Editorial – Do what you love to do!

What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between, he does what he wants to do. – Bob Dylan

What did you want to be when you grow up? A pilot? A doctor? A teacher? An astronaut?

As kids, we all had professions and careers we admired and most of us grew with that interest. We saw ourselves doing what we love when we grow up. So what happened? Are you doing what you love?

READ ALSO: Top tips for starting your own business

Presently, most people are inclined to do what society perceives to be the ‘best professions’. So you will find a great teacher playing doctor in an operating room or a talented photographer in a bank (Square pegs in round holes!).

We need to get to that point where we are bold enough to venture into careers not necessarily because they fetch more money but because that is what we love to do. That is how entrepreneurship is born.

If people do more of what they love to do, there would be a lower rate of unemployment in Africa.

In this edition, we tell the story of a teacher who quits his job in an international school to work as a photographer due to his love for the lens.

We also interview an MBA (Marketing) graduate who ends up creating one of the most competitive online human resource and recruitment businesses, due to his love for ICT and human relations.

That is what BizzAfrica is aimed at – encouraging young people to be creative with what they love to do, and creating jobs from them. 

The love could be for cooking, drawing, photography, dancing, acting, etc. It is possible to make money from what you love; that is how Facebook, Koko King et al began.

We at BizzAfrica tell the stories of entrepreneurs so that others can also be inspired by them. In this edition we also showcase a list of top Ghanaian entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and many more.

You can also break some ice with the crossword puzzle, short story, and some jokes.

Have a fun time flipping through these colourful pages. Bon lisant!

Contact me: praba@bizzafrica.com

READ ALSO: 7 serious mistakes startups make

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Top tips for starting your own business

With youth unemployment at record highs, one way for young people to get a job is to start their own business.

Instead of waiting for someone else to hire you, why not set up a company and employ yourself?

But how do you launch a business during an economic downturn?

READ ALSO: Intellectual Property: Protecting your idea

Lesson 1: Hard Times Are Good Times To Start A Business

The way the start-up entrepreneurs tell it, it is tricky to start a business at any time – not just during a recession – but their particular business idea is so niche, so focused, and so special that they shrug off the gloom and just get on with it.

And his friends identified a consumer need – The upside of starting a business during a downturn is that things can only get better as the economic climate improves, and you will have learned an awful lot in the difficult times that you can use in the easier ones.

Steve Barnes, of the start-up internet fast food delivery service Appetise.com, says he has only known economic gloom, but that has not stopped him. “I don’t know what a boom feels like, to be honest. I don’t really know what to expect”.

“When you’ve got such a small start-up business I don’t think it is really going to be affected at all. There are plenty of opportunities in a recession.”

But what should your business actually do?

Lesson 2: Focus On The Ideas Staring You In The Face

Lots of people go about finding their niche by using business school tools such as market analysis or sector research. Clever, but remote.

Why not start a business based on a need you yourself have, that is not properly addressed by existing suppliers?

You experience the gap in the marketplace, and you fill it: easy-peasy. University campuses are full of ideas for businesses. For example, David Langer was at Oxford University when he co-founded Group Spaces.

It started as a service for Oxford University clubs, and is designed to make life easy for secretaries and treasurers trying to do admin for clubs, societies, and hobby groups. Group Spaces now has two million users worldwide, helping club administrators in more than 100 countries. The company employs 10 people, working near East London’s start-up hub Silicon Roundabout and has recently raised £1m ($1.54m) in investment. The fast-food delivery service Appetise.com was an idea borne by students from Warwick University which has now gone UK-wide.

“It was purely to solve a problem that we had as students,” says co-founder Steve Barnes.

“Trying to order a take-away, we used to order in groups of 10 or 20 people and trying to organize that over the telephone is a bit of a nightmare.

“Whereas now everyone can sit down individually at the computer, place their order and then submit it all in one order and it’s very easy to see an itemized bill to see who owes what.”

Keep it simple, and answer an in-your-face need. If you have got the need, and the idea, then come the operational problems – but even they are less daunting than they used to be.

