Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts with the label entrepreneur challenges

Entrepreneurs Chat with Kalonzo Musyoka

Back in 1995 there were precious few internet connections in Kenya, and these few were courtesy of Dr. Shem Ochuodho's pioneering ISP. In Nakuru county there were even fewer, 3 to be exact, and one of those happened to be in our house. We used it mainly for email, my dad getting to communicate with mom who was out of the country. We only dialed up every other day as the costs were dear. Being part of such a small community though had its advantages with one of those being that Dr. Ochuodho would send daily emails with a summary of the news of that day as it appeared in the press. This was back in 95 when KBC was the only TV and radio station available in Nakuru and thus the only source of electronic information. Dr. Ochudho's "news"letters were therefore a gem and helped me appreciate just how effective internet communication was in relaying information. Fast forward to 2012 and we have a plethora of ways to instantly communicate. However when it comes to relay

How do you find clients online?

Where do I start? The spread of the internet into every sphere of our lives and the mega stardom of internet wiz kids like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin has fired our imagination. It’s now possible to believe that with a good idea and internet connection one can have a viable business.  We’re living in the internet age and It’s a great time to own a business but the question is, can you really use the internet to grow your business? People ask me where does one start, how do you find clients on the internet, and can this be outsourced? What is Prospecting? The thing to remember is that the internet is a fantastic tool, it can do several wonderful things but a tool is only as good as its’ user. To really benefit from the internet you have to know how to use it. Just like in a traditional business, the first thing and most important to use the internet for in your business is to get prospective clients. Some simply call this marketing but we like t

Cut costs but don't Waflash

New colloquial words usually originate from a mutation or amalgamation of existing words. Take Waflash for example I know that most of you have probably never heard of this word but it carries deep significance for me. Long long ago, in a galaxy far far away (...just had to use that, it's for the lulz) I shared an office with an otherwise affable chap called Wafula. Now I say otherwise because Wafula had a serious weakness... read on. Based on my limited business knowledge at the time, I knew that there were only two ways in which a company could maintain a positive cashflow: 1) increase sales 2) cut costs. Wafula however only believed in number 2, while I was a rather strong proponent of number 1. I came to realize just how strong of a disciple Wafula was of the cost cutting dogma one sweltering February afternoon. You see in our office arrangement, Wafula would pay for electricity while I catered for the internet. Since we were sub-tenants, the main tenant would pay for the

Right is right, even if it feels wrong

Tom ran the numbers again, furiously punching the enter key on his keyboard as if to determine a different outcome. There was a slight decrease of Ks. 22,000, hardly enough to make a dent on the Ks. 1.8m fiscal hole he was staring at. He had been at this for six hours now and no matter which way he tried to slash costs, it was painfully obvious that unless he made some drastic changes, his business was headed for bankruptcy. Leaning back in his leather chair his eyes glanced up from the monitor to look out through his glass partion to his personal assistant Maryanne. She had been very loyal to him these difficult past six months, but even from his desk he could see that she was spending her time on youtube, probaly looking at baby videos since she was a new mother. The volumnious work load that had inspired her recruitment and six others seemed to dry up the minute they set up their desks. Tom had figured it was just a bad month and things would change, but half a year later, the s

We will send the auctioneers tomorrow

My friend Roger clearly remembers those particular words from the telephone call. After many days anxiously spent waiting for it the bank had called him that sweltering December afternoon. The call effectively put a nail in the coffin for Rogers’ fledgling insurance agency. Twelve months earlier, Roger had started his business with unbridled and unstoppable optimism. He quit his well-paying but stressful job as a marketer in a large company, much to the distress of his pregnant wife.  But Roger quit because he had a dream. He dreamed of giving his unborn son everything he ever wanted. He dreamed of an end to the despondent dependancy on his pay cheque. He dreamed of hours of relaxed recreational family time. Driven by a lucid, Technicolor vision of his dream Roger took a one million shillings loan from the bank to start his agency, only to have the bank take it from him one short year later. The auctioneer came the next day, a greasy-faced, pot-bellied, squinty eyed man wearing a

Who is Eva? BPO for small businesses? Really?

