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GroFin helps GIA Bridals respond to COVID-19 crisis with new clothing line

COVID-19 has forced couples around the world to postpone or change their wedding plans. The virus has not only left many couples in tears – wedding vendors are just as heartbroken.

In Nigeria, the popularity of large and lavish weddings has created a million-dollar industry serviced by many small businesses. With Nigerians forced to put their wedding plans on hold due to COVID-19, many of these businesses – and the jobs they create – are now in jeopardy.

GIA Bridals, a GroFin client located in Port Harcourt, makes and rents bespoke wedding gowns to brides. The Aspire Small Business Fund (ASBF) invested in GIA Bridals in 2014 and 2017, providing the business with working capital and enabling the entrepreneur to lease and equip a larger space. Since ASBF’s investment, the business posted consistent increases in its sales and revenue.

But this year, GIA was forced to remain closed for three months during the COVID-19 lockdown in Nigeria and the business did not make any sales. Although GIA resumed operations in July, business is still slow. GIA’s owner, Ngozi Brisibe, says it would be devasting to her and her staff if her business was forced to close for good.

“We all depend on the business as our only source of livelihood.”

Ngozi Brisibe, Owner – GIA Bridals

GIA Bridals employs 11 people – 10 of whom are women. Chioma Patrick does the beadwork on GIA’s wedding gowns and has been working there for five years, supporting her mother. “This job has made it possible for me to earn my own money and I am not depending on or begging anyone to provide my basic needs. It makes me feel great and gives me confidence,” she says.

GroFin shared a customised Business Resilience Tool Kit – rolled out across the group to help clients respond to the pandemic – to help Ngozi analyse the impact on her business and especially its cashflow. “GroFin’s staff was consistently calling to find out how we were doing and providing advice on what can be done,” she says.

Ngozi’s biggest concern was whether she will be able to sustain the business until economic activity is fully restored.

“We suggested that she pivots her business away from only focusing on wedding dresses by using existing equipment for other products”

Charles Chikezie, GroFin Senior Industry Expert

Ngozi has responded by launching MyLadyUrban, a new line of women’s clothing. She says the new brand seeks to represent women as “both feminine and powerful” and will allow GIA to clothe its clients before, during, and after their weddings. “Although things seemed bad now, there’s hope for us with this new line of business,” Ngozi concludes.

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Grand Care Hospitals Nigeria – Bringing Quality Private Healthcare to Port Harcourt

Entrepreneur Dr. Eke James Amuche is a happy man these days. A number of critical cases have been successfully treated at Grand Care Hospital (a private healthcare facility) in Bayelsa State with its recently purchased fully equipped ambulance and emergency equipment , which would not have been possible previously.

From a radiant warmer that has been used to resuscitate babies suffering from breathing difficulties after birth, to a 4D scanning machine that has enabled early detection of problems during pregnancy and even uncovered a severe cardio-myopathy in an 18-year old, Grand Care Hospitals is now closer to its objective of universal healthcare than ever before.

It was a chance meeting with a GroFin investment manager that finally led to the purchase of the radiant warmer, additional incubating machines and a 4D scanning machine to detect ectopic pregnancies, besides dentaloptical equipment and an ambulance handy for moving patients to bigger hospitals, all of which were sorely needed to resolve the increasing incidence of medical problems faced by the underserved Bayelsa community.

Incidentally, Bayelsa State ranks very low in terms of access to healthcare with a doctor to patient ratio of 1 to 7,000 against a WHO recommendation of 1 to 600.

Grand Care Hospitals was opened to the public in 2010 in Port Harcourt, and then relocated to Yenagoa in Bayelsa State in 2012.

Although significant strides were made to provide quality healthcare in Yenagoa in the early years of operation, Grand Care needed key equipment to make further inroads to improving access to emergency medical support.

Dr. Amuche turned to GroFin after being overwhelmed by a torturous feeling of helplessness as he watched a fifth patient in three months driving off in private transport to the teaching hospital at Ikoloibiri. An ambulance was desperately needed to ensure safe passage for emergency cases, but turning to traditional financiers did not seem to be a guaranteed solution.

The need for modern equipment to handle the complexity of medical problems the hospital was facing in Yenagoa finally drove the entrepreneur to seek finance from GroFinin 2016 to improve the equipment and buy an ambulance for Grand Care Hospitals. The new ambulance is equipped with an oxygen concentratorsuction machine100% oxygen cylinderambubagrespiratorcardiac defibrillatorstretcher and first aid box, all of which come in handy for moving patients to a bigger hospital.

And, the new ambulance could not have arrived more opportunely. Soon after Dr. Amuche received GroFin funding for the ambulance, a woman in the process of delivery was rushed to a neighbouring bigger medical facility with the new ambulance, upon developing complications that indicated the need for a major intestinal surgery.

In addition to the physical equipment, GroFin’s partnership with Grand Care includes the provision of expert business support services. Apart from assistance to formalise the administrative and financial management systems, Dr. Amuche has also been introduced to the Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (PHCCIMA) for unprecedented access to market linkages.

Besides, the emergency equipment, the community has benefited from free dental and eye screening servicesAffordable and quality healthcare is becoming more and more available to the community surrounding Grand Care; thanks to Dr. Amuche’s vision, backed by GroFin’s investment and business support.

“We are seeing the fulfilment of our dream by providing quality health care for the emerging lower and middle class of Nigeria. GroFin has been the ideal partner for us to achieve this goal,” concludes Dr. Eke James Amuche.