exx-cue-zay-mua, The Creative Arena

‘Bridging artisans’, MSMEs’ skills gap my passion’

Nigeria’s informal economy is booming, encouraged largely by the surge of innovative start-ups and young and dynamic entrepreneurs. And one of the organisations behind the designing of programmes to groom these innovative entrepreneurs now contributing to the nation’s thriving entrepreneurship ecosystem is Leadership Challenge Foundation, a non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) focused on empowering artisans and Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises (MSMEs) in the informal sector.

Social entrepreneur Mrs. Joy Success-Ikpe, who is the Founder/ Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Leadership Challenge Foundation, has been using the platform to partner with organisations across the country to drive social innovation and promote activities geared towards reviving craftsmanship and talent and ultimately, growing the nation’s entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Essentially, Leadership Challenge Foundation, located in Lekki-Epe Expressway, Aja, Lagos, is a team of professionals committed to the transformation of leadership in Nigeria and Africa by strengthening the capacity of young people to lead themselves, lead others and lead change.

The Foundation recognizes that authentic leadership is not demonstrated when position is conferred but cultivated. It strongly believes that Africa’s development is hinged on the cultivation of leaders with exceptional character and skills.

Its CEO has since been leveraging the NGO to help create job opportunities for the unemployed youth through formal training. “I’m passionate about bridging skills gap among youths, especially artisans and MSMEs,” Joy, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Administration from the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, declared.

She noted that what global giants like Google, Hewlett Packard, shoppingmode Apple and HCL have in common other than being amongst the biggest businesses in the world is that they all began their success stories from a garage.

Buoyed by the grass-to-grace stories of these successful enterprises, Joy, who also earned a Master’s degree in Media and Communications from Pan- Atlantic University, Lagos, said she remained convinced that many automobile entrepreneurs, for instance, can emerge from backyard ventures.

Accordingly, she has never hidden her determination to groom potential young Nigerian achievers who not only dream to achieve big in life, but also harbour the passion to help resolve the social inequities in the country. In line with this, she has been reaching to governments, such as the Lagos State Government that share her vision to see entrepreneurial ventures thrive.

“I have facilitated business development training for MSMEs for Lagos State Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment and the training for National Automobile Association of Nigeria, Lagos Chapter,” Joy told The Nation, for instance, pointing out that since entrepreneurship is globally acknowledged as the surest way for development, she was convinced that other states would borrow a leaf from Lagos Sate and be solidly behind innovative entrepreneurs.

According to her, entrepreneurship has the capacity to drive rapid job creation and long-term productivity increase. She added that Lagos State has it all: money, talent, a critical mass of ventures, and a culture that encourages collaborative innovation.

The budding social entrepreneur said in the past five years, she has been organizing activities to provide mentoring to high-potential start-ups and small businesses that have the potential to generate huge sales and jobs in the approaching years, and that she hopes to turn their successes into role models for other youths across the country. She said she believes that visible successes help reduce the perception of entrepreneurship as risky and also highlight its tangible rewards.

A round peg in a round hole, Joy, before her exploits in the entrepreneurial space,  worked as a Human Resources practitioner at the prestigious Lagos Business School, spanning over seven years. She is well-experienced in employee engagement and resourcing and exudes a strong passion for the human side of work and loves to see the improvement of the individual at all levels, with a special focus on the youth.

Joy is particularly interested in the growth and development of social, leadership and entrepreneurial skills. And she has been leveraging the Foundation’s platform to offer entrepreneurial skills ranging from critical considerations in starting a business, growing the enterprise and ensuring it delivers on its objectives, to scaling the business while it runs sustainably.