By Alima Atta

You may laugh but it feels that way! Running a business anywhere is difficult; running it in Nigeria is extra special! Truly if you can make it here you can make it anywhere. Forget New York! Frank needs to come back and write a song for Lagos.

I moved back to Nigeria with a job, not a dream. The job turned out not to be my dream job so i decided on the spur of the moment, as i often do, to start my own agency.  I named it Sesema, a name coined by my folks who took the first two letters of my sister and brothers names, and the last two of mine and formed a company, and called a boat the same name.  I grew up hearing the name so I was used to it. I never thought it would be a problem to pronounce - until I created my company and took the name. It became Sehsehmah, Sheshema, seseeema - oops!  I never factored our people in.

I recall the early days working from a room in my mothers office with a laptop and dial up Internet. I remember my first employee who it turned out hadn’t used a computer before, but had a MassCom degree. I remember trying to get a client to pay me a N30,000 monthly retainer and them saying - what do you do anyway! Well, we have come a long way since then for sure!

I was extremely lucky because through some great connections I landed Cisco Systems as a first client, albeit, a project by project account.  I used to work hard because it was just myself and one other person. I handled everything back then - arranging a hall for an event and decorations. Now, I relax! Lol!

My first office was a large room in a shopping complex. It was open plan and not in the best shape but I tried to make it as funky and cool as I could.  My two distinctive memories there are trying to drag the generator out in the morning at 7am and opening up the office because no one else had a key - sometimes I did this in the rain; and the other is interviewing a young man and hearing - not seeing, a mouse rustling behind me. Myself and the other young lady that was working for me at the time climbed on top of the table, then jumped to the next table and ran out, leaving the poor boy alone and bewildered. Anyone who knows me well knows I have a phobia for rodents.  Needless to say I hired him because I was embarrassed!

As a bit more money came in we moved from office to office, each larger than the last, each with its own issues. Our client list grew and shrunk. At a point we had no clients for a couple of months but I can say proudly I have never not paid my staff and never paid late. I always trusted God.

I have dealt with wonderful people along the way; some great staff, kind clients and press, and, the not so kind. I have sworn that I would shut down and that I will not take this any more, but I am still here. Ten years.

What keeps me going? The knowledge that I try hard. The thank you’s I get. Letters from former staff thanking me for trying to develop them.

Now here we are, 15 staff and a building to ourselves. An affiliation to the worlds largest, independent agency, Edelman. We have a client list that is second to none - Visa, HP IPG and PSG, NBC, OBG, Yookos, Access Bank etc, new ones from April too ….and I am grateful.

I want to thank all who have made it possible - staff, clients, press and suppliers, and my supporters.  I also Thank God because I am here and working.