The first edition of Under 40 CEOs International Women’s Day MeetUp held in Lagos on Sunday 8th March, 2020 at the Lagosia Restaurant Ikoyi.
During the intimate session, the guest speaker Kofo Akinkugbe, CEO of SecureID shared her journey of how she started her career in the banking industry, remained in the financial sector for over 12 years until 1997 when she left to start Interface Technologies, a security management and biometrics technologies company.
Female business leaders and entrepreneurs at the event asked questions about running a profitable business, scaling up, sourcing for investors and many more.
These are the 5 eye opening questions Kofo Akinkugbe answered at the Under 40 CEOs IWD MeetUp.
Question 1: Were you (Kofo Akinkugbe) interested in sim card manufacturing or was it just an opportunity that came your way?
Kofo Akinkugbe: I started with knowing that i was going to go into sim manufacturing, I had 3 sectors in mind, banking, telecoms and the public sector, so it was part of the dream from the beginning. However there are some things i am doing presently that wasn’t planned, i just saw an opportunity and i took it. We are in age where opportunities abound, it would be very sad if you don’t tap into it. I didn’t just buy machines that could do bank cards, i bought the ones that could do bank cards, sim cards and the electronic page of your passport.
Question 2: What are the things you put in place in your business from day one to attract investors? What can i also put in place that investors would look out for?
Kofo Akinkugbe: I had a track record, while in the bank, i was in the credit analysis team, i approved loans so i know how to structure a good business plan. An investor would want to see your execution plan. Like i said, dream big, start small and scale fast, if this is your vision, how do you want to get there and achieve it, you have to really give that a lot of thought, you have to think of the wildest thing that could go wrong.
I started small, when the investors invested in me, i had just one machines, today i have lost count of how many machines we have, it is about a hundred. What they really want to see is
The thought you put into it, it is one thing to execute, it is another thing to execute flawlessly.
Your personality and track record.
Run you ideas with other people, have mentors that can help you read through the plan and correct you when necessary.
Question 3: In all your businesses, you were the pioneer, how were you able to go through the process to bring yourself to a point where you are being taken serious.
Kofo Akinkugbe: The thing about been the first to start something is that you set the rules. However, the flip side is that when the tide comes, it hits you first. As long as your business brings value, then its your duty to let the client know what value they would be getting.
Question 4: What challenges did you face been a female penetrating a male dominated market?
Kofo Akinkugbe: Yes it is a male dominated field, i don’t know of any woman globally in this field. I go into meetings abroad and i am the only woman in the room. My competitors are all male, it took them a while to accept that i am the leader. Another thing that is more painful is your staff especially very senior executives who are male, how did i handle them you may ask, i realised that emotions can not work, please don’t use emotions in your business. I set my KPIs and if you aren’t meeting up i tell you this is where you should be and this is where you are at the moment, how would you close the gap? I am not saying you should be mean, but you have to be able to take decisions.
Also if you have to take courses as you rise up the ladder, please go on leadership courses, there is an art to leadership that you must master, especially when leading senior male staff.
Question 5: In the first two years of running the business, you made a loss, how did you manage in those two years and what kept you going? Did you have investors at that time and how were you able to manage the investors.
Kofo Akinkugbe: I was supposed to make a loss in the first 3 years, the loss i made in the first year was actually smaller than what i thought, my investors knew we were going to break even at this point. Honestly, the most painful thing for any founder is to end up been an employee to your investor, it is very painful, if it is possible, don’t let an investor have more than you in the business, you can also put in an agreement such that they can cash out after 4 or 5 years because you don’t want a mix of different types of investors, there are some investors that are financial investors, they are just waiting for the share price to go up to sell and some are legacy investors who are in there with you through thick and thin. In my case i had individual investors but now i am about to raise capital to bring in an institutional investor.