Monday, July 22, 2013

The New 21st Century Career: Idea Enterprenuer

There is a new player emerging on the cultural and business scene today: the idea entrepreneur. Perhaps you are one yourself — or would like to be. The idea entrepreneur is an individual, usually a content expert and often a maverick, whose main goal is to influence how other people think and behave in relation to their cherished topic. These people don't seek power over others and they're not motivated by the prospect of achieving great wealth. Their goal is to make a difference, to change the world in some way.
Idea entrepreneurs are popping up everywhere.Research into this phenomenon has produced interesting results at how many different kinds of people aspire to be idea entrepreneurs. From librarians, salespeople, educators, thirteen-year-old kids, marketers, technologists to consultants, business leaders, social entrepreneurs — all over Kenya — who have an idea, want to go public with it, and, in some cases, build a sustainable enterprise around it.
The ones who succeed — whether it's disrupting an established way of doing business as or bringing a mindset change to a small community — share the following methods:
  • They play many roles. They are manager, teacher, motivator, entertainer, coach, thought leader, and guru all rolled into one. 
  • They create a platform of expressions and generate revenue to support their social activities. Idea entrepreneurs have to be exceptionally good at expressing their idea, and usually do so in many forms. They give private talks and major speeches, write books and blogs and articles, participate in panels and events, engage in social media — activities that can generate revenue (sometimes in considerable amounts), through a combination of fees, sales of their expressions, and related merchandise. 

  • They offer a practical way to understand and implement their idea. Because people have a hard time responding to an abstract idea, the idea entrepreneur develops practices (and personally models them, too) that lead people to the idea through action. 

  • They draw other people into their idea. The idea entrepreneur gathers people into the development, expression, and application of their idea. They form affiliations, build networks, and form groups.This inclusion of many people in many ways creates a phenomenon sometimes called respiration— it's as if the idea starts to breathe, and takes on a life of its own.

  • They drive the quest for change. It is all too common that people with an idea for an improvement or a change to the world are satisfied to point out a problem, propose a solution, and then expect others to execute. The idea entrepreneur, however, sees the expression of the idea as the beginning of the effort — and it can be a lifelong one — in which they will continue to build the idea, reach new audiences, and offer practices that lead to change. 
  • People who have shaped our thinking and our society over the decades, even centuries, and continue to do so today — have all followed the path of the idea entrepreneur.
    These days, the model is well-defined and, thanks to the amazing range of activities we have for creating and sharing ideas, is within reach for just about anyone. If you have an idea, and want to go public with it, idea entrepreneurship can be one of the most powerful forces for change and improvement in the world today.

