What They Don’t Want You to Know: Top Tips From Successful African Business Owners

Africa is practically an economic goldmine, with thousands upon thousands of business owners, both big and small, revolutionizing various industries in the continent.  Countless countries have taken advantage of Africa’s flourishing economy and grew their start-ups into similarly flourishing enterprises. Whether in the East, the West, the North, or the South, running a business can be hard work, and you’re liable to face certain struggles. To mitigate these struggles, we have gathered several top tips from successful African business owners that ensure your business not only survives but thrives.

What They Don’t Want You to Know: Top Tips from Successful African Business Owners

1. Understanding the Market

To first become an entrepreneur, you must understand Africa’s market, consumer trends, and niches. Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to dedicate several hours to scrolling endless web pages. No one likes agonizing over whether or not their next revolutionary idea will fit in a neat little box. Instead, look to your local sources, like your neighborhood, for example.

However, if you really are stuck on ideas, it wouldn’t hurt to check out market research in Africa and the surrounding area. SIS International Research has several reports on the subject.

It is no secret that the African continent is home to a plethora of natural resources. With that comes growing consumer markets or, potentially, untapped ones. As such, certain companies taking notice with a discerning eye for competitive advantages and opportunities for growth. Housing the second largest population globally, Africa’s economy largely depends on natural resources for its agriculture and mining sectors to function.

Regardless of whatever business you decide to go into, make sure that the market for it is neither too narrow nor too broad. Try to tap into a market that is stable all year round rather than seasonal. Google Trends could show you how stable these markets are.

Case study: This much is the case with Hephzibah Ijeje, a 19-year-old economics student, humanitarian, business enthusiast, and co-founder of Recyclift. With Africa being the most susceptible to environmental challenges, including deforestation,  land degradation, and extreme vulnerability to climate change, Recyclift hopes to bring about sustainable development to her community.

2. Start Small

One of the most ubiquitous examples of starting small is the foundation of Amazon. Amazon started as a humble bookstore in Bellevue, Washington. Once the profits were stable, the bookstore slowly expanded into a different market: toys. As time went on, Amazon continued to break into different markets, ensure its stability, and continue until it became the powerhouse it is are today.

It is far easier to start a business with a narrow scope than a broad one. However, it isn’t enough to branch out into any other market once you have the scope. Instead, it would be best if you branched into relevant markets. Otherwise, you risk being unable to capture that market.

Aliko Dangote of the Dangote Group in Nigeria stresses this to young and budding entrepreneurs, in fact.”To build a successful business, you must start small and dream big.” He says, “In the journey of entrepreneurship, tenacity of purpose is supreme.”

3. Developing Your Brand

A successful business owner, African or not, must always focus on their brand. It is often the first thing that potential customers notice, and it pays off to make a good first impression. Furthermore, a good brand will help set you apart from your contemporaries. It will also promote recognition and tells potential customers about the kind of company you helm. A strong brand can even help your company connect with your customers emotionally. This is especially correct if your brand and your customers hold similar values.

Tom Osborn, an African entrepreneur and community mobilizer, co-founded GreenChar, a social enterprise that provided clean energy for rural Kenyan communities and urban slums. In addition, he was named on the Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list in Social Entrepreneurship, among other awards.

Osborn emphasizes that young entrepreneurs do their best to develop their business and personal brand. In fact, he considers it half the battle.

“I think in Africa there are a lot of young entrepreneurs who have great ideas but never get noticed or past the small-scale level,” He remarks. “I think one reason is that they poorly position themselves and the organisation. They don’t know how to tell their story. They don’t know how to create their brand. And I think that is also very important. Entrepreneurs should spend a lot of time not only on their products, but also on working out how they are going to sell them.”

4. Choosing the Right Business Partner

Something that many successful African business owners have is a business partner. Having a business partner is critical when your business expands. In fact, it is even preferable when your business is just starting. As the old saying goes, “Two heads are better than one.”

Whether through networking, job postings, or personal connections, finding a partner whose skills complement your own can help you and your business in all ways. It can help plan, grow and run your business and help mitigate the stress of running that business. In addition, a partner that shares your values, your spirit and your vision are guaranteed to help you. You will have an easier time communicating with this person, making decisions, setting goals, and overall ensuring the health and survival of your business together.

An example of this would be Thato Kgalhayne and her co-founder, Rea Ngwane. Friends since childhood, the duo have developed a rewarding partnership by ensuring their personal friendship does not get in the way of business.

