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Youth entrepreneurship has the potential of providing the much-needed solution to Africa’s unemployment challenges, and spur economic growth on the continent. Click To Tweet

The road to 2030 – a year set aside by development partners as the deadline for eradicating extreme poverty – looks very much uncertain for many African countries. The confluence of rapid demographic growth, digital transformation, and weak human resource base in recent years presents fresh and critical challenges to Africa’s development dynamics and global competitiveness.

According to the World Economic Forum, Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 13% of the world’s working-age population. By 2030, this number will increase to more than 17%, making many African countries resource-rich, labor-abundant economies. Yet, only about 3 million jobs are created on the continent annually. Many African governments have struggled to translate economic growth into improved sustainable economic opportunity for their citizens. The International Labour Organization records that young people are the most affected segment of people without jobs.

Nevertheless, youth entrepreneurship has the potential of providing the much-needed solution to Africa’s unemployment challenges, and spur economic growth on the continent. Africa’s youth could be in the driving seat of global development in the next decades thereby catalyzing economic growth through entrepreneurship (UNDP).

Historically, entrepreneurship has been a tool for helping people take ownership of their aspirations. Initiatives like Startup India and Make in India helped to spur economic growth and attract Foreign Direct Investment into the Indian economy. According to a study by IDRC Canada, youth entrepreneurship, in particular, is an option to create employment for the youth.

Why?

Youth entrepreneurs are more likely to hire fellow youths, are particularly responsive to new economic opportunities and trends and are active in high growth sectors, amongst others.

In the words of Tony Elumelu, founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation, entrepreneurship is the cornerstone to African development and the key to local value creation in Africa. If properly harnessed, Africa’s burgeoning youth population could translate into a dividend for the continent through the creation of enterprises that will not only contribute towards economic growth but also create jobs for their fellow youth (OECD).

However, to properly harness and unlock entrepreneurial potentials of Africa’s youth, the following pieces need to be put in place:

  1. Funding for startups. Although there has been a remarkable improvement in venture capital funding in Africa, undercapitalization is still one of the major reasons why many startups fail. The road to startup funding in Africa is a long one, and 9 out of 10 ventures never make it. With an incredibly skewed ecosystem and lack of local funding pipeline in many African countries, the hope for venture capital funding for startups often lies outside the continent. There is, therefore, a need for more financial instruments to provide the pre-seed and seed capital to early-stage businesses.
  2. Access to market. Without the opportunity to access markets, obtain market-based prices and meet demands, business owners cannot capture economic opportunities on the continent. In spite of the tremendous economic prospects of regional integration, intra-Africa trade has remained horrendously low. It is estimated that intra-African trade costs are around 50% higher than in East Asia, and are the highest of intra-regional costs in any developing region. Not only is there a need for trade and market information to entrepreneurs, but there is also a need for inclusivity. We must create systems, processes, and platforms to connect buyers and sellers from across the continent, as well as minimize post-harvest losses for smallholder farmers. Hopefully, initiatives like the inaugural Intra-African Trade Fair will provide the pathways to advancing trade and economic conditions of people across the region. The FAO estimates that on-farm and post-harvest activities account for US$4 billion tons in losses per year. To curb this, the African Development Bank (AfDB) committed to invest US$24 billion in agricultural transformative projects in Africa over the next decade. But that’s not enough, the use of data at the farm and value chain levels could potentially transform African agricultural systems and lead to greater access to markets.
  3. Mentorship and skills development. Despite the media celebration of African business icons like Tony Elumelu, Strive Masiyiwa, Rebecca Enonchong and so on, entrepreneurship on the continent, in practice,  is a long, arduous journey that requires stamina, education, and community support. According to a Venture Capital for Africa survey, of all the different reasons that might cause an African-based business to fail, respondents selected poor execution as chief. This, essentially, means poor entrepreneurship skills. As a Tony Elumelu entrepreneur, I can attest to the transformative power of top-tier mentorship and skills development as prerequisites for entrepreneurial success. Access to entrepreneurship support systems, especially for women and youth in rural areas, could spur more opportunities for innovation on the continent.
  4. A policy with a purpose. Young people often face numerous challenges when trying to establish their businesses. Among these bottlenecks are high banking fees, inadequate youth-friendly products and lack of financial literacy. Governments need to create policies and programs that facilitate an enabling entrepreneurial ecosystem and access to investment stacks to turn ideas into innovations. There is also a need for private sector support in enhancing the capacity of youth development organizations at the local level. And, the financial sector must create special products to serve youth-led startups and provide young people with access to relevant financial services. Rwanda’s Private Sector Driven Agricultural Growth (PSDAG), Ghana’s National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Plan (NEIP), Nigeria’s N-Power and The Tony Elumelu Foundation serve as case studies for some of the answers we need in creating systems and platforms that turn passion to profit.

Conclusion

The economic case for unlocking the potentials of young people through entrepreneurship is simple: it is one sure way of actualizing the sustainable development goal of eradicating poverty on the continent by 2030. In other words, the biggest business opportunities on the continent in the coming decade will be created by young innovators. The impact of development institutions like the Tony Elumelu Foundation is proof positive that if governments, institutions, and private sector organizations collaborate in “democratizing luck” and setting young people up for entrepreneurial success, the social and economic dividends are tremendous! The future of Africa lies in youth entrepreneurship. Therefore, investment in youth is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do – and the time is now!


About the Author

Tom-Chris | #Readyforwork

Tom-Chris Emewulu is the President & Founder of SFAN. He is an education enthusiast, entrepreneurship and career coach, a consultant at Mastercard Foundation, Seedstars Ambassador for Ghana and an aspiring venture capitalist. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

If you enjoyed reading this article, consider sharing it so that others can find it! 

The article was first published by Tom-Chris Emewulu on LinkedIn.

As an entrepreneur myself, I understand what it feels like to yearn for a lifeline, to hope for a ‘big break’, to look forward to enjoying some luck. – Tony O. Elumelu (CON)

Many entrepreneurs (and aspiring entrepreneurs) have reached out to me for advice on how to put their stuff together for The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Program. Consequently, I want to share few tips that answer some frequently asked questions, in hope that it might be useful to a larger audience.

Before we get into it, I want to quickly mention that this is not an attempt to speak for or represent the Elumelu foundation. The tips below are my views on how you might improve your chances of having your business selected.

Again, be aware that the program is competitive. Previous editions have seen about 10% of all applicants selected. This is not to discourage you, however, it is to help you plan to put your best foot forward.

With that in mind, let’s begin, shall we?

Q1: What is The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Program about?

A1: Launched in 2015, The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Program is the largest African philanthropic initiative devoted to entrepreneurship and represents a 10-year, $100 million commitment, to identify and empower 10,000 African entrepreneurs, create a million jobs, and add $10 billion in revenues to Africa’s economy.

Q2: Who is qualified to apply?

A2: Anyone above the age of 18 and is a legal resident or citizen of an African country, with a for-profit business that is based in Africa, and is 0-3 years old can apply to the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Program.

Q3: What’s in it for me if I’m selected?

A3: If you’re selected, the programme provides you with the following tools for your business success:

a) 12 weeks of intensive online training which guides in creating and managing your business

b) Access to mentors to guide you through the early stages of your venture

c) $5,000 in seed capital to prove the concept, with access to further funding

d) Access to a formidable network of other entrepreneurs

Q4: How can I ensure that my application is accepted?

A4: The Foundation has structured the application to test for various key elements:

i. Who you are and the reason behind your decision to be an entrepreneur

Here they want to see who you are and what made you choose entrepreneurship. Who you are do not really mean what you’re called (i.e your name), but what you have achieved before this time. So this is your self-pitch – keep it nice, precise and focused.

ii. Your leadership skills

Business involves leadership – leading your team, leading yourself, managing interests and so on. Ensure to highlight what leadership abilities you have that makes you the person to succeed in this venture.

iii. The story that brought you to this very moment

Every entrepreneur has a story. Maybe you have built something so good that people fell in love with or you have produced services that everyone you know loved, tell it here. Like begets like; if you have achieved something impressive before, chances are, you can replicate that success again.

iv. Your understanding of your business or idea and the market

This is the core aspect of your application. Firstly, you must know your business to describe it in 50 words. The reason is that if you can’t deconstruct whatever complexity that’s involved in building your idea or business, and communicate that in simple, understandable language, you don’t have a business.

Also, you have to understand how the parts (process) of the business/idea work to describe it fully. Paint a picture of how the service starts and ends.

Furthermore, you need to know who your customers are and how to access them, how the business is going to make money, what you are willing to ask for each unit of service or product, and when you expect to break-even (the point at which cost or expenses and revenue are equal). Additionally, be clear about the amount of expenditure you expect to incur each month.

Finally, you must know your competitors and what differentiates your business from theirs.

v. The scalability of your business

They want to see that your business can grow to serve many more people at minimal incremental cost (the increase in total costs resulting from an increase in production or other activity). And so you must be able to show that your business can actually grow in authority to serve clients in other regions or countries. Good market research comes in really handy here.

Suffix: Remember to identify how much money that’s been invested in the business or idea so far, and how much revenue the business/idea has generated in return. Remember also to keep your responses within the given word count. Keep your responses straight to the point. Don’t be in a hurry to hit submit; review and spellcheck/proofread your work before submitting. But ultimately, endeavor to start early so you don’t have to rush. Above all, don’t lie in your application.

Even if you have no entrepreneurship experience, you can still apply for the Tony Elumelu entrepreneurship program. Click To Tweet

Q5: Where can I find the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Program application?

A5: The application is located at https://tefconnect.com/


Being an alum of the foundation is a great opportunity for me. The lessons from the online training and forum have been fundamental in this new phase of our work at SFAN, and I cherish the network of entrepreneurs I’ve been immersed in. I wish you well in your journey and look forward to seeing you on the alumni platform soon!


Click here to begin your application now.

The future of entrepreneurship in Ghana is very bright, thanks to innovators and ecosystem facilitators working tirelessly to create lasting change. As we round off what has been the best year in Ghana’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, I want to share some predictions for 2019.

The Blurb: Startup funding will triple, new startup clusters will emerge, and Ghana will be a hotbed for FDI. Click To Tweet

About this time last year, I wrote that the Ghanaian entrepreneurship ecosystem will see an incremental growth from this year, 2018. Well, true to that prediction, the ecosystem has, indeed, flourished. There’s been remarkable projects like Google’s AI center, U.S-Ghana Business forum, Vice Chancellor Merkel’s visit, Germany Ghana Investors Forum, UK-Ghana Investment Summit, the inaugural Student Entrepreneurship WeekEuromoney Conference, Prince Charle’s visit and so on.

From an increased funding to new startup clusters to foreign direct investment, below are my predictions about the future of entrepreneurship in Ghana.

Number 1: An upward funding trend – Startup funding to triple

Startups in Ghana raised about $20.4M in 2017, an improvement from the $8.67M raised the previous year. As at January 2018, African Tech Startups Funding Report released by tech startup news and research platform Disrupt Africa recorded that startups in Ghana had already raised $22.3M. By the end of December 2018, interest in funding Ghanaian startups may have increased by more than 150% from last year.

With this in mind, my prediction is that the startup funding revolution will continue to unwind. In fact, I think there will be three times more investment in Ghana’s tech ecosystem in 2019. Unsurprisingly, we shall see more interests in fintech, followed by e-commerce (e-commerce could reach a growth margin of 56% by  2020) and agri-tech. Also, with the increasing need for innovation in Ghana’s education system, I foresee a spike in education funding by 2019.

Number 2: Beyond Silicon Accra – An emergence of new startup clusters

There are three major players that make up every functional ecosystem: entrepreneurs, investors, and enablers (tech hubs, universities, corporates, and the government). The future of entrepreneurship in Ghana will go beyond Accra.

For a very long time and often to the concern of various stakeholders, many activities and innovations in Ghana’s entrepreneurship space take place in Accra. In fact, most of the startups that raised funding in Ghana this year work in or from Accra. More so, a greater number of events in Ghana’s entrepreneurship space happens here, in Accra.

However, there has been a progressive argument on the need to decongest the metropolitan city to make these opportunities equally distributed across the country.

I predict that from 2019, we shall see a sprout of startup clusters elsewhere like Kumasi, Tamale, and Takoradi. In my opinion, Kumasi is prime for a considerable amount of the action. Hapa Space and Kumasi hive – two of the active hubs in Kumasi – are laying the bricks through partnerships with institutions like British Council, The Indigo Trust, and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)Tamale is known for its clean air, good road network and is only 618.22 km from Accra. These are some of the merits for a “peace of mind” for entrepreneurs seeking to escape the high cost of living and traffic congestion in Accra.

Number 3: A hotbed for FDI and increased multi-stakeholder collaborations

With Nigeria going into a definitive Presidential election, I foresee that Ghana will be the focus of many foreign direct investments in West Africa in the New Year.

According to provisional figures put forward by the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC), Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) for Ghana from January to September has hit 1.3 billion dollars. The IMF records that Ghana experienced a 6.3% economic growth in 2018 and is among the top ten fastest growing economies on the continent.

On the heels of Chancellor Merkel’s visit in August, three German companies – Volkswagen, Robert Bosch Packaging Technology GmbH, and Voith Hydro Holding GmbH & Co KG – signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with Ghana to invest in economic transforming projects such as energy, health, and automobile. Nissan was also reported to have signed a MoU to work with the Ghanaian government to set up an automotive manufacturing industry in the country. 

Granted, the recent shake-up in the banking sector and consistent fluctuations in the exchange rate has left some investors in doubt about the future of entrepreneurship in Ghana. Nevertheless, I think Ghana will see more international economic transactions as well as an increased multi-stakeholder collaboration in 2019. The recent Accra SDG Impact Investment Fair organized by the Ministry of Finance and GIPC is the beginning of such collaborations for driving change at scale.

