The premiere episode of Dragons’ Den Nigeria commenced on a very promising premise. The den had come alive as a Mecca where good business ideas meet great opportunities. The presenter, Nwaji Jibunoh captured the feeling that would permeate this episode in his introduction, “when the entrepreneurs come into the den, they can ask for as much money as they like but in order to convince the dragons to part with their hard-earned cash, they must be willing to answer some tough questions (and defend their business proposals)…also, the pitchers must get the exact amount they are asking for or they leave the den with nothing…”
From his picturesque prologue, Nwaji proceeded to introduce the dragons through an exciting montage; a beautifully captured show of business savvy and material opulence in yachts, luxury cars, and expansive offices; creating an appetite for success in the would-be entrepreneur. The dragons were doing big business, living the good life, and loving it!
The first entrepreneur Akaku Ugochukwu waltzed into the den asking for N10, 000, 000 (ten million naira) to expand his food processing business in exchange of 22.5% equity in his company. His idea was to process locally sourced food ingredients into highly nutritive easy-to-cook food concentrates. Though Femi Tejuoso objected to being offered only 22.2% equity in a company that the entrepreneur expected the dragons to fully fund, he seemed interested in the business, especially when Ugochukwu mentioned that the equity was negotiable. But on closer scrutiny, Alex Amosu discovered that Ugochukwu’s clientele consisted of about 20 local caterers who baked Akara and Moi Moi, which prompted the dragons to ask for his ‘income statement’. After toying with a few unimpressive figures, Ugochukwu finally professed to having made eight hundred thousand naira in the past one year, of which he later posited his profit was six hundred thousand; his figures were hard to believe, and as Ibukun Awosika put it, “with such a profit margin, your business is a cash-cow, you don’t need us, all you need to do is just plough back your profit into the business”. But Chris Parkes wanted to know how Ugochukwu intended to market this product, to which this entrepreneur had no ready answer. His business proposal soon began to crumble under heavy intellectual fire. Alex opted out on the basis that he was not sure if he could recoup his investment from this business. Ibukun Awosika sensing the inconsistency in the entrepreneur’s figures opted out on the basis that food business was not her forte. Femi Tejuoso opted out, advising the entrepreneur to go back to the drawing board. John Momoh was simply unimpressed, he just opted out.
The second entrepreneur came into the den wearing a very nice business suit, wielding two coconuts and a bottle…his introductory speech was very memorable, “this is coconut, this is coconut” he said brandishing each of the coconuts, “but this is coconut oil” he concluded raising the bottle proudly in the den. He asked for N35 million, but had no visible business plan on how he intended to use the money. Alex then asked him, “Put yourself in my shoes, just imagine I was wearing a nice suit like you’re wearing, with two coconuts and a bottle, and no business plan, asking you to give me 35 million naira- will you give it to me?” and the entrepreneur said he wouldn’t give such a person the money. That sealed his fate and all the dragons opted out immediately.
The third entrepreneur had this bogus and misconceived notion of the media industry. He faced the dragons with an idea to set up a one-stop entertainment and media training facility where he would train applicants to become actors, producers, and directors in one week through seminars. His ill-informed idea infuriated the dragons, and Chris Parkes told him immediately that he would never hire someone with only five days training to work for him, informing him that no one would really acquire production and directing skills in five days, but the entrepreneur was ready to argue his point until the media veteran John Momoh interjected, “I consider it an insult that you think that’s how the film industry works – you don’t train someone for five days and expect the person to become a director, producer, e.t.c…that is arrant nonsense”. Coupled with the fact that this entrepreneur had no persuasive skills, nor compelling business plan, he lost all the dragons in just a few minutes.
The fourth entrepreneur, David Okafor wanted 25.5 million naira and was ready to give up 20% equity for his mobile enquiry service business. He talked about designing a mobile directory which would offer a bouquet of services from corporate organizations, and making it available to the public through dedicated short SMS codes. His idea sounded bankable at first glance, but when John Momoh inquired into what the 25.5 million naira was to be used for, and David began to talk about hardware and software and other technological stuff, the dragons referred him to the mobile-technology guru Alex Amosu, who soon invested some money on this idea. Alex Amosu’s investment attracted Ibukun Awosika’s curiosity as she inquired if he had any exclusive deal with the manufacture of the technology needed to power this product – the entrepreneur’s response was not satisfactory at all; and that revelation forced Alex Amosu to withdraw his initial investment. It was also revealed that the entrepreneur had not even bothered to register a company for this business. The commercial viability of what initially seemed to have been a good idea was unconvincing to the dragons who advised David to go do more work on the idea. They all opted out.
