Rejection is like advice: It’s often unwelcome (and even irrelevant), but coming from the right person, can change your life.
In my previous business, we started off with a home run – we raised money from our first business plan and our first attempted pitch with a venture capital firm. In fairness, this was off the back of many, many failures.
After our first year, we decided that we wanted to raise further funding, so I started pitching our business all over the world to various venture firms.
All of them said no
I faced more rejection in six months than I had in my entire life. Firm after firm, country after country, face after face, one thing was consistent: The word ‘no’.
What I didn’t realise then was that we were rejected for the right reasons by smart people and that my business was in need of traction, revenue and time to grow. Sometimes, rejection is a necessary part of pushing through and building a great business.
It’s not always easy, but there are three key ways to manage rejection: Understanding it, embracing it, and sometimes, ignoring it.
1. Understanding Rejection
One of the key things about facing rejection is understanding it. Sometimes it comes from a good place and great people. Other times it can come from horrible individuals who have no clue about anything and just want to be mean.
It’s important to grasp the difference between helpful and harmful rejection. Helpful rejection comes from people who have relevant industry expertise, are empathetic and provide constructive feedback alongside their rejection. A flat out ‘no’ isn’t helpful.
It’s also important to understand your own business, vision and revenue model. If you believe that the path you are on is right and that your plan is working (or about to start working) push forward.
2. Embracing Rejection
Many of the most prolific companies in the world right now started off with people rejecting them and thinking that their ideas were crazy.
Uber faced initial resistance because investors believed that the existing taxi companies would never be displaced. Airbnb started off as a small company renting out spare couches and beds in people’s houses. Today it’s taking on the world’s largest hotel companies. Back in 1995, Newsweek published an article stating that the Internet will never change the world.
Here’s an extract from that article: “The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.”
How far we’ve come. Sometimes the best thing you can do is realise that rejection is based upon pre-existing ideas that are destined to be broken down and if you’re the one to push into the future, you’re definitely going to benefit from embracing the rejection you received early on.
3. Ignoring Rejection
There’s enough in the daily grind to get you down, so staying positive is an imperative part of pushing forward in the face of rejection. That’s hard to do when your potential customers, users and investors are telling you that they don’t want to use or invest in you.
At this point, the one option left is ignoring rejection. If you have users, revenue and your business is growing, chances are you shouldn’t worry too much about rejection. Take it in, understand it, and then ignore it.
Resilience is one of the key traits of great entrepreneurs. Having the determination to ignore people when they tell you’ll you’re crazy is something you have to do at every turn. Get used to rejection and continue building what you believe in.
6 SAB Entreprenurship Programmes That Provide Business Management And Support
We believe in the power of one idea. One idea that gives life to a business and drives it towards greatness.
The empowerment of entrepreneurs has always been a core objective for us at SAB. The creation of SAB KickStart, SAB Foundation, SAB Accelerator and SAB Thrive, shows our commitment to providing a tangible and sustainable future for South Africans by providing invaluable guidance and support to the businesses we partner with.
We believe in our entrepreneurs, in their dreams, in their drive to succeed and in the difference they make in our communities. That’s why we want to back them and their ideas 100%, and aim to create 10 000 sustainable jobs by 2022 through our entrepreneurship programmes.
Each of these programmes were created to aid entrepreneurs across various stages of business development and help people and communities that require business and management support. We have divided our resources into these segmented entrepreneurship programmes, in the hopes of inspiring and uplifting the communities in which they are situated.
We believe that the youth are capable of being powerful key drivers in our country’s economy. However, we are aware that on average, 70% of small businesses fail in the first 1-3 years of operation.
This is where we come in. Our aim is to help ensure that the businesses that operate in key high potential industries, and are led by young, ambitious and driven owners, are fully supported in their entrepreneurial journey through fit-for-purpose knowledge, tools and processes that will assist them to succeed long-term.
Introducing SAB KickStart, a youth entrepreneurial programme. Its main focus is to assist small business owners, between the ages of 18 and 35, so that they can play an active role in the economy by running successful and sustainable, youth-led businesses.
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There are two parts to the programme – SAB KickStart Ignite and SAB KickStart Boost.
Ignite is a programme that supports disruptive, youth-led innovators that have businesses or products and services, with the potential to grow into viable businesses.
Eligible entrepreneurs receive technical product and business development support, which includes one on one mentoring, prototyping, commercialisation, and financial support, where required.
SAB KickStart Ignite is a 6-month programme which acts as a pipeline of entrepreneurs for more advanced programmes such as SAB KickStart Boost.
The Boost programme backs entrepreneurs with existing and emerging businesses in key industries. As a result, these businesses are encouraged to grow into sustainable businesses that create jobs in their surrounding communities.
The entrepreneurship programme consists of a 12-month course that includes assistance from operational processes and tools to business skills support and more. Capitalising on these skills will help take businesses to the next level.