In the January of 2002 a young man found himself battling against frustration and despair as he saw his barely four month old company go up in smoke. It was his first real business venture and he had sunk all of his meagre savings into it, only to find himself unable to convert his enthusiasm into sales. Four months without a single sale he only had well worn shoes to show for his effort. When he started the business, he thought he had it figured all out. He had bought a mobile phone and a decent second-hand computer and sublet a small office in town. He listed down 500 prospects, wrote an introduction letter, and proceeded to call and visit the prospects. Four months and several disappointing calls and visits later, he had only managed to see a handful of prospects and none were yet to give him any business. Meanwhile his landlord was on his back asking for rent and he had run out of money to make telephone calls. He had no option but to close down his fledgling busine

Forget Superman, I'm not even Clark Kent

In Form Two at the height of my adolescent self-importance I felt that I knew much more than the (what I thought at that time to be) idiotic teachers who wasted my day when I could be expanding my mind reading Plato. One exception which was sharply brought home though was my American english teacher who had a Belgian name, Ms Koch (we called her Ms. K though, because pronouncing her name for the mandatory greeting of the teacher would have wasted half a lesson). Ms. K knew her stuff and when I tried to impress her by saying that creative writing was my favourite type of writing, she reminded me that all writing is creative. I remembered Ms. K today as I finally finished today's article of my new daily business blog ( blog.my-shillings.com ). In deed all writing is creative, and is more than just stringing together letters and words. A belated apology then to my "colleague" at Business Daily who I tore into some time back with a post in this blog. On second thought, I ta

Chapos and Chicken

Ok you are probably wondering; WHAT, is this going to be? ramblings on food... or what? Well... yes but not in the way you think. This week I was doing a project for a restaurant. I know, mmmhh restaurant. It was one of those projects consultants like me get once in a while and think, yeah i like - where meetings are done in the main restaurant hall over tea and hors d'oeuvre. It was also a good opportunity to participate in a non-conventional business. To use innovation in a nondescript script. Some of you might know the restaurant am talking about, KPs located on Utali lane, yes next to Mwenda's. It's been there for some time but received a full face-lift in January with the change of ownership. I'm not being paid to say this but they have the best chips masala and cocktail juice. ....Ok now moving away from my food ramblings and back to the business part. Restaurant as businesses are not an easy thing to work. As an unconventional business, the owners are required

Nobody knows the trouble I've been through...Nobody knows my sorrows

An entrepreneurs life is a dog's life ... literally. But that's not even the worst thing about it, the worst thing about it is entrepreneurs love it, they are addicted to it. They love the risks, they love the challenge, they love the total control, they love every damn thing about it and that my friend is the worst thing about it. I met an entrepreneur the other day - the real thing, not those cowboys who try to pass as one. This entrepreneur was an innovator, a calculative risk taker, a salt of the earth downright talented business mover who knew he was good at what he did because he loved it. I have to admit it was a beautiful thing to see. It inspired me, motivated me, propelled me to try and reach greater heights. You might ask, why so much philosophy over what i consider a dog's life...literally. Well the thing about entrepreneurship is that its not for everyone. But for those who it is for, for those who answer the driving need in their hearts when they hear the ca

The CEO Janitor

I’m a self confessed holiday hater , but today as I still wait to be counted I am grateful for this holiday. Besides dreaming up some crazy ‘tribe’ which I’ll tell the enumerators I belong to (I’m leaning towards Kryptonian) I get a chance to take a breather. You see the last two years have been a non-stop 24/7 marathon to keep ahead of an economy battered by the combined effects of post-election violence and a global economic recession. Although 2009 has had its upsides compared to last year, the scarcity of food, electricity, and water continue to take their toll on business. One can even say that it’s been stressful. Stress however is not necessarily a bad thing, like Jon Voight acting as a bad guy in 24 says “stress is the fertilizer of creativity”. Indeed I have had to be extremely creative in 2009 to ensure that my business continues to be relevant in the face of a depressed economy and with all this rationing. By forging strong partnerships with other entrepreneurs I launch

Laws and Ambition

This year I celebrate my 10th anniversary since finishing high-school. Yes, for those who want to count, it was 1999, when I finally lifted the yoke that is high school off my shoulders. It's also been ten years where I've been able to forget most of the millions of pieces of data I stored in my brain for examination on topics as varied as photostatic conductors, wheat farming in Siberian tundra, morphological features of fish, and calculus. That last one though (calculus) I continued to study even in the real world (apparently anything you experience while in school, under 18, and on your parent's allowance is not the real world, but a fictional world created to get you employable skills). Well, maybe not the actual formulae, but calculus dealt with curves. One curve I became familiar while studying law was the curve of diminishing ambition. You see when you join law school, you feel like you are on top of the world. Heck, you must be one of the brightest minds in the la