The fifth entrepreneur had hopes of expanding his auto-refurbishing and auto-refinishing business with N10 million. He boasted of a turnover of N5 million for the past 3 years, with a profit of N2 million each year, to which John Momoh asked, “why do you think you’ve been making N5 million for the past 3 years- no growth?”, on a further probe by Ibukun Awosika, the entrepreneur confessed to having embarked on a few projects (with his capital?)- And when Ibukun Awosika asked what the nature of the projects were, the entrepreneur proudly announced that he had built himself a house. “If I give you this money, you might just decide to build a second house, or even marry a second wife- a good business man never touches his capital, for this reason I’m out” Ibukun Awosika had declared. The other dragons opted out too, and this entrepreneur went back to his newly built house with no investment.
The sixth entrepreneur, Modupe was a classic case of what an entrepreneur should never do in front of investors. She walked into the den, fidgeting with a piece of paper in her hands. She read her name and business details out of the paper, and stuttered through her description of the services her company, “Whispers of Love” rendered. Femi Tejuoso was the first dragon to state his dissatisfaction with her lack of poise and composure warning her that she could never inspire the confidence of the dragons in her business if she had to read everything out of a piece of paper. After her quaky presentation, we discovered that she intended to set up a business that aimed at empowering women through paid seminars. She was asking for N5 million and offered 15% equity to the dragons. Alex was almost speechless; he wondered how Modupe expected to raise N5 million with such an unconvincing attitude. Ibukun Awosika pointed out that the service she wanted to charge people for were already available for free in most of the churches in Lagos; therefore she had no commercially viable business. Femi Tejuoso was still appalled by her presentation that he couldn’t resist humorously opining that Modupe should in fact pay the show for the free air time she had received for her business. Modupe lost all the dragons.
The last entrepreneur on this episode, Mohamed Umar, the proprietor of Cute Suites in Zamfara state made one of the most exciting presentations in the den. He was asking for N50 million and was ready to part with 33.3% equity in order to bring to fruition his idea of creating a chain of small hotels with a ‘good taste’ in his home state Zamfara. His pitch was picturesque, thought provoking, and promising. “I must commend you for such a cute name you’d found for your hotel” Femi Tejuoso complimented. The entrepreneur continued, saying that he hadn’t approached any banks yet for a loan, but was optimistic that his business would fare better with the collaboration of intelligent business men and women (like the dragons). He boasted of his hotel having a near-monopoly in the hotel business in his operational region, since other popular hoteliers had closed shop. This revelation elicited some trepidation amongst the dragons who wondered why experienced hoteliers would abandon a ‘fertile’ business terrain if not for the obvious reason of low or no viable patronage. “How many planes fly to Zamfara?” Ibukun Awosika asked, and Mohamed Umar responded, “None- we don’t have an air strip”, and Ibukun Awosika, uncomfortable, probed deeper, “so where is our traffic coming from?” and Mohamed answered, “from the contractors who live in Zamfara” – Femi Tejuoso cut in, “so if our target customers currently live in Zamfara, then they don’t need to live in a hotel”. A lot of factors bore to militate against Mohamed Umar’s business idea: there was no clear plan for revenue generation, no accessible patrons for the hotel; the plan was too government dependent in the sense that Umar relied on the income of the local government contractors to keep his hotel afloat. Despite the fact that all the dragons opted out, Mohamed Umar still presented them each with a fez cap and T-shirt branded with the Cute Suits insignia. But he didn’t leave the den until he got the dragons to introduce themselves; after which he reinforced his belief that one day his hotel will play host to one, if not all of the dragons.
“Your T-shirts and hats are nice…the name Cute Suites is nice…but the next thing you need now, which is the most important thing is the actual hotel…”
And like Nwaji Jibunoh put it, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained…”
bBelow is the profile of the panel of business people who are ready to stake their millions for a wonderful business idea. They form the panel.