Lesson 3: You Already Have The Tools You Need

Most homes and most students are already equipped with quite a lot of the tools any business needs to reach a worldwide audience from day one. Computer power is so cheap that many school or university leavers have their own machines, with processing power unimaginable a few years ago.

Laptops can edit sound or movies, design software, and keep track of all the details of a start-up business at minimal cost.

Internet connectivity allows a start-up entrepreneur to collaborate with video conferencing at almost no cost, an extraordinary breakthrough.

The internet also enables a new business to reach a specific, even worldwide marketplace with a minimal outlay.

Clever viral marketing can pull in curious customers seduced by ingenuity alone. And very young people are often instinctively able to use the new technology that makes all this happen. They already know things that great big companies have to pay specialists huge sums to get done.

Lesson 4: Cash Is King

Now, what about funding?

Starting any kind of business always used to need money: from savings, relatives, angel investors or a bank loan. The latter is reputedly horribly difficult at the moment. For several reasons, including the technology mentioned above, not having pots of cash is now much less of a problem than it used to be. Several of the start-up entrepreneurs I have met needed only credit-card loans to get their businesses up and running – a potentially costly route, mind.

Warren Bennett, 30, is co-founder of the bespoke tailoring service A Suit That Fits – now 6 years old, the company sells around 15,000 suits a year. Warren had the idea while volunteering as a teacher in Nepal, where he had stumbled on a good local tailoring business. Back home in the UK, Warren and a friend started what he says was the world’s first online bespoke suit-making business.

The company now has studios across the UK for people to drop into to have measurements taken for a suit that is made thousands of miles away in Nepal. A Suit That Fits was funded solely through credit cards and by asking customers to pay in advance. It is a business that lives off cash-flow, not bank borrowings.

Not having to depend on outside investors also means the founders get to keep a full stake in the business they founded. And there are many businesses devised around generating a cash flow that finances the rest of the company’s operations – asking for up-front money from customers that can be used to pay suppliers and manufacturers later on.

Positive cash-flow is a business wonder: funding your business expansion out of cash flow is even more wonderful. But not always.

One Internet start-up founder told me what they say in Silicon Valley, USA: if you are making a profit you are not growing fast enough. You should be gobbling up investors’ money to fund your hell-for-leather growth.

Lesson 5: Tell Your Story

Whether you are pitching to a potential sponsor, mentor or customer, it helps to tell a good story. In my experience, young entrepreneurs know how to tell a story, both their own and that of the business they have set up and the needs it is trying to address – plus the adventures they have had on the way.

Arnold Sebutinde, aged 27, from Birmingham runs Spontaneous Portraits. His story, which helped him get funding and a mentor from the Prince’s Trust, is compelling. Arnold got into trouble, and spent two and a half years in prison.

While serving his sentence, he made use of his talent for drawing and started to sell portraits of inmates and their visitors, for £2.50 a time. After being released, he continued to build his business, and posted internet videos to highlight his special talent:

“I did this to get the word out, so people would talk about me as this artist who draws with both hands.” Story-telling is a vital part of running any kind of business, but it gets neglected as companies get bigger and bigger and more and more arrogant.

Start-ups have great stories to tell.

Lesson 6: Don’t Take Too Much Notice Of These Lessons

Just get on with it!

 

Peter Day, the presenter of Radio 4’s In Business, has interviewed generations of young start-up entrepreneurs over the years, and here he summarizes the words of advice they have shared with him on taking the DIY route

Credit: BBC (19 January 2012)

READ ALSO: 7 serious mistakes startups make

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7 serious mistakes startups make

Shikhar Ghosh of the Harvard Business School opines that, “Nearly 70% of all startups fail.” If that’s not alarming, then I don’t know what it is. Even more important, it sparks a crucial question of: “What aren’t startups doing right, what is the reason they wield such high attrition rate?”

READ ALSO: 10 businesses you can start in Ghana right now

A curious bid to find answers led me to the following seven factors that, as part of a whole, could be accounting for Ghosh’s observation.

In fact, in June 2015, I designed and instructed an entrepreneurship development seminar on the exact theme: “Seven Mistakes Startups Make.”

