Zoning in on Entrepreneurship – My Journey So Far
“It really isn’t about prior experience in entrepreneurship. It’s about having a deep passion for something, the willingness to execute consistently and an intimate understanding of what the marketplace needs.”
~ Mahadi Granier (Founder of Khalala™, Paris)
I interviewed Ms. Mahadi Granier for Conversations at the Fairlawns, and as someone who started the entrepreneurship journey relatively late in life after a career in academia, I wholeheartedly agree with her (http://higherselfcoaching.org/mahadi-granier-on-resilience-in-the-international-business-of-african-fashion/)
The theme this July on the Higher Self Blog is a word that’s on everyone’s lips: entrepreneurship.
What will unfold over the next four weeks will be a discussion that will address my personal journey in entrepreneurship, the entrepreneurial quotient, the art of starting and youth and women entrepreneurship.
A late entrepreneurship bloomer like myself faces immense hurdles though: starting a business with no capital and on the backfoot is not ideal. I literally started with nothing. Yes, there were a few personal loans here and there but I’m talking really small amounts in the grander scheme of things and I even had to supplement that with an office gig I did for a property developer. The nature of this office gig was very humbling for someone like me who had reached such great heights in academia. The stress that comes with that is monumental! I truly do believe that you are never too old to start a new chapter, but I would say that the sooner we groom young entrepreneurs, the better, I mean starting in kindergarten, let’s cultivate that entrepreneurial mindset sooner rather than later.
Coincidentally, last Monday, the 9th of July, I had a meeting with a top leader in business and a seasoned entrepreneur who carved time out of her hectic schedule to sit and share some nuggets of wisdom with me. The narrative that’s out there, if you read the newspapers and listen to the news, is that being a top entrepreneur implies having cut corners, being involved in dirty deals and general mayhem and corruption. This leader assured me that this is simply not the case, there are many business leaders who have reached the pinnacle of entrepreneurship without compromising their integrity.
A few weeks ago, I read an online newspaper article referenced on a friend’s Facebook post which was titled, “Entrepreneurship in South Africa must come with a health warning”. Ironically, at the time, thoughts of calling it quits were starting to swirl around inside my exhausted brain. I happen to be involved in several entrepreneurial initiatives, a few beyond borders, and I am collaborating with very enthusiastic teams of multidisciplinary talents in the region.
I touched base on the that’s-it-I’m-calling-it-quits tip with a top leader in the banking sector and these are the relevant parts of our conversation:
Mothepa: “I don’t know what to say or do anymore. Things are not going very well in my business. I think I’m starting to lose some of my stamina. I’ve been busy with my exams and mulling offering some of these services using a different model, perhaps even under an employment context.”
Banker: “It’s a temporary situation, and I honestly do not think that you are a bird to be caged in by employment, you’ve got entrepreneur genes.”
That was enough to refuel me.
Entrepreneurship is hard, you will need constant refueling along the way. I assure you. In fact, serial entrepreneur Kojo Baffoe, one of the inspirational people I interviewed for Conversations at the Fairlawns, said, “not everybody is made for entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship is hard. Too many people are selling the wrong idea of entrepreneurship because the people who talk about entrepreneurship are the people who have already made millions and the definition of success in entrepreneurship is on the money.”
I got very sobering feedback from a young woman who read Kojo Baffoe’s interview twice and at the time informed me that she was planning to read it a third time. The young woman quit her job a few months ago and is currently reassessing her situation and is also working on her business plan. This is what she wrote to me after her second reading of Kojo Baffoe’s interview, “I just finished reading this interview and I must say I agree with Kojo. Passion is overrated, and we need to have honest conversations with the youth. Millionaires are selling us dreams and lies which end up frustrating us in thinking maybe we not cut out for this entrepreneurship route.”
Going back to the banker saying I have entrepreneur genes, as I’ve stated elsewhere in my previous blog posts, I honestly do not believe in the existence of “entrepreneur genes”. http://higherselfcoaching.org/debunking-limiting-myths-entrepreneurs-are-born-not-made/
But in that moment, the banker’s words gave me a lifeline. Entrepreneurship consists of knowledge, skills and a particular mindset that can be taught to anyone. Innate talents may prime Entrepreneur A better than Entrepreneur Q off the starting blocks, but entrepreneurship is a long game.
It is not about instant gratification, it is essentially about being of service rather than making boatloads of money at humanity and Mother’s Earth’s expense. All entrepreneurs have massive lessons to learn on their respective and collaborative journeys.
We have the Intelligence Quotient or IQ (rather discredited idea), we have the Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ), I even read somewhere about an Adaptability Quotient (AQ). So, in that vein, there’s a relatively novel idea, the Entrepreneurial Quotient, which will be the subject of my next blog post. Quotients can be increased or developed, and so can your Entrepreneurial Quotient. The question is, is your Entrepreneurial Quotient at sufficiently optimal levels for you to exercise patience in your entrepreneurial journey?
What I’ve also found is that formal education, prior unrelated experiences, intuition and common sense all combine if you consciously tap into them to make business decisions. Rest assured however that you will make good, and not-so-inspired, decisions along the way; all that you can do is to learn from the latter, resolve to do better and move right on. We need to be mentally prepared for this journey because it is arduous but glorious when you see it for what it really is. Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, in other words, where you are in life, emotionally, may not be prime for you to embark, not that you are not inherently capable. So, it’s the level of consciousness which you’re at that will determine if you’ll withstand the emotional, physical, spiritual and psychological demands of entrepreneurship.
So, failing at it doesn’t mean you’re not meant to be it or you’re not cut out for it.
My first business, which I established in Cape Town, failed gloriously. I call it A Beautiful Biz Disaster because I was in a disabling emotional space. It had its grand moments, but I was a tortured soul and that translated into the way I ran and did not run that business. Your business, like everything else in life, reflects where you are in your life’s journey.
Keep going. Keep planting. Never give up. Never give in. Go forth and #EntrepreneuRISE!