    Creating Economic Possibilities

    Friday, July 12, 2013

    Kenyan entrepreneur shares nine ideas on how to be successful in business

    Architect John Kithaka began his journey in business immediately after high school at age 18. A small farming venture in his rural Kenyan hometown with US$70 as capital from pocket money his parents gave him, built his foundation in business. Today, at 40, Kithaka is the CEO and founding member of the Fountain Enterprise Programme (FEP) Group of Companies.
    John Kithaka
    John Kithaka
    The group, made up of 18,000 Kenyan shareholders, has made investments in 14 companies worth $18.3 million in the financial, media, hospitality and education sectors. Despite running several successful ventures while in university and immediately after graduation, Kithaka established FEP out of a “burning desire to create a club of tomorrow’s billionaires”.
    Kithaka draws a lot of inspiration from his profession as an architect, insisting that he never invests in anything until he has laid a solid and unshakeable foundation. He also must have a picture in mind of what the end project will look like and whether it will be sustainable several generations down the line. Speaking to How we made it in Africa’s Dinfin Mulupi, the charismatic entrepreneur shared his advice to other entrepreneurs on how to be a success and maybe even a billionaire.
    Think entrepreneurial: In an era where young people aspire to be wealthy and live in the fast lane, Kithaka advised that there is only one way to get there: through entrepreneurship. “We need people who don’t think of just being a pilot but also owning the plane; owning banks not just being bankers; and owning the hospital instead of becoming just doctors,” he said.
    Do not go it alone: The FEP Group has 18,000 shareholders and expectations of being worth hundreds of billions (Kenyan shillings) by 2016 when its businesses mature. Kithaka argued that one of the biggest mistakes African entrepreneurs do is “going it alone”, a culture he said needs to change. “Billionaires never have a business called ‘mine’. Are you in cooperation with others such that you can get out and that business will run smoothly?” Kithaka said entrepreneurs should tap the power of many and engage positively with each other. “Great minds don’t compete, great minds pull together,” he added.
    Seize opportunities: The world’s most successful people, whether in business or politics, have made it because they recognised opportunities only few could see and turned challenges into breakthroughs. Kithaka recalled that while he was at university, the government announced that food prices at the university cafeteria would be increased. “I knew for sure, students would not be able to afford the food. I saw an opportunity glaring. When schools reopened, I transferred a kiosk I had in Nairobi town and brought it to the main campus to offer students alternative food. That was the beginning of my breakthrough. That was a real opportunity,” he said.
    Work smart: “From mathematics I know, no man can make himself a billionaire by working hard,” said Kithaka. “It is only by working smart that you get there. You would need to own companies that make billions,” he explained. Everywhere in the world, Kithaka said, it is the poor who work very hard and very long hours looking for money in the wrong places.
    Get into business early: Since his passion has always been in entrepreneurship, when he joined university, Kithaka had to make a choice between getting a first class (equivalent to an A) or coming out rich. “I was very sure I did not want to be an employee and therefore I was not keen on getting a first class. I did business while I was in school, bought a car and even registered my own architectural firm two years before graduation,” he recalled. By the time he graduated, his architectural firm had a good reputation and work experience and he was well on his way to establishing the FEP Group.
    Invest in sustainable ideas: According to Kithaka, if you can’t see your business or wealth 70 years from now, then there is a problem. “You need wisdom in what you are doing such that 70 years from now you will have a solid base. In your mind, you should make sure that your business will not collapse in your old age.”
    Be committed: It sounds like a cliché but Kithaka argues that his success was inspired by a vow he made, and stuck with, before turning 18. In his last year of high school, Kithaka promised his father that he would never ask for pocket money again. “It was a commitment that I would look for my own money. This was an inner drive. I did business and by the time I joined university 18 months later, I had three years worth of school fees,” said Kithaka.
    Put your money to work: Kithaka noted entrepreneurs should go looking for ideas, not money. According to him, the poor look for money and take it to the bank where it will be safe, while the rich see the bank as the place to borrow money. “People don’t have money problems, they have idea problems. All you need is an idea and you will go to the bank and they will give you money,” he added.
    Think long-term: When Kithaka started calling people in 2007 to invest in FEP and gave them an idea of what the group would achieve by 2016, it was only those who could see nine years ahead that invested. “Wisdom goes for visionary people and visionaries are those people who see [further] than others can. You either see it or you don’t. A true investor understands tomorrow,” said Kithaka.

