10 Inspirational African Entrepreneurs

10 Inspirational African Entrepreneurs

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10Cephas Nshimyumuremyi says to be successful is to do what you know

Image credit: CNN

“Don’t think that you need a lot of capital. Start with a little, but use the knowledge and the environment that you already have.”

Vital Stats:

  • Entrepreneur: Cephas Nshimyumuremyi
  • Business: Uburanga
  • Website: uburanga.com
  • Start-up story: Cephas Nshimyumuremyi used his salary from teaching to fund his venture.
  • Growth: In seven months his business was worth R280 000 the equivalent of Rwf14 million.

Cephas Nshimyumuremyi always wanted to be an entrepreneur but he knew his teaching salary wasn’t going to be enough to fulfil his dreams.

He saw a business opportunity when he became aware that the Rwandan people were attempting to use local plants for skin infections and to improve skin quality.

Nshimyumuremyi decided to use his science background and his knowledge of Rwanda’s local plants to create his company, Uburanga Products to create herbal smearing jellies and soaps out of local medicinal plants. He started his production line in his garage.

His products filled a need in the market because Rwandans were already using these plants in its raw form. As a result, Nshimyumuremyi created a more versatile and user-friendly product that he could distribute around the country. He wanted the benefits from the properties of these medicinal plants to reach a larger audience.

Today the venture is worth R432 000 and he employs 12 workers. In the next three years Nshimyumuremyi plans to release a further eight products. This will give him a total of 12 products and make him a profit of R834 000, this may not seem a lot in rand but in Rwandan Francs it’s roughly Rwf45 million.

9Christine Buchanan and Louiza Rademan let their passion make them a success

Image credit: ohlief.co.uk

“We have a big vision for our brand – we would like to be the number one organic household brand in South Africa.”

Vital Stats:

  • Entrepreneurs: Christine Buchanan and Louiza Rademan
  • Business: Oh-Lief
  • Website: www.ohlief.com
  • Start-up story: Christine Buchanan and Louiza Rademan founded their business in 2010.
  • Growth: They sell internationally, while 25 leading Woolworth’s stores carry their products locally.

When Christine Buchanan had her first child, a son, he suffered from intolerable nappy rash and she couldn’t find a natural product to help soothe him. Christine’s sister Louiza Rademan concocted a nappy rash balm for him and it worked wonders. Buchanan then began selling the balm to other mom’s in her maternity classes and they swarmed to the product.

 

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Buchanan and Rademan, then realising they had stumbled upon a business opportunity, decided to take their enjoyment for making lotions and balms to the next level. They quit their senior positions in the property sector to follow their passion for creating products using only natural ingredients.

Their first attempt at selling their product happened at a three-day trade show. They sold out 100 tubs of the nappy rash balm on the first day; they went home, made 100 more and sold all of those on day two. They worked through the night to make 100 more for the third day where they sold out again.

Buchanan and Rademan’s products are now sold internationally and are carried by leading retailers including Woolworths. These sisters are so successful because they control all aspects of their business. They realised that taking on the world with a niche product requires ingenuity and innovative marketing.

Related: Meet The 40 Richest Self-Made Entrepreneurs On Earth

8Abasiama Idaresit manages being ahead of the curve

Abasiama Idaresit

“We must inspire our kinsmen to look beyond the now and to see the big picture. If we don’t roll up our sleeves and get dirty, no one else will.”

Vital Stats:

  • Entrepreneur: Abasiama Idaresit
  • Business: Wild Fusions
  • Website: wildfusions.com
  • Start-up story: Abasiama Idaresit started his company in 2010 with as little as USD250.
  • Growth: Six years later his company, Wild Fusion is worth USD6 million.

Abasiama Idaresit didn’t make any money for the first eight months. He was chased out of a potential client’s office for his outrageous concept. Digital marketing was almost unheard of in Nigeria at the time.

Idaresit approached Baby M, a small business that catered to the needs of new mothers and their babies. Baby M had a network of sales agents who searched for customers on a daily basis to make ends meet. Idaresit finally managed to convince Baby M, his first customer, to give him a chance by offering a money back guarantee if he didn’t give the company a return on investment.

Baby M gave him N40 000(roughly USD250) as payment in advance so that Idaresit could work his magic. In three months Baby M’s revenue grew from USD1000 a month to USD100 000 a month through digital marketing. The business was immediately overwhelmed with orders.

Now Wild Fusion spans three countries and boasts clients like Unilever (Nigeria and Ghana), Vodacom, Diamond Bank, Planned Parenthood and many more African and international clients.

7Divine Ndhlukula shows us how to keep hustling until you make it

Divine Ndhlukula

“My quest to start and run my own company never dissipated and therefore, even as I was back at work, I started investigating the various opportunities that I could see and think of.”

