[Interview] Victoria Epelle, Founder, Market Forward, Nigeria
Nigeria is one of the most active startup environments in the world and is certainly the country with the highest number of startups in Africa. As foreign investors pour into the market to take advantage of this development, so increases the need for local expertise and partnerships on ground.
Victoria Epelle founded Market Forward about a year ago and the company has been a fully operational entity since 2020. Located in the commercial hub of Lagos, Nigeria, Market Forward has executed projects both local and international and is making a name for itself in the field of Consulting and Project Management.
Could you introduce your company to us?
I founded Market Forward about a year ago and it has been fully operational since 2020. We are a business focused on providing research and business advisory services with focus on the African Continent, though there are occasions where we are open to supporting projects outside the continent. Our services range from strategy advisory, market studies, marketing, recruitment, partnership developments to development of trainings. We work on projects focused on the African Continent and also support international consultancies that require an external consultant to be part of their larger team.
The industries we serve include but are not limited to payment, Fintech, retail, Financial Inclusion, E-commerce, Fashion and Agriculture.
What's been the market response so far?
Its been an interesting experience considering that we launched during a pandemic. The local market is still growing in sophistication. Seeking guidance and advice from professionals is still not common practice among small and medium sized entities in Nigeria. The international market has been a lot more receptive. Over recent years there's been an inpouring of funding opportunities made available to startups in Sub-Saharan Africa and this comes with the need for collaboration and local knowledge with experts on ground. The key thing I’ve found from both sides of the coin is referrals and partnerships are key for growth. Most of the projects I’ve worked on thus far are through referrals from past work experiences.
What are the ambitions of Market Forward?
Short term, we're concentrating our immediate efforts on solidifying the research arm of our services. The ultimate ambition would be to expand into providing startup funding services to businesses across Africa.
As a new company, has the Covid-19 pandemic directly or indirectly affected your business operations?
Oh, it's worked well for me. It was the perfect environment cause I always wanted to run a business on a lean expenditure model. Initially working fully virtually saved on a lot of starting costs. Lack of mobility allowed for a concentrated effort on seeking clients through existing relationships which also saved on marketing costs.
Would you say the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us something about our own sustainability?
Most definitely. And I'll say this goes beyond the infrastructure deficit. It highlighted the need for digital inclusion, as many SMEs would have benefited from ecommerce activities. Many businesses would have accessed grants from the government to keep afloat till things stabilized during the pandemic. And then there's the issue of working remotely, something very rarely seen before 2020. I believe that this has been a positive change. You find certain aspects of physical work environment have become mundane. New-age offices are designed to give the workers a relaxed environment to work mimicking the home environment. Working digitally also aids in speeding up certain aspects of business expansion with reduced need to invest in unnecessary infrastructure, though this would depend on the services offered.
Who should contact Market Forward, and why?
Companies that would like a customized business advisory service. Startups looking to develop a proper business and rollout operational plan. International agencies ready to carry out market studies or need consultants to monitor projects. Educational institutions that need to carry out field research in Africa and need local assistance. Individuals looking to carry out field surveys as well. Venture capitalist or equity firms that need to understand the dynamics of industries in Africa or looking for partners to source local firms with high growth potential.