Anyone who had traveled around Eastern Nigeria especially Southeast, would be marveled at the number and types of buildings scattered in every nook and cranny of the zone. People compete to build edifices. Without mincing words, it could be out of place to say that there is rarely a village without a millionaire as seen by the type of buildings – magnificent buildings – in many families, villages and communities even in remotest areas.
However, some of the buildings are underutilized and left to accumulate dusts as the owners either live in town, other states or outside Nigeria, visiting home occasionally so except the ageing parents and security men, the rooms are empty with all the facilities being put into no use while the compound grows weeds.
Thinking outside the box or even without a box, some of these buildings or parts of them can be converted into Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) such as cottage industries which have the potential to create more job opportunities and wealth for the people in addition to securing the buildings. Imagine a situation where every “empty building” is converted into a legitimate and meaningful money making place; the positive ripple effects would be marvelous and endless.
Globally, both in the developed and developing countries, the government is turning to small industries as means of economic development and a veritable means of solving problems. This is because it is a seedbed of innovations, inventions and employment – and cottage industries come handy here.
A cottage industry can be defined as a small-scale, decentralized manufacturing business often operated out of a home rather than a purpose-built facility. It is a small and often informally organized industry whose labour force consists of family units or individuals working at home with their own equipment. They often focus on the production of labour-intensive goods but face a significant disadvantage when competing with factory-based manufacturers that mass-produce goods. Cottage industries add great value to the economy, creating huge revenue for the government.
But like every business concern, operating a cottage industry has its advantages and disadvantages. Some of the advantages include the fact that it allows people to work from their homes thereby saving some operating costs such as rent and some registration fees; having local source of some quality raw materials; and it boosts local economy through revenue generation and social networking. Other notable benefits of cottage industries include “a more equitable distribution of national income; enhance balanced regional industrial development; act as a nursery for entrepreneurship and facilitate mobilization of local resources and skills which might otherwise remain underutilized. Cottage industry does not only increase income of the rural households but also reduce unemployment and thus raise the standard of living and socio-economic status of rural dwellers” so one can guess the impact of using just 5-10% of the empty buildings for cottage industries.
On the other hand, the problems with cottage industry include the lack of national cottage food law especially for those in cottage food industry; lack of basic amenities and social infrastructures in the rural areas; security problems; sales and marketing challenges especially in the distribution of finished goods; occupational hazards and other health related issues such as the availability and affordability of functional and quality healthcare services.
Apart from the problems which have their own solutions within them and are surmountable, what does it take to convert a building or part of a building into a cottage industry? The first step is the conviction to start a cottage industry which comes with the discovery of a need and the desire to fill it. Having made informed choice of what to do and how to do it, putting up a good business plan becomes very necessary and inevitable. A good business plan will capture on paper what needs to be done, when and how to do it. Efficient planning at the idea stage, to a great extent, guards and guides against avoidable costly mistakes and it prevents failure to the barest minimum. Bearing in mind that great things often start in small sizes, a cottage industry can start in a room. And with the building already in place, structural adjustment may be necessary to capture and accommodate the type of cottage industry one would wish to go into and thereafter other things will follow. Just take a good look at that building and come up with the idea of what can be done in it putting into consideration the available natural resources in your locality or within your reach.
To get the best from cottage industries which have potentials for growth and expansion, the government should provide the enabling environment for businesses to thrive, protect life and property and where possible give grants or tax holidays to those in cottage industry.
P.S: anyone who is interested in using part of his/her building for cottage industry but is undecided on what to do can contact me for further discussion and comprehensive business plan on: +234 8033922445 (WhatsApp and sms only).