On Tuesday, September 5th, 2021, Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Tony O. Elumelu hosted young African entrepreneurs to the sophomore edition of his quarterly Mentoring Session. The hybrid event was held at the Foundation’s office in Lagos with other participants joining from several African countries.
Following the introductions and question and answer session, each attendee was given the opportunity to make a brief statement, leading to candid and inspiring conversations with Mr. Elumelu.
The mentoring session, which is one of TEF’s many initiatives in support of its mission to catalyse entrepreneurship in Africa, has been summarised into 5 subheadings for African entrepreneurs:
Redefine your aspirations in a wider context
The process of setting goals and smashing them becomes all too familiar during your entrepreneurial journey. This familiarity can eventually lead you to lose both motivation and enthusiasm. As an entrepreneur, you should first recognize that this is an excellent problem to have.
On the other hand, it indicates you must stretch yourself and your ambition. Set new milestones and redefine your goals. Aim to be audacious as much as possible, but don’t let it come at the expense of being realistic.
Recognize that people and relationships are important to your business’ success
Success in business depends largely on the knowledge, skills, and attitude of your employees. Building strong working relationships and establishing work ethos at all levels within your company is integral to building a strong company culture. Being deliberate about building relationships with members of your team is equally important.
Metrics on assessing new opportunities
When you are just starting out, there are a lot of costs and opportunities that are just too expensive for you. This simply means that while the opportunity might look beneficial on the surface, the conditions attached can stifle your business.
New opportunities must be assessed beyond excitement. Detach yourself and examine the possibilities. Approach opportunities objectively: do not think only about success, but also what will happen if you fail.
Success as an Entrepreneur has always been ‘in spite of’
The start-up ecosystem has taken a massive hit as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic, and Africa hasn’t been immune to this. However, it is important to remember that every challenge creates opportunities. While some take advantage of this, others don’t.
Profitability is no longer the only measure of success in business
Markets are rapidly changing. Profitability is not the only factor driving stakeholders, and investors, with customers caring beyond great deals and good prices. Today, your business value is a combination of profit and social good. Since profit is unevenly distributed in many societies, profit alone is not a good indication of success. As entrepreneurs, you must look beyond profit, and towards impact.
Entrepreneurs vs Fear/Imposter Syndrome
Fear is normal when venturing into uncharted territory. When chasing new opportunities, even entrepreneurs with years of experience might have to face their fear of failure. “What if this is the one that fails?” they might ask themselves. Always keep in mind that it is okay to feel fear, but it should not limit your potential.
Be responsible with money
This is vital to the success of any start up. It would be a waste of money to use your raised funds for anything other than your business. It is vital for you as an entrepreneur to use your money for productive purposes to further the growth of your company.
Excelling in saturated markets
Entrepreneurs will not all have the first mover advantage, and that’s okay. Entering a saturated market should not discourage you. Focus instead on building a viable product and figuring out what the differentiating factor is. You cannot always be the first in a particular market; however, you can catch up with your competition by offering something new.
Tell your own story
An entrepreneur’s reputation is very important. Your business may suffer if you don’t tell your own story in a deliberate manner. Today, authenticity, marketing, and branding are vital. People are interested in understanding what’s driving your business.
Prioritise and follow the value
Occasionally, you will get to a point where you have to choose what opportunity is best for your business. Keeping an eye on the value is a good litmus test for influencing your decision.
Africa’s strength lies with its youth
Africa has its challenges when it comes to entrepreneurship. In order for Africa to continue to grow economically, its leaders need to recognize and support their entrepreneurs. In spite of the myriad of problems and inadequate support from the leaders, young people should never lose sight of the immense power they hold to change and positively impact the entire continent.