The seven are:

Wrong Team:

Sam Walton, the iconic founder and former Chairman of Wal-Mart Stores rightly observed: “Individuals don’t win, teams do.” What is fact is that all of the world’s entrepreneurial leaders understand that, “a leader’s potential, irrespective his talent or charisma is determined by those closest to him.”

Steve Jobs built Apple courtesy the great business partnership he enjoyed from his closest friend, Steve Wozniack, a design engineer.

Bill Gates grew Microsoft, thanks to his unsung hero-friend: Paul Allen. Ken Ofori-Atta and Keli Gadzekpo for many years partnered to build one of Africa’s most innovative investment brands in Databank. Great and enduring businesses are the products of solid, mutually-benefiting partnerships.

Characteristically, wrong teams are known by the following:

  • They are led by a passionless leader;
  • Team members don’t know where the company is headed for
  • They are not aligned with the business’ goals and vision
  • They lack the relevant competence for the job
  • They dislike change
  • Its team members don’t go the extra mile for the business, amongst others

Wrong Product:

If you have a product you cannot sustain in the marketplace or your target market doesn’t respond to, then you may have to rethink the product.

Essentially, a new product has to offer customers exceptional utility at an attractive price and the company must be able to deliver it at a tidy profit, according to blue ocean strategy authors: W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne.

Also, business leaders ought to be mindful of the fact that, it is not the business of the customer that they get rewarded for their innovation; it is their responsibility to partner the customer to make their products succeed.

That requires adopting an outside-in paradigm (partnering with the needs of prospective customers) in designing products, to avoid the resistance of the market.

Not Facing Reality:

UT Group co-founder, Prince Kofi Amoabeng asserts that, “an effective business leader is one that expertly balances leading with the heart and managing with the mind”.

I observed with a lot of trepidation that too many people in our part of the world are unable to build profitable businesses owing to the fact that, they invest excesses of their hearts and little of their minds.

A leader’s job is to first define reality and then face that reality. Many start-up and even established business leaders fail to act in such decisive moments:

  • A repeatedly, under-performing and/or non-aligned team player
  • A failing or faulty product on the market
  • Dwindling sales
  • Escalating cost of operation
  • Unsold stock
  • Mounting debt

Such instances and many more in business require that entrepreneurs act decisively, swiftly and strategically.

Failing to Sell:

It’s interesting how startup entrepreneurs launch a new product and expect the product to sell itself.

Well, sorry, I am sure you know by now it doesn’t work that way. Products don’t sell themselves, not even the best products; people sell products. Methinks there is a market for anything only if you will sell it.

Thus, the challenge isn’t with whether there is something to sell but with how to sell it. Few mistakes salespersons do:

  • They lack the skill of communicating and connecting with people
  • They busily sell to family and relatives
  • They offer discounts at the slightest reaction
  • They fail to sell to strategic buyers; that is persons that go on to sell to many more

Overpricing your Product:

Even global businesses get the pricing hurdle wrong. Like it or not, pricing is key to gaining competitive value. Get it wrong and your innovation is futile. Pricing matters because it is one of the three topmost factors that influence customer’s buying decision. The other two are: brand value and peer influence.

I published a motivational newspaper about two years ago and priced it above the industry average of GHc2. Our reasons made sense, at least to us: the fact that the magazine wasn’t just another political, sports or entertainment newspaper whose content expires after at most a week.

But this ideology faced opposition from our clients who were quick to compare it to another newspaper. The reaction, amidst the fact that they did buy the product, became repetitive that we decided to align with the market’s view.

We hadn’t lost a price war; we were doing what businesspersons do: they partner the customer so as to succeed. For entry products, one proven and trusted strategy is to operate at the most efficient ratio so you can present your product at a price below the industry average whilst still delivering superior value to clients.

Poor Supervision:

In HR we contend that, “people don’t do what you expect; rather, what you inspect.” Don’t delegate work to a new hire and trust your intuition the work would be done. Confirm it, please.