Conclusion

Once again, I believe the future of entrepreneurship in Ghana is very bright. It is not a surprise that President Akufo-Addo has declared 2019 as ‘year of return for Diasporans’. Indeed, 2019 will not only see Ghana being the focus for millions of African descendants tracing their ancestry and their identity, but it will also see the country being the focus of many development leaders and investors around the world.


About the Author

Tom-Chris | #Readyforwork

Tom-Chris Emewulu is the President & Founder of SFAN. He is an education enthusiast, entrepreneurship and career coach, and an aspiring venture capitalist. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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If Africa’s children are educated and equipped with the skills to succeed in the twenty-first-century economy, the entire continent will prosper. But if they are denied a quality education, Africa’s economic progress will be slowed, stunted, or even thrown into reverse. – Strive Masiyiwa, Founder of Econet Wireless

NIGERIA – On October 25, I had the privilege of representing SFAN at the Tony Elumelu Foundation Forum 2018 where 5,000 entrepreneurs, business leaders and heads of states gathered to discuss various topics around economic development across Africa. I was opportune to be one of the select marketplace vendors that hosted the President of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Akufo-Addo and the Founder of Tony Elumelu Foundation, Mr. Tony Elumelu.

The meeting gave me the opportunity to share my thoughts on how to fix Ghana’s education system with both men. This article is trying to extend that conversation.

If you have followed the ongoing dialogue about the state of higher education in Africa, then you’re aware that there’s an urgent need for rethinking the entire framework of Africa’s education systems. The handwriting on the wall is crystal clear: by 2050, Africa will be home to a billion young people. The continent’s future – and perhaps that of the world – hinges on investments in human capital. Regrettably, as it stands, all sub-Saharan Africa countries perform worse than the global average of the human capital index.

While there has been an incremental economic growth on the continent, the stack reality is that majority of African students are not learning the skills that can make them competitive in the digital world. And if this trend continues, our future generation will be a lost cause.

The good news is: we have a window of opportunity to avert this catastrophe. Apart from drastically raising education financing from the current meager 10%  (which, thankfully, the education commission is taking a bold step to accomplish), there are three important areas that need immediate attention for fixing the state of higher education in Africa.

To be perfectly clear, this agenda will need bold thinking as well as a refusal to settle for things as they are. Fixing higher education in Africa will equally need multi-stakeholder collaboration.

Over the past five years, a greater part of our work at SFAN has centered on creating programs and events that bring together stakeholders from business, academia, government, media, and civil society. The goal: to spur new pathways for equipping young people with skills that can help them thrive in the  21st-century economy. Our extensive research and survey of the root causes of youth unemployment in Africa show:

  • a mismatch of skills between labor market need and education
  • insufficient employment opportunities, and
  • lack of access to support services and available opportunities.

This important disconnect inspired us to set up Readyforwork Career Coaching Program; empowering the youth to take ownership of their career aspirations and grow in confidence that yields success. With a ready workforce, employers on the African continent need a upskilled talent to take advantage of the economic boom.

Obviously, the future of work will not be about college degrees but about job skills. Quite frankly, I think the current education system has outlived its purpose. CNBC recently compiled a list of top employers that no longer require employees to have a college degree. Simply put, we are moving into an era of an alternative education system.

It is not my intention to propagate a conspiracy theory but I know where the current education framework came from. Over one hundred years ago, factory owners that didn’t have enough compliant factory workers invented the system. Therefore, it made sense to arrange kids in rows, tell them what to think and make them compete for grades. And it worked excellently for over 100 years before technology disrupted the work environment.

A hundred years later, automation and robots have taken over many factory jobs, and collaboration has become more important than competition. The problem is: many schools in Africa are still stuck in the archaic mode of teaching and their curriculum has not kept pace with the changing nature of work.

Yet, programs like SFAN’s Readyforwork are rethinking the process by giving every gift an equal chance through personalized education. We are leveraging data to curate contents that tailored to the needs of learners instead of a one-size-fits-all system.

Nevertheless, if we trained every job seeker, there are not enough jobs to absorb them.

The numbers clearly show that while about 10 to 12 million youth enter the workforce each year, only 3.1 million jobs are created.

Consequently, there’s a pressing need to unlock entrepreneurial potentials of young people for job creation. Governments and development agencies are progressively acknowledging the fact that “Africa’s young people could enrich not only this continent but the world economy and society at large.”

Like I told President Akufo-Addo, this is why initiatives like the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Program is of vital importance!

Our coaching program also serves the need of helping young people acquire the entrepreneurial mindset and real-world exposure that help them to take ownership of their aspirations for success.

Now comes the third aspect of fixing higher education in Africa: giving young people access to mentors and opportunities to engage the real world. Experts have said that mentorship is one of the smartest investments you can make in your business or career. Mentorship helps young people gain direction and navigate the digital world.

For the last several years, I have worked with different companies in finding the top ten percent of entry-level job seekers. One significant thing I’ve noticed is that many job seekers lack job awareness skills. A good mentorship program helps learners to gain job awareness and exposure to the world of work.

In conclusion, the economic case for investing in Africa’s human capital is that it is the continent’s most important resource and the surest way of ending poverty on the continent.

I agree with Strive Masiyiwa, “if Africa’s children are educated and equipped with the skills to succeed in the twenty-first-century economy, the entire continent will prosper. But if they are denied a quality education, Africa’s economic progress will be slowed, stunted, or even thrown into reverse.”

Clearly, countries like Finland and Singapore are quite ahead of the curve by “giving more time to exercises that will involve a synthesis of knowledge from various subject areas.”

This is the moment for Africa’s youth!

Donate to our crowdfunding campaign to help us scale our career coaching program through a talent accelerator that will unlock the employment and entrepreneurship potentials of indigent youth at zero upfront cost.


About the Author

Tom-Chris | #Readyforwork

Tom-Chris Emewulu is the President & Founder of SFAN. He is an education enthusiast, entrepreneurship and career coach, and an aspiring venture capitalist. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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“Entrepreneurs have crossed “the risk line” from the “Time-and-Effort Economy” to the “Results Economy.” For them, there’s no guaranteed income, no one writing them a paycheck every two weeks. They live by their ability to generate opportunity by creating value for their clientele.” – Dan Sullivan, Strategic Coach.

Here’s a disclaimer: this article is for people who want to *really* understand what entrepreneurship means from a practitioner’s point of view. It is about practicality and how to thrive in the chaotic #StartupLife. If you are not ready for behind-the-scenes usually not told in TV commercials or keynote speeches, stop reading right now.

Since the last decade or more, entrepreneurship has become a fancy and celebrated word. CEO/Founder/Owner status is sexy to add to your social media biog.

People love it – being “on my grind”, “a girl boss” is so cool to post on Twitter.

You hold your shoulders high at events and social gatherings because when you introduce yourself as a founder, it seems to correlate you’re among the crème de la crème of society.