    Creating Economic Possibilities

    Wednesday, July 10, 2013

    How Entrepreneurs Come Up With Great Ideas

    At the heart of any successful business is a great idea. Some seem so simple we wonder why nobody thought of them before. Others are so revolutionary we wonder how anybody could've thought of them at all.
    But those great ideas don't come on command. And that leaves lots of would-be entrepreneurs asking the same question: How did everybody else get inspiration to strike—and how can we work the same magic?
    To find out, here are a few tips from Guy Kawasaki (Author and former chief evangelist of Apple) :
    Look at What's Bugging You
    Ideas for startups often begin with a problem that needs to be solved. And they don't usually come while you're sitting around sipping coffee and contemplating life. They tend to reveal themselves while you're hard at work on something else.
    You're Never Too Young
    Mark Zuckerberg with Facebook, —is a success story that leads some people to think that coming up with big ideas is an middle-aged person's game. But the tech entrepreneurs who rose to early fame and fortune are just the outliers. The typical entrepreneur are mostly young professionals who learn about a market need and starts a company with his own savings.
    Be Present in Life
    Start your brainstorming with problems that you are personally invested in. Building a business is hard as hell and takes the kind of relentless dedication that comes from personal passion.
    The next big question is "How?" Great ideas and innovations come from executing on your idea in a different way than everybody else is attacking it, if they're attacking it at all. A great way to do this is to look outside of your industry to see how others are solving problems. Approaches that they think are routine might be out of the ordinary for you—and inspire great ideas.
    Also, most businesspeople tend to ignore their creative side until they really need it. Making sure that your life has a balance of the arts is a great way to stay engaged creatively.
    This last tip seems insanely obvious. However, in the world we live in, it's easier said than done: Simply be present in life.
    Ideas Are Abundant; Drive Isn't
    Perhaps the greatest factor that determines whether or not an entrepreneur will be successful isn't the business idea itself, but rather the entrepreneur's willingness to try (and keep trying) to turn the idea into reality. Great ideas are abundant, but it's what we decide to do with them that counts.
    Let Your Subconscious Do the Work
    When the mind is occupied with a monotonous task, it can stimulate the subconscious into a eureka moment. That's what happened to me. The subconscious mind runs in the background, silently affecting the outcome of many thoughts. So, take a break and smell the flowers, because while you're out doing that, your mind may very well solve the problem that you are trying to solve or spark a solution to a problem you hadn't considered before.
    Attack Practical Problems
    Make a note whenever you encounter a service or a customer experience that frustrates you, or wish you had a product that met your needs that you can't find anywhere. Then ask yourself, is this a problem I could solve? And how much time and money would it take to test my idea? Make sure you can fail fast and cheaply.

    Head Into the Weird Places
    For entrepreneurs to stretch their brains, they should seek out the unusual. Watch and listen to weird stuff. Walk in weird places. When you're walking with no purpose but walking, you see things in fresh ways, because you have the luxury of being in the present. Talk to weird people. Striking up conversations with people who are different from you can be powerful. I still remember random conversations with strangers from decades ago, and how they shaped me.

    Search for a Better Way
    As one goes about their daily life, it is useful if they routinely ask themselves, "Isn't there a better way?" You would be surprised at how frequently the answer is, "Yes." Other sources of inspiration for me are existing products. One should never feel that just because there is a product out there similar to yours that you can't execute it and market it better.
    Think Big
    There are several factors an entrepreneur should consider when choosing a business idea or opportunity.Go big or go home: There are opportunities to make money by building businesses that marginally improve on existing products or services, but the real thrill sets in when the decision is made to go after an enormous idea that seems slightly crazy.
    Make the world a better place: The best kind of entrepreneur pursues a business that simplifies or improves the lives of many people. He or she repeatedly asks "what if" when thinking about how the world works and how the status quo could be dramatically improved.
    Fail fast: As overall startup costs decline and markets move much more quickly, it has become easier to test ideas without devastating consequences of failure.
    Pivot quickly: Many of the most successful companies exist in a form that is entirely different from how they were first envisioned. A successful entrepreneur will realize when a company is moving in the wrong direction or is missing a much larger opportunity.
    Taking It to Market
    It is important to look at an idea in two ways: first, to consider the initial inspiration for the business, and second, the often very different concept that ends up being executed to create the new company. We typically think of these ideas as the thing that sets these great entrepreneurs on the path of success. However, an idea is only that until you do something with it. Great entrepreneurs also discover the strategies to deliver the new innovative solution to the market.

    Listen to People Who Know
    Entrepreneurs come up with great ideas in a number of ways. Here are some of the best.
    Get customer feedback: Listen to customers and create products and services that give them more of what they like and/or remove what they dislike.
    Listen to front-line employees: The workers who manufacture the widgets, interact with customers and so on see what takes too long to accomplish, what is too expensive, what causes problems. Talk to those workers, or even do those jobs yourself.
    Reverse assumptions: Many great entrepreneurs come up with ideas by reversing assumptions. For example, the old assumption was that a bank needed to have tellers and branch locations. The ATM concept asked: How can we offer banking services without having a branch location and tellers?

