Our lessons from the entrepreneurship journey
Written by Dennis Mwai, a student at JKUAT pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechatronics Engineering:
Currently in Kenya, the job market is saturated. There are far too many job seekers with far too little job opportunities. The rate of unemployment is at a staggering 39.1%. Our universities for example, still churn out thousands of fresh graduates every year yet the job opportunities available are just but a fraction of this number. There are however alternative avenues that graduates or any other person seeking job opportunities might choose to pursue. One viable solution is entrepreneurship.
An entrepreneur is a person who organizes a business venture(s) and assumes the risk of it. By pursuing entrepreneurship, one is not only solving his/her problem of unemployment, but is also creating employment, therefore solving the problem for others. Risk is however an integral part of entrepreneurship and failure is a reality likely to happen. Majority of the business in Kenya fail within their first three years of operation.
During our Lapid Leaders Experience, we were privileged enough to have been taken through a number of entrepreneurship classes, introduced to a number of established entrepreneurs and were given the opportunity to learn from their vast experience. We (our squad, Naipanoi) were also tasked with coming up with a business idea and developing it well enough to pitch it to a group of potential investors (like in Shark Tank). The experiences we had have provided us a solid foundation that would better the odds for us if we are ever to choose to pursue entrepreneurship. This is a summary of some of greatest take-outs we gained throughout these experiences.
- Why start a business?
Successful businesses are not built out of sheer whim. They are well thought out, from their initiation all the way through their development and even after they are well established.
“My friend is doing ‘x’ business and is quite successful, I should try it too,” is a common story. However most of the business started this way fail? Why? The entrepreneurs did not have a proper basis for starting the business in the first place.
One should ideally start a business based on their skill-set and/or passion, and should aim to create value for the society. It is your skills that will set your business apart from your competitors. It is passion that will keep you up at night brainstorming on different angles to build business or trying to solve the challenges your business is facing. Most importantly, it is the value you create for your customers that will determine whether there is demand for your product or services. The business therefore ought to be built around a need or problem in society and should provide a solution to this problem, a product or service that satisfies the need.
- Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance
Research! Research! Research! It is simply not enough to conceptualize a good business idea. How do you even know it is a good business idea? It is crucial for entrepreneurs to diligently build their knowledge base on whatever field they plan to build their business around. This enables them to determine the viability of their business prior to establishing it. It aids identify the needs society has so as to provide relevant products or services and it also helps to identify possible challenges one would face as they operate their business and proactively develop solutions. By undertaking research, businesses greatly reduce the risk of future failure. This is why big companies spend millions on R&D.
Great businesses are built by people who think outside the box, people who come up with alternative ways of doing things that end up being simpler, faster or cheaper than the conventional ways. By capitalising on their creativity, they end up building successful entrepreneurial businesses. With the correct mindset, anyone can come up with innovative business solutions, and it is this creativity that will set his/her business apart from competitors.
- Business Model Tools
A business model is a tool used by starting and existing businesses to clearly highlight the key aspects of a business. We learnt of various ways of formulating businesses models, that is by using the Business Model Canvas and the Lean Start-Up Method. A good business model canvas should identify what you are selling through the value proposition, who you are selling to, if and why people are willing to pay and how much they are willing to pay. As we developed our business, we learnt that it’s not enough to have a business model, but it is also crucial to have a solid understanding of the model as it plays a big part in the business’ success. Your product or service might be good but if your model is not, your business is likely fail.
- The power of communication
You might have a brilliant business idea but how you communicate it greatly determines whether people would be willing to buy the idea (investors) or the service/product (customers). This is where strategic marketing and branding comes in handy.
The marketing and branding ought to clearly outline the value proposition of the product or service being offered and should capture the attention of the customers whom the product or service is intended for. The customer segment therefore has to be distinctly specified and the avenues used reach these segments have to be strategically thought through.
- Importance of Team Work
To effectively run a business (especially a big one), one simply cannot work alone. He/she cannot be a jack of all trades. We are all gifted differently, therefore, having a team of people with different skillsets working together towards achieving a common goal is crucial to a business’ success. However, one should not be content with the team, or solely rely on the team’s success but should be actively involved as well. It is the individual commitment to team effort that makes a team work.
- Customer feedback
Customer reviews provide the best feedback for your business. They can help an entrepreneur determine whether his/her business is viable, whether the services or products provided are actually needed as well as help identify the specific areas that need improvement. This is especially important for new business ideas that have not been proven by pre-existing ones.
One method used to attain customer feedback is through the use of a minimal viable product (MVP). This is a simplified version of your product or service that has just enough features to satisfy early adopters, from whom you will gain feedback. After testing the product and improving accordingly, then you can scale.
- Patience and Perseverance
This was the ultimate take-out. What truly sets apart successful businesses is the entrepreneur’s ability to persevere through obstacles and recreate his/her business after failure. In entrepreneurship, obstacles and setbacks are inevitable, and one is likely to make mistakes, however, it is what you learn after you fail, and what you do to ensure better results in future that matters.
We are looking forward to taking the entrepreneurship journey ahead! Join the next Cohort of Lapid Leaders by applying here, and begin your journey towards being a great entrepreneur!