This morning, I visited this firm with my supervisor. The firm was open but there was no one to attend to customers. I was told the firm owner stepped out. Just while I was still asking, customers were trooping in, too numerous to count, but no one to attend to them. They needed to make a photocopy. Many of them checked the nearest neighbor in the same line of business and found out the other shop was locked. I could picture disappointment and frustration in their countenance as what they wanted to do was important and pressing.
Just as we were about to leave, one of the firm’s employees came and the frustrated customers smiled and they formed a queue immediately. The firm is close to the Education authority and a lot of these customers are civil servants.
Another moment again with this respondent today who’s meticulous in reporting. My interviews with him make me happy. He’s intellectually mobile and this makes the conversation easier. He gives over 100% attention to my surveys.
While we were with him today, By “We” I’m referring to my all-time award-winning supervisor Omolola who Anne will describe as “ever caring and cheerful FS”, A lot of questions came up from our discussions. We couldn’t give answers and I hope I get them here to heal my respondent’s curiosity.
From the respondent:
- ” Your questions are very technical and classic ”
- How do the uneducated respondents respond to some of these questions?
- Would the findings of this research be available in a document form and shared?
- Would there be a meeting (physical or virtual)of all the respondents in this project where there will be knowledge sharing and ideas?
- Is the government aware of this research? – Yes! The Lagos state government through the National Bureau of Statistics and Lagos Business School are part of these findings so they’re adequately aware and part of it.
- Would the organization (L-IFT) be ready to play an advisory role to these firms if the need arises?
This respondent told me that she has gotten a new space that is bigger and better than her current space. She said this new place will allow her to render services she was restricted on because of space in this present location. She plans to take me to the new place on my next visit. She is currently trying to put the new place in order. She says she has very big plans for this new space. The good thing is it is not far from her current location.
The respondent said she will be going on a pilgrimage journey in April and her firm will be locked if she has not gotten another employee as one of her employees quit and her last employee went to school and she has been trying to get another employee.
The respondent said aside from the laundry services they offer, his firm also does house, office, and space cleaning, including fumigating and they help with property movement and arrangements.
Respondent’s premises pictures were taken with his permission.
He does his leather crafts with his hands, and he has a filing machine. Though when he wants to sew the footwear, he goes outside to sew and pays for it.
This respondent sold out all her birds and fish during the festivities. She just got a new set of chicks and fingerlings. She said she got broiler birds now so she could sell them during the coming Easter celebration as this breed doesn’t take long to grow, unlike cockerel and other breeds that take longer time to grow. She said she will buy more birds for Christmas in larger quantities and different breeds. She said she wanted more birds though, unfortunately, her supplier had supplied other customers leaving just a few birds. She complained bitterly because she said she had told her supplier long ago.
When I asked why she didn’t make an advance payment, she said her supplier does not accept it, so she had to take them like that though she wanted more.
She started training fingerlings, up there is a picture showing how the fish ate one of them.
She complained about the council disturbing and since the counter she made is not so far from her house, she moved over to her house to continue her business there.
This respondent complained of a continuous rise in the cost of raw materials, saying there are times she considers stopping other pastries but will continue to bake bread, chin chin, and cakes.
She said the continuous rise is not encouraging.
This is a business center owned by a woman. She has had no stable employee since the beginning of this study. She gets students (unpaid employees) with a maximum duration of 3 months for short Microsoft courses and once they are done with the training they stop coming to the firm. Presently, the firm has no employees.
This firm reported last year that the owner of her shop property gave her a quit notice and did not bother renewing her payment. She went with her spouse to beg all to no avail. So last week she had another meeting with him and he agreed she can renew her payment. Yesterday she made the payment and was very happy because getting a shop in Lagos is very stressful and expensive.
This firm owner promised last year that she will improve her transaction recording. So when I got there today, she already hired a secretary who is in charge of documenting all her transactions. I was so impressed because the transactions are now very much clear and well-segmented.
There was something spectacular about this firm, during the aspiration survey and I asked about his vision for his business 5 years from now he said he might not be thinking of expansion any longer by then and that he will have to slow down the business and run it at the smallest level because none of his children are interested in what he is doing presently and he would not like to force them into continuing the business. He is into animal feed production.