Today, “quit your job and become an entrepreneur” is the Holy Grail for success and significance in many circles. Consequently, many young people just waffle through school with the hope of finding success in entrepreneurship.

It wasn’t always this way.

Although the first usage of the word “entrepreneur” dates as far back as 1850, popular pieces of literature suggest that the term “entrepreneurship” was coined around the 1920s. The reason is not far fetched. It used to be that you go to school, study hard and when you graduate, a job will be waiting for you. And, after many years of working hard and serving your company, you retire with a gold watch and other great benefits. Life was stable and the future was predictable for the most part.

person walking holding brown leather bag

Unfortunately, that assurance disappeared around the 20th century. Hence, you can study really hard in school and graduate with a mountain of bills and little pipeline opportunities. All around the world, there has been an increasing decline in middle-wage occupations. This decline has been attributed, in part, to the advent of computerization and the spread of automation. One WEF study suggests that five million jobs will be lost to AI by 2020.

In light of this, a majority of 12 million Africans entering the job market every year are left with no option than to take up the plow in creating their own opportunities through self-employment.

Furthermore, being an entrepreneur has never been any easier than it is today with internet penetration.

Alas, the media celebration of global business icons like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, etc is a development which has fascinated many to go into entrepreneurship. Startup founders are now seen as pioneers with a high level of respect in society – a figure that has risen steadily over the past decade or more. For many, entrepreneurship is a fast lane for making money and becoming famous.

Unfortunately, a year and a half into the journey, reality sets in and all of sudden, you discover that entrepreneurship is nothing close to the filtered pictures on social media or TV commercials.

No one tells you about the sleepless nights of backbreaking work in finding product-market-fit nor the ungodly amount of pressure startup founders go through daily in turning their ideas into a product or service. The filtered media reports often miss the days when it seems like someone has a hammer at both sides of your head…the days when you have to go through the threshing floor.

Everyone wants to be Zuck but in reality, only one in five businesses in Africa achieve scale in five years. According to a Venture Capital for Africa research, the road to startup funding in Africa is a long one, and 9 out of 10 ventures never make it. The worst-case scenario, which we’re already seeing, is an increased rate in the suicide rate in the entrepreneurship space.

It is not my intention to paint a pessimistic view of entrepreneurship or to stop you from pursuing your ambition. On the contrary, my goal is to help you understand that, in practice, entrepreneurship is a long, arduous journey that requires stamina, education, and community support.

Not many people will read this article to this point. Making it this far means only one thing: you’re the one I wrote this piece for. To help you turn the impossible dream of creating your empire into an improbable, or perhaps inevitable concept, I have a few recommendations that might help you put in the pieces to weather the storm.

Image result for the-creative-exchange-660215-unsplash

There’s no denying the fact that at any age or social status, entrepreneurship is a very risky business. It’s a world filled with risk, uncertainty, and chaos. Therefore, the day you decide to open up shop is the day you have to assume it’s now you and you alone. If you are expecting someone to do it for you, then perhaps, you should consider doing something else. Why? Even the people who could help you may choose to ignore you. You’re now the last man on the line so it’s up to you to put the puzzles of this journey together.

Again, nothing is given, everything must be earned.

It’s not enough to just do it. You need a certain kind of mindset and skills for this craft. At the early stages of my journey, I often thought that people will understand that I’m young and new in the process and so they’d “take it easy” with me. Come to find out, when you’re green, they’d screw you the hardest. They’d take advantage of your naivety and youth.

Hence, I strongly recommend that you avoid the overwhelming temptation to just do it and create some level of management, process, and discipline around your work. Because quite frankly, if you don’t, you will burn out. You will lose focus.

And so, I implore you to reverse engineer your thinking and figure out whether you need to find/keep your day job or join an already existing team. If you are just romantic about entrepreneurship and being your own boss, your hindsight could be your biggest obstacle. Without structure or skills, it’ll be difficult to create quality deliverables for your clients.

In his book, Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Steps to A Successful Startup, Bill Aulet stated that the single necessary and sufficient condition for a business is a paying customer. Therefore, if you’re building a business, you must ensure that you’re making money.

But to make money, firstly, you have to solve a problem people actually have and are willing to pay for. As Eric Ries stressed in his book, The Lean Startup, you need to see the problem from the eyes of your target market. The market always wins; no matter how fancy your technology or service looks, if it does not solve an actual problem, people won’t care about it.

Also, if you have to offer your delivery at no cost, ensure you’re getting useful data in return or find a way to pass the cost onto someone else. Whether your business is a charity or for-profit, have sustainability at the back of your mind from day one.

Furthermore, understand that even though you created a super important solution to a problem, the cynical majority will not pay attention. People will only care when you give them a reason to care. And so, you must get over your inhibition and promote yourself and your work like it’s your last job. If there’s any insight you’d ever get from this article; if there’s any lesson I’ve ever learned in my entrepreneurial journey, it is the fact that you are the PR girl or boy of your brand. No one will tell your story better than you will. Understand marketing and master it. In the words of Benjamin P Hardy, marketing is nothing more than applied psychology. It’s about connecting with people, persuading them, and helping them.

Image result for the-creative-exchange-660215-unsplash

Finally, seek support. Even the best entrepreneurs had help along the way, so, don’t isolate yourself in your little corner. Reach out for help when you feel overwhelmed. In this day of social media and digital technology, everybody looks like a lion on the surface. Most people look like they have everything figured out but when you peel off the surface, you realize it’s just a bunch of facade for most people.

Entrepreneurs are often reluctant to ask for support and for the most part, due to ego and low self-esteem. No one is good at everything. If you don’t ask for help in dealing with the social stress and challenges of the digital world, you will get into deep trouble.

Being vulnerable is often a sign of great strength. This is a marathon and not a sprint, and anyone that hope to win a marathon must be open to all the help along the way.

Build a team, join a community, get a mentor, have a life outside your business, set time aside to refill and recharge. Above all, surround yourself with positivity and move from competition to collaboration.

In conclusion, if you want to be an entrepreneur, I implore you to deploy a serious self-awareness in understanding the level of energy and skills you bring to the journey. The truth is that the only level playground there is in this journey is your work ethics and resourcefulness. Consequently, before you talk about your big ideas, first, make up your mind to out-work, out-last, and out-improve your peers. Because, if you don’t have a parent or family connection that gives you access to money and privileges, that’s probably the only guarantee of survival in the lane. And when you have put in the work, be patient and trust the journey. There’d be times when it’ll look like nothing is working. There’d be days it’ll seem like everyone else is moving faster than you. More than ever, this is when you need to be calm and stay focused. What you’re building is important, it’s precious, so be patient and do it well.

Entrepreneurship is a great adventure, it is exciting, and the reward is the ability to live on your own terms. If you have a dream of a change you want to make in this world, if there’s something you want that’s worth sacrificing everything else for, this is the best time to make it happen! Become an entrepreneur with a difference!


