“I learnt a lot I wouldn’t have if COVID didn't happen." – Student Entrepreneur


By Chelsea Abraham and Oluwasegun Oyebode

The past year brought in a lot of changes for the world, turned institutions, businesses and, countries on their heads, trying to adapt to the new, changing, and very much trying times. We saw entire workforces and businesses scramble to save their systems and, for most, after many wasted efforts, salvage whatever they had left. Layoffs and business shutdowns kept many awake and sent others looking for alternative means of survival and that's just for already established individuals and organizations. So, what about the student business owners who, while in school, ventured into small businesses and put the rest of their time into the growth and viability of said businesses?

In school, these businesses thrived as the student population already served as a target market and a fairly well-established customer base whose needs formed business opportunities for students with entrepreneurial instincts. For some, the closure of schools slowed and hindered growth and, for others, it caused things to grind to an abrupt end. In a survey conducted by UNILAG Sun, it is noted that 10% of the participants had to quit their business and a whopping 80% are still struggling with theirs.

Trials of the Times

With the closure of schools, these businesses have seen a significant reduction in their customer base. Prior to the pandemic, student business owners had their colleagues who served as consumers and marketers with word of mouth advertising that increased business reach. However, with the scattering of this customer base, it has been difficult for these businesses to sell their products which are uniquely designed to meet student needs.

“While in school it was easier and cheaper to sell clothes because students were all around, especially in the hostels." said Peculiar Onyibia, a 500 level law student who sells thrift clothes. This was one of the changes that posed a problem for her business, forcing her to look for alternative sales and profit methods in a bid to make up for lost patronage.

The ability to see the product before purchase closed a lot of sales and established relationships for these businesses but with this peculiar ability hindered by the closure of schools, things degenerated.

Before the closure of schools, the campus did not only serve as a great location filled with customers, but it was also close to the various wholesale markets which enabled easy restocking of the products sold for the entrepreneurs. 

“I live in Ogun state. I buy my goods in Lagos. So, going all the way from Ogun state to Lagos to buy goods is so stressful, especially with all the traffic issues, bad roads and all…” Toluwalope Ajayi had been selling unisex wears and other fashion items for about 2 years before the closure of schools which denied her easy access to wholesale markets for the goods she sells.

The excitement for purchase also waned as students have become hesitant to spend the little money they have on products they would normally have splurged on. The uncertainty of the times occasioned by inflation and a restriction in finances has customers holding tight to their pockets.

The majority of student business owners with an already established customer base complain that during this period, a lot of their customers who would normally make a purchase as soon as goods were available became very conscious of the difference between need and want because of limited funds.



With all of these, especially in terms of the increased distance created between products and customers, the cost of running the business increased, as these students have to deal with costs they never would have encountered if schools were open.

Costs incurred from trying to get access to their goods and delivery to customers are the most common expenses mentioned by Tolu.

“...Also, most of my customers are based in Lagos, the delivery fee is always a challenge..." Anyone who has made an online purchase just once knows the delivery charges incurred from order. This makes customers hesitant to buy.

The very need to increase reach also has these student business owners using new methods, specifically social media marketing, to get their businesses and products to possible patrons. This method comes with its expenses as these students pay heavy data fees, pay for ads on social media, and pay for alternative sources of power to keep their gadgets on at all times.

It brings to mind how bad the conditions are in the country as these students have to find other means to suffice for the lack of basic amenities such as electricity and affordable internet access. Despite these challenges, most student business owners persevere because this is an alternate stream of income they would need after school when they begin their careers.

Adapting To The Times

For growth to happen and be maintained, one has to know when to adapt to the changing structure and nature of the business environment. Businesses with strong online and social presence managed to scale despite the challenges posed as they had systems in place that helped maintain the relationship between them and their consumers.

Although, student business owners did not have these systems and have suffered significant losses, most have managed to identify the change in consumer behaviour and the strengths of an excellent online presence.

So, to recover these losses, they have begun to take their businesses online to social media and are learning to do it well by enrolling themselves in online courses. These would equip them with the necessary skills that will eventually level up their businesses.