For more information about SAB KickStart and its entry requirements, visit: https://www.sabentrepreneurship.co.za/kickstart
The SAB Foundation invests in entrepreneurs and social innovators – with an emphasis on services and products that benefit women, youth, people living in rural areas and persons living with disabilities – who show the potential and commitment to grow their businesses and create jobs.
SAB Foundation is an independent trust that was created in 2010. The foundation annually invests millions of rands towards developing entrepreneurship in South Africa and ensuring that low-income communities are uplifted.
SAB Foundation has two major focus areas, one being entrepreneurship and the other is social innovation.
“If you take a bucket that has holes, you can put water in that bucket, the bucket will never fill up with water. Through the SAB programme one was actually brought to understand that you need to start by plugging in the holes first for the business to grow.” – William Dhlongolo
Applications open once a year to recruit around 877 businesses.
Within the SAB Foundation, the Social Innovation Awards are held. These recognise the work of entrepreneurs who find innovative solutions to challenges facing some of South Africa’s most vulnerable people.
The work could include a product or a process that proves to be original and innovative within the category. You will also be required to prove that you have spent time and/or money developing your piece of work.
We define social innovation as innovation that demonstrates a sustainable business model while solving a social problem, with emphasis on innovation that benefits women, youth, people living in rural areas and people living with disabilities.
Applications for 2017 are currently closed and will re-open in 2018. They are open to all South African citizens of 18 years or older.
For more entry requirement information about the SAB Foundation Fund, visit: https://www.sabentrepreneurship.co.za/foundation
SAB Accelerator is focused on supporting black-owned suppliers in need of business development and technical support to grow further into the SAB supply chain.
The SAB Accelerator programme has 3 sub-programmes namely, Start-up, Catalyst and Amplify.
The Start-up and Catalyst programmes screen all potential suppliers to identify business gaps and provide the required support to enhance businesses. The suppliers are then taken through a 2-5-month programme, involving a variety of mentoring, training, and project management. Once this is complete they either graduate into the Amplify programme or graduate from the programme entirely depending on how they performed.
The Amplify programme provides additional business development support to the graduates of the Start-up and Catalyst programmes and takes place over a period of 3 months. Upon completion of the programme, applicants exit and are monitored on a bi-annual basis, for a period of 5 years to analyse their progress.
To find out more about the entry requirements for SAB Accelerator, visit: https://www.sabentrepreneurship.co.za/suppliers
The SAB Thrive Fund, is a fund focused on supporting existing black-owned suppliers in need of capital to grow and the need for improvements on their black ownership credentials by providing them with access to 100% black-owned capital.
The SAB Thrive Fund is an Enterprise & Supplier Development (E&SD) Fund powered by the Awethu Project, which is the Black Private Equity Fund Manager that owns a majority of the Fund (51%) – enabling this intervention to speak to both the spirit and the letter of the B-BBEE codes by creating shared value for both SAB and black-owned businesses.
The SAB Thrive Fund has been divided into two main parts:
The existing black-owned suppliers – which The SAB Thrive Fund can invest growth equity capital into in order to further their profitable expansion into the SAB supply chain, without diluting the black-ownership of these businesses.
The existing white-owned suppliers – which the fund also provides equity capital to, in order to support the enhancement of their black-ownership, while facilitating the introduction of a black entrepreneurs to gain an ownership stake in their business.
To find out more about the requirements for the SAB Thrive Fund visit: https://www.sabentrepreneurship.co.za/suppliers
Where Should You Begin?
It goes without saying that the right people on your team make all this possible. But this is a topic for another day.
When I first started what was to become IndieFin, I really didn’t know where to begin. I had been granted a tiny bit of funding – enough to last about a year – on the basis that I could figure out how to reinvent financial services for the digital generation.
The initial challenges were plentiful. My experience with technology was exclusively as a user. So, I had close to zero knowledge on how to execute anything that I dreamed up. I also was very aware that the financial services industry had a reputation for offering awful customer experiences, so the bar there was very low. And finally, having spent a good few years working on developing financial products in the industry, I realised the opportunities to improve on the industry’s products were vast.
While this sounds like a fairly ideal situation for an entrepreneur, and while I feel very grateful for the opportunity, the real challenge was that there were simply so many things that could be built, all of which would present radical improvements on the status quo.
A couple of us sat in a room and started putting ideas down on a white board. We went wild, and kept coming up with more and more great ideas. In fact, we came up with both a very compelling retail investment proposition, as well as what turned out to be our insurance proposition.
What this exercise revealed, was that ideas alone are pretty useless. And, too many ideas can paralyse you.
Our small team got stuck in that trap, which was made worse because we didn’t (yet) have the skills to bring any of those ideas to life.
We wasted a good few months (and some money) simply working on the details of multiple ideas. We were generating lots of documentation, and a few pretty pictures, and truly believed we were making progress.