“When you form a business partnership with your friend, act as though you met that person that day. You can’t say because you’ve known your friend since grade four, you’ll work well together in business.” Kgatlhanye suggests, “No – you have known them since you decided to start a company together. So get to know your business partner as a business partner, not a friend, because business and friendship is a different ball game. And I think that’s the best advice. Get a business coach, be honest, leave the ego at the door and hustle.”

5. Building and Managing Your Team

Building a productive team is often more important than you think. With a good team working with you, you’ll find that a lot of your success will equate with your team’s. After all, it is much more efficient to work with a team in entrepreneurship than to work alone. You will find that your ability to lead and inspire is critical to your future just as much as your business’s. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll also find that once your team shows growth, your business will inevitably follow suit.

Many successful African business owners realize this, choosing members of their team after scrutiny. Some partners are childhood friends while others are hand-picked, but one lesson remains: they made sure that their team was confident and skilled.

Togolese entrepreneur Sam Kodo, founder of Infinite Loop, also acknowledges the importance of a flourishing team. Explaining that he and his team have complementary skills to make decisions, Kodo is a prime example of why building and managing your team is useful for an effective business.

“Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg might not have particularly been good businessmen or good administrators or even good at marketing, but what they did was surround themselves with people who have the competencies and skills to turn their [innovations and computer skills] into a company. When you choose a business partner, choose someone who complements you – not someone with the same skills.”

6. Motivation, Failure, and Perseverance

A business owner must always keep in mind that if you fail, it doesn’t hurt to try again. Entrepreneurship is difficult. In fact, perhaps the easiest thing about entrepreneurial success is how easy it is to get discouraged.

However, there are countless stories of entrepreneurs whose businesses have ended in disaster, and instead of giving up, they go on with their next idea. Whether there weren’t enough interested investors, or a lack of capital or funding, or an inadequate management team, a faulty business model, or unsuccessful marketing campaigns, it is important, if anything else, to treat these failures as the lessons that they are. Take notes on the precarious pitfalls that made you fail, and be sure to work better at them. Use those discouraging situations as learning experiences, and take the opinions of those who doubt you with a grain of salt. Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, you must be brave to take that risk.

Chris Kirubi, founder of Centum Investment in Kenya, imparted a meaningful quote that has always rung true in the world of business: “Business is always a struggle. There are always obstacles and competitors. There is never an open road, except the wide road that leads to failure. Every great success has always been achieved by fight, every winner has scars. The men who succeed are the efficient few –they are the few who have the ambition and willpower to develop themselves. So choose to be among the few today.”

Are you interested in starting your own African business, or even just growing it? Contact PivotPath today to schedule a free consultation to improve your marketing strategy!

PivotPath’s #CharityFriday Highlights: CPCSL

Compassion for Peace and Child Survival- Sierra Leone (CPCS-SL or “Compassion”) is a nonprofit specializing in the intervention of humanity through education, advocacy, and rehabilitation in Sierra Leone, West Africa.

Compassion seeks to aid men, women and children in bridging the gap between poverty and sustainable prosperity. To accomplish these objectives the organization relies on their staff’s expertise, donor engagement and execution of targeted programming.

CPCS-SL is an organization at the heart of believing that a wave of kindness can turn into an ocean of contagious goodness. The primary goal is to serve, advocate, educate and provide rehabilitation services in Sierra Leone through global partnerships. 

The nonprofit has several ongoing projects focusing on the areas of intervention, concentration and specialization:

Project Learn was the inception of implementations efforts, where CPCS-SL partners with school systems, individuals and social workers to ensure children receive an exceptional education.

As a subset, Project “Women Empowerment” seeks to empower marginalized women by providing a voice in matters that affect their ability to contribute in society. The project also provides educational and financial literacy trainings and provision of livestock for agricultural use.

As an organization, we do not believe nor practice autonomism because we have adopted the age old african proverb that says it takes a village to raise a child. In our case it takes a global community to solve individual problems.

Willietta Gombeh, Founder of CPCS-SL

In 2017, Sierra Leone was devastated by a major flood killing and displacing hundreds of people.

During this time, CPCS-SL increased their online visibility by connecting with donors via social media pages such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Gofundme. By effectively utilizing these tools, they were able to not only raise funds but gain new donorship and partnership with other local and international organizations.