In response to a survey question on skills learned for the growth of their businesses, most student business owners talk about digital skills like content creation, social media, Google tools and, even storytelling for sales and marketing, which have shifted the dynamics for their business considerably.

“I have learnt content creation. I have an idea about how to create designs. I have learnt a lot about Google tools, importation, social media management and all.” - Toluwalope, an Estate Management student.


These students have also taken steps to find better options that guarantee ease of purchase for their customers by introducing new systems like bulk delivery on weekends. This guarantees that orders from that week are fulfilled, easing the minds of the few customers that they have.

Experience Gained

Although success does not happen overnight and the implementation of these systems and skills will take a while to bring results, most are quite hopeful, despite how trying and tiring the process is. 



“It has been such a tiring one and a trying time, but I have learnt a lot that I might not have learnt if the pandemic didn't happen.” said Toluwalope Ajayi

This gratitude for the time used to learn new skills which, ironically, would not have been available had schools been in session is what one can refer to as a silver lining in a dark cloud.

“There have been ups and downs, but it felt good having 100% concentration on making money since the school wasn’t in session until online classes began.”  said Simisola, an English student and an entrepreneur who started selling hair care products barely before the closure.

Some other student business owners also lent their voices on the lessons learned from their experience of the period.

“It’s important to use all available methods for business in case something goes wrong.” - Edward Anitaan English student who sells detangling hair combs.

“It has taught me that if you try to stay positive, and be consistent you might sell.” Anjolayemi-Aremu Tolu.

The closure of schools did upset the growth of student businesses. 80% say they are yet to recover from the stagnancy their business faces. Student customers are still a majority, if not the entirety, of the student entrepreneur customer base, making it clear that these businesses still depend on the advantages been located in school campuses.

However, they have set out to change this excessive reliance on a single stream of customers with perseverance and implementation of the aforementioned digital skills.

Comments

  1. Eunice BabatundeMay 6, 2021 at 3:50 AM

    Yeah I did learn new skills that helped me delve into new business ventures

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To be honest this whole covid 19 quarantine period really had it's good sides to

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  2. The covid 19 pandemic enabled me to learn new skill and also venture into businesses

    ReplyDelete
  3. The covid 19 pandemic helped me to learn new skills and improve on the skills I learnt before. And gave me more experience

    ReplyDelete
  4. The pandemic did allow for on me to develop oneself in all ramifications. Depending on how one used the opportunity.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I can totally relate. The lockdown was an eye opener

    ReplyDelete
  6. The pandemic helped me a lot ,because I was able to learn and invest in a lot of things

    ReplyDelete
  7. The pandemic has helped me learn skills that will be beneficial for me in the future.

    ReplyDelete
  8. The lockdown gave room for personal development. At the early stage it was frustrating and annoying with the whole Covid cases globally, the research on vaccines and the inability of most health organization to handle the spread of the virus. However as time passed by, the lockdown became a useful period for development in any area of interest. The most interesting part is that most of us had to learn how to use the internet for learning and taking online jobs.

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  9. I had time to learn new skill.

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  10. For me, covid was a kinda blessing in disguise.��

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  11. Covid-19 was a blessing in disguise especially to me. Eyes were opened to so many things. So many people now do business in their comfort zone they don't need to get a shop or office before they start their business

    ReplyDelete
  12. Yeah it was really helpful in certain ways alot of opportunities and things one was able to venture into due to the free time

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  13. Covid-19 gave me the opportunity to learn some useful skills 😌

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  14. I can also relate to this, I learnt a lot of things during the pandemic. Things I had always wanted to learn but never had the time to, I even started a business.

    ReplyDelete
  15. COVID 19 was a blessing in disguise. I was able to learn new skills and also started my business during the period

    ReplyDelete
  16. The pandemic helped me in personal development

    ReplyDelete
  17. The pandemic helped me learn new things both in academics and in skill development

    ReplyDelete
  18. Covid 19 helped me to discover amazing things about myself

    ReplyDelete
  19. This pandemic helped me to discover alot of things about myself

    ReplyDelete

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