I usually flinch at the thought of entrepreneurship. My mind conjures images of my poor sales background, which I conclude is due to the lack of tact ingrained in science nerds. True to the engineer that I am, I begin to poke at the notion of being an entrepreneur. What would it involve? What product would I sell? How would I get the requisite skill to do it? The answers to these questions do not often yield positive answers. So I sought to learn from the experiences of mentors, who run successful tech businesses. My chat with these entrepreneurs yielded three initial steps for consideration for any entrepreneur.
What inspires you?
For Agang Ditlhogo, co-founder of The Clicking Generation, her fascination with computing at the university led her to ask herself ‘What if I had been exposed to computers earlier?’ This was her inspiration to start the Clicking Generation to ensure that kids were introduced to computing at an early age. For others like Joy Makumbe, gaining experience working as an engineer in a solar company inspired her to make use of the technology in her community in Zimbabwe. Find something that inspires you. Why? Because when you step out of the comfort zone, your inspiration is what will keep pushing you to your goal. And yes, success will be like a salve that will wipe away all the birthing pains of the business.
Love what you do. Be in it for more than just the enterprise. When you love something your effort and passion will be directed to it.
Build a vision.
The vision is the foundation on which any successful business is built. Ms. Agang‘s vision to see young kids exposed to tech early led her to run several IT workshops for kids in two cities in Botswana. With vision comes expansion, and with every success, the vision broadens. Charity Wanjiku of Strauss Energy looks back at the vision that they had at the beginning and says “the vision we had has grown and led us in paths we would not have followed otherwise”. All that you do as you set up your business, as you design the product, is based on the vision that you create in the beginning. Charity continues to say that in the process of pushing the agenda for Strauss energy, she realized that “the vision she has causes her to step out of her comfort zone in order to achieve it”. Consider this, what would you do if you had absolutely no restrictions? Could that be the vision that is hiding behind all your fears?
What would you do if you could do anything?
Identify the opportunities.
What is your skill set? What opportunities exist in your area? Eng Mercy Manyuchi used firewood for cooking for most of her life. Her inspiration to search for an alternative to firewood was born of her interest in reducing deforestation. Using her knowledge as an engineer, she designed a stove, from waste metal, that uses bio-coal(a product of ashes) as an alternative to firewood. Your career is a minefield of opportunities where you can invest your energies. Dr Audrey Masizana, the head of computer science at the University of Botswana, realized the need for leveraging ICT to increase access to indigenous knowledge in Botswana. She is currently a pioneer in this barely recognized research area. Sometimes, identifying the need for exposure or to learn is an opportunity in itself. Rita Nkatha Laibuta identified the need for renewable energy business developers in Kenya. Her background as an electrical engineer and certification in energy have enabled her to be relevant in the industry. She runs her own company focused on business development in the renewable energy sector. Look around you. There are areas where your specific skill set can be useful.
You can be whoever you want to be so don’t settle. You want to be an eagle because an eagle keeps transitioning. Don’t be afraid of what is ahead of you!
– Mumbi Karanja-
Soul searching is key in order to become an entrepreneur. However, this search does not mean giving in to the fear of the unknown. It simply means having a vision based on facts that you have formulated based on your current skill set and a need to fill a gap in society. Go ahead. Challenge yourself.
About the Author: Rehema Ndeda is a mechatronic engineer at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.