Within the course of a month, they raised over $5,000. The outpour of donations promoted CPCS-SL to be one of the first responders to this disaster, as well as one of the leaders in the rehabilitation process for these individuals.

In addition to meeting their primary needs (food, clothing, and temporary shelter), CPCS-SL also provided individuals with stipends and medical assistance. CPCS-SL utilized social media as the leading way to engage their partners, recruit new donorship and direct fundings to humanitarian efforts.

The primary mission of nonprofits is to make a positive impact. And brand marketing aids organizations in deepening the impact they make. Willietta and her team have clarified their goals, transformed their mission through the power of storytelling, and utilized social media to align with targeted audiences. 

Whether you’re entrepreneur, nonprofit founder, or nation, branding is such an integral part of successful growth. Contact us today so we can assist you on your journey and pivot your path.

PivotPath’s #CharityFriday Highlights: Lift a Village

In light of World Refugee Day yesterday, we not only highlight an amazing nonprofit for this week’s #CharityFriday but also a founder with deep ties to the refugee population in Houston, Texas and abroad.

The Lift Our Village nonprofit was founded in 2014 by Aisha Koroma, a Sierra Leonean born Social Worker and Mental Health Professional raised in Houston, Texas, USA. Having experienced a life of hardship growing up in Sierra Leone like many of the children in our program, Aisha has always been dismayed by the poor standard of education available to underprivileged children in Africa.

In 1996, Aisha and her family fled Sierra Leone as a result of the country’s civil war that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands.

The family settled in Senegal where Aisha continued her primary education in an alternative school established for refugee children. In the year 2000 at age 14, Aisha and her family were resettled in the United States and has been working to serve the underprivileged ever since. 

In the summer of 2012, Aisha traveled to Sierra Leone as a volunteer for A-Scholars International, a UK based organization with a shared mission. Upon her return to the United States, she knew she had found her purpose.  Her passion for transforming lives through education and creating social change for children across the globe is invaluable.

Since 2014, the nonprofit Lift a Village has provided more than 400 disadvantaged children ages 6-18, from kindergarten to 12th grade; with a personal education program tailored specifically to their needs. This holistic approach enables children to break the cycle of poverty and reach their full potential.

Social media has played a great role in spreading our mission to our targeted audience. We utilize platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn to educate others about our mission; share updates on programs/services/activities; as well as soliciting donations. Lift a Village is not a grant funded organization so all our programs and activities are funded by our Founder, executive team, and donations from the general public.

Aisha Koroma, Founder of Lift of Village

The primary mission of nonprofits is to make a positive impact. And brand marketing aids organizations in deepening the impact they make. Aisha and her team have clarified their goals, transformed their mission through the power of storytelling, and utilized social media to align with targeted audiences. 

Whether you’re entrepreneur , nonprofit founder, or political leader, branding is such an integral part of successful growth. Contact us today so we can assist you on your journey and pivot your path.

PivotPath’s Women In Business Features: Marie Metzger

Michael Jordan, “I’ve always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come.”

This week we feature another AMAZING #WomaninBusiness: Marie Metzger. Marie is the the Owner and CEO of Marie Metzger Agency, an insurance agency serving the Atlanta Metropolitan area. 

Becoming an entrepreneur takes courage, tenacity, and risk that is fueled by a greater goal and purpose. All business owners have a powerful story behind when/why they took the leap into entrepreneurship and that’s what keeps them going.

“While working for another insurance company, I realized just how important it was to educate consumers and build strong personal relationships with clients… So I took a leap of faith and opened my own insurance agency! I’ve been in business since 2014 and have grown my business into a million dollar book of business. I’m the middle of 6 children. My parents moved to the US from Sierra Leone in the 1970’s, living in Buffalo NY before moving to College Park, GA. I attended the University of Georgia and graduated in 2007 with a Sociology Degree.”

Marie Metzger, Owner/CEO of Marie Metzger Agency

As a small business owner, Marie Metzger has encountered a few challenges on her journey, especially in the realm of marketing and business development. PivotPath founder, Elizabeth Oke, asked her about these obstacles and ways she’s overcome(ing) them.

“Building a team and finding the right talent to fit the agency’s needs. Maintaining sustainable growth. In this business, new business growth is necessary and also a challenge.”

Marie Metzger, Owner/CEO of Marie Metzger Agency

[I’ve overcome the challenges of business growth by] embracing social media and educational vlogs. American Family Insurance (AMFAM) sends out a newsletter about trending topics for the industry, and annual review campaign for interacting with clients outside of. [This helps staying versed on popular trends for sales and marketing]. I also hired a Consulting company to assist with building my team and other outside marketing ideas and tools to think outside the box.

