This is a re-post from an article I posted in the Storymoja Hay Festival Blog. Feedback is most welcome ^_^
These days being an entrepreneur is all the rage. After hearing successful stories from market leaders such as Mark Zuckerburg – founder of Facebook, Steve Jobs – Cofounder of Apple, serial entrepreneur Richard Branson – Virgin Group of companies, Tabitha Karanja – Keroche Breweries and many more successful entrepreneurs. Most youth these days dream about being a great entrepreneur who will make it big in their chosen industry and gain riches. I think it is very achievable and I will admit, I am one of those who have that dream. So with that fire burning in my soul, I have embarked on a journey as an entrepreneur in Kenya, with that dream very strong in my heart – to be a successful and innovative female entrepreneur. We all hear about the dream life of a successful entrepreneur, however, nobody tells you how tough it is to get there.
Now you’ll hear entrepreneurs say that you need to stay motivated, some days are hard and the fact that you will sometimes be broke. However, these are not very popular topics so not many people expound on them. Most entrepreneurs will just say that you should keep motivated and ride through the rough times – no actual details involved. Well, as a start-up entrepreneur; I’m here to tell you that is just the tip of the iceberg my friends, it doesn’t even begin to describe the reality of a new or start-up entrepreneur.
You may hear that a lot of entrepreneurs sometimes don’t get a lot of sleep. That’s an under-statement, you can go a week or two, with just 2 hours of sleep each day. This happens especially when you’re launching a new product or store location. There are so many things to do, and many relying on your attention, that you feel that there are not enough hours in your day. You also get to wear a lot of hats in the beginning, as a start-up saving money, you can’t afford to hire an accountant, a receptionist, a social media strategist etc. So you constantly have to do a myriad of things for your business, before you get to the point where your business can afford to hire more people. That means, you’re posting on social media & blogging for your business – as well as checking if all your marketing efforts are effective and how to keep up with the ever changing market. You’re doing the accounting yourself, budgeting and controlling your expenses and deciding where to put your financial resources. If customers/clients or vendors call or want to meet, you’re the one to talk to them and deal with their needs. You will also be a sales person for your business, you are the one to market online, design and distribute your print material (e.g. catalogues & brochures) for your business. You will visit those trade shows or any other field events available to market your products or services.
Have I mentioned that as an entrepreneur you have periods of time when you are completely broke. Now I don’t mean the kind of broke where you know at the end of the month you’re getting some cash from somewhere. I mean the kind of broke where, you’re making sales daily, but you still don’t have enough money to handle all your expenses. The kind of broke where your choice is either getting your hair done (you haven’t had it fixed for 2 months) or paying for the product packaging materials or production materials required to manufacture your product. This “state of broke”, can last more than a week, it can even go on for up to a month or two.
Ah yes – staying motivated. It may sound like entrepreneurs have lots of reserve of inspiration and great quotes describing how you should keep going and believing in your dream. It’s a daily effort – I kid you not, sometimes an hourly effort on really bad days. In the daily “grind” you find that you are so focused on the daily activities that sometimes you loose focus on what was driving you in the beginning. You find that with many negative things happening e.g. low sales, not enough funds; it’s harder to find the inspiration – this is where most start-up entrepreneurs give up. If you can’t stay motivated day in day out, I will be honest with you – you will give up. You have to find inspiration daily, you have to wake up motivated and remind yourself daily why you’re doing what you’re doing. You have to keep thinking positive because if you don’t, your dream will be lost and all you will have is stress and defeat in its place.
The journey of an entrepreneur is hard and full of many obstacles; if you think of starting and you hear other entrepreneurs telling you that it’s tough – believe me it’s ten times tougher than you think it is. However, I don’t think that this should scare you off or discourage you if you truly want to be an entrepreneur. I think that this knowledge should inspire you to be as prepared as you can be; financially, spiritually, emotionally, mentally and even physically. You should know yourself and be prepared to get through very difficult times and come through a better person, not a bitter person. You should make sure that you surround yourself with helpful and motivating people, who will offer you strength and support. Most of all, I believe that you should be able to find motivation from within especially through your most difficult times, because I guarantee that you will encounter those and nobody will be around to offer advice and motivation. You will have to find it in yourself and keep moving.
As a start-up entrepreneur, you also need to be aware that it’s going to be a journey to success, there is no quick success or get-rich-fast formula. Success takes time, experience, preparedness and patience. You will encounter failure and how you recover and adapt to the situation will define how successful your business will become. Facebook took about 5 years to become a profitable venture. Keroche breweries had to innovate and change their products in the first 5 years because the market changed and their products were no longer profitable. Richard Branson has build companies and had business ideas that he had to give up on e.g. Virgin Cola, or sell e.g. Virgin Records.
I believe that if you are well aware of what is ahead of you, you can begin your journey as an entrepreneur ready to take on all the challenges and hurdles that come with that choice. You can weather the bad times, stay motivated and be able to recognize and seize opportunities that will lead you to success. Success as an entrepreneur is not an impossible thing, just a highly improbable one. Be warned, it is not for the faint of heart.