are. There are always people who need your services and will patronize you. All you need do is be at the right place."
She faced a number of challenges when first starting out in the business, one of which was finding it hard to build a client base from scratch. Initially, the business did not have a large portfolio of clients to showcase, and therefore demonstrating track record to new clients was challenging. She went for a slim and lean way of working, initially making the business as small as possible, building a company website and creating a business card – this basic approach to building a business is a methodology she has kept and practiced over the years, despite her success. She has really never needed to raise capital as she has basically reinvested in the business and not taking much money out. At the time of launching the company, she had some savings and she lived on that, ploughing every single kobo that she made from the business back into it. She only spent on things that were really necessary and not things she would like to have. Her motto is: “When you are small and you don’t have as much money as the big boys, you should be creative and figure out ways to be more efficient, automate your operations and build a strong business team.”
The company is now achieving considerable success, last year doubling its clientele and hoping to do the same again this year. The company is still growing and the focus is to become Africa’s ultimate IT solutions provider.
Why LoA loves it….
We just love Nkem’s start up story as it proves that if you have a powerful vision, believe in what you are doing, and make yourself stand out from the crowd in the marketplace, you can start small yet grow to become a major entrepreneurial success story. And, as we all know the world needs more savvy women in tech! --- Melanie