Zambian Business Woman, Monica Katebe Musonda is a successful entrepreneur who established Java Foods Limited, a food processing company based in Zambia. Monica resigned from a well-paying job as a corporate attorney, after picking a challenge from the Wealthiest man in Africa, Aliko Dangote. Monica worked as an in-house corporate counsel. Reports say Dangote on one of his visits to set up a cement factory in Zambia asked Monica, why the number of Zambian-owned banks, insurance companies, or equipment/raw material suppliers was almost non-existent.
Monica, who is a trained Lawyer, rather than answering the question, was inspired to own her industry. She quit her legal career, sourced funds from friends and relatives, and contracted a Chinese company to begin a food processing company that provides affordable nutrition to the southern African market. Starting from manufacturing local noodles, Monica expanded her product lines to include a fortified instant cereal”, which she refers to as “porridge”.
Having recorded success in her food processing business, here are some business lessons to learn from Monica:
Business is a marathon, not a sprint; start small
“It’s always good to take baby steps and grow with time. There is no rushed success that lasts.”
Monica believes that entrepreneurs who intend to achieve success in their business must be proud to take baby steps and consistently go through the initial stages. Speaking at a webcast, ”Secrets for a Successful Start-Up’ organized by The Tony Elumelu Foundation, Monica noted that entrepreneurs should not hastily spend money at the beginning of their business, but take time to understand their revenue and expenses. She also added that there are inherent lessons in the first and second years of the business that entrepreneurs must understand to stay in business. Since business is a marathon, Monica counsels businessmen to save their money for later as it would be needed for sustenance.
Prioritise consumer wants
“If you have a product that answers a need and you’re consistent with the right price, they can’t avoid you.”
The above quote from Monica reminds entrepreneurs of the reason why their business exists. Monica believes that business owners must understand their consumer’s interests and how much they are willing to pay for it. Monica also explained that an innovation can be termed great if it sells.
Using her instant noodles brand in Zambia as an example, Monica hinted that she taught her noodles business will blossom immediately because of the affordable price, but she was wrong. She stressed that the noodles were difficult to sell because consumers were not familiar with them. Consumer wants must be considered alongside innovations.
Employ the best hands
Monica counsels business owners to look out for employees with the right skills and experiences for their team. Entrepreneurs must know that success in business is dependent on the ability of the team to move from strength to strength across various seasons. Monica advises entrepreneurs to put away sentiments when building their workforce and work with a team that can produce maximum results.
Monitor your cash flow
Managing cash flow is critically essential in business. Monica counsels business owners to understand the method and time of payments. She charged them to discuss with their customers and know the frequency of payments. This will proffer potent solutions to the problem of long debt settlements. Monica also recommended invoice discounting for entrepreneurs. This will help them offset bills such as emoluments, electricity, and water and keep the name of the company in good books.
Also, Monica suggested that entrepreneurs make financial provisions for unforeseen circumstances like pandemics and currency depreciations. These provisions would preserve the business in distress seasons.
Learn by doing
Monica challenges entrepreneurs to learn by implementing. In one of her quotes, the Zambian businesswoman said “Don’t be afraid to fail or make mistakes. Pick yourself up and continue to focus on your goal but change “the how” (strategy). Then let your success speak for you.”
She explained that entrepreneurs need not wait till they have all the answers. Because if they wait, they may not do anything. Startups are encouraged to start, and conduct thorough research as the business grows.
We will leave you with this quote of hers:
“Just start. If you believe in your idea and you think it’s a great idea despite what everyone thinks. Work at it, you will be surprised what the market will teach you, or you’ll mold it as you go you started with green and end up with blue, but it will teach you how to do it. But you have to persevere, you have to stick to it, you have to believe in it.”
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