Why We Exist
Entrepreneurship can be an exciting, rewarding, but very difficult path.
That's why many people who desire to become entrepreneurs actually never start a business.
And of those who eventually start a business, the casualty rate is high. Up to 65% of businesses stagnate or close down within their first five years.
Activator HQ (formerly SmallStarter.com) makes it easier and faster to start and grow businesses that thrive, particularly in tough environments like Africa.
We are a market intelligence and capacity development platform that actively tracks Africa's Top 100 Business Opportunities and supports entrepreneurs with the insights, training, and guidance they need to successfully start and grow businesses in Africa's promising (but difficult) markets.
Since 2013, our work has helped dozens of entrepreneurs to successfully start, grow, and turn around businesses in several different industries in Africa and beyond.
There are two specific things we do really well here at Activator HQ:
1. We activate business ideas
Activator HQ actively tracks lucrative business opportunities across Africa that have a minimum market value of $100 million each.
Launched in 2023, our Africa Top 100 Guide is the world's best-curated intelligence on market gaps, emerging trends, unmet and underserved needs, niche markets, and other exciting business opportunities in Africa.
Whether you're an aspiring or veteran entrepreneur, our exclusive insights allow you to easily discover unique ideas for your next business, project, product, investment, or income stream.
Our market research and curated insights help you reduce the risks, pain, and costs of pursuing unviable business ideas.
And when you find a business idea you love, we provide the tools and guidance you will need to actually transform your idea into a real business.
We have worked with dozens of entrepreneurs to overcome challenges with startup strategy, fundraising, and other hurdles that hold people back from converting their bright ideas into a real business (or investment) that makes money.
2. We activate solutions to business problems
Without the right guidance, starting or growing a business can be physically and mentally exhausting, especially if you're not making the progress you expect.
Activator HQ is for entrepreneurs at the startup and growth stages of business who want to fix frustrating problems and exploit opportunities that optimise progress, profits, growth, stability, and survival of their enterprise.
These problems and opportunities typically range from startup inertia and latent competitive advantages, to cash and capital issues, poor sales, low profits, inefficient operations, a weak business model, employee challenges, and leadership and management gaps.
Our ability to fix difficult business problems and unravel sleeping opportunities have helped dozens of entrepreneurs to eventually start and grow businesses in several different industries.
We have helped startup entrepreneurs and growth-stage companies to develop bespoke business plans, raise additional capital, unlock more sales and profits, and build high-performing teams and systems that grow a business.
OUR SERVICES: These are the 8 ways we help clients fix business problems and exploit opportunities.
Raise Up To $1 Million: A Fundraising Program for Entrepreneurs
Raise Up To $1 Million is an intensive virtual training and coaching program for entrepreneurs that focuses on critical aspects of the fundraising process and improves your chances of raising money to start or grow a business. This program has helped over a dozen entrepreneurs raise a total of $5 million... and counting.
Click the button below to see our success stories and learn more about how this program can help you overcome your funding challenges.
1. Market Intelligence Reports (The Africa Top 100 Guide)
Activator HQ actively tracks the most lucrative business opportunities across 30+ market categories in Africa that have a minimum value of $100 million each.
Our "Africa Top 100 Guide" is the world's best-curated intelligence on strategic market gaps in Africa and remains a rich source of fresh business ideas, emerging consumer trends, unmet and underserved needs, niche markets, and other exciting business opportunities opening up on the African continent.
Click the button below to start reading the 2024 Edition of the Africa Top 100 Guide.
2. Investor-Ready Business Plans
We work with you to craft a compelling business plan that expertly articulates your vision, makes you stand out, and impresses key stakeholders like investors, regulators, management teams, and business partners.
Click the button below to see our client success stories and learn more about our process for delivering winning business plans.
3. Training for Entrepreneurs
We develop and deliver training programs and customized learning solutions that improve the knowledge, skills, and confidence of entrepreneurs to overcome business challenges, exploit opportunities, and achieve their business goals.
Click the button below to see our client success stories and learn more about our process for delivering highly effective training solutions.
4. Management Consulting for Businesses & Organisations
We provide strategic planning, performance improvement, organizational development, and change management support for businesses and organizations keen on overcoming challenges, embracing opportunities, and adapting to change.
Click the button below to see our client success stories and learn more about the process we use to create transformative change.
5. Private Consultations & Strategy Sessions
Our consultations and strategy sessions provide clarity, direction, and accountability for entrepreneurs who want to overcome tough business obstacles, exploit rewarding opportunities, and hit ambitious business goals.
