The Kaduna Business Network Dinner (#Kdbiznetwork) dinners started with a simple idea: Let’s connect Kaduna’s budding and successful entrepreneurs. This December, on Sunday the 16th we host our 7th dinner.
This business socialising and networking get-together has become part of a broader movement taking shape to restore cosmopolitanism in Kaduna. The idea that we all belong to a single community, based on mutual respect, hospitality and common economic engagement.
Kaduna was home to the great durbars. No festivity celebrates cosmopolitanism better than Kaduna’s regal durbars. In 1956 the most magnificent was held to welcome the young British Queen Elizabeth II. Kaduna owes its place on the map to the choice of British imperial administrator LordFredrick Lugard to make it the political and military capital of colonialNorthern Nigeria region in 1917. The colonial government made it a rail transport hub and thus began the new town’s commercial ascendency. Kaduna was blossoming into an industrial hub by the 1960s. Leventis Stores and Bata Shoe Company opened shop. Arewa Textiles was built in1963, PAN in 1972 and the Kaduna oil refinery in 1980. It became home to many expatriates. In 1977 to mark FESTAC another great durbar was organised. The years that followed FESTAC witnessed the commercial decline of the great city. In the aftermath of the global oil crises, the indigenisation policy pursued by the military regime and other socio-political issues circa 1980 precipitated an economic slump in the country. Kaduna’s many commercial interests closed shop. Kaduna town in particular witnessed religious unrest intermittently from 1992 to date. These hastened an exodus of professionals, created religious ghettos and the lure of the once cosmopolitan enclave began wearing away.
Revival of this lost cosmopolitanism and kindling a new era of commercial prosperity is in part the drive behind a new generation of entrepreneurs who are coming together in meet-ups. From trade fairs to conferences, mostly young enthusiasts are bringing together an entrepreneurial community to talk or do business.
#kdbiznetwork dinner did not start out in the shape it is today. On November 14 2015 when we hosted our maiden event, Kaduna StartupWeekend, it was to help bring Kaduna into the dot com startup ecosystem. At this time Lagosians were in the thick of the bold new era where young people with ideas are starting high growth businesses through sheer ambition. But the best ideas and biggest ambitions won’t get you far outside a thriving startup ecosystem. I remember travelling for a CcHub call for ideas event in March 2015to pitch a startup idea I nursed. Even though my idea was selected relocating to Lagos to work on the idea was out of the question for me. We didn’t have that opportunity in Kaduna.
When a few people joined me to organise Kaduna StartupWeekend, I was thin on resources so the event was us plucking the lowest hanging fruits. We held it in the Kaduna State University and invited well-known entrepreneurs Audu Maikori, CEO, Chocolate City Group and John Oputa,CEO, Studio24. We needed the social proof. Our guest speakers created excitement among our young entrepreneurial audience that many still recant whenI meet them till today. Our future events up till November 19 ,2017 toed the same line – tech or entrepreneurship related and free to all to attend. I was greatly assisted by startup enthusiasts in Kaduna
About the same time the Federal government and NGOs likeTEF, had begun promoting entrepreneurship as an interventionist tool to curb unemployment. Despite the mixed results, these interventions have increased the appeal of entrepreneurship.
Still Kaduna’s startup culture has made little progress.Communities have grown around the hubs like Colab, KadICT and Kaduna BusinessSchool. But an ecosystem and the kind of high growth startups that grow from it has eluded us. Kaduna is no-where near catching up to ecosystems like Lagos.
Along the way it became obvious that Startup Kaduna needed to focus on smaller meet ups of ambitious entrepreneurs and focus on providing substantial value. Prior to our first dinner, we noticed something about the training and speaking events Startup Kaduna holds. We found that after these events, attendees met new people they have gone on to collaborate with. Because business owners don’t want educative events after which participants went their separate ways, it became our mission to help build community that inspired and connected entrepreneurs.
That the #kdbiznetwork dinner has been on for over a year and this is our 7th get-to-together is testament to the benefits this simple idea has brought. We now have a true cosmopolitan attendee roll. Making friends with like-minded entrepreneurs of diverse professional and social backgrounds opens our businesses to entirely new opportunities. If you’re reading this I look forward to you joining us soon and making contact with needed resources to build the global businesses you dream of.
Rsvp for the dinner here.
by SAMAILA GOJE