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10 Inspirational African Entrepreneurs

The spirit of entrepreneurship burns bright in Africa, despite the socio-economic challenges faced by a number of self-starters. These ten entrepreneurs are leading the charge when it comes to accelerating Africa’s seeding as a destination for investment.

Nicole Crampton

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

Cephas-Nshimyumuremyi

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.

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

Oh-Lief

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.

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

Abasiama Idaresit manages being ahead of the curve

Abasiama-Idaresit

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.

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

Divine-Ndhlukula

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

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

Chris-Kirubi

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.”

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

Jacky-Goliath

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

Christine Mbabazi show us how to profit off your own talent

Christine-Mbabazi

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.

Patrick Ngowi believes; if opportunity knocks, answer

Patrick Ngowi

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

Zainab Ashadu reveals how profitability can come from your roots

Zainab-Ashadu

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.

Alex Fourie reveals how to turn skills into profitability

Alex-Fourie

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 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.

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Lessons Learnt

7 Cannabis Industry Millionaires Making It Big In The Marijuana Business

These entrepreneurs have capitalised on a new market set to continue to grow rapidly as more countries legalise marijuana across the world.

Catherine Bristow

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1. Brendan Kennedy

brendan-kennedy

Brendan Kennedy worked on job sites as a carpenter to pay his way through university, with his eyes set firmly on becoming an architect, until the allure of Silicon Valley changed the course of his direction. While working at technology start-ups Kennedy began thinking about the possibilities that medical marijuana provided.

“I was really sceptical of medical cannabis,” he says. “It took a year of having conversations with patients and physicians and hearing the same story, repackaged but essentially the same, over and over and over again, where my scepticism eroded and I became a believer.”

In 2013, Kennedy and his partners applied for a licence from Health Canada and launched Lafitte Ventures, which was later renamed Tilray. Today, the company is a global leader in medical cannabis research, cultivation, processing and distribution.

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Lessons Learnt

Scaleup Learnings From Our Top Clients – What The Most Successful Entrepreneurs Do Right

So, how do our successful clients move through these constraints to scaling up? We see four key drivers of success, and they are: people, strategy, flawless execution and finance.

Louw Barnardt

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You’re out of your start-up boots, staff is increasing, your client base is growing, revenue is up and you’ve proven your case to the market. Now it’s time to scale up. The challenges of this vital growth phase are different and it’s a time that demands different mindsets and different actions. In a world littered with small business failures, it helps to be well-prepared for scaling up using a proven methodology. At Outsourced CFO, we get an inside look at the success factors of our clients who are mastering the transition.

On the one hand, scaling up is a really exciting phase; this is what moves you into real job creation and making an impactful contribution to economic growth. On the other hand, it is really hard to scale up successfully. We see three major constraints that limit companies’ transition from start-up to scale-up:

Leadership

The business has to have the leadership that can take it to the next level. When you start scaling up, especially rapidly, the founders can no longer do everything themselves. The team must grow and include new leadership talent that can take charge and execute so that the founders are working on the business instead of in the business.

Infrastructure

The processes, procedures, networks, systems and workflows of the business all need to be scalable. This is imperative when it comes to your infrastructure for the financial management of your business. You’re only ready for growth when your infrastructure can seamlessly keep pace.

Market access

Scaling up demands more innovative marketing and storytelling so that you can more easily connect and engage with the new employees, clients, network partners, investors and mentors that need to come along with you on your scale-up journey.

Businesses that build a market conversation and a compelling brand narrative during their start-up phase are better positioned to have this kind of market access when they need to scale up.

People

It is critical to have the right people on your team. Our successful entrepreneurs have what it takes to attract, inspire and retain top talent. A strong team of smart, ambitious and purpose-driven people who love the company and want to see it succeed contribute greatly to a world class company culture. They are adept at communicating a compelling vision and establishing core values that people can take on. These entrepreneurs are tuned into the aspirations of their people and focus on developing leaders in their teams who can in turn develop more leaders.

Strategy

It is planning that ensures that the right things are happening at the right times. At successful scale-ups strategies and action plans are devised to ensure that the most important thing always remains the most important thing.