Towards the end of 2021, this firm owner started renovating his firm. He had not done major renovations when his workshop was burgled. He was confused as to either continue the renovation or hold on pending the time customers’ stolen items were sorted. Well. He made up his mind to continue the renovation and below is the outlook. This renovation/upgrade has culminated in an influx of new customers to this firm.
I remember sharing that this firm owner included a second income source which was a money spinner. The business was doing well until her landlord started giving her problems insisting she not run the POS business in her shop where she makes garments. One of the major reasons for his reaction was because her neighbor was also into the same business even though that neighbor was given a small space beside her shop. This landlord seized her banner for months and always threatened her. Her competitor usually closes at 5 pm, then she will stay back at the shop with her son to run the business till 10 at night. When the landlord started to trouble her, her competitor extended her closing time which makes it tough for her to run the business. She told me about this and I advised that she involved her husband to talk to the landlord or better still give him some money. Two weeks ago she informed me that the landlord approached her husband asking for money for using the garment shop for the POS business. Then I said, I hope she remembered that I told her that was all they needed to do to avoid the landlord’s drama.
This week she was happy to inform me about paying her shop rent and also supporting her household to pay the house rent. She was eager to tell me when I asked for weekly expenses. She said and I quote, “ahhh expenses plenty this week oo, let me start telling you one by one” As she told me, I recorded all expenses accordingly on FINBIT.
Respondent’s school compound:
So many stories to tell about this firm. He has some apprentices and he also has added men who help to deliver furniture pieces at every given time. Going through his records I sometimes don’t find employee payments. This year I had to encourage the record keeper to always include every payment made to those men. From the explanation the firm owner gave me, he usually pays the men according to each job given. For example, he asks them to work on a wardrobe from start to finish and he pays them. Which means he uses the piece rate payment method.
I noticed he has not been stable at his firm too due to some off-site projects he is handling. He also bought a new car which has aided his mobility. He is yet to narrate the story behind his new bus since I hardly have 30-45 minutes of attention from him. Below is his place of business and some of his handiwork.
This respondent once told me last year that he is planning to organize a training session for people who are interested in bag making (aside from the apprentice he has). So the last time I visited the firm, he gave me a picture of the flyer he made and pictures of how the training is going.
Below are some of the pictures.
This firm is into meat preservation.
The firm owner is cooperative when it comes to his financial report and other survey questions I ask him. He is always happy with me around. So when I visited his firm yesterday, he and his workers were busy with the meat stretching process. So after attending to me, he took me to where his workers were stretching the meat.
Below are some pictures of how they stretch the meat.
The firm owner said he has some challenges with the franchise owner of the firm and this is seriously affecting the growth of the business. He said they take major decisions about the firm together especially when it comes to purchasing input and services to offer. Many times they have discussed buying modern machines and some other assets that are not currently available at the firm but the franchised owner doesn’t see it as important rather he prefers to open more laboratories at other locations and franchise it out. They already had some agreement before he took over the laboratory, one of which is that he would purchase more sophisticated equipment and thereafter increase his monthly payment/returns. However, their focus seems different now. The firm owner is scared that if he buys the equipment himself he might run into problems with the franchised owner. He is looking forward to reviewing the term with him which is not likely or setting up a well-equipped firm in the nearest future.
This firm I was able to get 2 weeks’ transactions done and was able to conduct a time-use survey today. Electricity has been bad in his area and he managed to wait till I was done with him before he moved his already packed luggage to go to a location where there is an electricity supply so he can work. He could not use his employees because it will cost him more.
Today I was so excited about the firm I visited. It is owned by an old man in his 80s. I have asked him how he copes with still coming to work even with no sales for the past 3 months and he told me he has a son and the son lost his job during the covid pandemic. Thus my respondent has to work to feed himself and his wife who is diabetic. The exciting news is, someone gave him the sum of N20k (45 USD) last week to invest in the business. Because two weeks ago he said he wants to make some samples to display at the firm. Today I met him making some local ovens. He was so excited when we met. I hope this will be the beginning of a new story for the firm. Will snap them when he is done.
During my interview session at this laundry and dry cleaning firm today, the firm owner narrated how she lost her official/business phone last Saturday.
According to her, while washing customers’ clothes at night, she had tried to draw water from the firm’s well to rinse and did put her phone in her mouth while making use of the phone’s torchlight.
The phone fell off her mouth into the well as she tried pulling the bucket of water out and she has been visiting the MTN office, trying fruitlessly to retrieve her business lines every day since Monday.
