Turning your ideas into profitable businesses

“Every time we see him, the topic of his new girlfriend comes up. He talks about how beautiful she is, her dimples, her hair, her eyes, her cooking, her lovely voice and so on. Yet, after two years, none of us have seen the girlfriend. Not even a photo. Enough talking – let’s do something! Show us the girlfriend.”
Koku Kumodzie gave this speech, which I have paraphrased, to some young men who were planning on starting a business but were spending too much time in meetings at the expense of churning out products.

I believe this is the same for many who want to start businesses or embark on a project. They talk about it for years but never do anything about it. This is especially true for those who want to start businesses in Africa. The excuses are numerous. ‘I need a lot of capital for what I want to do’. Who knows whether it will work?’ ‘I can’t just leave everything and move back to Africa.’ ‘There is too much corruption.’ ‘It’s who you know – you need connections in the government’. For every single person who talks like this, there are hundred others who are making their dreams happen. The Lebanese, Indians, Chinese and other Western and Asian nations have been doing business in Africa for years and many of them came with nothing, contrary to popular belief.

Here’s my Fresh Word Inspired suggestion for people keen on doing business in Africa – come live here for a few months and try out their idea. There are a lot of organisations like Echoing Green Fellowship and Enablis that give entrepreneurs ‘free’ money to start a business. Unless you are trying to build a better hospitality business than the Hilton, chances are that your total capital investment is not the real reason you have not started. The truth is, many over-estimate the cost of their idea or are trying to start out too big.

For small businesses especially, this is what I suggest. Gain a thorough understanding of your industry and find out what it will take to compete. There is rarely a small business that has died solely as a result of lack of capital. One thing that is certain is that you will reap what you sow! There are several reasons why some startups succeed over others. One is that successful startups simply avoid the mistakes that caused their competitors to fail. Passion and zeal alone are insufficient if your knowledge is inadequate. Take the time to research on what it takes to start the business and what will cause its demise. If you believe in your dream, don’t quit! If you don’t believe in your dream, every challenge will overwhelm you like a whirlwind, and in no time, you’re a member of the could-have-beens. Don’t be worried about mistakes because even if you make them, you can keep it moving.

Instead of focusing solely on reasons why your move or business won’t work, explore reasons why it will. In fact, it’s much easier to convince someone to invest in your idea after you have started.

Many are under the disillusion that it only takes money to start and maintain a successful business. So that’s all they look for. If this were true, every public company would be a success – but we all know this is inaccurate! Many start-ups begin with a lot of funding, but their businesses are like pockets with holes in them. Knowledge is of more value than cash in the long run.

Turning your idea into a business is one of the basic tenets of entrepreneurship.
What are your personal experiences in this regard?

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