John Momoh is a household name in the broadcast media industry in Nigeria and indeed the world; in his early 50s, John Momoh has more than 30 years experience in the media business…he rose from the humble ranks of radio and TV presenter, reporter, news anchor, and news editor for the Nigerian Television Authority – the biggest broadcast network in Africa to occupying an enviable position as the owner of Channels Television, a burgeoning broadcast media outfit respected terrestrially and internationally. He is well-travelled. His analyses of any proposed business provides aspiring entrepreneurs with an itinerary for attaining great heights in business. He reeks with the aura of a motivational speaker-challenging and inspiring any young mind by the virtue of his meteoric rise through the ladders of a highly politicized industry. John is a member of the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences based in New York, U.S.A and his Television station, was the first in Nigeria, to be nominated for an international recognition under UNICEF’s entry for the International Children’s Day of Broadcasting.
2) Ibukun Awosika is a daring entrepreneur who ventured into the furniture business, a sector hitherto controlled by the masculine gender, but being a woman in the furniture business did not deter her from establishing The Chair Center Ltd., a company that is now valued at over a billion naira. She was graduated from the Chemistry department at the University of Ife, and began her career as a showroom manager. In 2006, she established the Furniture Manufacturers’ Mart in Ikeja, Lagos.
Based on the effective management of her firms, she was appointed the MD/CEO of Sokoa Chair Centre Ltd, a joint-venture company she promoted with Sokoa S.A of France, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, The Chair Centre Ltd, and some local investors after the ban on importation of furniture by the federal government of Nigeria in 2005. Ibukun Awosika is a God-fearing business woman, whose calling has been to impact upon business persons the ethics of conducting business based on the word of God. Her motherly persona resonates in her analyses of the business ideas presented by aspiring entrepreneurs on the show. Ibukun Awosika is the current Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of Women in Management and Business (WIMBIZ). And in the den, she believes that numbers must always add up in order to attract an investment.
3) British descendant Chris Parkes is a brand name in the marketing communications industry with over 35 years experience in the African advertising environment. He spent eight years in the UK with top agencies and had his own partnership in London, where his clients included American Express International Dollar Card & TC’s, MasterCard, Securicor Granley, and Browning. Chris Parkes spent fifteen years in South Africa with Lintas and then ran his own business, working on Levers, Standard Bank, SAA, SAR, Allied, KFC and Kimberley Clarke. Later he moved to Madagascar where he set up an ad agency, an import export company and finally a billboard company for a South African agency. He has over eleven years experience in Nigeria, six of them building Tequila from scratch to become one of the largest BTL (Below-the-line) company’s through his management. A new generation entrepreneur, with a fresh approach to emerging business challenges. Chris Parkes has amassed so much wealth and success by positioning his advertising company as a company devoted to providing unequalled and unrivalled leveraging platforms for its clients to reach the core of their target, and generate great revenue from doing so. He is very persuasive, and upholds the virtue of compelling and convincing persuasion. When you meet him-be sure to observe the cardinal rules of advertising. Chris Parkes is the managing director of Chris Parkes Marketing Solutions with operational base in Lagos.
4) Femi Tejuoso is a prince whose last name inspires awe and respect for the business savvy associated with his lineage. Let’s say he inherited a well-seasoned ability to make fortunes. Young and successful, with a background in engineering, and an expanding experiential resume in investment and portfolio management, Femi Tejuoso represents the new breed of African entrepreneurship with many business pies on his dining table. Femi Tejuoso is an operating partner for Helios Investment, partner of a private equity firm with over 600million under management in investments across the African continent. He currently serves on the board of Directors of Helios Towers Nigeria Ltd and is a member of the National Council of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and the Vice Chairman of the Strategic Planning Committee of MAN. Femi Tejuoso also holds executive membership in both the Nigeria Society of Engineers and the Nigerian Institute of Business Management.
5) Alex Amosu is a digital age entrepreneur who became a multi-millionaire at the age of 24 for a mobile-phone driven technology presented on a platform of entertainment. His passion for music and I.T encapsulated in a synergy of wealth and prominence made possible by his dexterity in running a cutting edge 21st century mobile-technology service delivery company. He has appeared in several TV shows including, GMTV, Channel 4’s Flash documentary, an interview on Ruby Wax’s daytime programme and BBC2 Documentary “Mind of a Millionaire” accompanied with a published book. Alex Amosu is an exponent of inter-personal skills, upholding the belief that your product or idea is only as good as your personality. Alex Amosu is considered Britain’s first ringtone millionaire. He is famous in the den for his eloquent and witty remarks.