Strategy includes input from all team members and setting of good priorities for the short, medium and long term. Goals are clear and everyone always knows what they are working towards. The needle is continuously moved because 90-day action plans are implemented each quarter to achieve targets and goals that are over and above people doing their daily jobs.

Flawless execution

Top entrepreneurs are not just focused on what operations need to achieve, but how the business operates. They have the right procedures, processes and tools in place so that everyone can deliver along the line on the company’s brand promise. Frequent, quick successive meetings ensure the rapid flow of effective communication. Problems are solved without drama. There is no chaos in the office environment. Everyone is empowered to execute flawlessly to an array of consistently happy clients.

Finance

Everyone knows that growth burns cash. A rapidly scaling business faces the challenge of needing a scalable financial infrastructure to keep the company healthy. Our successful entrepreneurs pay close attention to finance as the heartbeat of the business, ensuring that everything else functions. They look at the tech they are using for financial management and for the ways that their financial systems can be automated so that they can be brought rapidly to scale. The capital to grow is another vital finance issue.

The best way to finance a business is through paying clients on the shortest possible cash flow cycle. However, when you are scaling up and making heavier investments in the resources you need for growth, it is likely that you will need a workable plan for raising capital. Our scale-up clients know the value of accessing innovative financial management that provides high level services to drive their business growth.

Navigating the scale-up journey of a growing private company is one of the hardest but most rewarding of careers to pursue. Having people in your corner who have been through this journey before helps take a lot of pain out of the process. No growth journey looks the same, but there are tried and tested methods that will – if applied diligently – lead to definite success. Happy scaling!

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Lessons Learnt

That Time Jeff Bezos Was The Stupidest Person In The Room

Everyone can benefit from simple advice, no matter who they are.

Gene Marks

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When you think of Jeff Bezos, a lot of things probably come to your mind.

You likely think of Amazon.com, a company he founded more than twenty years ago, that’s completely disrupted retail and online commerce as we know it. You probably also think of his entrepreneurial genius. Or the immense wealth that he’s built for himself and others. You may also think of drones, Alexa and same-day delivery. Bezos is a visionary, an entrepreneur, a cutthroat competitor and a game changer. He’s unquestionably a very, very smart man. But sometimes, he can be…well…stupid, too.

Like that time back in 1995.

That was when Amazon was just a startup operating from a 2,000 square foot basement in Seattle. During that period, Bezos and most of the handful of employees working for him had other day jobs. They gathered in the office after hours to print and pack up the orders that their fast-growing bookselling site was receiving each day from around the world. It was tough, grueling work.

The company at the time, according to a speech Bezos gave, had no real organisation or distribution. Worse yet, the process of filling orders was physically demanding.

“We were packing on our hands and knees on a hard concrete floor,” Bezos recalled. “I said to the person next to me ‘this packing is killing me! My back hurts, it’s killing my knees’ and the person said ‘yeah, I know what you mean.'”

Related: Jeff Bezos: 9 Remarkable Choices That Shaped The Richest Man In The World

Bezos, our hero, the entrepreneurial genius, the CEO of a now 600,000-employee company that’s worth around a trillion dollars and one of the richest men in the world today then came up with what he thought was a brilliant idea. “You know what we need,” he said to the employee as they packed boxes together. “What we need is…kneepads!”

The employee (Nicholas Lovejoy, who worked at Amazon for three years before founding his own philanthropic organisation financed by the millions he made from the company’s stock) looked at Bezos like he was — in Bezos’ words — the “stupidest guy in the room.”

“What we need, Jeff,” Lovejoy said, “are a few packing tables.” Duh.

So the next day Bezos – after acknowledging Lovejoy’s brilliance – bought a few inexpensive packing tables. The result? An almost immediate doubling in productivity. In his speech, Bezos said that the story is just one of many examples how Amazon built its customer-centered service culture from the company’s very early days. Perhaps that’s true. Then again, it could mean something else.

It could mean that sometimes, just sometimes, those successful, smart, wealthy and powerful people may not be as brilliant as you may think. Nor do they always have the right answers. Sometimes, just sometimes, they may actually be the stupidest guy in the room. So keep that in mind the next time you’re doing business with an intimidating customer, supplier or partner who appears to know it all. You might be the one with the brilliant idea.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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