Lawretta Egba is the Chief Executive Officer of Cyno Writing Services, Cyno Digital Communications and Mustard Insights. She tells TOFARATI IGE about her businesses and other issues
What inspired you to start up your companies?
Passion lies at the core of all I have done, and all this started during my National Youth Service when I discovered how much I loved to write. Even when I got my first job as a financial analyst, writing was always a priority for me. I spent time exploring writing as a skill— reading as much as I could to hone that skill. From that point, it was only a matter of time before I took it up as a business.
Beyond that, I still have a deep desire to document real-life stories. The entire human experience is made up of the many stories we live through daily, and I was worried that nobody was keeping track of them.
As a first class graduate of Accounting, are you abandoning accounting totally or is there a way you inculcate it into what you presently do?
After working for three years in the private equity space, I pivoted to writing, believing I was completely done with finance, accounting or anything related. I was so wrong. No form of knowledge is a waste.
Beyond being able to use my accounting and finance skills within my companies to monitor company trends and make financial projections, I also still write for a financial literacy platform, analysing financial statements of the Nigerian Stock Exchange-100 companies and putting my findings into engaging stories.
I am also the host of a weekly radio show, ‘Everyday Money Matters’, on Lagos Talks 91.3 every Wednesday.
In addition, as a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, and a member of the Ikeja and District Society of ICAN, I am part of a big family and that is something I would never let go of.
What makes your companies distinct?
Our first edge is that we are storytellers. We believe in building a strong brand voice and using that voice to appeal and engage with the target audience. We are also modern-day creatives, leveraging visual tools to engage target audiences in a saturated market.
In addition, our multi-disciplinary team gives us an edge in approaching communication gaps strategically. Our overall objective is to guide our clients in telling meaningful stories by creating strategic content that appeals to the hearts of their diverse audiences.
How do you manage all your activities in such a way that none suffers?
It took a lot of learning and unlearning. Personally, I’m a dabbler. I tend to want to do too many things at the same time, hence the multiple career paths. However, I have learnt over time that by building processes, systems and imbibing strong company cultures, one can maximise the results attained by one’s team, whether one is actively present in all aspects of the work or not. With all three companies in the service sector, we cannot compromise on the happiness of our clients. For us, every client is important, and we simply do what it takes to ensure that they get the results they seek.
What are some of the challenges you face running a tech and communications business in Nigeria?
The biggest challenge is accessing data. For any business to effectively make sustainable decisions across areas of investments or even communication, it needs the right insights. It is one of the reasons we are plugging into this gap. We want to create and aggregate data by Africans for Africa and the Diaspora.
Beyond data, finding the best people to work with can be quite tough. Attrition rate is at its highest in Africa with many of the best hands leaving to more competitive nations. That said, we have tried to mitigate against this challenge by providing a safe space for our employees. We show them we are interested in their growth and invest in them.
What are your biggest achievements as a professional writer?
Interestingly, I started writing to provide solutions. It was around the period where friends had been applying to schools for admissions and scholarships, and consequently, they needed to write essays, such as personal statements. I helped them out simply because I could, and for every successful application, I felt such joy in my heart which further propelled me to keep going. Five years after setting up the writing company, the feeling is still the same.
Many youths are getting involved in information technology these days. What do you think is the attraction for them?
First, it pays well. With many business sectors being increasingly automated and the digital economy taking shape, it is only natural that the demand for tech-based roles is constantly increasing. In addition, the added benefits of remote access and flexibility make it even better. Most importantly, tech gives youths the opportunity to express their competence and bring innovative ideas to life.
Keeping data is a major problem in Nigeria with the government constantly asking citizens to repeatedly physically register for things that can ordinarily be done online. In what ways can the government keep and maintain a sustainable database of her population?
There needs to be a strong foundation or structure for data collection and aggregation. One way to do that is by ‘fetching’ existing data from centralised data collection platforms such as the Bank Verification Number Telcos. I believe duplications can be avoided if there is a seamless way for existing national data to be collected and updated as required.
Which of your companies is most challenging to handle?
All the companies have their unique challenges. On one hand, the writing company requires a lot of quality control to ensure that what gets to the client is well-structured, regardless of how many hands the tasks passed through first.
With communications, there are often multiple projects and campaigns being carried out simultaneously, and that requires due diligence and care to avoid any project getting less attention.
Also, trying to build the largest repository of African data across as many industries as we can cover in the most efficient way possible, is an enormous deal. It is a lot of work trying to solve a challenge that has plagued Africa since time immemorial, but we are aware that nothing truly phenomenal comes easy.
Have you ever felt like giving up?
Certainly! I have asked myself so many times why I decided to go through the stress of entrepreneurship as opposed to simply being a ‘well-paid’ employee. I am sure most entrepreneurs have felt like giving up at one time or the other but we understand that we cannot afford to ride on the waves of our emotions. I did not become an entrepreneur because I wanted to feel good all the time. I did so to create solutions.