She also discussed how her new business idea of visiting the homes of her customers to pick up clothes was yielding positives, better than waiting for them to come to her shop, and hoped that with time, she intended to get employees back as she sees improvements.
This firm was closed for some two days due to the death of a traditional ruler and all shops/office were forced to close in the area to respect traditional rites. So no income for those days.
In the bid to overcome the challenge caused by the incessant sit-at-home orders in Enugu, the firm decided to move some of its production tools to their family house. According to the respondent, some of the apprentices who live close to their family house usually come to assist her and her husband in making furniture for their customers. This has made the firm always meet the customers’ demands and no longer feel the impact of the sit at home like before.
I wonder how this firm strives through all sorts of financial frauds and theft. As usual, I was at the firm last week for my usual visit to collect FTs. As I entered the commercial bakery, some people who knew the firm owner that I visit weekly were already telling me how my respondent’s phone and money were stolen by one of his employees. As we resumed work this year, he told him he fired one of his employees who he had been tolerating his excesses for a while. He explained saying that particular employee was rude and negligent particularly when it comes to working and he could not take it so he had to let him go. He was glad to inform me that he got a replacement. I said, “How did you get a replacement so fast?” He said the guy walked into the bakery looking for a job, then he employed him. I said, wow! Then he introduced me to the new employee, but right there he told me the employee is still learning and not so active but he knows he will adjust. On my previous visits, I notice the new employee was now active and also helped the firm owner with delivery. There was even a time I saw him alight from a bus with an empty basket of bread. I greeted him after which he told me he was coming from a customer’s place. Long story short, this new employee went behind his boss to retrieve cash from customers. As if that was not enough, he returned to the bakery to collect the key to the office where phones were charged and unplugged the firm owner’s phone, and absconded. He raked about N60,000 (136 USD) from customers and the phone gift we gave the firm owner. He now asked if I had the IMEI of the phone so as to track the phone as people advised him that the phone can be tracked. I promised to send the phone IMEI to him as soon as I get home. I showed my empathy and displeasure as he narrated his ordeal. I kept repeating the sum that was stolen then the other firm owner said that the number of theft in that bakery is countless and that sum is even small compared to other experiences they have had.
Life is indeed full of ups and downs. When I visited my ever-cooperative firm owner last week, she had gone to the market to source tailoring materials. I met one of her apprentices who told me she would arrive soon. I waited for her and in about an hour, she walked in. We exchanged pleasantries and I allowed her to attend to some reports from her apprentice. She gave me the FT for the week, then on getting to the special event survey I noticed she was slow to respond. After a while, she rest her head on the table and told me to give her some time. I yielded, and after a while, she lifted up her head and then asked what the question was. After a while, she said, “for some months now my husband has been having some health challenges and almost all the financial responsibilities of the family have been on me, and it’s not been easy. My husband was told to go and take care of his health at his place of work so he is not earning any income since he stopped.” I encouraged her to be strong and prayed that God continues to bless her business.
The current state of my area:
For over a week now in Lagos state, we’ve been having a scarcity of fuel. This has led to an increase in transportation costs and because getting fuel now is based on survival of the fittest, a lot of commercial vehicles have packed up and only a few vehicles are running.
The pictures below illustrate the current situation. Yesterday I trekked miles to visit my other firm as there was no vehicle. The strength to go back to visit the respondent I had visited in the morning who wasn’t available at that time left me. I had to explain to him and we rescheduled and today the same story happened.
Most businesses are affected especially businesses that depend on light.
On a normal day, this area is always filled up with vehicles too numerous to count.
When I visited this firm I was excited to see that even though he was working while sitting because of his age, he was excited that he was busy. If you can recall this is the respondent that got the sum of N20k (45 USD) to invest in his business. It was a great relief to see the enthusiasm on his face.
Even though we were unable to have our interview with this respondent today because she was very busy, it is always a learning process with her. Today she showed us a bean called velvet beans which is anti venomous in nature. She said one just needs to swallow it and it works miracles. We had to reschedule for tomorrow.
Visited this firm today for financial transactions and a lot of customers were trooping in and he couldn’t attend to them. There was no electric light and his generator had no fuel. He sent one of his employees to buy fuel and, according to him, he spent over 4 hours without success.
Fuel scarcity is affecting all businesses that depend on light.