    Be Prepared to Shift Gears
    Entrepreneurs need to understand two things. For one thing, their first (or second or third) idea is often not the real opportunity. In fact, it might stink. They have to be on the lookout for why it stinks and be willing to shift course.
    But they also need to understand that even if their idea has problems, there's often a good opportunity buried within it. They need to talk to people and continue tweaking and transforming it. In the process, they encounter setbacks, rethink their approach, try again and redefine what they're doing.
    For all that, the idea may fail—it's happened to many successful entrepreneurs. But they weren't deterred by failure. They kept at it and were better positioned to recognize and shape the next idea into something truly great.

    You Can't Rush the Brain
    I don't know where great ideas come from. I am not sure anyone does. I am not even sure how I come up with my ideas. The brain does its thing, and out pops an idea.
    While you are waiting for the brain to get its act together, do what you can do. Do the doable. Meet with people have a laugh or two. Build mock-ups and prototypes. At the very least, collect other people's problems. That's always a guaranteed doable.
    The deep idea here is that action has a creative aspect distinct from thinking. And thinking need not come first. Mostly it doesn't.
    What Not to Do
    One thing that isn't a rich vein of entrepreneurship gold: reading a market forecast from a big-name consulting firm and deciding to create a product to serve that need.

    *There is no magic formula. But that doesn't mean there's no formula at all. So, do you have an idea??

                                                 Creating Economic Possibilities

    Tuesday, July 09, 2013

    Kenyan women enterprenuers in male-dominated world of business

    Herein are five Kenyan women entrepreneurs who have dared to enter the male-dominated world of business to build some of the region’s most respected companies.

    Quote: “Ladies, it’s like learning to ride a bike or driving a car. You need only to believe in yourself, trust your gut feeling and develop a clear plan or strategy, keep it simple and implement that plan step by step with courage, conviction and love above all. Ultimately be open minded and flexible to change course when needed and listen to your customers.”
    Rionge co-founded internet service provider Wananchi Online that has since been transformed into Wananchi Group Holdings – one of east Africa’s leading providers of pay-tv, broadband internet and VoIP services. Last year the company raised US$57.5 million in growth capital from a group of international investors.
    A typical serial entrepreneur, Rionge has over the years founded a number of successful companies. She currently runs Ignite Consulting, a firm that specialises in coaching, strategy facilitation, organisational effectiveness and skills training.
    “I create companies serially because I believe that Africa is the next economic frontier and we must build indigenous organisations that will support this growth,” said Rionge in an interview with Forbes.
    Business Lounge, another one of Rionge’s ventures, is helping other entrepreneurs build successful businesses. The Lounge acts as a business incubator for start-up companies and as a business club for more established firms and individuals. Rionge is also a motivational speaker and life coach.

    Tabitha Karanja
    Tabitha Karanja
    Founder and CEO: Keroche Breweries
    Quote: “We have fought countless battles and we seemed to have sunk at times, but true to the word we believed we could make it, we rose above the barricades and the story is now told of how we made it and won the war.”
    Karanja founded Keroche Breweries, the first ever brewery to be owned by a Kenyan. Although she faced many challenges – including competition from multinationals, high taxation and meddling from high powered government officials – her resilience has seen the business grow into a respected company.
    Beyond the expectations of her detractors, Karanja invested in a Ksh.1 billion ($11.6 million) plant with the capacity of producing 6,000 half-litre bottles per hour. With its flagship brands, Summit Lager and Summit Malt, the brewery has proved resilient in the market.
    “When Keroche … commenced operations … fingers were pointed at us and the rumours of they-can’t-do-it was written on the faces of many who never believed a Kenyan company could penetrate in a grid-tight multinational market where the end justified the means even if the means isn’t justifiable,” says Karanja.
    She plans to increase the firm’s 20% market share to 40% in the next three years following an increase in its production capacity to 15,000 bottles per hour. Karanja also hopes to extend beyond beer into the soft drinks business.