About the Author

Tom-Chris | #Readyforwork

Tom-Chris Emewulu is the President & Founder of SFAN. He is an education enthusiast, entrepreneurship and career coach, and an aspiring venture capitalist. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Whether you are building a business or a career, there are times when you need a second voice in reinforcing your ideas or echoing your claims. That’s why you need quotes.

In the words of former Swiss Volleyball player and author of 100 Inspirational Quotes, Michel F. Bolle, “inspirational quotes are important because they activate an emotional pulse point in our hearts and minds when we are in a distressing situation. The right quote can help us to see light at the end of the tunnel, and give us that extra burst of hope and courage to persevere.”

Therefore, we ferreted out 40 powerful quotes from some of the most celebrated African leaders to help you get through any day.

                     Folorunsho Alakija, Vice Chair of Famfa Oil

· I never went to a university, and I am proud to say so because I don’t think I have done too badly.

· You need to decide what you want to achieve. Get rid of naysayers — those who say to you that you can’t do it. Never allow anyone to tell you it can’t be done. In my dictionary, ‘can’t’ doesn’t exist.

· You need to believe in your dream. Don’t give up when things get tough, just hang in there, stay focused and be patient.

· We have grown past the stage of fairy-tale. As women, we have one common front and that is to succeed. We have to take the bull by the horn and make the change happen by ourselves.

· It’s essential to draw up a “things to do” list on a daily basis and set priorities in executing them, making sure that any unfinished task gets posted to the next day’s list.


                                 Strive Masiyiwa, Executive Chairman & Founder of the Econet Group

· Whether you’re a farmer, builder or engineer, the opportunities are equal: Just add a little innovation.

· A vision on its own is not enough. Hard work & dedication is required to make that vision a reality.

· If you are working or you are running a business you have to set aside time and money to invest in your continued formal education and skills acquisition.

· You have to be very methodical in breaking down, the reason why something is successful. Most often it is not as simple as it looks.

· I started in business when I was 25 years old, with only $75, pooled between myself and a friend. We went around the suburbs fixing broken lights, and gates. We invested every cent, into doing bigger and bigger projects. For me, nothing has really changed in terms of those basic principles: you start with what you have, you do what you can, you invest what you get so that you can do bigger and bigger things.


   Lupita Nyong’o, Kenyan-Mexican Actress

· You can’t eat beauty, it doesn’t sustain you. What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion, for yourself and those around you. That kind of beauty inflamed the heart and merchants the soul.

· No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.

· What I will say is that what I have learned for myself is that I don’t have to be anybody else; and that myself is good enough; and that when I am being true to that self, then I can avail myself to extraordinary things. You have to allow for the impossible to be possible.

· You fail, and then what? Life goes on. It’s only when you risk failure that you discover things.

· We don’t get to pick the genes we want. There’s room in this world for beauty to be diverse.


                       Tony Elumelu, Founder, The Tony Elumelu Foundation & Chairman, UBA.

· Today we may appear young and people may not believe in us but we are going to compel them to believe in us through our achievement.

· Your idea can transform Africa. Let’s stop talking and let’s start doing.

· A true leader is one who remains committed to a higher purpose that most others do not yet see. I have studied great people and one common thing I found among them is Legacy.

· Let us remind ourselves of the power of individuals and what potent capacities and opportunities lie in this. No one, but us will develop Africa.

· People management is key. Learn how to motivate your people. Be painstaking in choosing the right people.


                       Chimamanda Adichie, Nigerian writer, speaker, and Activist

· I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there.

· Of course, I am not worried about intimidating men. The type of man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the type of man I have no interest in.

· If you don’t understand, ask questions. If you’re uncomfortable about asking questions, say you are uncomfortable about asking questions and then ask anyway. It’s easy to tell when a question is coming from a good place. Then listen some more. Sometimes people just want to feel heard. Here’s to possibilities of friendship and connection and understanding.

· Never ever accept ‘Because You Are A Woman’ as a reason for doing or not doing anything.

· They themselves mocked Africa, trading stories of absurdity, of stupidity, and they felt safe to mock, because it was a mockery born of longing, and of the heartbroken desire to see a place made whole again.


    Patrick Awuah, Founder, and President of Ashesi University College

· The people who have taken oaths and made promises, to be leaders and guardians of society, instead have disgraced us. I am challenging you to be the generation that can restore Africa’s honour.

· The ability to confront complex problems, and to design solutions to those problems; the ability to create is the most empowering thing that can happen to an individual.

· I think the current and future leaders of Africa have an incredible opportunity to drive a major renaissance on the continent. I believe that Africa has reached an inflection point with the march of democracy and free market across the continent. We have reached a moment from which can emerge a great society within one generation and it will depend on inspired leadership.

· It took a little bit of naivety to get started. I did not know how hard it was going to be. I think you just have to have this incredible confidence.

· I did have a lot of naysayers in Ghana but I didn’t have a lot of naysayers in America… when I decided to quit Microsoft people said ‘hey’ this is a great idea, this is what life is all about you have to chase your dreams and when you are ready to call us and we will see what we can do.


          Rapelang Rabana, South African Technology Entrepreneur and Founder of Rekindle Learning

· Skills and business knowledge will only take you so far, your principles, values, as well as your personal growth outside the business, matter more than just what you know.

· The more congruent the business is to who you are as an individual and what you value, the deeper your capacity to persevere and outlast.

· It is important to be close to the people and things that anchor you. For me, it’s my parents, my family, my close friends to have a laugh with. Being reminded of who you are, and regardless of the circumstances, that someone thinks you are great.

· If you don’t know why you are doing it, you will battle to make the kind of long-term commitment that will see you through the challenges.

·Not everyone realizes that by not choosing, life chooses for you and that is never the ideal outcome. Those who become great are deliberately creating their life path as opposed to allowing life to happen to them.


    Aliko Dangote, Nigerian billionaire, and owner of the Dangote Group

· Endeavor to work as hard as possible to attain a new aim with each day that comes by. Don’t go to bed until you have achieved something productive.

· I built a conglomerate and emerged the richest black man in the world in 2008 but it didn’t happen overnight. It took me 30 years to get to where I am today. Youths of today aspire to be like me but they want to achieve it overnight. It’s not going to work. To build a successful business, you must start small and dream big. In the journey of entrepreneurship, a tenacity of purpose is supreme.

· In whatever you do, strive to be the best at it.

· If you don’t have ambition, you shouldn’t be alive.

· Every morning when I wake up, I make up my mind to solve as many problems, before retiring home.


Have more quotes to add? Drop them in the comment. Subscribe to our mailing list to get our emails of inspiration, business, and career tips.

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The subject of social enterprise is, perhaps, one of the most misunderstood business concepts around the world.

According to The Key Fund study, a new research from one of Britain’s leading community development finance institutions, more than three-quarters of the British public are supporters of social enterprise, but only around one in five know what a social enterprise actually is.

A similar inference can be drawn in Ghana. Although Ghanaian social enterprise scene has seen a spike in the last three years, a lot of people still haven’t grasped what a social enterprise is.

