Join us Today on TEF Alumni Corner, as we speak to one of our entrepreneurs from Ghana, Victoria Apedoh, who is a business owner trying to make commuting across West Africa easy for all.
Q: Can you tell us about your business?
A: My business is called Shuttle Drive. It is an online platform that connects commuters to bus and car operators to help with their long distant trips across West Africa with everything sorted out for them. For now, we only do group bookings and not individual trips until we have fully ticked all our major boxes.
Q: What inspired your business and how old is it now?
A: It’s actually a very funny story because a few years before now, I never thought I would be doing this. I got to realise there were a lot of buses and cars around but there was no system put in place to find a bus or car to solve your traveling needs whenever you urgently need them. I decided to try my best to ensure that a lot of drivers and vehicle operators register on my platform so that they can easily be accessible and then I attended a Business Tech summit that helped me fine-tune my ideas. My business is 4 years old so far.
Q: What makes your business stand out from all other businesses within your niche industry?
A: In my business, I am making use of Technology more and limiting the need for human interference to get a bus operator. We also make it a must to infuse some culture of gender balance and thereby, making it a healthy environment for women to make a living and not be threatened by the dominance of the industry by male counterparts. We decidedly also make it a thing to employ disabled people to help us in that aspect of the marketing so that they can have it easy when trying to commute as well.
Q: When did you become a Tony Elumelu entrepreneur and how has it helped your business?
A: I became a TEF entrepreneur last year, 2021 and honestly, my business changed. Before I became a TEF entrepreneur, I had not developed a web application for my business and everything was done through my social media accounts at that time. But when I got the seed funding and after the training and mentorship I received, my marketing became very intensive and operations began to run very smoothly. I was able to register my business and this also helped improved my business and increased clients’ trust in my business because I started to operate a corporate account.
Q: How many steps ahead would you say the TEF seed funding helped you get to?
A: On a scale of 1-10, the seed funding helped me get to point 8. I cannot say 10 because I’m still trying to achieve more and get better but I’m so grateful to TEF for helping me.
Q: How do you market your business and which methods have been most successful since completing the TEF training and mentorship programme?
A: I do a lot of digital and online marketing and other times; it is word of mouth. I tell my family and friends about my business and also tell it to other people I meet anywhere I go to. Digital marketing has been the most rewarding I must say.
Q: What are some of the challenges you face as an entrepreneur in your operational environment?
A: The human resources have been my biggest challenge because it’s difficult to find the right people to work with so I end up with no option but to sack some people and start looking for more workers who are willing to work to replace the man power insufficiency. Also, because of the stage of my business, I cannot pay huge salaries to workers and this affects their motivation to work. I also have challenges with marketing. In as much as I try to do my best, it still feels like I’m not doing enough.
Q: What are some of the solutions you might suggest to help solve these challenges?
A: As regards the man power problem, I’m looking to get more capital to increase my talent pool because man power is not cheap at all. So, with that, I can attract the right kind of people I need to work with me. I also create opportunities for internships so I have people who desire to work with me for a period of time. And for the marketing, I need people with the technical know-how to handle our business professionally on the digital space but this also costs money so I really need more capital because I don’t want to have to employ people I cannot pay.
Q: As you know, the core of the TEF entrepreneurship programme is to promote Africapitalism, how has your business been able to make an impact in that light?
A: My business has been able to promote Africapitalism by focusing more on employing talents within the African Continent. The structure of my business is targeted towards helping commuters across West Africa and using bus operators in Africa, thereby, helping them make more money. Also, assuming a foreigner visits Africa for the first time, my business makes doing business in Africa easier because the platform ensures safety across terrains that are new to the foreigner.
Q: If you had a chance to start your entrepreneurship journey all over again, what would you do differently?
A: I would change the people I worked with initially, I would not use friends or family. Also, I would be more confident and assertive about what I do and not bother about what other people think about my business.
Q: Lastly, what would you advise starters who want to begin their entrepreneurial journey?
A: I would love to tell starters to believe in their business ideas and make extensive research to back up their ideas. The journey will never be easy. There are days when they would smile and there are days when they would cry but as long as they have a conviction and they keep on trying, they will make it. Thank you.
Social media handles: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook | @ Shuttle Drive
~ Author: Derek Nwankwo