    Eva Muraya
    Eva Muraya
    Founder and CEO: Brand Strategy and Design
    Quote: “I am an advocate of business being an important instrument of development. In fact, business is the fabric for development.”
    Muraya is the founder and CEO of Brand Strategy and Design, a regional brand strategy development agency. Her entry into the business world came only after a great personal tragedy – the loss of her husband. Muraya started Color Creations Africa Limited, a branded merchandise company. Until recently she was still the CEO at Color Creations.
    Muraya has won numerous awards, including the premier Goldman Sachs Fortune Global Leaders Award. She was also nominated to receive The International Alliance for Women (TIAW) World of Difference 100 Award. In addition, Muraya is an alumnus of the Legatum Pioneers of Prosperity and her business Color Creations was a top finalist in the 2006 Africa Business Awards.
    She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Journalism and Marketing from the United States International University (USIU) in Nairobi and has attended both the IESE (University of Navarra) and Strathmore business schools.
    An advocate of the economic empowerment of women, Muraya co-founded the Kenya Association of Women Business Owners (KAWBO). She is also a chairperson of the board of the Zawadi Africa Educational Fund (Kenya), an organisation that provides scholarships for needy and academically talented girls.

    Jyoti Mukherjee
    Jyoti Mukherjee 
    CEO: Software Technologies Limited
    Quote: “If we are able to export our products to the USA, India and Uganda, that means we have the capacity to make Kenya the IT powerhouse in the region.”
    Together with her husband, Jyoti Mukherjee opened a printing supplies shop in Nairobi in the 1980s after moving to Kenya from India. In 1991 she started Software Technologies Limited (STL), one of Africa’s leading software distribution companies making hundreds of millions of Kenyan shillings in sales every year.
    STL today can count over 150 corporations in east Africa as its clients, making Mukherjee one of the few women who have founded and run big technology firms in the region.
    Mukherjee has steered STL from humble beginnings with just five employees to one of the largest software houses in eastern Africa with a presence in countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Nigeria, Ethiopia, India and the United Arab Emirates.
    In 2007 she was recognised as the Top ICT Businesswoman in Africa at the African ICT Achievers Awards. Mukherjee also founded the Institute of Software Technologies (IST), a fully fledged ICT training institute that provides education for IT professionals, developers and business analysts.

    Joanne Mwangi
    Joanne Mwangi 
    Founder and CEO: PMS Group
    Quote: “I worked without pay for some time to save the business from collapsing.”
    Sixteen years ago Mwangi founded Professional Marketing Services (PMS), a group that currently has five subsidiaries and a presence across the east African region. Joanne has steered the PMS Group from a small agency to a leading marketing group providing a full range of agency services, including advertising, public relations, event management, trade promotions, consumer promotions, trade merchandising and marketing strategy development. Over the years PMS has grown in size and its clients include Reckitt Benckiser, Prigat, Airbus and East African Breweries (EABL).
    In 2010 PMS was voted number one in the Top 100 SME competition in Kenya. Mwangi also won the Lady Entrepreneur of the Year award at the same competition sponsored by the Nation Media Group and KPMG. In 2009 she beat women entrepreneurs from 75 countries worldwide to emerge as the winner of the Organisation of Women in International Trade (OWIT) Woman of the Year award. Mwangi is also the chairperson of the Federation of Women Entrepreneurs Associations (FEWA), an organisation that seeks to create an enabling business environment for women.

    *Hope this is inspirational for young upcoming female entrepreneurs, you too can make it

