Ayokunle Bankole is the lead consultant at African Market Entry Consulting Limited (Company Formation Nigeria), a leading business setup agency in Lagos, Nigeria. In this interview with BusinessDay, Ayokunle shares more insights on the journey so far, becoming one of the most trusted company formation agencies, and winning the Company Formation Experts of the Year 2023 in the 6th Edition of the African Excellence Awards hosted by MEA Markets, UK.
Q: Ayokunle, tell us about the journey to Company Formation Nigeria, and how you managed to turn it into one of Nigeria’s most sought-after business setup agencies?
Ayokunle Bankole: It’s been quite a journey! I would say that I inadvertently embarked on the path that led to the establishment of what we now know as Company Formation Nigeria during my time at Olabisi Onabanjo University. It all began in 2008 when I registered my own business with the Corporate Affairs Commission. Being a young, entrepreneurial-minded individual, I immediately saw the potential to assist others in registering their businesses.
At the outset, it was nothing more than a side hustle, a modest endeavour where I lent a helping hand to business owners grappling with the complexities of registration. I vividly remember erecting a sign at a local motor park in town, a small step that marked the beginning of my journey. Those were the days when the Corporate Affairs Commission still managed registrations manually. Consequently, I often made the arduous journey from Ijebu Igbo to the CAC’s office in Ibadan, where I liaised with a lady who aided in processing my clients’ registrations.
Q: That’s a remarkable start. Can you share more about the challenges you faced during the early days?
Ayokunle Bankole: Oh, there were plenty of challenges! For one, the manual processes were time-consuming, and the logistics of traveling back and forth to the CAC office could be quite tiring. It was a one-man operation at that point, and it was difficult to scale. Additionally, gaining the trust of clients and building a reputation took time.
Q: So, how did you overcome these challenges and grow the business?
Ayokunle Bankole: Perseverance, dedication, and the willingness to adapt were key. I made sure to have an online presence. I had a website designed for me and promoted my services using SMS marketing. I expanded my services beyond registration to include compliance, intellectual property protection, tax consulting, and more. Building trust with clients was a continuous effort, and as the business grew, I partnered with experts to provide a wide range of services.Our early breakthrough came in 2014 when my small agency attracted the attention of some expatriates who flew all the way from India to discuss the possibility of setting up a Nigeria company. It was a dream come through. Not long after, a global business setup agency reached out to us requesting affiliation with us in Nigeria. So, from time to time, they would reach out to us to provide Nigeria market entry services on behalf of their clients.
Q: You’ve mentioned offering services beyond registration. Can you tell us more about the scope of services that Company Formation Nigeria provides today?
Ayokunle Bankole: Today, we offer a comprehensive suite of services. This includes setting up new entities, handling compliance matters, providing intellectual property protection services, liaising with relevant tax authorities, and offering secretarial services. We work closely with both Nigerian businesses and foreign-owned companies looking to establish a presence in Nigeria. Our expertise lies in navigating the complexities of setting up and running a business in Nigeria.We have helped over 6,000 founders to formalize the registration of their entities at the Corporate Affairs Commission, and executed over 10,000 client engagements on different corporate, compliance and post-incorporation services.
Q: Your achievements are evident in the recent recognition you received. Could you share more about winning the Company Formation Experts of the Year 2023 award from MEA Markets, UK?
Ayokunle Bankole: Winning the award was an incredible honour. It recognized the hard work and dedication of the entire team at Company Formation Nigeria. It’s a testament to our commitment to excellence and our mission to help entrepreneurs succeed in the challenging business environment of Nigeria. The award has motivated us to keep pushing the boundaries and providing even better services to our clients.
Q: Can you share a defining moment or a key lesson you’ve learned throughout your journey with Company Formation Nigeria?
Ayokunle Bankole: One defining moment for me was realizing the importance of building a strong team. You can’t do everything alone, and having a dedicated and skilled team has been essential for our growth. Also, staying true to our mission of helping entrepreneurs and businesses navigate the complexities of business setup and compliance has been a guiding principle.
Q: What advice would you offer to aspiring entrepreneurs or those looking to start their own business in Nigeria or elsewhere in Africa?
Ayokunle Bankole: My advice would be to focus on your passion and take that first step, even if it seems like a small side hustle. Be prepared to adapt to changing circumstances and technology. Building a business takes time and effort, but staying dedicated to your vision and providing excellent service to your clients can lead to success. It will interest you to know that apart from steering the ship at Company Formation Nigeria, I am the Chief Executive Officer at Sabi Networks Limited – a network infrastructure and technology solutions company. We provide internet connectivity solutions among others.
Q: Looking ahead, what do you see as the future of business setup agencies and entrepreneurship in Nigeria and Africa as a whole?
Ayokunle Bankole: The future is bright. With increasing interest in entrepreneurship and investment in the African market, there will be more opportunities for business setup agencies. However, the regulatory environment can be complex, so there will always be a need for experts to guide businesses. As technology advances, the processes will become more streamlined and accessible. Our goal is to stay at the forefront of these changes and continue to help businesses thrive.
Q: What’s next for Company Formation Nigeria?
Ayokunle Bankole: We’re continually looking for ways to innovate and expand our services. Our primary focus remains on assisting entrepreneurs in navigating the journey of establishing businesses in Nigeria and across Africa. We’ll keep working closely with regulators, industry experts, and stakeholders to provide top-notch solutions. Our future goals include further international expansion and the use of cutting-edge technology to enhance our services.