Thirty-year-old Jennifer Jemedafe is the Chief Executive Officer of Jaytech Global Concepts Limited, a social media management company. She spoke with COMFORT OSEGHALE on the challenges of being self-employed.
Why your interest in social media management?
I stumbled on it. Prior to that, I had already tried my hands on information technology. During my youth service, I had worked with a distributor for HP. I saw it as a profitable business and since I had always wanted to be an entrepreneur, I decided to run my own IT Company. That was in 2011. Soon after I started, I realized that I was going nowhere with it. I didn’t really know the business of computers. This is what happens when you venture into a business because somebody else is doing it; without knowing where your true passion lies.
Although I got contracts with computers and other supplies, I was still losing money. This was not because the contract wasn’t good but because I did not make the right quotation. I did not factor the right things into it and at the end; I didn’t make the profit I was supposed to make. These were the failures I made but the experience was a valuable one. So soon after I registered my company, I stopped the business.
It was during this period I discovered that I had a flair for using social media for business purposes. I learned from my mentors you could turn whatever you had a passion for into a business. It doesn’t have to be the biggest thing or something everyone is doing. As long as your chosen business was adding value to society, you would eventually make money out of it.
From my interactions with my connections on the social media, I realized that if you wanted to get a company’s attention or perhaps that of a celebrity; all you need to do was say the right thing. I tried it.
I began to study and to research and I discovered that people don’t say the right things on social media sometimes. I felt that they could get the right attention if they said certain things. I decided to try it myself and to my surprise, I realized the companies or personalities that I had tweeted something about either re-tweeted it, responded to me or connected with me. Through research I discovered, there was something like social media management although it is not so popular in Nigeria. I decided to try it.
How would you describe your experience?
It has been good so far. I did a lot of research before I started out. I studied history in the university and you do a lot of research in history. This helped when I needed information about social media management. Research came easily to me and I was able to use it to my advantage.
I approached some companies and discovered that they actually needed my services. There were companies that needed somebody to manage their social media platform; somebody who would organize the social media events and manage the giveaways so they don’t have to think about it. Right now, I have on board three major clients and I am trying to close a deal with another.
The market is an interesting one. There are so many companies on social media that are not doing the right things. What I do is manage social media accounts for corporate organizations and personalities thereby reducing their overhead costs. That means you don’t have to employ someone in your company for that, pay health care insurance and so on but you would still get the same value.
I have yet to reach break-even point but my company has discovered itself and I have discovered myself. I realized that when you get to that point, things that you have struggled with for ten years, you can do in one year.
Is it expensive to be a social media manager?
No; it is not. This is something an unemployed youth can use positively and make money out of. You only need a smart phone with a data plan and you can do your work from wherever you are. What you really need is lots of knowledge.
There is a lot to learn and this is not what everybody can do. You have to know how to write and communicate effectively, how and when to speak. You have to know how to manage crisis. Once you have that knowledge then you don’t need so much money.
Nigerians are not making good use of the social media. A lot of people and businesses are on social media but sometimes they are using it for the wrong reasons. They are not getting as much as they should get and that is either due to ignorance or mismanagement.
Nigerians do not yet understand the impact of social media on their businesses, brands and personal life. I don’t even think the youths know because they sometimes use social media for frivolous things.
Right now, I don’t have anyone in my employment; I do everything myself. In fact, to augment what I make being an entrepreneur; I have some part-time job I do on the side. It is not easy though working and running a company. It is time consuming and you feel as if you don’t have time of your own. It is not easy being self-employed.
When you have a start-up, you don’t have the luxury of employing people to work for you. Most of the responsibilities rest on my shoulders. Sometimes I get discouraged and wonder if I would ever succeed but the vision and bigger picture keeps me growing. Once I started seeing things come together as at early last year, I knew that there was no giving up.
What prompted you to promote entrepreneurship programs?
I wanted to do something that would help youths who wanted to become entrepreneurs. I launched a project last year; JGC Scholarship for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. It promotes entrepreneurship in Africa. Since I was financially handicapped to sponsor a reasonable number of people into business, I decided to get other people to be sponsors. I approached individuals and companies with my idea.
At first, I thought it was not going to work but later I got a lot of support. The United Nations supported with the venue and gave me logistics; I had the launch at their office in Ikoyi. I also got support from Elvina Ibru who sponsored four people at the same time and from MI too. I had support from Intel too; they partnered with me in terms of giving entrepreneurship talks to students at the University of Lagos. I was even able to get the Vice Chancellor of LASU to come and speak on the project.
We gave scholarship to five graduating students from UNILAG and Lagos State University to take a course in entrepreneurship and innovation on the Beni-American University online platform; they also got laptops. I will like to have bigger success on the project in Nigeria and I also plan to take it to Kenya and other countries in Africa.
It will be better if we can have our youths, after finishing with school, start up their own businesses rather than join the large number of the unemployed. I am still trying to get more companies to come on board. It will also be good to be able to help those currently taking the programme to start up their businesses when they are through.
What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs?
Remove the fear factor; don’t be scared. The only way you can actually start what you want to do is to begin. Start something no matter how small. There are graduates who have been unemployed for upwards of five years and they say they need capital to start a business. Now I know that starting a business is not all about money. Ask yourself what value you plan to add to society. The minute you are adding value, money will come. You wouldn’t need to look for it.
Be ready to take up the challenge; entrepreneurship is not child’s play. You have to be ready to face challenges. Don’t expect to make profit immediately. You must be ready to go through the journey. Understand and know your passion. Don’t run a business because somebody is doing it. Where your passion lies, therein is your success. Be prayerful.
Having a mentor is important; I have some people I run to when things are tough. That used to be my father before he passed on last year. When things were not working out, I would ask him how he went about running his own company.
He was so supportive and would have preferred I worked with him. He would laugh at my worries and tell me every client was not my client. You win some and lose some but as long as you keep on winning, you are on the right track. Never forget to give back to society. My mother too was also supportive.