With this realization, we invited the Africa Regional Director of Reach for Change, Amma Lartey, at August edition of #SFANLiveChat to explore what constitutes a social enterprise and how to develop a social enterprise business model.

Below are key insights from the chat:

1. Understanding the Concept of Social Enterprise

Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry.” — Bill Drayton, Founder, Ashoka Changemakers.

There are many different definitions of what a social enterprise is but the one I like best is that a social enterprise is created to deliver a clear social impact, Amma explains. But beyond creating social impact, social enterprises have a sustainability model embedded in their operation.

The distinction between an N.G.O and a social enterprise is in the fact that a social enterprise does not depend on donations or grants to operate. A social enterprise has a viable business model for operation. Essentially, social enterprises are entities that apply business models(solutions) in solving social problems.

“Impact and financial sustainability is the key,” Amma says.

2. What a Business Model is and why a Social Enterprise Needs It

“A business model is how a business delivers value and makes money,” Amma highlights: “It outlines who the customers are, what they will be paying for and how the business will create and deliver it.”

“Social enterprises need sustainable business models that deliver real social impact. Understanding your business model will help a social enterprise improve it to deliver more social impact and be more profitable.”

“Every business has a business model but not every business model is good.” — Amma Lartey

According to MaRs, a good social enterprise business model has two major components:

  1. an operating strategy that includes internal organizational structure and external partnerships that are crucial for creating the organization’s intended impact; and,
  2. a resource strategy that defines where and on what terms the organization will acquire the resources (financial and human) it needs to do its work.

Your job as a diligent entrepreneur is to create a funnel for translating the inputs of the business into outputs which yield financial returns.

Source: MaRs

3. How to Create the Right Business Model for a Social Enterprise

“A social enterprise needs to understand its customer and the problem it seeks to solve for the customer.” — Amma Lartey

To create the right business model for your venture, you need diligence in understanding the customer’s pain. “This means spending lots of time with current and prospective customers; interacting, observing and analyzing”

“You need to also understand the environment the customers are living in and the environment around the problem.”

“This understanding helps you to come up with your first hypothesis of what your business model should be and then you can start testing it.”

“You can do this by coming up with a prototype or minimum viable product; a simple version of the final product.”

To buttress this point, Amma gave an example of a Reach for Change entrepreneur who wanted to build a helpline for teens. His prototype was business cards with a phone and he gave out the cards to teens, with 20 of them calling back to report their reproductive health challenges.

The entrepreneur then used the results to get sponsors who wanted to market to teens to pay for the helpline and advertise on his site.

Like every aspect of the business, you must continually measure the results of your business model so you can understand and improve it if it is not working.

“It’s a messy and iterative process,” Amma noted.

Bonus: We asked Amma what investors like Reach for Change look for in a social enterprise they fund.

Amma: We look for a strong entrepreneur or team who have proven that they have the persistence and drive to grow a startup. We also look for social entrepreneurs who are trying to solve a major problem children face directly or indirectly. Finally, we look for a strong business model that is scalable, financially sustainable and can deliver a strong impact.

Conclusion

You’ve probably heard it said that business is a marathon and not a sprint. Hence, start with what you know best but be willing to change. “Don’t fall in love with your first idea. Be willing to change as customers and the market gives feedback. The people who are willing to pay for your product may not always be the beneficiaries,” Amma concludes.

The digital space in all its incarnations is always under constant evolution, with trends and practices changing rapidly. It has become a place where the whole world connects, influencing everything from lifestyle decisions to business practices. As such, businesses need to stay abreast of the landscape of the digital world and possess the requisite skills to survive and thrive. Having identified this, Stars From All Nations (SFAN) carved out a unique learning breakfast experience to facilitate knowledge sharing, with the support of its partners: the Future Executives Business Breakfast Meeting (FEBBM5).

This fifth edition of the event attracted various individuals at different levels of professional development and fields as diverse as commerce, marketing, technology and media in Accra on Saturday, July 29. The professional capacity building session and networking event was set in the refreshingly calm ambiance of the intimate Mercedes Café located in Airport City, one of Accra’s business hotspots. With the agenda already set on digital marketing strategies, the event was tailored specifically to help professionals leverage their social media skills to improve content, engagement and brand awareness online. To help achieve this, speakers from all over the media and marketing landscape shared their insights in 20-minute talks over breakfast. A panel discussion moderated by Lakeshia Marie of Ford Communications featured speakers Anita Erskine, Sydney Sam, Simon Alangde, among others. Each gave clear and incisive details on their respective practices and suggested new ways others could implement them.

Sydney Sam

Social media allows for tailored marketing experiences for audiences, therefore brands must carefully sculpt their campaigns to be consistent, focus on the story behind their product and to remain at the forefront of consumers’ minds. Sydney Sam, the founder of The Workspace, focused on branding. His bold and catchy PowerPoint presentation creatively used negative space to reverberate his message, and he encouraged upcoming brands to condense the ethos of their product into a single, direct message. Sam also walked participants through a user interface and user experience design, highlighting how design culture and psychology can help brands to maintain a consistent and easily recognizable design palate. He cited the example of Coca-Cola “Open Happiness” slogan, which has been the company’s brand and marketing campaign theme for over 20 years. All Coca Cola’s advertising and marketing resonate this message, he explained.

“Inspiration is never enough to make business decisions. You need to test your strategies and use what works.” -Sydney Sam

Anita Erskine brought a cool and casual vibe to the business breakfast event with her bold, charismatic persona and gorgeous Adidas sneakers. The media marketing expert and head of Anita Erskine Media pivoted her presentation around storytelling. She began her informative and engaging talk by giving an on-the-spot analysis of businesses by various members of the audience, before zooming into her core on the need for homegrown brands to be original, even when inspired by foreign models:

“Don’t use social media to emulate what others do. Use it to tell your audience a unique story that connects with your brand” — Anita Erskine

Anita Erskine

Simon Alangde of Wineloya’s short and concise presentation was extremely insightful as he demonstrated precisely how businesses could use their websites to promote advertisements as well as monetize their platforms through Google AdWords. He explained that websites ask for permission to use cookies, a record of one’s browser history, to share related content with you. With Google Adwords, businesses could also get their products seen by thousands of internet users who visit similar websites.

Interactive Digital’s Chris Efo also highlighted aspects of digital marketing which he considered to be underrated yet very impactful. For instance, meme culture. The sharing of funny photos and videos related to pop culture among groups online which has become an inseparable part of the modern digital experience. He noted that various brands around the world have tapped into this inexpensive advertising campaign by creating their own memes. Others usually take advantage of the free content and align their interest with television shows or movies that may be trending. Using a case study from the company’s portfolio, Efo demonstrated how the Interactive Digital team came up with custom Game of Thrones memes for a client, right as the new season was about to begin.