Click the button below to see our client success stories and learn more about the process we use to develop strategies that deliver results.
6. Online Business Courses
Join over 20,000 entrepreneurs who have used the lessons and insights from our online courses to start and grow their businesses. Our catalogue includes courses on fundraising, startup, sales, business systems, building strong teams, and more.
Click the button below to check out our catalogue of online business courses and start learning right now.
7. Personal & Group Coaching
Our coaching service provides the insights, guidance, safe spaces, networks, and accountability that entrepreneurs need to overcome business challenges and achieve ambitious goals.
Click the button below to see our client testimonials and success stories and learn more about the process we use to get results for ambitious entrepreneurs.
Meet the Founder of Activator HQ
John-Paul Iwuoha is a business activator who makes it easier and faster to start and grow businesses. He works with entrepreneurs to fix tough business problems and unlock the potential of startup and growth-stage businesses.
For more than a decade, he has helped dozens of entrepreneurs start new businesses, raise funds, grow sales, optimize business models, and solve human capital and growth problems.
His clients are active in industries that range from agribusiness and tech, to retail, healthcare, manufacturing, energy, financial services, and other sectors.
John-Paul has an interesting background that cuts across engineering, business, and finance.
He is an alumnus of PwC, the consulting and professional services multinational, where he worked as a consultant in the business advisory and performance improvement practice.
He holds a degree in mechanical engineering, a diploma in accounting and business, and qualified as a chartered certified accountant with ACCA.
John-Paul's core professional strengths are in corporate strategy, financial management, sales and business development, performance improvement, and entrepreneurship development.
He is a trusted business advisor, and a frequent trainer, speaker, and judge who works with business networks and entrepreneur-focused organizations.
He was a Judge for the 2022 & 2023 Africa Business Heroes Prize (sponsored by Alibaba Philanthropy and the Jack Ma Foundation) and the 2023 AWIEF Awards, among others.
In the last decade, he has trained hundreds of entrepreneurs in partnership with organizations such as AWE Europe, the SUN Business Network, the Roddenberry Foundation, the African Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF), and several others.
John-Paul is the author of Jackpot!, a book on fundraising for entrepreneurs. He is also the host of the Activator HQ Podcast (formerly "The Smallstarter Business Podcast").
In 2018, he was recognized by LinkedIn as a Top Voice on Startups and Entrepreneurship.
🧲 Connect with John-Paul Iwuoha on LinkedIn, Quora, Tiktok, Instagram, and Twitter (X) to follow his interesting posts and unique business insights.
Read John-Paul's entrepreneurship story
Hi, I'm John-Paul Iwuoha.
On the night of February 15, 2013, I started plotting my escape from the world of corporate employment.
Like most people, I am a product of the formal school system.
Like most people, I was encouraged to go to school, get good grades, get a job, and enjoy a happy life. And that’s exactly what I did.
I actually loved school — every bit of it.
I particularly loved the challenge and thrill of preparing for, and passing, exams.
I was an all-round A student. I earned two university scholarships, and graduated in the top 10 percent of my class with a degree in mechanical engineering.
I was going to be an engineer in one of the oil and gas multinationals. I was locked, loaded, and ready for the good life.
But two years before I graduated from university, during a holiday visit to my aunt’s, I stumbled on a small book that shook my reality to its foundations.
That book was “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.”
It dawned on me that all my life until that point, the school system and my environment were exclusively grooming me for one option: to fit into a job.
But where do jobs come from? Who creates them?
Rich Dad, Poor Dad gave me my first peek into an unknown world of special people called “entrepreneurs.”
But how could I become one? I had no clue.
I was only two years away from graduating into the real world but I was financially illiterate; I knew practically nothing about money or business.
To be fair, until that time in my life, I didn’t have any interest in business. I actually looked down on business as that “thing” people do when they can’t find a job.
A good job is safe, respectable, and rewarding. Why in the world would anybody choose anything else?
But from the moment I read that book and discovered entrepreneurship, a small seed was planted in my mind, even though I didn’t exactly know what it would eventually become.
I got the job! …but not the dream one.
Every year, thousands of well-educated young people across Africa languish in the labour pool as they desperately search for good jobs.
We have a lot of bright, capable people. But the jobs aren’t just enough to go around.
I was one of the lucky ones — I landed my first job at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) straight out of school.
According to my plan, PwC was supposed to be a staging area while I waited to go through the semi-finals and finals of the recruitment process at ExxonMobil.