    Creating Economic Possibilities

    Friday, July 05, 2013

    College drop-out enterprenuer rakes in millions from advertising

    Being a drop-out is not an on:
    Anthony Mwaura is a creative enterprenuer. At 25, he is a millionaire after he chose the unbeaten path and established one of the most sought-after advertising firms in the region.
    Whatever Mr Mwaura touches — be it the in-house music production studio he ran two years back or the corporate branding company he currently manages from his magnificent office on Riara Road in Nairobi — turns into gold.
    “I dropped out from the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication in 2009 where I was studying TV production due to lack of school fees. I later decided to use the skills I had learnt in production and editing to make a living,’’ says Mr Mwaura in an interview with the Business Daily on Monday.
    At that time, he could record up-and-coming musicians like Juliani, Jimmi Gait, A Star, Ekko Dydda, among others, who today are some of the biggest acts in the music industry.
    “I used to charge them Sh10,000 per song and I had five musicians I was dealing with. I could hire a camera since I had none and use my second hand laptop to edit the content in my house,’’ he recalls.
    The home-based production studio, he called Washamba Unlimited, stoked his passion for entrepreneurship. This was back in 2010.
    The business, he says, was not paying off as he had expected, forcing him to close down the shop.
    He ventured into corporate advertising in 2011 and he renamed his company Absolute Media Pictures Limited, which has since become renowned for producing content mainly for the electronic media.
    “We are also involved in live motions and company branding,” he says.
    His breakthrough came in the same year. Uganda was going through a political transformation and the need for active and vibrant media content was inevitable. His client was none other than Kizza Besigye, the controversial opposition leader. The Ugandan politician was running for presidency under the Forum for Democratic Change.
    Dr Besigye contracted Absolute Media Pictures to create and design campaign materials for his election bid. The deal was worth Sh2.1 million, a huge contrast to the entrepreneur’s earnings from the makeshift studio earlier. Although his client lost the election, the contract gave his new company the drive to soldier on.
    “I continued to operate from the house and invested the money in equipment before a friend approached me with seemingly good deal that almost brought me back to my knees,’’ said the Absolute Media Pictures managing director.
    The job involved covering the South Sudan independence anniversary but hardly did he know that he was dealing with fake promoters.
    “We got duped and on coming back to Kenya. I had lost almost all my savings,’’ he recalls. “I was broke and I had to reinvent myself. It was a lifetime lesson.”

    Frustrated but unbowed, Mr Mwaura repackaged himself and set out to recover what he had lost in the dubious deal, the lowest point in his life, he says. However, he urgently needed capital for his business.
    “I approached two of my closest friends and involved them in the running of the company,” says Mwaura. “One in the creative department while the other one headed the company’s accounts section.’’
    He says working with innovative people who strongly believe in him and what he does has seen the company grow. Soon after he teamed up with his too friends, business deals began flowing in. Today, the two are the shareholders of the company.
    “One must believe in people and give them an opportunity to grow,’’ says Mr Mwaura.
    Some of their notable television commercials include those of Airtel, Kenya Commercial Bank ('Weka-Weka'), Coca Cola, Ford Foundation (under the famous Uraia advert), Kass TV rebranding and Tanzania’s NBC Bank.
    Mwaura is cagey when asked how much they made from some of the engagements. He remains mum for a while, his silence a reflection of a man who closely guards the company’s worth in his conversations.
    Role models
    The Airtel deal sealed last year, he says, earned the company Sh13 million. “The commercials were used both in East and West Africa,’’ he adds but remains scanty on how much they made from other commercials.
    Mr Mwaura says he has learnt from his role models the importance of remaining loyal to clients.
    “Honesty in service delivery is key to any business. We have invested much in quality and mostly in our creativity,’’ he says. “We have made most of our clientele base through referrals and this is the best marketing strategy a company should embrace.”
    This has helped the production and advertising firm to prosper.
    “We invest much of the profits we make in the company,’’ he says, adding that they are yet to reach the apex and that more work lies ahead.
    In the next few months, these youthful millionaires plan to shoot Miss Tourism fete in Tanzania. OLX, an online e-commerce platform, has engaged the company for its upcoming television promotion.
    “This is a Sh4.5 million contract and we are very optimistic that we will deliver the best,’’ he says.
    Mr Mwaura says that their main competitor is Fat Boy Animations, the company behind the famous Faiba advert. “Animation is just beginning to pick up in Kenya after Faiba advert became an instant hit and people have really embraced the concept,’’ he says.
    The businessman is a workaholic who is said to spend most of his time researching and sleeps a couple of hours. He is also a family man.
    He says that the advertising industry is not yet saturated and more talent is needed.
    “When we started off, live motion advertising was evolving, but we have learnt what the industry wants and perfected our art. Research is paramount in any career,’’ says Mr Mwaura. “It is hard to get people who will give you the value for what you want but you have to invest in them to get the required results later.”
    -Business Daily

    Creating Economic Possibilities