Quite a number of things determine our choices and decisions. For Ayo-Bankole, born and raised by small business owners, and later solely by his mum through her Lagos to Ghana nano business, he saw the world largely from the prisms of the hustling spirit and travails of MSMEs in Nigeria and across Africa. What was a normal childhood experience grew to become a lifelong commitment to and passion for helping as many MSMEs as possible to create wealth and navigate the murky waters of the Nigerian and African socio-economic environment. This commitment came very early for him and birthed Caladium Consulting as far back as 2010, even while still in his NYSC year and on his first job as a SAP technology marketing analyst.
Having built his career and experience working for both multinational and leading indigenous consulting firms, including KPMG, PwC, Phillips Consulting and also leading strategy teams in the capital markets, insurance and Oil and Gas industries; Ayo realized that the professional services that is so badly needed by startups and SMEs are often too unaffordable to them, and this increases their already high risks of failure. 9 out of every 10 SMEs fail in Africa, and about half of the time, they fail for lack of the requisite business management skills needed to effectively run the business. Many large enterprises can afford to hire the best experts and consultants for finance, growth strategy, brand management, sales strategy, risk etc, but startups and small businesses do not have this luxury because of the high costs of quality professional services and talent. And many times when the costs are affordable, the quality of work is poor. This is the problem Caladium Consulting has been solving and seeks to continue to solve: democratizing access to first class strategy, transformation and organizational structuring services to startups and SMEs across Africa. And it’s been doing a fantastic job at it, as recently shown with its recognition as a Top 100 SME in Nigeria by BusinessDay Awards.
Caladium leverages technology to make its services accessible to SMEs and startups across Africa, through a Consulting as a Service model that enables startups and SMEs have access to a range of professional services at a fixed monthly price, one off or staggered payment options. The company has supported the growth of over 130 businesses in 23 states in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Canada, United Kingdom and the USA. Some of its clients include VC backed fintechs, logistics, food & agritech, edtech, and dozens of other non-tech clients in several other sectors like construction, manufacturing, banking, real estate, legal services, gaming, media and entertainment, hospitality, wholesale & retail, energy, and even the government. Caladium’s unique model has been so successful that it has helped it build numerous partnerships with several other traditional consulting firms in a coopetition model that demonstrates the power of cooperation over competition for greater economic impact, a model it also implements for its clients.
Caladium Consulting adopts a perfect blend of global & proprietary collaborative tools to help its clients solve problems around planning, structure, corporate governance, process improvement, performance management, strategic communications, mergers & acquisitions etc. It has carved a niche especially in strategy execution, working on a long term basis with many clients to execute already developed strategies. Caladium is generally regarded as one of the best indigenous strategy firms focused on SMEs & Startups. The firm was named the most innovative management consulting firm for 2023 by the World Quality Alliance.
Recognising that even with its unique value proposition, many nano and micro businesses are in survival mode and still can’t afford even Caladium’s services, Ayo Bankole founded the Caladium Lagos SME Bootcamp (CLSME) in 2018 with Oluwaseun “Slim” Durojaiye to further support nano and macro businesses with capacity enhancement programmes pro bono. CLSME is a non profit initiative that has directly supported over 6,000 SMEs and another 22,000 SMEs indirectly, with a yearly participation rate of about 1,500 physically and online. Hundreds of SMEs in the CLSME community do business amongst themselves, grow and continue to bear testimonies of the effect of Caladium on their businesses. Its faculty includes some of Nigeria’s biggest and brightest business and thought leaders, including Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, Dr. Andrew Nevin, Honourable Akin Alabi, Adebola Williams, Odun Eweniyi, Kate Henshaw, Babatunde Irukera, Odion Alebua, Tunji Andrews, Lola Esan, Solape Akinpelu, Seyi Yerokun Agbedana, Nkiru Olumide-Ojo, Seun Fakorede, Temitope Runsewe amongst many others. The initiative and its Founders have won several awards in and out of Nigeria for the impact its made on the SME ecosystem. The CLSME has come to represent the biggest demonstration of the commitment of Caladium Consulting to the growth of the startup and SME ecosystem in Africa.
Despite having served multiple segments of the economy, including large enterprises, the mission remains clear: to leverage global expertise to deliver value to local SMEs in Africa. Caladium is committed to providing premium business advisory services typically available to and afforded by large enterprises, to small and medium sized organizations, at strategic price points.
With a community of over 6,000 SMEs and counting, it is clear that Caladium Consulting is here to stay, given its continuous pool of talents and skills. In the words of its founder & CEO, Ayo Bankole Akintujoye “asides our measurable impact on the businesses of our clients and community members, what drives us really hard is the growth that we see in our staff and alumni and those of our clients. Caladium Consulting is fast becoming a reliable academy institution, and it’s so beautiful to see how young people who interact with us go on to become high flyers on the local and global stage”.
On what’s next, Ayo Bankole, who recently got nominated for the Junior Chamber International Top 10 Outstanding Young Persons in Nigeria award, says “We are looking to create new product bundles with even more flexible payment options to address new market segments. We are also looking to launch FedaCash, our new financial technology subsidiary that buys the invoices of SMEs in a bid to solve their liquidity and supply chain challenges. We are also looking at greater market expansion across Africa, more partnerships especially for the CSR, and possibly investment opportunities. We are optimistic about the future.”