Vital Stats:

  • Entrepreneur: Divine Ndhlukula
  • Business: SECURICO
  • Website: www.securico.co.zw
  • Start-up story: Ndhlukula founded SECURICO in her cottage with four employees.
  • Growth: The organisation has won over 20 major national and regional awards and Divine Ndhlukula becoming a living African business legend after she won African Woman of the Year 2013.

Divine Ndhlukula always had an entrepreneurial passion; she would sell clothing to her colleagues and rent out trucks to construction companies to make a little extra money. She was always on the lookout for her next entrepreneurial opportunity.

But, her entrepreneurial momentum was side tracked. Her brother fell on hard times and she had to sell all her budding enterprises to save him from bankruptcy. She had to go work with her brother on his farm to keep it afloat and almost lost her house while trying to keep the farm afloat.

Once she returned to work she became aware of an entrepreneurial opportunity to branch into the security services sector. She decided to enter into this sector because of how she, as a customer, experienced the sector. Ndhlukula found that the security sector lacked the professionalism, quality and services that a number of businesses required.

Although she didn’t have a passion for security, she had a passion for business. So with almost no capital and no knowledge of security she started her business with a determination to succeed.

SECURICO is now one of Zimbabwe’s largest security groups and has partnerships in South Africa, China and India. Ndhlukula’s business has developed into a world-class security service organisation.

Related: 10 Successful SA Women Entrepreneurs’ Top Advice On Balancing Work And Family

6Chris Kirubi shares his secrets to success; hard work and out of the box thinking

Chris Kirubi

“Business is always a struggle. There are always obstacles and competitors. There is never an open road, except the wide road that leads to failure. Every great success is always achieved with fight. Every winner has scars.”

Vital Stats:

  • Entrepreneur: Chris Kirubi
  • Business: Director at Centum Investment Company Limited
  • Website: centum.co.ke
  • Start-up story: Chris Kirubi started out by buying and flipping houses.
  • Growth: The Kenyan entrepreneur has built an empire spanning real estate, manufacturing and investments, which has made him one of the wealthiest people in Africa.

Chris Kirubi decided to make extra money by purchasing and selling houses. He used the money he made from flipping houses to invest in some of the city’s finest up-and-coming business and residential organisations. He started out with a clever profit making scheme and investment strategy, but now he is an icon of the Kenyan property industry

Today, Kirubi owns more than 40 commercial and residential properties in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. These properties have a total value of USD200 million and Kirubi owns assets worth USD100 million.

“I rise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world,” admits Kirubi. “This makes it hard to plan the day. But because I want to achieve my purpose and make a difference in society, I will stop focusing on the frightful things I see when I take my eyes off my goals and instead fix them there.”

5Jacky Goliath and Elton Jefthas grew their business by exploiting a gap in the market

Jacky Goliath

“None of us came from rich families so we had to grow it out of our own pocket and I also had to wait for the business to be big enough to actually pay my salary.”

Vital Stats:

  • Entrepreneurs: Jacky Goliath and Elton Jefthas
  • Business: De Fynne nursery
  • Website: www.defynne.co.za
  • Start-up story: Started as a part-time activity with 1 000 plants.
  • Growth: Today it is a 22 hectare farm and the business is still growing.

Jacky Goliath and Elton Jefthas’ story begins when they spotted a business opportunity in selling fynbos. Their part-time business of selling and growing fynbos and indigenous plants was run out of Jefthas’ backyard, but it couldn’t keep up with the market demand. Once their side job paid more than their actually jobs they decided to create De Fynne nursery.

Goliath and Jefthas eventually moved their nursery from the backyard to a 0.5 hectare piece of land in 2005. Three years later they needed additional space to keep up with growing demand and to host 600 000 plants, so they moved once more to a 1.5 hectare property.

Today, they employ 22 permanent workers and produce indigenous potted plants, fruit trees and other ornamentals for the local horticultural and agricultural industry. To keep up with the constantly growing demand they had to move to a commercial-grade 22-hectare site.

De Fynne nursery now supplies plants to retailers such as Woolworths, Massmart and Spar, as well as landscapers, commercial farmers and wine estates

Related: Reel Gardening Warns That Innovation Is Never Easy

4Christine Mbabazi show us how to profit off your own talent

Christine Mbabazi

“My friends saw me and saw I was uniquely dressed at parties, weddings and even at work. So the word spread and the demand grew.”

Vital Stats:

  • Entrepreneur: Christine Mbabazi
  • Start-up story: Christine Mbabazi started her fashion journey making clothing for herself.
  • Growth: Her clothes were featured during the Rwanda Cultural Fashion Show.

