21 October 2020

How to Build a Better Business

In the second episode of the Ye! Enterprising Youth Share Series, and the first-ever Instagram live chat hosted by the Ye! Community, we spoke with an astute young Kenyan entrepreneur, Nancy Amunga, founder and CEO of Dana Logistics. Nancy shared some valuable advice and experience with young entrepreneurs, based on her personal entrepreneurial journey. Here is a quick recap of the highlights and key takeaways from this interactive session.

Don’t expect to succeed overnight, be patient.

Looking back on her journey, Nancy raised the importance of patience when running a business. Entrepreneurship is not easy and it takes time to build trust and credibility for your business in order to convince customers and partners in the market. In practice, being patient also means being receptive and positive to all the ‘No’s you will invariably be told. Nancy shared,

“When someone turns down your proposal, don’t take it as a discouraging message and cut contact with this person. Instead look at it as an opportunity to continue improving your services and products in order to approach that individual again in the future, when the time is right. A ‘no’ for now does not mean a ‘no’ forever.”

Nancy is a living example of how patience and persistence can pay off over time.

Be smart and strategic when using social media.

Today, social media is an essential tool when starting up and running a business. More and more young entrepreneurs are leveraging the resources and influence on social media, rather than using traditional marketing strategies. However, it is important to use social media intelligently and not to get sucked in. Obsessing over what people say about you and your business on social media is not worth your time. If you find some virtual friends are ‘toxic’ online, don’t be afraid to ‘un-friend’ them or to take a temporary break from you virtual networking.  

Nancy spends a lot of her time on social media but warns it is critical to keep your business and social circles separate and set guidelines around how and when to use social media.

On social media, it seems all geographic borders are removed. This is great when it comes to building business relationships and engaging new opportunities. A young entrepreneur from Kenya can be connected with a buyer in Europe who intends to import flowers from Kenya. There is no denying that social media can open doors to young entrepreneurs with its accessibility and international presence. Be sure to build a social media strategy that is different for each platform in order to get the most out of each channel. Just because social media is omnipresent doesn’t mean you don’t need to use it wisely to see returns.

Here is the catch: although marketing and selling through social media is cheaper and often more effective for startups, be aware of the potential scams and misinformation that abound on social media. Setting boundaries and dedicating time to understand how social media works can help you prepare and handle scams or threats to your business online. Social media is a great tool but you still need to be vigilant and protect yourself and your business online. 

Saving and investing are two different things.

According to Nancy (and her piggy bank from childhood), investing is to allocate your money somewhere that has the potential to pay you at least one more dollar. In return, your ‘seed’ money generates benefit; whereas saving is ‘fixed’ money with no prospect of financial return; saved money only grows when you add more savings to the pot, whereas invested money generates interest or makes money for you. Nevertheless, both are necessary and important, in life and in business.

Borrowed money isn’t free money.

Be cautious! Nancy warns young entrepreneurs who want to expand their business not to borrow money unless absolutely necessary or in the case that they have stable revenue generation and know where the money is going and the expected returns. She warns,

“Young entrepreneurs tend to first seek the option of getting a loan from a bank. Some loans can be very attractive with lower level regulations and threshold, i.e. mobile loans. However, this money isn’t for free. If you don’t have a way to pay it back you may get stuck and end up losing everything. If you are going to take a loan, be sure to have an action plan for using any loans with clear purpose and expectations.”

So, what’s Nancy’s advice? Mobilize all you have in your pocket, before reaching out to others. Remember, banks and other financial institutions are not handing out money for free, they are there to turn a profit. Eventually you will have to pay them back (with interest!). Be sure that you have exhausted all other options before going to a bank. That’s her take. 

Your network is your net worth.

Networking is critical to building a business, but so is your time. Don’t waste time on people that aren’t going to add value. In other words, network BUT be selective and strategic.

When you are asked to join a group, either in person or virtually, think about whether people in this group are aligned with your vision and mission. Make sure you are surrounded by the right people and this includes in WhatsApp groups and on social media. Especially for early stage entrepreneurs, having a supportive network, with mentors and peers you can count on can help you to avoid unnecessary mistakes and allow you to grow your business faster and smarter.

Nancy recalled that in her early days as an entrepreneur, she did not have a mentor or network to consult with, which led to her falling victim to a scam. However, thanks to such ‘failures,' she learned lessons the hard way, through tough mistakes.

“Don’t be forced by others into making a decision, and don’t jump on new ideas/proposals without ‘sleeping on it’. There is certainly no harm in speaking to your mentor or your peers to seek guidance and a second opinion.”

Key business lessons learned by doing.

Below we summarize Nancy’s key take home points, most of which she did not learn in school. These lessons were learned on the cold, hard streets! Get your pens ready!

  • Be patient, consistent and persistent, in pursuing what you do. Even during difficult times or in the face of failure, you should keep pushing and looking forward. As Nancy said, “you fall down for the 8th time, and you stand up on the 9th.” Fortunately, most people won’t even remember your failures. In the end, they will only see your successes.
  • Be trustworthy and reliable, both in life and in business. The entrepreneurial world is getting smaller and smaller with social media and the constant networking and connecting. In this world, your reputation can ‘make or break’ your chances for success. Start with small gestures and be sure to follow through on your promises. If you have made some errors, change your behavior, keep your promises, arrive on time, and respect others.
  • Take your time to build relationships with others. In Nancy’s experience, sustained and long-term trustworthy relationships are the kind that just keep on giving. Over the years, Nancy has treated her business contacts with respect and kindness. Although these contacts may not generate direct profit for her company immediately, over time, and by keeping them connected, she found out they regularly referred her company to other customers or introduced her to new opportunities. By taking time and building meaningful relationships, you build a loyal customer base.  
  • Keep learning to keep grounded. Nancy continues to keep up momentum and stay focused and because of this she has achieved a great deal at a young age. Her secret is surprisingly simple: learn from everyone everywhere. With the available information online, entrepreneurs can always access online learning courses, often at a reasonable costs or sometimes free! Nancy recommends ITC’s e-learning course from ITC’s SME Trade Academy, entitled Setting up an Export Marketing Strategy. This free course guides small enterprises looking to craft their messages appropriately, in order to be perceived in the way they want by customers in potential export markets. Additionally, Nancy enjoys reading books that match her interest and purpose. She loves watching documentaries and movies, likeThe Social Dilemma on Netflix (her recent favorite documentary).

Nancy’s final piece of advice for young entrepreneurs, who aspires to better their future, “Wake up, dress up, and show up!”

Watch the full recording of the live conversation with Nancy Amunga below.

You can also watch it on Instagram here

Interested to be connected with Nancy Amunga? Create your Ye! profile here and reach out to the experts and peer entrepreneurs in the community!

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