Medplus was not a dream Joke Bakare had always carried. Before she started Medplus, she was just another bright pharmacist who had interned at University College Hospital Ibadan, served the nation at Military Hospital on Awolowo Way, worked with Right Aid Pharmacy in New York after obtaining a New York license to practice Pharmacy, and had a brief part-time job at Cleanipharm Pharmacy on her return to Nigeria. At the time she started, the concept of pharmaceutical chains, where one could have a pharmacy in different locations, was not one people were used to.
Here are 6 key lessons from her transition into entrepreneurship:
- Not being sure of what you want does not necessarily signal failure. Many people think you need to know exactly what you want to do from a young age and go for it, but not everyone follows that path to success. Joke Bakare never really wanted to become a pharmacist; neither did she want to study Medicine because of the duration. She simply was not sure what she wanted to do. Her father, God rest his soul, suggested Pharmacy to her since she had distinguished herself in Chemistry as a secondary school student. She went with his choice, and it turned out to be an enjoyable one for her and a launching pad for one of the biggest retail pharmaceutical chains in Nigeria.
- If there is a need you can meet, you have a business idea right there. Before she became the MD of Medplus, Joke Bakare was just a mother with three children who had to drive a distance every time they needed drugs. The pharmacy her clinic usually referred her to was a big one which many people in her vicinity also patronized. She knew that there were many like her who would rather not go so far from home to get drugs. The place was not even owned by a pharmacist, although there was always a trained pharmacist on hand overseeing the place. What if we could have such a big, well-organised pharmacy in our vicinity, she thought one day. That was her “aha moment.” She decided to start a pharmacy.
- Research is non-negotiable. A business idea is just what it is, an idea. To bring it to reality you must conduct your feasibility studies and do your background research on various aspects of your intended business. If there’s an existing business similar to yours whose operations you can study and learn from, do so. Seek various sources and ask questions that will help you gather valuable information on the industry you’re about to enter. The time that Joke Bakare put into doing all of this and more helped build a solid foundation for a lasting business.
- Start small. Many entrepreneurs can attest to the fact that waiting to start on a large scale is not compulsory. Joke Bakare started out buying drugs from the pharmacy that had inspired her, as well as from a few wholesalers. Medplus was started on a very simple model: provide closer to home what people go far to buy and include the cost of transportation in your pricing. That was all; she didn’t start off importing directly and her initial capital was quite small. You can start with what you have and scale up, setting up your management team and training your workforce as the business grows.
- Invest in good staff: You cannot do everything yourself. If you try to, your personal life will suffer and that will eventually affect your business. Although a brilliant pharmacist herself, Joke Bakare ensured that she employed a pharmacist from the very beginning to give people professional advice on how to use their prescriptions. She also acknowledges the incredible value that having a good personal assistant who is like a deputy, has added to her life.
- Be persistent and patient: In business, a “never give up” mindset is necessary. Many people have packed up businesses that would have thrived if only they had persisted. Every entrepreneur needs persistence and patience. With less than a handful of standard pharmacies at the time Medplus started, Joke Bakare knew that it was not going to be easy to break their monopoly. Yet, she never gave up and she chose to fan the flames of her passion. She started with a goal to make a difference in people’s day-to-day lives, and she succeeded.