Assure team members you are looking over their shoulders for a period up until when they are competent enough to handle tasks without supervision; and that ultimately, it is to groom them into capable hands that can handle any responsibility within their defined roles. Many startup entrepreneurs commit the following mistakes:

  • They delegate work to inexperienced people without proper and adequate coaching or training
  • They fail to maintain regular, informal communication with team members to assist them perform better
  • They accept any report given them without painstakingly following through to confirm or otherwise

Giving Up:

I found this to be the single biggest reason many startup entrepreneurs don’t breakthrough. They give up on the pursuit of their dreams. Sir Richard Branson posits that, “entrepreneurship is a long term endurance game.” I define entrepreneurship as a risky guess. It’s not a puzzle for the simple. It is the reserve of today’s audacious thinkers, driven by a vision of creating a better future. And hard truth is: many a time we stop at the very trajectory that leads to that breakthrough we have years fasted and prayed for. Don’t stop!

Minister David Mills is an Author, Keynote Speaker, Executive Trainer and Leadership Expert. Educated at Prempeh College, he wields an MBA from the Lord Ashcroft International Business School of Anglia Ruskin University, UK. He is President of HR & Leadership Centre, a mission-driven, graduate leadership training centre developing ethical and innovative business leaders and entrepreneurs from Africa. Contact him via: davidmillstrainings@gmail.com

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Intellectual Property Law: Protecting Your Idea

Everyone has an idea. Ideas come to us while we eat, walk, drive, sit on a bus, chat, or even dream (A friend tells me most of his ideas come to him while he’s on the toilet seat!).

Whichever way you get ideas you must protect them, especially when that idea is original and uniquely different.

READ ALSO: Trending: 10 businesses you can start in Ghana right now

Almost every idea is potentially marketable and profitable, however, if that idea remains in your thoughts and no step is taken to actualize them they remain just that – ideas. Mind you, someone may just be thinking the same thing!

Thus, it is impossible to protect your idea when it remains in your thoughts, because should someone else produce something similar to what you thought of, it would be difficult for anyone to believe that you actually thought it first…or that it was your idea that person stole.

So how do you protect an idea? Do you walk straight to the Registrar – General’s Department and demand that your thoughts be written down and registered? No! That would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it?

Our laws in Ghana do not protect ideas. To get copyright protection, your ideas must have been actualized into a definite medium of expression, like a literary or artistic work, computer software, audio – visual work or sound recording that can be perceived, reproduced or otherwise communicated.

So it could be a storybook, a song, a textile design, a movie, software and etcetera. Once the idea is put into the form of work, you are entitled protection under the law automatically, even if that work is not registered. Registration to gain copyright is not obligatory.

However, you may register your work as a way of publishing your rights to others and also to serve as evidence of ownership and authentication of your intellectual property.

Where your idea is in respect of a sign, symbol or logo that you want to use as the company’s trademark, that sign, symbol or logo must be registered in order to get protection for that trademark under the law.

Alternatively, where your idea is one that gives solution to a specific problem in the field of technology, i.e. an invention, you would require a patent. It may be a new technical device or machine which you created or probably a known device which you reinvented by adding something different.

As long as the invention is new and can be used in any kind of industry, you are eligible for protection under the law once that invention has been registered and you have been given a patent for it.

Whichever form your idea takes, it is possible to protect it.

 Ideas come easily, but getting protection for them requires extra effort. So take that extra step and get that brilliant idea protected.

Glossary:

Copyright: Right that protects creative works

Trademark: A sign or symbol that distinguishes goods and services of an entity (eg. a company) from that of another entity.

Patent: The title or certificate you receive after registering an invention

READ ALSO: Trailblazer: Meet Anne Amuzu, co-founder of Nandimobile

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Trending: 10 businesses you can start in Ghana right now

Various business opportunities exist for the keen – eyed entrepreneur. Detailed below are some ideas you could develop into a viable business venture.

  • Transport Services:

Africa’s transport network is still in its early stages of development.

Here in Ghana, the year 1927 witnessed the operation of bus services by the Accra Town Council in Accra, Kumasi, Sekondi–Takoradi and Obuasi.  

And since then, a number of companies have jumped into the fray promising speed, safety and convenience.