Selling Income

One of the greatest challenges I have faced in my time as an entrepreneur is what to do after a large paycheck. Surprised? I was too at first , and it's even worse if you have been waiting for that payment for some time. With money in the bank, you rationalise with yourself of the 1001 things that need to be purchased, and they all demand high priority allocation. Of course, this is a psychological condition that can easily be averted by careful planning beforehand. When it happened to me I tried to avoid the extravagance that accompanies large income inflows by investing the money as quickly as I could. When SoftLaw sold the laws of Kenya to the judiciary I discovered why having the government as a customer can be very rewarding. Relatively prompt payment, many zeroes in the payment, and a very appreciative customer. With our newly expanded bank account, we knew that we had to quickly invest the funds or we would be sucked into a vicious and wasteful consumption given our still

One more stab at online business

I first discovered Microsoft Encarta in 1997, and what a joy that was. A digital repository with seemingly endless ways to satisfy my hunger for knowledge. Being a rap obsessed teenager it did not take me long to check what Encarta said about hip-hop. I found an article on Grandmaster Flash considered the grandaddy of hip-hop (at least by Encarta). In the article there was an audio clip of one of his most popular tunes 'The Message' which was later popularly resampled in 'Can't nobody hold me down' by Puff Daddy and Mase. One line of that great song in particular comes to mind right now "can't nobody hold me down... ohh no I got to keep on movin" And so it is with me, I have continued with my dream of promoting online business in Kenya. My latest effort is Incorporator , an online company formation service I have helped design, create, market and manage for a business services company. I consider this one of my most comprehensive works in e-commerc

An entrepreneur's adventure: Part I

I frantically clawed at the dirt with my free arm, hoping for a jagged rock I could hold, a branch, a tuft of grass ... anything. My left arm hanging from a protruding tree root was weakening and hot from lactic acid. The warm blood sliding down the inside of my elbow felt almost cool to the strained muscles. I could still feel the frames of my glasses on my face, "at least I haven't lost those" I thought. But the glasses were of no use now, it was dusk, for me the hardest time to see. "Shika hio mti, Harry", a voice fell from above. I strained and turned my head up. Although I couldn't see him, I knew Collin was there. He must have been petrified, already feeling the unbearable guilt he would have to bear for putting his nephew in a life and death situation. "Heh heh", I managed a chuckle, imagining the comic expression on his face right now, his face wasn't suited to tragedy. "What" I scolded myself back to reality. I was making f

...I can't complain

Back in 2001 when I was still in college, had one pair of overworn jeans and was hustling this Nairobi for web design jobs I had the good fortune to be introduced to a senior executive of a leading Kenyan company who is now its very powerful CEO.  Needless to say, I was intimidated, and not just because of 'Bob' my erstwhile pair of trousers (which with its worn denim looked more of an attempt at covering my nudity rather than a rebelious 'geek culture' fashion statement); but because I didn't have a clue what I'd say and this executive was widely travelled and widely knowledgeable.  Fortunately I realised that I really had nothing to lose and with that confidence I pitched my services as I walked with him (and his entourage of assistants) from his office to the basement car park. It wasn't easy; we met three different people (colleagues and building-mates) along the way each of whom wanted to 'seek his counsel' or just make pleasantaries. This mean

The Victorious Minute

Today I was reading an article by HR consultant Annabell Karanja in the MyBusiness entrepreneurship magazine. The author spoke of the challenges facing those going through the transition from employee to entrepreneur. It got me thinking about some of my own experiences. Granted I was never employed for long (about 1 year) but I nevertheless picked some habits which were hard to shake once I decided to go into my own business full time. As an employee one abides to strict reporting times at the pain of dismissal (stick). Since there is such a strong motivation to report to work early in the morning, waking up is not so difficult. I'm also generally an early riser so that made it all the easier. Even those days when I really didn't feel like getting up, imagining the pursed lips of my supervisor speaking a silent disapproval would help me get out of bed. How things changed when I became my own boss. Most people long to be their own boss so as to avoid waking up early in the mor