I’m constantly developing a CEO mindset: “Working on your business and in not your business”. This is the idea that as a business owner I try to spend my time generating leads, managing my team, focusing on the bigger picture and long term goals. Working on your business is planning for the future. Working in your business is doing the day to day routine things that usually can be delegated to a team member, like making a payment for example. Working in your business is planning for the today.

Marie Metzger, Owner/CEO of Marie Metzger Agency

Supporting small businesses and nonprofits is an act that acknowledges the tremendous risk and challenges that come from following your dream, pushing your creativity into a business, and starting your own your thing. PivotPath realizes these realities and serves as a median to alleviate these challenges by providing brand development, content management, and social media marketing services, customized to fit your specific budget. Contact us today for a consultation on how we can help you discover your audience and connect them to your Story.

PivotPath’s Women In Business Feature: Ajara Marie Bomah

Ajara Marie is a professional, business mogul and marketing executive with over 15 years of experience. She specializes in diaspora engagement and investment in Africa with a critical focus on women in business in Africa. She runs a boutique strategic communications agency that empowers African female entrepreneurs and individuals.

Ajara Marie helps her audience develop their brands and businesses to better position themselves for opportunities in their local and international markets. In addition to her career pursuit, she is a humanitarian working to change the lives of young people, especially girls in Africa. 

As the CEO of an established agency, Ajara Marie aids clients in building out their dreams of entrepreneurship and sharing their branding stories to their targeted audiences; however, she, too, has encountered a few obstacles as an entrepreneur. PivotPath founder, Elizabeth M’balu Oke, asked Ajara Marie about the two most challenging aspects of business, especially as a female entrepreneur in Africa.

Starting and growing a business as a female entrepreneur in a developing country isn’t easy. There are many challenges we face daily in trying to start and grow our brands and businesses. Over the years I have learned that this is part of business.

Two main challenges that most of us face as business owners are

1. Accessing funding to develop our businesses and

2. Finding and building networks and mentors.

Ajara Marie Bomah, CEO of Woman Mean Business

1. Access to funding

As entrepreneur, trying to get funding for business is hard. But, as a woman we are often sidelined more than our male counterparts.

Either we [women] don’t have the right information as to where funds are available or know the different types of funding. Also, some of us don’t know how to develop investment-ready portfolios and pitches. In addition, some of us don’t know how to manage money so that affects how we look at funding opportunities.

Ajara Marie Bomah, CEO of Woman Mean Business

Yes, people feel there is money available for female entrepreneurs. However, when you don’t have collateral to apply for loans, or the interest rate is so high and can’t be lowered, there is not much option. [You just have to] to try and manage with what you have. [Unfortunately], sometimes [this] takes up most of your time and you are unable to work on other aspects of the business.

Ajara Marie Bomah, CEO of Woman Mean Business

2. Finding a Business Mentor

Mentoring and support networks are very important. As a business woman, it is imperative to have one or the other.  

Women Mean Business’ #shemeansbusiness Brunch and Learn

Business is about making decisions and choices that can help in making your business succeed or fail. Therefore, having an experienced mentor who has been down this path before can be helpful in keeping you from making some of the same mistakes they may have made.

Unlike our male counterparts, female entrepreneurs find it difficult to get the right mentors. It took me years to find successful female entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone/Africa that inspire me and were willing to work with me. Being part of networks and organizations that empower females who are in business has also been helpful. So, there are quite a few Facebook groups and local networks that I am a part of that have been helpful.

Ajara Marie Bomah, CEO of Woman Mean Business

We then asked Ajara Marie how she has strategically and successfully overcome these challenges using a form of marketing to reach your targeted audience(s).

Leveraging on my networks to build relationships and building my digital media footprints.

I’m a connector and meet with different people all the time. I often times get great leads but either forget to reconnect or foster relationships with these people that I meet. I believe life is about building relationships and harnessing out networks. You have to be intentional about building business relationships and sharing opportunities with others. By doing so, you build genuine relationships where everyone benefits. Collaboration is also key and can open door for you; it’s also a great way to get business leads.

