I first met Koyona at the British Council business accelerator programme. Even though I’m a wedding photographer I moonlight in the corporate space every once in a while.
“My Name is Koyona Duke, I am the founder of Growco Management solutions. My job is to help businesses find simple solutions to difficult problems around people, processes, structure, and strategy… and that’s what Growco does.”
That’s not how she introduced herself the first time! She’s really cordial, grounded, and makes you feel right at home.
Outside of the British Council, we had our first meeting at Salamander Cafe when she had me out to tea to discuss financing options for wedding vendors. Apart from getting the info I needed, I found out some interesting things about her… She always wanted to work in consulting. While speaking to a mentor of hers when she was younger, she realised that she loves figuring out how to solve problems.
“My inspiration for getting into management consulting is seeing how difficult it is for Nigerian companies to stand the test of time, and wondering what it is that we do or don’t do in our businesses that make our businesses not last as long as they could. Management is the difference between a successful business and mediocre ones. When you think of things you love about major world-renowned companies, it can all be traced back to a style of leadership and management that worked best for the organisation at that time. Management, when done right, is much broader than walking around and telling people what to do.”
For wedding vendors like myself who aim to build businesses beyond themselves, she has an interesting gospel… She continues
“These are the 4 cornerstones of any organisation. When one is weak, there is a tendency for all to suffer. No matter the size of the business, you have to constantly be working to improve one or all of these at any point in time, and that’s where Grow Co comes in”
How do these things relate to wedding vendors? She has some interesting advice and it’s more customer-focused than you’d expect.
“As a vendor, your job is to build a system that not only solves problems for your clients but does it in a way that matters to them. People… both clients and employees are the core of your business”
The processes and structures she continually refers to are created so that your business can run with or without you.
Koyona is a former bride (by that I mean now happily married). I wondered if she had any tips? Any feedback for wedding professionals from a former bride?
“When I was getting married, the options weren’t as diverse as they are today, however, because I had vendors on my side who wanted to work with me to make the day memorable I didn’t even realize how hectic it was. We did our own wedding planning. Of course, not all the vendors were helpful. Some wanted to scale by with doing as little as possible that we even got into some fights. Finally, the day came and went and all was well.
Vendors need to learn to be solutions minded. Find a solution to a problem especially one created by your lack of planning and don’t forget that your customers can and have the right to change their minds. So from the beginning, create a system that protects you and gives your clients comfort. Like contracts and clear bills.”
What do you expect from your clients? And what should wedding vendors know before they call you for a consultation?
“My ideal customer wants to change and is ready for it to happen. My clients understand that no one benefits when your business isn’t well structured and cannot scale. So I would love to work with people who want to see change and understand that it comes at a cost.”
What do you think of the Entrepreneurial landscape in Nigeria? Has it changed over the years and how?
“The tougher things are, the more people will look for ways to solve them and Nigeria is no exception. The culture of entrepreneurship is great because the impact that small businesses can have on the economy at large can be astronomical. What we need is an environment that will enable it.”
What advice do you have for intending entrants into the wedding industry?
“For any industry, steep competition is the norm. This is usually the case for lucrative businesses and sectors that allow for creativity and innovation. To stand out you have to pay attention to the customer and know how to connect with the customer. Don’t do this because others are, do it because you know you are operating in the gap… doing an old thing in a new way and have the capacity to work to stand out.”
What has been your greatest motivation?
“People and their stories motivate me. I also have a need to see wonderful ideas to become actual profit-making machines.”
What do you like about your business?
“I like the flexibility and interaction with people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse challenges. The opportunity to learn, grow and inspire is compelling to me.”
What differentiates you from others in your line of business and location? What are your greatest strengths?
“I am passionate about seeing the growth of my clients. Having a client leave with a solution that targets the real problem and being able to implement this to their specific needs. Solutions that best fit their problems. My greatest strength is my ability to dig down to the core of a problem and tell the client exactly what it is. I am a people person and that connectivity helps a lot.”
The first time I met you, we were exploring financing options for people like me. Any advice about financing opportunities available for the wedding industry?
“There are small business grants available for businesses in any sector. Some are equity-free and some involve giving up a certain percentage of ownership.
There are also short term bank loans that can be accessed.”
And there you have it, folks!
Wedding industry professionals are used to going it alone, and when we engage a professional, I suspect we end up with one without insider knowledge about our industry. Why not try out a former bride who can take a scalpel to us not just as a former client of ours, but also as a doctor with the unique insight to help and heal.