Bespoke services such as group transport at specified time periods, especially for corporate executives may provide a leeway for them out of the hustle and bustle of daily activities especially in areas with high population densities.

  • Agriculture:

Agriculture continues to be the mainstay of several economies in Africa, significantly contributing to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Various fruits, vegetables, cash crops and animals are traded in either for subsistence or commercial use.

Flora could be grown and packaged in their fresh state either for domestic sale or export. Fauna can also be reared, processed and packaged for the same objective. Additional services such as door – to – door delivery of such produce could set the stage for a great business prospect. 

Rainforest Alliance certified cocoa farmers for Magnum Icecream in Assin Akonfudi, Ghana.
  • Media & Entertainment:

Africa’s media and entertainment industries have experienced exponential growth in recent years. Democracy and its related “Freedoms” have led to the promulgation of a myriad of laws that protect citizens who desire to air their opinions on substantive matters that border on national interest.

Despite this boom, there exist several opportunities electronic and print media, as well as in the entertainment sector that one can tap if determined to.

With such platforms readily available, a business concept that is often overlooked could be developed and made available for all to enjoy. Such patronage would consequently stimulate the desired returns if properly exploited.

  • Leather Products:

Africans enjoy things African! Unique designs on shoes, bags, belts and other items could set the stage for a unique business enterprise.

Qualities such as durability and design, when properly marketed would make waves not just in Africa, but the world at large.

Our forests and wildlife habitats abound with several animals with beautiful skin designs.

Except those officially labeled as on the verge of extinction and as such unavailable for hunting, other species could be used for this purpose, and with the right procedures followed in this venture, one could find himself uniquely positioned to make available a product not just for local use, but for the international market as well.

  • Energy:

Energy is a global resource. Petroleum, electricity, oil, gas and other forms of energy assist in no small way in the daily lives of all and sundry.

According to the International Energy Agency, “The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Africa Energy Outlook – a Special Report in the 2014 World Energy Outlook series – offers a most comprehensive analytical study of energy in Africa, specifically in sub-Saharan Africa, the epicenter of the global challenge to overcome energy poverty.

More than 620 million people live without access to electricity and nearly 730 million people use hazardous, inefficient forms of cooking, a reliance which affects women and children disproportionately.

Meanwhile, those who do have access to modern energy face very high prices for a supply that is both insufficient and unreliable. Overall, the energy sector of sub-Saharan Africa is not yet able to meet the needs and aspirations of its citizens”. IEA – Africa Energy Outlook, A FOCUS ON ENERGY PROSPECTS IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA World Energy Outlook Special Report (2014).

YoungAfrican entrepreneur, the ball is in your court!

  • ICT Services:

In the year 2013, statistics available indicate that there was a “strong ICTs growth, particularly in mobile-cellular network (63.5% penetration), 16.3% Internet users – almost half the developing country average of 31% and 6.7% of households have Internet access at home” – International Telecommunications Union – 2013 AFRICAN ICT WEEK, on the theme “Africa’s ICT development challenges and opportunities”

Demand for ICT experts are now more than ever. Develop a viable business concept in this area, design a unique service strategy for your clients, and watch your business grow.

  • Market Data:

Everyone needs information. Business growth thrives on the availability of credible information that could assist in decision making.

Making such data available on a consistent note, and at a fair price could set the stage for a winning business venture.

  • Tourism:

Tourism is one of Africa’s very important brands. All countries of the continent have something truly unique to show people who have a soft spot for nature’s wonders.

Water bodies, Museums and Gardens are but a few of the many options a keen – eyed entrepreneur can tap into and effectively transport into a natural masterpiece. Explore such options and work hard to enable others truly appreciate what nature has to offer humankind.

  • Health & Beauty Products:

Another area of business that is gradually attracting attention is health and beauty products.

We all desire infection-free bodies and with the proliferation of various medications, all touting their ability to provide remedies, the availability of the right product at the right price may just as well set one on the road to a good business initiative.

Whether playing middle – man role for an existing product or the manufacture of a new one, a product that provides such a solution may stimulate a volume of demand that would leave you surprised.