Christine Mbabazi’s journey began when she decided to make her own clothes so she could look unique and interesting. Her friends saw her designs and convinced her to start selling them. Soon clients would come knocking on her door, asking for her creations.

Eventually Mbabazi had to expand into a store to keep up with the orders. She is still in the early stages of her world domination, but that is exactly what she plans to do. She is strategising to become a household name in Rwanda, and sell her clothing all over the world.

“The brand is promoting African fabric and African designs, with my creativity, and developing it for the rest of the world,” says Mbabazi.

3Patrick Ngowi believes; if opportunity knocks, answer

Patrick Ngowi

“It was a business on the side, nothing serious, but I loved the fact that I was making money and I was becoming a bit independent. The very foundation of the little success I’ve achieved was formed during those years. I learned about profit and loss, about margins, about marketing and hiring the right people– I learned so many things at that stage.”

Vital Stats:

  • Entrepreneur: Patrick Ngowi
  • Business: Helvetic Solar Contractors
  • Website: www.helvetic-group.com
  • Start-up story: Started as an entrepreneur at the age of 15, earning money on the side during high school.
  • Growth: Ngowi is now Chairman of the United Nations Global Compact in Tanzania.

During his gap year, Patrick Ngowi discovered that cell phones in Asia were cheaper to buy than in Tanzania. Ngowi bought cell phones from low-cost manufacturers and sold them to the Tanzania’s gadget enthusiasts for a profit. At the tender age of 18, Ngowi’s first start-up made USD150 000.

At the time, Tanzania’s national power grid met about 10% of the population’s electricity needs. This meant that most companies, government agencies and wealthy families depended on electrical generators. While Ngowi was selling low cost cell phones and traveling back and forth from Hong Kong and China he learnt about solar panels and renewable energy.

He realised another business opportunity had presented itself and Ngowi wasn’t going to let this one pass either. He founded Helvetic Solar Contractors, to help Tanzania manage its energy crisis. Ngowi’s little start-up went on to become the Helvetic Group. This company would go on to install 6000 rooftop solar systems and branch out into Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

Helvetic Group partnered with The Climate Reality Project and Ngowi spoke alongside Al Gore at the first ever Climate Reality Leadership Corps in Africa.

Related: Fake It ‘Til You Make It: How These 10 Entrepreneurs Did Just That

2Zainab Ashadu reveals how profitability can come from your roots

Zainab Ashadu

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to dream big, but start small.”

Vital Stats:

  • Entrepreneur: Zainab Ashadu
  • Business: Zashadu
  • Website: zashadu.com
  • Start-up story: Zainab Ashadu started her business in 2011 out of a tiny workshop
  • Growth: Her company now sells her handbags locally and internationally.

Zainab Ashadu started a sustainable luxury handbag company, which specialises in handcrafted leather pieces. Ashadu uses locally sourced materials including leather, exotic skins and rough cut semi-precious stones.

Ashadu produces her luxury handbags out of a workshop where her team is able to benefit from traditional techniques passed down through generations, by a community of local artisans.

She sells her handbags via her company’s website and supplies products to a selected number of boutiques. Ashadu’s brand has spread internationally to London, Paris and the USA, elevating awareness of Nigeria’s beautiful craftsmanship.

1Alex Fourie reveals how to turn skills into profitability

Alex Fourie

“Initially, it was when I was solving my own problem. Then it was when I posted my first CapeAds ad and my phone rang 15 times on the first day. I thought that there might be a business here.”

Vital Stats:

  • Entrepreneur: Alex Fourie
  • Business: weFix
  • Website: ifix.co.za
  • Start-up story: Alex Fourie started his entrepreneurial journey with no capital.
  • Growth: Now the company has 11 stores across South Africa.

Fourie’s entrepreneurial journey started when he wanted to fix his iPod. Eventually, his friends started coming to him for help with the same problems he’d experienced and soon he was repairing devices out of his dorm room in Stellenbosch.

Today, his weFix national chain of stores repair on average 10 000 Apple and Samsung products a month. As a result of the high influx of tech related customers, the weFix stores now host in-house product lines. These stylish wooden device casings and accessories are branded Houdt. The weFix stores also host mobile charging stations called RiCharge. Fourie exports both product lines into 12 African countries.

He also offers iSureFix, an affordable protection plan for Apple products and uFix, a DIY Apple repair kit. Fourie believes: “Excellence isn’t a result of one or two good decisions. “It’s a result of thousands of small, good decisions. A bunch of above-average decisions will culminate over time. Everything you do, do it well and the rest will sort itself out.”

 Read more on Alex Fourie Here.

Nicole Crampton
Nicole Crampton is an online writer for Entrepreneur Magazine. She has studied a BA Journalism at Monash South Africa. Nicole has also completed several courses in writing and online marketing.