In reality, we were running on the spot. Things changed with the addition of some new talent – who brought with them a completely different approach and complementary skillsets. This combination of people changed how we were doing things, for the better, and we managed to launch something into the market a few months later.
If I could take out the key lessons from this early stage of our business, they are:
- Choose one thing to do, and focus all your energy on doing it. This does not mean you throw out the other good ideas… but put them on the “not yet” pile.
- If it’s going to take you longer than three months to build and deliver your one thing to the market, it’s still too big. Strip it down to its core, until you can confidently build it and ship it within a quarter. This may feel like you are watering down your idea, and maybe you are. However, working to a longer timeline than this will stall you, with the risk of never getting anything shipped.
- Launch what’s ready. You will know what can still be done to make it better. It’s scary to launch something that is nowhere near your mental picture of what it can and will be. Do it anyway.
- Be ready to learn. The best market research you can conduct is with real people using something you’ve built in the real world. Sure, you run the risk of brutal feedback (and perhaps it’s because it was launched early), but the free lessons you learn will be priceless in developing version 1.2 and 1.3 and 1.4.
Fear is your enemy at this stage of the business. Personally, I needed others to challenge that natural fear, and push “go”. And I’m glad I did. Most of what we built in the early versions of the product releases were not even on our original roadmap. The stuff we have built since launching, and which we are still going to build, have been inspired by our customers and the lessons we have learnt in launching something incomplete.
It goes without saying that the right people on your team make all this possible. But this is a topic for another day.
4 Things Your Start-Up Needs When It Opens An Office
There are certain things you should definitely ensure your office has. If not before you move in, then as soon as you can set it up.
So, your start-up is finally up and running. You’ve been dreaming about this moment for as long as you can remember. And now you have clients or customers, a small team of dedicated employees and you’re turning a decent profit. Which means it’s time to move out of your garage and into a proper office.
You don’t want your staff filling up your personal space at home. Your garage, although creatively decorated, simply is no longer big enough. Plus, there simply isn’t enough parking on your street. It’s time you go from a bunch of youngsters with a big idea to a proper business with a premises you’re not afraid to invite clients to.
But, first, you need to choose this office and it’s that’s not a task you should take lightly. Obviously, you want to keep that creative startup vibe you’ve worked so hard to build up, so a space in a corporate office block isn’t going to work for you. You need to choose something that conveys your independent nature and inspiration-led work ethic.
However, there are certain things you should definitely ensure your office has. If not before you move in, then as soon as you can set it up.
At least one boardroom
You and your employees may be all about a “shared space” where everyone knows what everyone else is up to. But, unfortunately, it’s time to face the fact that you’re going to need at least one boardroom in your new office. Why? Because you will now be hosting clients and investors and they will want to discuss their wants, needs and expectations in a quiet place where they can hear themselves think.
Of course, this boardroom doesn’t have to look like it belongs in a big corporate office. You can decorate however you want. If you want to give the appearance of transparency with your staff, so they don’t freak out every time you drag all your senior employees into the room, you can always have glass walls that are easy to see through.
You’ll also want to incorporate some impressive tech into your boardroom to wow your clients and investors. Interactive whiteboards and touchscreen tablets at each seating place will give the appearance that you have, literally, got technology at your fingertips.
Security you can trust
And with all the tech that comes with owning a startup, you’ll want security to protect all your assets. This is not an area where you can afford to skimp on costs and save money.
If you’re in an office park of sorts (the kind that still allows you to keep your creative vibe), there’s probably already a security guard doing the rounds regularly. However, it’s up to you to ensure you can monitor who enters and exits your premises.
A great way to do this is with a fingerprint scanner at your front door or a tag system. Just make sure you take ex-employees off the system as soon as they leave and are able to add new employees just as quickly.
Now you need to focus on internal monitoring. A video wall controller paired with strategically placed cameras around the office is always a good idea. That way if there’s ever an incident, it can be caught in real time and even recorded for later use as evidence.
You’re investing a lot of money in your business assets as well as your space, so it’s important you’re able to protect everything and everyone.
A kitchen with all the necessary appliances
Yes, you’re going to need somewhere for your employees to make that coffee they need in order to work like the rockstar machines they are. But you’re also going to need a place for them to store their lunch, heat up food and even make food if necessary.
This is especially important if there’s nowhere near your office for them to purchase food. And if you want people to socialise while they eat, make sure your kitchen is big enough for a giant table where everyone can eat together. If that’s not possible, try setting aside space inside the office or even outside the office.
Space for people to move around
As a start-up made up of young people with bright ideas and a collaborative working style, you will likely want to have an open plan office. And that’s great. However, you have to ensure there’s enough space for everyone to move around.
Your team will eventually grow, so you can’t simply create space for the staff you have. You don’t people feeling cramped and uncomfortable.
It’s time for your start-up to move out of your garage and into your own office space. But that doesn’t mean you have to let go of that creative environment you’ve worked so hard to cultivate.
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