PwC turned out to be my admission into business school. It exposed me to the workings of corporate business and I finally had the opportunity to address that curious question that had nagged my mind since I first read the book that changed my life — how does a business work?
The job at ExxonMobil didn’t come through. I was disappointed, partly because I was used to winning.
I totally believed that because I was smart, I could get anything I wanted in life. And until that point, this belief had worked perfectly for me.
The loss of the Exxon dream was a blow to my ego, but the exciting (and stressful) time I was having at PwC didn’t give me enough time to grieve.
The strange road that led me here
From PwC, I landed another job in business development in the energy industry.
That too was exciting because I had the chance to work with real entrepreneurs with street smarts who didn’t have the corporate garb and niceties I was used to at PwC.
The energy industry was my real introduction to the raw, rough, brutal, and unforgiving contact sport that entrepreneurship really is.
But while I was rising in my corporate career, I was getting busy on the side.
Over a 7-year period, I started several businesses on the side of my day job. I started a crop farm on the outskirts of Lagos, which landed me a feature on CNN.
At different times, I started a business that traded in poultry products, a motorcycle leasing business, and a logistics and trading company in refined petroleum products.
But of all of these, it was the one I never considered a real business that beat the others hands down — helping entrepreneurs solve business problems.
It took me time to realise I had a gift in business analysis and strategy, but I never seriously considered making money from it.
The first clear signals came from my earliest customers.
I would help friends critique business ideas, analyse markets, craft strategy, and help develop business plans and financial models. It was exciting and passionate work, and getting paid to do something I love was more than I ever dreamed of.
So, while at the office waiting out the notorious Lagos traffic on that evening of February 15, 2013, I clicked the button that published the first and ugliest version of this website.
For a few months before that night, I had been learning web development, HTML, and CSS.
Smallstarter.com (now Activation HQ) didn’t look pretty at birth, but it represented the start of a journey I had waited so long to start.
Two years later, I quit my manager position and entered full-time entrepreneurship. I was recently married, had a 4-month-old baby, and very little savings. And it was the scariest decision I have made in my whole life.
I loved the safety of a salary. I miss my colleagues and the prestige of a job title.
But to make big leaps and changes in your life, the first (and most painful) step is to leave your comfort zone.
Starting small is a gift
Since making the jump from corporate to full-time entrepreneurship, I have truly understood the power of starting small.
I have received hundreds of testimonials from entrepreneurs who have benefited from my knowledge and insights.
The most touching have been from parts of the world I never imagined — from Nepal and the Fiji Islands in the Far East, to Somalia and Lesotho in sub-Saharan Africa.
Working with entrepreneurs, both as clients and students, and being able to walk in their shoes without an employer or salary to “de-risk” the experience, has been a tough, amazing, and rewarding journey.
Entrepreneurship changed everything I knew and believed about life.
It has taught me that failure can be a good thing and a better teacher than success.
It has taught me that starting small is a gift that allows you to take hits and make mistakes you can learn and recover from.
It has taught me that hard times are important because they build character and inner strength, and create the unique opportunities we need to learn, grow and succeed.
It has taught me that anyone can start a business, but not everyone has the will for it. That’s because it takes guts to buck convention, to take risks, and to withstand the mental pressures and strong winds that are inevitable in business.
Entrepreneurship has taught me that intelligence alone is not enough to succeed; you need to learn other important life skills like self-awareness, selling, communication, leadership, and how to deal with people.
The future belongs to entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurs are creative thinkers, action-takers, and efficient problem-solvers.
We are believers and optimists; we see and appreciate opportunities where others see and complain about problems.
We are skillful and relentless at taking on challenges.
And we know how to thrive in the face of adversity and limited resources.
While most people are content with fighting for a piece of the pie, entrepreneurs focus on enlarging the pie.
And in the process, we end up creating wealth, jobs, opportunities, and progress for humankind.
But still, a lot of entrepreneurs around the world are choking on their dreams and businesses.
Despite the world’s pressing need for more entrepreneurs, there are very few places entrepreneurs can find the information, training, and support they need with an affordable investment of time, money, and effort.
That’s why I built Activator HQ.
This is a place where anyone with a big dream and access to the internet can learn and follow the small steps they need to reach that dream.
Whether you’re trying to start a new business, grow an existing business, or turn around a failing one, I created this platform for people like me who have a business dream and need help to cultivate and nurture it.
I hope you find what you're looking for.
What Clients Are Saying...
John-Paul Iwuoha has worked with dozens of entrepreneurs to achieve important business milestones.
Here's what some of them have to say: (Tap each one to expand)
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