March 2017

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This month’s blog is 3 weeks late. I am hopeful that we will be ready for posting within the month. There is plenty to think about but I have been particularly inspired by one Strive Masiyiwa. I don’t know the gentleman except what I read up on him from the Internet and after following several of his posts on Facebook. I need not go into his particulars; they are there for anyone to see. As a blogger, I often reflect on how my ideas come across to the reader. I ask myself; if I write what I am thinking in exactly the manner in which I want to be understood, am I able to reach you?
Mr. Masiyiwa has such a style. He presents his ideas in very simple format but ‘bang’ a seemingly difficult idea is laid bare. Looking for business ideas, solving business challenges or indeed engaging people you come into contact with is another topic that I enjoyed reading.
Like him, I engage everyone around me when I am out there. In a restaurant, I will note the name of the server at our table, ask them how they are doing and how they got there. I am often amazed at what you find out about these people what drives them or indeed where they are trying to get to. At the market stall, the cashier at the supermarket or the girl styling my hair. I am interested in the human story affecting them. Women and young people have aspirations. It is therefore necessary for people to take note and or offer advice and guidance.
March is Women’s Month. 8th March in particular is a holiday in our country also observed throughout the world through various activities. I was invited recently to speak at one such women’s gathering. I was fascinated of course not with what I had to say but what I heard from the other women present. Coincidentally the young lady who was the organizer of the function is someone I had encountered many years before in my corporate life. Apparently she had come to our organization as an intern and the discussion she had with me had stuck with her and that, together with whatever else she had gathered along the way, had brought her to where she was. She had tried several business ideas and was running with one at the moment. I had another chat with her that day and I must say I am still inspired by the energy and optimism of her outlook on things.
I must say that many a time, these young people already have their ideas sorted and all they require from you and me are affirmation on the idea and where it should be headed. Very rarely is it about money per se.
Another lady who spoke runs a website based business. She had been doing something else but decided to leave all that and run this business for herself. I needed time to understand what and how it was structured. Since I am a blogger and still trying to make it into a business, I was interested to find out more about how she had structured it. Many a time ladies tend to stick to fashion based endeavors, so meeting one in a technical field is interesting. I promised myself to pursue this young lady in particular as I was also looking to learn more about how to enhance what I was also already doing. This is the point I keep making to people. Start from where you are with what you have. Be open to new ideas, they come from all sides. Many a time money is the last item on the list of requirements. Starting a business by implication requires capital to get things done. However, with the way technology has been wired, one can develop an idea that becomes a successful business with very limited funds. This was the focus of my discussion with yet another speaker that day.
She is an established young lady who consciously gave up her job very early in her career to pursue her passion. She knows her trade, she has invested sufficient resources into it by way of machinery and her skills. Still things are not ‘igniting’. I was interested to chat with her further and find out what the problem really is.
In my pursuit to find my purpose, my recent assignments to mentor small businesses ran by women has been an eye opener. I have decided that this is something I would like to do often.
Back to the lady with an established company but not going anywhere fast enough. Visiting her premises was a delight. She has plenty of examples of what she is capable of doing. I asked her to run me through the genesis of her ideas. It started small enough at a personal level. She was a stylish young lady dressing herself and those around her. Later gave up her routine job to pursue this passion. It is commendable and courageous of her to give up regular income to start a business. However, since then it was obvious to me that she did not take time to really study the market and identify who she was serving. She was not able to identify her specific target market. Because of this oversight she was serving everyone without too much success. Mistake 2. Trying too many other things when the original idea is not working. It is tempting to divert resources into other lines of business when your original idea has stalled.
My advice to her was to deeply review her business idea. What was she in business to do, and for whom? How was she going to access her customers? Who were her targeted clients on whose sales she could exploit and build upon? This was not clear. She had branched off into starting a school, to teach people sewing. What exactly would be taught was not clear. Meanwhile there was money and opportunity tied up in all the machinery she had purchased. I was not sure using them to teach people to sew was the way to go.
This conversation reminded me of the definition of entrepreneurship that Mr. Masiyiwa offered in one of his posts recently… that it is about thinking differently. Thinking differently about the business ensures its success; it is the hallmark of entrepreneurship. Everyone who has had some success at running a business, Mr. Masiyiwa included, will attest to doing things differently. If you think and do the same as everyone else, the sheer law of economics will sink your business. When you think differently or encourage your team to brainstorm about what the business should be doing, it gives your idea a new crest upon which it will thrive.
The young lady in question had not considered what to do with technology. How could she integrate social media with her business to reach her intended market? Facebook is a vast plane where everything is possible. There is an opportunity there for her to have a virtual store where people could walk in, browse and also buy. Of late I have been able to buy/sell plants, outdoor furniture and even snacks to people not in my immediate vicinity or those that I already know. With improvements in the payment systems this can revolutionize her business.
She is very creative too. Not only were her exhibits of very good quality and design, she also has a line of accessories: beadworks, shoes and bags. To combine accessories with her clothing line sounds like a really attractive angle. There is no reason why this area cannot add great value to her business. Add to that the fact that this will be a virtual store open to the whole universe.
Lastly I was impressed by another young lady who, with the help of a friend friend, started to build up savings for lending to people in business. These are young people who have not clocked too many years in the workplace. The fact that they are thinking this way shows that they in future will be working for themselves. The stunted employment situation means the likelihood of lifetime progressive employment, like their parents had, is not for them. It is therefore magnanimous that savers are saving with the objective of onward lending to others; helping others to excel at what they are doing. That kind of thinking is new as its ultimate objective is to influence plans beyond themselves. The internet has truly been a deep and wide mine of ideas and information. Strive Masiyiwa asks in his latest post ‘Do you know how to make money in the new economy?’
The challenge is to open our minds to the vast marketing potential of the internet, which opens up businesses to the whole world.

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