Failure is just a stop on the road to success, says Tebogo Ditshego, a South African entrepreneur and founder of the Read A Book SA campaign. To celebrate Youth Month, the Play Your Part ambassador and others share lessons they learned growing their businesses.
Viktoria Marinova, Channel Project Manager at Primestars Marketing, explained they taught about 30 000 South African learners in the Step Up 2 a Start Up programme the basics of starting a business. The programme helps school children develop their entrepreneurial skills. They were taught how to identify a need and how best to develop a service or product to best meet that demand.
Marinova explained that the five step Start-Up Methodology made acquiring business skills a simple task.
The five steps are:
Identify a problem worth solving and find a solution to this problem;
Your business model canvas, which outlines your business (for example product or service; value; customers), helps flesh out the idea;
Test your idea on your customers to see if they are willing to buy it. Do not be afraid to change your idea or product. Your customer wants solutions, keep testing and changing until you meet their needs;
Sell more of your product or service; and,
Grow your business (scale).
Buy into your vision
Ditshego says entrepreneurs, firstly, need to focus on their vision. “You need to buy into your vision. You need to inspire your team to buy into your vision and live it every day.”
Secondly, entrepreneurs need to mobilise resources to set up as a business. “Keep overhead costs as low as possible,” he warns. “Find creative ways of getting capital (money). Money from friends, family or savings could help. Stay away from high interest loans or loan sharks. Rather opt for funding from government institutions like the Small Enterprise Development Agency and the National Youth Development Agency.”
Thirdly, Ditshego says it is important to invest in education. “Gain experience in the field before starting a business.”
“Go beyond yourself,” Ditshego stresses. Everyone who wants to start their own business should have a one year plan. “Then do a five year plan, then a ten year plan, and then a 20 year plan. Keep going up to 100 year plan.
“You must know what you are planning five years down the line. If you are just winging it, then you might as well just open a tuckshop! Plan ahead. Be detailed,” he says.
Ditshego says these plans include how you will grow your business, how you will plan to grow in terms of revenue and staff, also how you plan to impact the country and the world.
Just do it
After the planning is done, start your company, says Ditshego. “You need to get as much advice as possible. Speak to people who have been down the road. Read books.
“Go outside your sector – be open-minded to learn from them. For example you can go to your local shop and see how the manager operates especially with his staff.”
The next step is to market your business aggressively. “Be persistent without being pestering,” he says. He concluded by reminding entrepreneurs that fearing failure is detrimental.
Taking a leap
Clayton Morar is an entrepreneur who started his Cape Town based public relations (PR) agency in 2012. A journalism graduate of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Morar worked at a magazine before making a leap of faith to work as a freelancer. Shortly thereafter, the PR-industry bug bit him.
Morar describes his entrepreneurial journey as one of the most exhilarating he has undertaken. And he says this despite the long hours, endless events, meetings and demands from clients. “One needs to understand the nuances of successfully managing people and reputations, while not losing yourself in the process.”
His advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, believe in yourself. “This industry can make or break you. The ability to thrive as a business person in whatever you do stems from the belief in your skills and ability to succeed in your industry.”
Networking is key
Networking is vital, especially in the public relations and media industry Morar explains. “You are only as good as your contact list. One should aim to master the art of being a serial networker. Authenticity matters though, it allows clients and your business brand to benefit from the effects of your hard work and labour.”
Morar also says that one should keep a balance in whatever you do. “You should be able to enjoy the fruits of your labour just as much as you spend time growing your business.”
He warns that entrepreneurs should block out the voices of their competitors and the voices of naysayers. “There is enough room to work in any industry and if the lanes of business are too full, create your own lane.”
Lastly, Morar says business trends change all the time. “It’s imperative to become multi-skilled and multi-dimensional. Stay informed of changes and trends in your field. An enhanced business can compete at any level and alongside any competitor.”