In the third episode of the Ye! Enterprising Youth, Share series, we spoke with a young Zambian entrepreneur, Precious Nkandu Lumpa, the co-founder of She Entrepreneur. Precious 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 session.
You are never too young to take action and make a difference.
People like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg have proved that no matter how young (or old) you are, it’s never too early (or too late) to take the plunge and start changing the world. Precious started her business with her co-founder whilst still at university when she realized that there was a significant gap when it came to supporting young women in business. Precious wanted to address this issue and empower young female university students, through entrepreneurial training and community, in order for them to be competitive and independent in business and life. That has been the guiding vision behind She Entrepreneurs since the beginning.
Partners and networks are critical to keep your momentum.
Momentum can fade, especially in the face of challenges and hardships. Having a support network around you can make a real difference towards helping you overcome these slumps. In particular, having strong business partners or co-founder(s) that you can rely on and seek guidance from, can help you get through some of the toughest moments in starting up. Precious recalled that she was overwhelmed by the workload as a ‘full-time’ entrepreneur during her transition period right after university. Fortunately, thanks to the advice and guidance from her network and her co-founder, Precious did not give up and found the solutions to improve her business operations (i.e. hired professional consultants and learned to delegate tasks as the CEO).
If you don’t have a business partner or a co-founder, don’t forget about your network! Your contacts in your industry can also play an important role in offering support, opening up new opportunities and new partnerships, and keep you moving forward.
Staying true to your vision is critical to success. Here are some tips to help you stay true to your vision.
- Family, friends and network can serve as “accountability managers”
As entrepreneurs, it can be tempting from time to time to move away from your vision and your initial value add, when opportunities, such as a grant or donor funding, come up. However, Precious shared that you should think twice about the potential costs and influence of taking funding that moves you away from your core business may have on your enterprise
in long term. This is where your family, friends and business network can be helpful to serve as your ‘accountability managers’ and keep you in check. These individuals are the ones who can be honest with you, and are not afraid of giving constructive criticism and questioning you on your decisions. Additionally, you can leverage your network to help you collect information about grants or other resources available in your field.
Precious also shared a unique take about the potential role your network or networking opportunities can play in holding you accountable to your vision. For example, if two different contacts who you have met discuss your enterprise and the businesses, the information they have about your company must be consistent. If you have shared different information with different contacts within your network about the purpose and aim of your enterprise, you put the reputation your business of yourself on the line.
Therefore, take your time before jumping on any new opportunity or grant that you learn about. Instead, first consult with others, and make sophisticated, smart decisions!
- Build a sustainable business by continuously innovating and adapting
Although it may seem tempting to go for grants, loans, investments or other forms of donor funding early on in the development of your business, Precious warns that young entrepreneurs should try to build their capacity and demonstrate their viability through steady income generation, in order to become self-sustaining and remain adaptive and relevant. Precious explained that, since the onset of COVID-19, She Entrepreneur has shifted from offering traditional face-to-face training to online training courses, in order to adapt to the changing needs of their customers. She also emphasized that the more you understand your customers, the easier it is for you to innovate and build new products, services or offerings around their needs.
How can you build strong bonds with your customers? Learn from these tips for customer engagement.
- Build relationships over time. Just as we learned with Nancy, a business must be patient and work to build meaningful relationship with clients over time. Trust and confidence in your business cannot be earned overnight, it takes time and effort. At She Entrepreneur, they have engaged with many of their clients throughout their entrepreneurial journey; from university to product market fit, She Entrepreneur has stood by them. Building relationships is no easy task and rest assured being there for their clients has taken time and dedication from the She Entrepreneur team.
- Effective and consistent communication with your customers is key. This means you must communicate clearly and often and provide a two way street to ensure that clients communicate with the company too. This helps you to understand their needs and challenges and share new ideas or opportunities to keep them looped in and engaged with your business journey. Depending on your sector and target customers, you can employ social media to keep in touch with customers. This includes Facebook, Instagram, emails and newsletters. Whatever medium works best and is used most often by your customers should be leveraged to maintain and expand your customer base. Here are some insider tips from Precious: “Make the messages clear and accessible to customers. Don’t expect customers to work extra to get the basic information, i.e. asking the price when you didn’t indicate it for your products selling on your company’s Facebook page. The clearer the communication and the more information provided, the easier it is for the client to take action.”
The role of mentors
Speaking from her own experience, Precious clarified that mentors are not defined by their age. Anyone who can support and help you learn and grow can be understood as a mentor. Mentors can play a significant role in helping you achieve success as an entrepreneur and mature as an individual.
In practice, mentors hold you accountable to your vision and give your clarity on your value; they encourage and reassure you when you have doubts. Mentors can also connect you with relevant opportunities through their network and potentially provide resources that may beyond your usual outreach. They can also help you maintain work/life balance.
In other words, mentors are there to help you unlock your full potential. Nevertheless, it is up to you to proactively bring the issues and requests to the table, in order unlock the right advice from your mentors. It is up to you to decide if and how to follow through on the advice from your mentors.
Not only has Precious benefited from a mentor, she herself has also mentored other young women entrepreneurs. Through being a mentor, Precious enhanced her capacity and confidence in business management. Thus, acting as a mentor to another young entrepreneur can also serve as a learning experience for both the mentor and the mentee!
If you also need mentoring for your business and life, create your Ye! profile here and reach out to the mentors!
Watch the full recording of this webinar below: