A lot of blogs and online media are rife with suggestions on what to do when starting a business, and the likes. While I cannot refute the facts they present in their write-ups, I always think that experience is a better teacher, and African entrepreneurs stand a chance to learn more from the experiences of those who have started a business or two in the past.
When I started my first business, I did not have the benefit of experience, and as a graduate of computer engineering, I had learned very little (if at all) about business in school.
What I consider my first mistake when I started my first business may not pass as a mistake for many people, but looking back, I can definitely say that it was. I did not realize that I needed to raise money on time to be able to scale fast.
As a young entrepreneur, there is a tendency to want to avoid raising funding first, sometimes because of a need to retain autonomy and avoid undue interference from investors who probably have little understanding of where you want to take the business to. Another reason could be the simple fear that no one would want to invest in your business that early. I have discussed with a few young entrepreneurs and I find that some are even scared that some moneybag investor could run with their business idea, rather than investing in their business.
Don’t try to justify your reason for too long. Now is the time to raise that capital so you can be able to scale. Investors are plugging their funds into businesses that are still at the idea stage so you need not worry about whether they would invest or not. What matters is that you have a sellable idea. Of course, there are different kinds of investors out there, so it is up to you to look for the ones whose thoughts and business values align with your dreams for your business.
The fear of someone stealing your business idea is also not one you should cling to. No one can interpret your idea better than you do, and in a competitive market, the original always wins.
I eventually raised funds and expanded, so the most this mistake cost me was the time lost – time that could have better used to scale.
There is a way the startup ecosystem works right now and even if you did not learn business in school, you can study the trend and know how to integrate it with your business. This is something I missed out on, and it delayed me from achieving a lot of milestones in business.
The second mistake I made was not having a product that was scalable. It is common to see emerging entrepreneurs build products (physical and digital) that are so wrapped around the creator that they can hardly scale. As your product launches out and is validated by market demands, you will see the error in this. Don’t wait until then. Fix it now.
The third thing I did not realize early was the need to start earning in another currency. Earning in a currency like a dollar, Euro or pounds can become a strong buffer for any business when the exchange rates begin to throw their volatile bullets at you. If you are already earning in a currency other than your local currency at this point, it will save you a dip in your revenue.
I understood this much later and applied it subsequently when I started other businesses. Earning in the local currency is good as well but cannot provide enough buffer.
Very early in the game, you need to get your business to that point where people pay for your products in a foreign currency to enhance sustainability and stability.
This is the reason, for instance, why few Nigerians are billionaires in dollars. They work hard on their business, but the exchange rate is beyond their control. Always have the global picture in mind, and whatever you do, have some strategy to stabilize against volatile exchange rates, especially if you are an African Entrepreneur.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written by Samuel Akinniyi Ajiboyede, the Founder and CEO of Zido Freight & Logistics.
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