Necessity is the mother of invention, as the saying goes, and with the South African unemployment rate sitting at 27,7% for the second quarter of 2017, more and more innovative thinkers are needed to create employment. In fact, while “SMEs are important to almost all economies in the world, [they are] especially [important] to those in developing countries and, within that broad category, especially to those with major employment and income distribution challenges,” according to research produced at the 2nd International Symposium on Sustainable Development in 2010.
Namibian entrepreneur Lazarus Jacobs, co-founder of Paragon Investment Holdings, says his journey from working a menial job at a governmental department to becoming a successful entrepreneur was borne out of need. “My journey has been quite interesting; my journey has been one of necessity,” he says.
Starting a business is a huge undertaking which comes with challenges. However, it’s possible to succeed despite the uphill battle. According to Jerry Muadinohamba, Director of Standard Bank Namibia Limited, young people are the ones with the most potential and great ideas.
“I’ve always believed in young people. From young people, you derive a lot of energy, a lot of ideas,” he says, adding that all young people require is a push in the right direction. “In most instances, what you need is that spark to say: ‘We believe in you; we can unleash the potential, identify the potential.'”
Here are a few pointers to assist – and inspire – aspirant entrepreneurs.
Be clear about the solutions you want to find
Jacobs says it’s vital to find clarity of purpose.
“The first question I always ask [young people] is: ‘Why do you want to start a business?’ And you know what the answer always is? ‘I want to make a lot of money. I want to drive a fancy car like you,'” he says.
“I always say to them that the primary purpose of starting a business is to solve problems. Look at the problems in your community and use enterprise to solve those problems.”
Don’t be afraid to start
Many aspiring entrepreneurs tend to focus their attention on the big things and get bogged down by how impossible it seems. The most important thing an entrepreneur can do is to start.
“Start where you are, with what you have,” Jacobs advises. “The bank isn’t just going to give you R5 million; they’re going to say, ‘Let me look at your business plan. Is it credible?'”
Don’t rely only on your passion
Founder and CEO of Ndalo Media Khanyi Dhlomo says many people rely solely on their passion when starting their business, and while passion is important to sustain you, especially during difficult times, it isn’t enough to keep you ahead of your competitors.
“We tend to think too much along the lines of: ‘Oh, I love this. I love to cook so I’m meant to be in catering.’ And that’s great – it’s good to be inspired by one’s passions. But I think it’s more important as your business becomes more competitive to think: ‘What problem can I solve? How can I do this differently?’ she says.
Many aspirant entrepreneurs are tempted to focus on being the next Oprah Winfrey or Mark Zuckerberg. Being an entrepreneur is a challenging undertaking, and Jacobs says young people don’t realise that there are no short-cuts to success, adding that he has more than 30 years of work experience and has spent that time building his company.
“When young people talk to me, they always look at me like they want me to teach them how to be crooks,” he says.
Dhlomo says the real work of business is on the inside. An entrepreneur who isn’t self-aware is setting themselves up for failure.
“If you haven’t fixed what’s happening inside your heart and your mind, you will not fix what’s happening outside. It doesn’t matter which strategies you apply; it doesn’t matter which degrees you have; it actually doesn’t matter who you know,” she says.
Additional Reporting:International Symposium on Sustainable Development