This post is based on an interview with Henrietta Onwuegbuzie, a faculty member at Lagos Business School in Nigeria as part of GBSN's Case Method Month.
Lagos Business School faculty member
Henrietta Onwuegbuzie won the first prize in the Emerald/Association of African
Business Schools’ 2012 case competition. The winning case was titled, "Nike Davies-Okundaye:
Building a Family Social Enterprise”. The case highlights features of
indigenous entrepreneurship in a traditional African setting and show cases the
merits of traditional training methods.
It is an intriguing case of a social enterprise,
inspired by the difficult experiences of an entrepreneur, who grew up in dire
poverty. The difficult circumstances in which she found herself, led her to
establish an enterprise based on her inherited skills in arts and crafts. The
venture not only ensured her livelihood, but also provided a means for her to
lift others out of poverty. The case captures the life of Nikes
Davies-Okundaye, who was strongly committed to helping the poor. Her painful
experiences while growing up gave her a sense of solidarity with those in need.
She summarises her personal philosophy as follows:
"You don’t need to have a lot before you can help others. With the
little you have, you can always do something to help.... I suffered a lot while
growing up and I don’t want to see other people suffer”. (case excerpt).
The case narrates how Okundaye, overcame many odds to find success
in both her business and social mission. It shows how one can take traditional
skills and build not only a thriving business, but also an invaluable community
asset and provides a unique model of a hybrid family business and social
enterprise. Onwuegbuzie points out that in today’s increasingly capitalist
society, this case reminds us that businesses can do good and still do well
The case provides clear learning
objectives for educators to use in the classroom. It highlights features of
indigenous entrepreneurship, providing insights regarding how traditional
societies transmit entrepreneurial skills, how difficult experiences can
motivate the creation of a social enterprise, and an understanding of the
organizational challenges of a family social enterprise in terms of leadership,
succession and governance.
Onwuegbuzie’s case demonstrates how using
local cases to teach business and social enterprise can be as, or more,
effective for students in developing countries. By profiling a local business,
Onwuegbuzie is able to inspire and engage her students on a familiar and
personal level, while introducing important lessons in family business
succession and social enterprise.
In selecting a case to feature,
Onwuegbuzie focused on two main objectives: The need to be engaging and to have
clear learning objectives. It is important to her to use a good number of local
cases in her classroom teaching in addition to more globally available
ones. When writing this case, Onwuegbuzie commented, "It was like going
back to my roots. City life in Nigeria is so westernised and different from Okundaye’s
One of her biggest challenges was to keep
it "Nigerian.” She noted that, It is important for the case to have
a Nigerian feel. The students identify more easily with the case and the
learning happens more effectively,” said Onwuegbuzie. "The first time I taught this case, I got a
standing ovation from the Executive MBA students.” For those who would be using
it outside of Nigeria she includes information on Nigerian culture.
Onwuegbuzie turned a moving story into an
effective learning tool by exploring how Okundaye was able to create free
workshop training sessions to educate people while still making a profit for
her business through her art gallery. Onwuegbuzie thus demonstrated an
indigenous business model of an enterprise that achieved business objectives of profitability
and sustainability, while maintaining a social mission.
In 1983, Okundaye opened up the Nike Center for Art and Culture
in an effort to train aspiring artists. The first workshop took 20 Nigerian
women off the street and provided them with free food and shelter, in addition
to free training. Okundaye initially focused only on indigent women.
According to her;
want women to be aware that being poor is not the end of the world and that
they can make it in life with or without a man. I suffered abuses because I was
poor and I don’t want anyone else to go through that type of suffering.... When
you’re poor, you’re vulnerable. You’re like a lion without teeth.”
Over time, her workshops and art attracted men and women from higher
income groups to her business on a local and international stage. To date, over
3,000 people have trained in her workshops. Further, Okundaye has been invited
to give paid sessions African art in various countries in Europe, as well as Canada
and the United States.
In the case, Onwuegbuzie cites Okundaye’s daughter, who
explains how her mother kept the enterprise going:
"Her source of income comes from the sale of her own
art works. Whatever my Mum makes from her work she divides into three; to
provide for her family, to fund her artworks and to maintain the galleries and
Onwuegbuzie also points out in the
case that another means through which Okundaye generated funds for the business
was "silent auctions”. By selling her works at auctions to the highest bidder,
Okundaye was able to generate funds to establish more workshops to accommodate
more students. Now that she is getting on in age, challenges arising with
regard to succession planning and maintaining the social mission of the
business need to be resolved.
Professor Onwuegbuzie's award-winning case will be published soon by Emerald Publishing.
Contributors to this article include Allyson Freedman, Page Schindler Buchanan and Henrietta Onwuegbuzie.