I recently had a chat with Doyin Adewola, Founder/CEO, Box Office and the topic of discussion was on the importance of Co-working spaces in Nigeria.
On how the journey has been, so far, Doyin said that is has been tough, interesting, fun and a roller coaster of sorts. He said that he has learnt a lot along the way and this has made the organization stronger.
Reacting to a question on why he decided to be the Founder of a Co-working space where other Startups work from, Doyin stated that it was something of a passion for him. According to him, it could have been any other kind of business, say, transport, food, etc. He stated that his love for solving problems and being creative, innovative, as well as his love for solving other people’s problems in his environment, gave him the impetus to start the Co-working space for Startups to patronize.
When asked about the challenges he is facing in the business in terms of rent that is not cheap in Abuja, Doyin stated that his organization’s model solves part of that problem because, it is based on leveraging on economies of scale. “We are able to get as many entrepreneurs as possible into this facility and the cost is split across board”, he stated. He further said that cost per Startup is reduced to the barest minimum. He said that his organization was able to get some concessions from the property owners to make payments flexible and this has helped a lot, as normally, rent is paid annually or for two years in advance in Abuja.
Answering another question on how Startups who do not have money and probably, trying to make ends meet, are able to afford the services of the Co-working space, Doyin stated that, not all those that patronize his Co-working space are Startups as there are different categories. He said that there are some established businesses that have been running for five to ten years that also use the facility. These, according to him, are the ones that are able to pay the rent for big spaces in his Co-working space. He stated that smaller Startups go for the lower rate and cheaper office spaces that are more affordable. He, however, noted that many of the Startups that patronize his Co-working space barely last for six months mostly because they run out of business as they are short on funding.
When asked if he had received any support from the government, considering the importance of what he is doing, Doyin stated that he is not getting any support from the government, stressing that the growth of his Co-working space has been organic. The problem of rent is very fundamental in Abuja, he explained, and unlike the clusters of business districts that we have in different locations in Lagos, every business needs to be located in the Central Business District in Abuja to be seen as serious, so, there is high demand for office spaces in the Central Business District in Abuja and that is what has helped the patronage of his product.
On how impacting his organization has been to building an ecosystem in Abuja, Doyin said that his organization is a Co-working space, which is a style of working. It is one where people leverage on each other’s expertise in a shared environment and resources. The impact, he stated, is that businesses are able to reduce their risks when starting their businesses. “Rather than you paying rent for one or two years, with our model, you can have a day office or three month’s office, which helps you to understand your business and reduce your risks”, he stressed. He stated that the model also helps the Startups to concentrate on their businesses in an environment where they do not have to buy furniture, generators, etc., because they have access to shared services. Doyin further opined that jobs and wealth creation are some of the impact it has on the ecosystem.
Doyin stated that government needs to understand the positive impact that Co-working spaces and Hubs are creating, hence, the need to strengthen them. He stated that government could assist the Startups by converting most of the abandoned government properties and those that have been seized by the government security Agencies, to Co-working spaces and Hubs that the Startups can access at very low costs.
In conclusion, Doyin advised Startups to start small, have a lot of patience while they are gradually growing their businesses. He stressed that they should not see their Startups as an alternative to hang on to until they can find another job, but they should be ready for the long haul. You can view the full interview here.