When is the right time to start my business? Where can I get a loan for my business? I have a great idea, how do I register it? The market is saturated with almost the same product I have, will that affect the pattern of sales for my business? Will I ever succeed in business? Can I quit?
All these questions are a sign of self-doubt, and trust me, it’s alright to doubt yourself.
But one of the main ideas I like to pass on to young entrepreneurs is; start now. Many respond by saying they’re not ready, but my answer remains the same: START NOW!
By starting, you learn.
Most of the businesses we start have no standard manual, so seeking guidelines on how to launch won’t help you because it basically means you’re looking for a pattern that doesn’t exist.
I’ve observed one theory that most start-ups lean towards – you have this amazing idea and according to your progression, it’s unique and would definitely be an outstanding one if put out.
But we tend to prefer to take risks on the known rather than the unknown. However, keep in mind that many of those who dared to go the unknown way are the most successful.
When you see your neighbour being successful, most of us right away ask, what does he or she do for a living, and then we blindly follow that direction. But we don’t know their experiences; their ups and downs.
Let me give you a scenario based on a true story.
My childhood friend, whom I’ll call Angie to protect her privacy, had just come across a good amount of money from a competition that she participated in.
The deal was that she would present a business idea and it would be funded. This was five years ago, and I didn’t have as much enterprise knowledge then as I have now, but I managed to advise her according to what I knew at the time.
She got confused when she saw the lifestyle of her neighbour who had a flashy car, flashy lifestyle and travelled all the time. Angie asked for a meeting, and her neighbour told her she was in the hair business. To make matters worse, she mentioned the profits she was getting.
A few weeks later, I met Angie and she’d just rented a room in one of the malls outside the Nairobi city centre.
Two days before she was to open her salon, we sat down for coffee and I asked her about this new business venture.
All she could talk about was her neighbour, and how she was making loads of money and travelling the world.
Build a foundation
I’m not an angel of doom, nor was I looking to discourage her in any way. In fact, looking at this situation from a positive angle, Angie’s neighbour was a source of inspiration, and we all need to be inspired, as this sparks the inner potential that we have.
However, in most cases, we never ask what challenges the people who inspire us went through.
Jack Ma, the richest man in China, was denied entry into Harvard, not once but several times; Jay-Z was denied a meeting with a powerful brand in the 90s; Elon Musk went broke after investing all his money in his business; Bill Gates had his first idea stolen and was forced to go back home and live with his parents. Allow me to add myself to the list: King Kaka gave up on music in his first year of looking for a studio because he couldn’t afford Sh2,500.
But all these hurdles served as inspiration for these individuals. Now they have formed strong foundations for the businesses they run. You can’t get the kind of knowledge and experience they have served to you on a platter.
Anyway, back to Angie. I wished her the best. Four months later, she called me asking for another coffee date. We met and she spent half the time complaining about how she’s lost money and faith in the hair business.
She tried to seek out her neighbour for advice, but she kept finding that she’d travelled. Angie closed her salon. This is not just my friend Angie’s story. We have many Angies among us. Take a risk and build experience, for with experience comes stability.
I will leave you with these three thoughts: know your product better than anyone; know your customer; and have a burning desire to succeed.
All the best, Angie; you can always start over.
The writer is an award-winning rapper and entrepreneur.