A cross-section of FEBBM5 audience

Although the breakfast meeting had extremely helpful and easy to grasp insights for business executives, the focus could be extended to include insights relevant to the creative economy. Current trends show that Ghana-based musicians, filmmakers and performance artists who leverage social media branding are benefiting from the increased audience. In lieu of relying on radio and television, many artists are creating and marketing their brands themselves; building organic and targeted online audiences and thriving. A great example is Mr. Eazi whose digital marketing push has secured him a lucrative deal with Apple Music and appearance on prime-time American television.

FEBBM5 was a huge success!

For SFAN, about four years of organizing such brilliant events to help young, enterprising minds, and business owners benefit from the experience of others is an amazing feat. With this fifth edition, they proved that no matter where you are in your development as a business or brand there is still a lot to learn and improve on, especially with the diverse array of tools social media provides for next to nothing.

 

This article is part of SFAN x Circumspecte partnership, written by Hakeem Adam with contributions from Jemila Abdulai, and first appeared on Circumspecte.

A simple roadmap for writing emails that are eagerly anticipated

#SFANLiveChat has become a unique knowledge sharing platform for business owners and professionals with over 36,000 impressions created from 6 chats this year! For June edition, we explored how people leveraging emails to deliver their messages can write emails that actually get opened and read. Our guests were Ben Anim-Antwi, Communications Director of Mefiri Ghana/Future of Ghana, and Roy Morrison, Blogger at Rise Africa Rise.

This chat comes ahead of the 5th edition of Future Executives Business Breakfast Meeting which is being organized on the theme, Digital Marketing Strategies for Explosive Growth — you should take a peek.

Although some people think email is becoming obsolete, the numbers show email is still very much relevant.

The following are our key takeaways from the meeting:

  1. ON VOIDING SPAM FILTER
    Don’t Over Commercialize Your Email

Seriously, what’s the point of writing emails if they can’t be delivered?
According to Fast Company, of nearly 200 billion emails sent every day worldwide, 84% are considered to be spam. “The key thing to remember is that a spam filter is trying to remove commercial advertisements and promotions,” Ben explains. “Hence, avoid Spam Trigger Words and Phishing scam phrases. However, there is no complete list of spam trigger words, therefore, words that are common in ad emails should be avoided. If you are sending emails for commercial purposes e.g newsletters etc. then you need to be as transparent as possible.”

Depending on the email service provider you’re using, Roy says, ensure that your new subscriber whitelists you. Send the instructions as part of our welcome email.

By whitelisting your address, a subscriber is saying “I’ve determined that your content is valuable enough for me to make sure I receive it in my inbox.”- Kelly Lorenz

2. ON EMAIL SUBJECT LINES THAT GET MORE OPENS
Be Clear & Concise

Your subject line often determines whether your email gets opened or not. Good subject lines are often personal or descriptive and give the recipient a reason to check out your content. “Write a subject line that either state a benefit for the recipient or invokes curiosity of some sort and so they have reason to open your emails. Play with words and test different subject lines.” Roy says.“It can help to address your target audience in subject line directly e.g. African Entrepreneurs or Marketers. Knowing your audience is the key — mine your data and see what subject lines work the best for you and reuse them.”

Says Ben: Funny subject lines can really stick out among other emails. However, you will need to be careful here and display tact as humor is subjective. So know your audience!

Above all, always remember we’re in the mobile age. A lot of people check their emails on mobile phones so pay attention to the number of characters as a long subject line will always be truncated.

3. ON CREATING CONTENT PEOPLE ACTUALLY WANT TO READ
Provide value, inspiration, answers, new insights

Most inboxes are filled to the brim with boring emails — that’s why a lot of people don’t even bother reading past the subject line.

To write email content people really love, Roy explains, “start by highlighting key points in headers or drawing special attention to them. Also, make the email format easy to read. Many people only scan emails, few read an entire email. Email format and structure is very important and it goes back to knowing your audience. This means knowing what they care about; if your audience is marketers, then sending an email about the benefits of meditation is unlikely to engage them. Again mine your data to see what kind of content your readers find interesting and try to reproduce it in future emails.”

Do not be vague about the message you are trying to convey, Ben highlights: “Your recipient wants to know why you’re talking to them, so tell them!”

The key is to put your audience first…think about how they’d feel when reading your email. Instead of writing as though your audience is a mass of faceless people, consider writing in a respectful, conversational tone. After all, your goal is to connect with your subscribers…right?

4. ON CONVERTING YOUR READERS INTO BUYERS
Focus on Creating Value

As a marketer, you’re not writing emails just for the fun of it, are you?

Have an end goal in mind and make every piece of content draw your reader closer to it, Ben says.

However, you need to make it as easy as possible for people to take action; don’t put unnecessary barriers in the way. Test your links before hitting the send button. Nothing hurts more than a broken or wrong link.

“Marketing automation tools like getresponse lets you send special emails depending on the behavior of the subscriber,” Roy intimates. “If somebody abandons your checkout page, you can send follow up emails as reminders or nudge them to complete the transaction. Marketing automation done right can be very powerful. Keep providing value even if your readers do not buy immediately — sometimes it takes the time to convince buyers.”

http://snip.ly/ditqo
http://snip.ly/ditqo

Also, a digital marketing system like Ryan Deiss outlined in this article can help you increase your number of customers, increase the average transaction value per customer and increase the number of transactions per customer.

Some of the most annoying things people do in an email you must avoid:

Ben says the first is sending long emails. Emails are best used for communicating action items, facts, or hellos. So keep it as short as possible.

Another is using unprofessional email addresses. Your email address reflects you/creates an impression about you. Endeavor to keep it professional.

The third is not having a signature on emails! Create a signature line that includes appropriate contact info so recipients know who you are.

The fourth is carbon copying (CC’ing) email to mass numbers. This is annoying because if a recipient selects “reply all” everybody gets the reply when it may not be relevant to them. To avoid this, use blind carbon copy(BCC) when sending mass emails.

Also, avoid bedazzled emails. Decorative backgrounds often cause technical challenges when replying e.g they freeze and take long to scroll down. The best image is a clean white background.

We understand you need to make sales but don’t just focus on sales and not on the reader, Roy says. “As in any other business discipline, it is important to provide value and solve problems.”

Bonus: We asked Ben and Roy what time and day is best for email marketing

Roy: It depends on a variety of different factors like target audience, season etc. Most good email marketing software providers have a feature that automatically calculates the best time to send based on your past open and click-through-rate. It is different for everyone and most likely keeps changing. For our newsletter, we constantly test different times to find the best time.

Ben: There’s no perfect time really. Everybody is different and you need to consider international time zones if you have that reach. Of course, if you use data captured from previous email marketing you can work out the best time for you/your company.

Final thoughts

Email, if used effectively is very profitable. The key is to know your audience, create contents that add value to their lives/business and leverage data (technology) to continually improve. In tech, things changes very fast so work hard to continually improve your communication skills. Yesterday’s realities might not be today’s reality, but with careful observation and practice, every skill can be perfected.


We’re interested to know what has worked for you. Leave your thoughts in the comments. To stay in the loop on what’s going on at SFAN, subscribe.