Ajara Marie Bomah, CEO of Woman Mean Business

I’m also a behind the scene type of person, so I do a lot in the background and tend not to share much about my what I do with the general populous. However, a few years back I realize that people were interested in knowing what I was doing and were inspired about my work. With that, I took strategic steps in putting myself out there and sharing some tips, experiences and things that I have been doing to reach where I’m out.

Ajara Marie Bomah, CEO of Woman Mean Business

“I took advantage of sharing my story on my social media links, digital magazines, collaborating with other to host events and programs.”

In this day of technology, having a digital media footprint is necessary. It can serve as your CV and a way for you to inspire others. I am very big on mentoring and this is another way that I can use my space to mentor others as well.  This has also given me the opportunity to connect with other powerful women doing great things across the world.

Ajara Marie Bomah, CEO of Woman Mean Business

Supporting small businesses and nonprofits is an act that acknowledges the tremendous risk and challenges that come from following your dream, pushing your creativity into a business, and starting your own your thing. PivotPath realizes these realities and serves as a median to alleviate these challenges by providing brand development, content management, and social media marketing services, customized to fit your specific budget. Contact us today for a free consultation on how we can help you discover your audience and connect them to your Story.

PivotPath’s #CharityFriday Features: Hello, My Name is King.

When you know your name, you should hang on to it, for unless it is noted down and remembered, it will die when you do.” Toni Morrison

This week, PivotPath’s #CharityFriday features an amazing nonprofit impacting global communities: Hello, My Name Is King (HMNK). The nonprofit’s mission is to empower men and boys of color to challenge themselves, break barriers, and make a difference.

HMNK’s vision is a positive global movement that serves as a learning and bonding experience for people of all races and backgrounds.

Time and time again nonprofit professionals state how marketing agencies don’t fit within their annual budget. Because of this, we asked HMNK’s talented and heart driven founder, Whitney Stovall, how she’s utilized marketing to spread her mission and connect her audience (and donors) to her story.

“We were born on social media, what started as an Instagram campaign grew into a nonprofit. Since then I’ve continued to use social media to spread our message and reach volunteers. In turn, a substantial percentage of our fundraising dollars, new partnerships, and supporters are people who’ve found us on social media.”

Whitney Stovall, Founder of Hello, My Name is King

Being confident in your organization’s direction is key to a successful marketing program. Organizations like HMNK has mastered The Art of Storytelling and connect with their audience in a way that resonates with them, creating loyal and passionate supporters, volunteers, and donors. For more information or to join the Hello My Name is King movement, visit hellomynameisking.org.

PivotPath’s Women In Business Feature: Dr. Lexx Brown-James

PivotPath is honored to present the first Women In Business feature! Today, we shine a spotlight on Dr. Lexx Brown-James.

Dr. Brown-James is a certified sexuality educator and licensed marriage and family therapist. In St. Louis, MO she owns a private practice and contracts with various organizations regarding reproductive justice and accessible, comprehensive, intersectional, and anti-oppressive sexuality education. As an LMFT and CSE, she merges the educational and therapy worlds to help others find their way as sexuality professionals. As a professor at Widener University, she has had the pleasure of teaching budding sexologists, senior sexologists and various types of clinicians. Further, as a consultant, she has had the pleasure to educate counselors, educators, and therapists around the globe.

As a small business owner, Dr. Brown-James has encountered a few challenges on her journey, especially in the realm of marketing and business development. PivotPath founder, Elizabeth Oke, asked Dr. Brown-James about these obstacles and ways she’s overcome(ing) them.

A major challenge as a business owner is trusting others with my business. I get asked all the time by people who want to come in and work with clients or do something with sexuality and I struggle to relinquish any power over to them. A secondary challenge can be selling my skillset. There are times when people do not realize that sexuality is all encompassing and get caught up on just the first three letters of sexuality.

Dr. Lexx Brown-James

To overcome the first challenge, I strategically marketed for an intern regarding programs. This way I could share my business with someone and the more vulnerable part of my business ( my clientele) were not as risk, but we were able to create sex positive, inclusive programming. To overcome my second challenge, I started building referral bridges across diverse businesses through cold-emails, networking events, and word of mouth.

Dr. Lexx Brown-James

Supporting small businesses and nonprofits is an act that acknowledges the tremendous risk and challenges that come from following your dream, pushing your creativity into a business, and starting your own your thing. PivotPath realizes these realities and serves as a median to alleviate these challenges by providing brand development, content management, and social media marketing services, customized to fit your specific budget. Contact us today for a free consultation on how we can help you discover your audience and connect them to your Story.

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