A step-by-step guide to building for the next billion

You’ve probably heard that 90% of all internet startups fail within the first 120 days.

For May edition of #SFANLiveChat, we invited two entrepreneurs who have built remarkable online companies to share their insights on how to actually get it right.

Kojo Dougan is the Director of Interpay Africa, an electronic payment platform that makes transactions and e-commerce simpler, secure, and seamless, while Melissa McCoy is the Founder and CEO/CTO of ConnectMed, a South Africa and Kenya-based online Medicare company that helps patients access quality and faster/efficient healthcare.

The combination of their expertise served our agenda very much. Below are some of the thoughts from the chat that stood out to us:

1. Find a need and provide an epic solution

“You have to solve a problem that people actually have. But it’s not always a problem that they know they have, so that’s tricky.” — Joshua Schachter (creator of Del.ici.ous)

A lot of people who are beginning their entrepreneurial journey often focus on building a product or service before finding a market. Unfortunately, this is one major reason for the failure of many startups. But to improve your chances of success, Kojo says, identify a need and aim to provide a relevant solution to that need.

In most instances, you’ll need to do some research to understand where there are gaps in the market: listen to your frustration or those of people around you. Find out what people are complaining about.

When you have identified the market gap, then you’re set to dig a bit deeper:

  1. Why is the issue persistent?
  2. How do people currently solve this problem?
  3. What can you do better than the players on the ground?

The result of this research will help you create a solution that pays off. ‘”Paying off’ to me means that we’re positively affecting our patients’ lives — every time we do that, it’s worth it,” Melissa says.

2. Build your tribe

“If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it still make a sound?” — Jehookah Jarmon, Gorvenstof, Ukraine.

You may have equally heard the clichéd phrase “build it and they won’t come.”Guess what, it’s true! Just because you’ve built something cool does not mean that customers will come to you by auto-pilot. To find people who are interested in what you’re offering, Melissa says, you need to do the legwork of identifying an already established market or a new one.

Depending on what your business is, the first thing to do in finding your users is to create a clear picture of who this hypothetical customer is. “We create user personas — young professionals, new parents, university students, and shift workers — that we developed through surveying.”

Position yourself as a customer, Kojo says, would you revisit several times? Would you be interested in making several purchases? Use the product again? “Observe, listen, monitor, personalize the solution; user experience is key.”

The art of copywriting

Whether you’re creating a new product for existing market like Apple or creating a new market like M-Pesa, you need to master the art of copywriting. “We use HubSpot to do A/B testing on emails to decide on the best copy,” Melissa says: We also create our own A/B tests with Facebook Ads to see what’s best.”

If you choose to create your own copy, this article by Henneke Duistermaat has valuable insights on how to nail it like Apple.

A great copy helps you highlight your value proposition and find your tribe.

                           https://hbr.org/1999/01/creating-new-market-space

3. Create a monetization strategy

“The single necessary and sufficient condition for a business is a paying customer.” — Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Steps to A Successful Startup by Bill Aulet (2013)

Now that you’ve acquired an audience, you need a strategy to turn them into loyal customers and brand ambassadors.

To be able to convert your website visits into sales, it “must be informative, interactive, simplified and allows visitors to sign up or understand how to use your product/service,” Kojo advice.

At ConnectMed, Melissa and her team leverage analytics to understand their users and how to deliver better services. “We have a funnel (site visits > signup > consult) and use event track to quantify where users fall off and session record to qualify why.” She says: Basically, pick one metric (for us it’s consults booked) and then understand the funnel to get there and keep optimizing.

A word on pricing

In a previous chat, we looked at how you can price your product or service. Although the focus is on a different audience, it has valuable insights you can apply.

At Melissa’s ConnectMed, they started with a higher price point to ensure their product is perceived as quality and then offer a discount on the first one to try.

But at Interpay, Kojo says their strategy is influenced by market forces. “As we have progressed, we have passed on economies of scale to our merchants.”

4. Review and Refine

“Ideas don’t come out fully formed.” — Mark Zuckerberg

When you have implemented your model, always review what works and what doesn’t, Melissa says. “Try to listen to the committed users that love you for determining best-added features. Our product development has been iterative — we started with base telehealth platform and added features based on user feedback”

Kojo reiterates that as much as you want to acquire new clients, you must also pay attention to your existing clients. “Learn, learn, learn; know what’s trending and stay ahead of curve.”

Above the bottom line

You have some structure and process, then you’re ready to play in the big league.

It’s time to launch and scale your impact.

How to launch your product or service

  • Firstly, decide on the type of launch you want — either a stakeholder launch or a media launch.
  • Then you need to figure out your timelines, it’s always great to have enough time for pre-launch PR. Do not neglect the impact of influencer marketing; try to make your product available to key influencers in your industry for some great reviews/publicity.
  • If you don’t have an elaborate budget to do a massive stunt, get on with what you can do and start marketing. The launch date is for you to tell your audience that a new kid is in town!
  • Understand that it’s your job to create your press release; a lot of bloggers won’t have the time to edit or review it unless you’re paying for that service. Also, know when is a good time to submit your article to enhance the chance of it getting published. Aim for the local bloggers first as they’re the easiest to reach.
  • You’re the PR girl/boy of your brand; keep releasing fresh insights, products, and announcements to remain visible to your audience.

When you have something great going on, the city needs to hear about it, so make as much noise as you can about your work.

Achieving scale…

Once you’ve launched your product or service, it’s time to scale your work. Depending on what you’re offering, look for strategic partnerships that create better leverage. Partner with banks, MNOs, MTOs, FSPs, to provide a solution to end user, Kojo advice, “our business will not be where it is today without our partners. We have two categories: partners and merchants.”

Unleash the power of email marketing.

Experts have confirmed that email is the crown jewel of online marketing strategy.

According to McKinsey, Email marketing generates 40 times more revenue than Facebook and Twitter — combined! Actually, you are 6x more likely to get a click-through from an Email than from a tweet. Furthermore, Email marketing can generate an ROI of 3800% and $38 for every $1 spent.

To grow your mailing list, work with partners who you can incentivize to share their lists (e.g. every booked consult from a user on their list gets X KES), Melissa says. Also, you can table at events to get participants to subscribe to your list. “Finally, a pop-up CTA on the site that asks for email in return for the discount has worked well for us.”

The bottom line

Building a successful online business takes time and skill.

But like every skill, it can be learned. As we’ve established above, if you build it, they won’t come. So, your best bet is to: a). Find a need and provide a viable solution to it; b.) Build your market — find the people that need your offer; c.) Ensure you have a monetization plan; d.) Ensure your product development is iterative; e.) Launch and Scale

“Stay focused, don’t go alone; work with your team, get your team motivated, believe in your dream, believe in your team, be mentored, don’t wait for a perfect moment- just create it,” Kojo concludes.


We’re interested to know what you think about this subject and what has worked for you, please leave your thoughts in the comment. To stay in the loop on what’s going on at SFAN, subscribe here.

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