  • Waste Management:

Africa continues to “battle” with waste materials and efforts to ensure an effective waste management system, has left more room for improvement.

Several individuals and institutions are involved in the “waste war”, and to settle for this business means to ensure that you have done your homework well.

Regardless of the above, a resolute determination to provide a cost-effective strategy to assist in the correct disposal of waste may kill two birds with one stone; making Africa a cleaner continent, and earning income as well.

READ ALSO: In-Focus: What you never knew about Algeria

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What you never knew about Algeria

Algeria is usually known for its footballing prowess in Africa. It caused one of the greatest World Cup upsets on the first day of the 1982 World Cup when they beat the reigning European champions then, West Germany, two goals to nil.

Algeria3

READ ALSO: Editorial: It is go-time!

However, their recent fame is the memory of the civil war that lasted from 1991 until 1998 between the Algerian government and the Islamic Salvation Front, a secular Islamic political group that tried to gain the majority in the Algerian legislature.

But there is more to this relatively rich country, and BizzAfrica brings you information on how it could play a crucial role in the growth of your business.

Geography:

Algeria is a country in the Maghreb region of Africa with Algiers as the capital and most populous city. Its population was estimated by the UN to be around 38,813,722 as of July 2014.

Algeria has a total land area of 2,381,741 square kilometers. The country is bordered in the northeast by Tunisia, on the east by Libya, on the west by Morocco, on the southeast by Western Sahara and on the north by the Mediterranean Sea.

Economy:

The backbone of the economy is the abundance of oil. It accounts for roughly 60 percent of their budget revenues, 30 percent of their GDP and over 95 percent of export earnings. Algeria has the tenth largest reserves of natural gas in the world and is the sixth-largest gas exporter.

Its top exports are Crude Oil, Natural Gas and Petroleum products. GDP per capita was estimated to be around $7,500 as of 2013 and GDP growth rate was pegged at 3.1% in the same year.

Algeria has relatively fertile soil. Only 14% of their labour force is employed in the agricultural sector cultivating crops such as cotton, dwarf palm, olive, tobacco, wheat barley and oats.

The country also is rich in minerals such as iron, lead, zinc, copper, calamine and mercury.

Education:

Education is officially compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 15 and it is therefore not surprising that their literacy rate stands at 95% for both males and females. There are 46 universities, 10 colleges and 7 institutes for higher learning in the country. Interestingly, 60% of university students are women, according to university researchers.

Trivia:

  • Algeria is an Arab country and has the second-largest army in Africa and in the Arab world after Egypt. It was colonized by France in 1830 and had its independence in 1962.
  • Ahmed Ben Bella was Algeria’s first president.
  • The country’s name is derived from the city of Algiers.
  • The Berbers are the indigenous ethnic group of Algeria and therefore the Berber language is the national language.
  • The official language of Algeria is Arabic as specified in its constitution since 1963.
  • Europeans account for 1% of their population. They include the French, Spaniards, Italians, Maltese and the Greeks. They mostly reside in the largest metropolitan areas.
  • Women make up 70% of the country’s lawyers and 60% of its judges and also dominate the field of medicine. As a result, they are increasingly contributing more to household income than men.
  • Algeria has qualified for three World Cups: 1982, 1986 and 2010; they have also won the African Cup once when they hosted the tournament in 1990.

READ ALSO: Trailblazer: The story of Anne Amuzu

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Trailblazer: Meet Anne Amuzu, co-founder of Nandimobile

When a young person makes or discovers something new and makes it acceptable or popular by the public, that person becomes a trailblazer and charts a path for others to follow.

Anne Amuzu is the CEO, co-founder and lead product developer of Nandimobile Ltd, an award-winning technology start-up in Ghana. She is affable, smart and an extremely creative technology entrepreneur. 

Her business has won three awards: Best business at the LAUNCH conference in the USA (2011), Top-up award for the best SMS App in Ghana (2012) and WORLD summit awards in e-commerce and creativity (2013).

We caught up with Anne to sample her views on startups in Ghana and generally to hear her story as a struggling young entrepreneur. This is what she had to say:

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BizzAfrica (BA): Tell us a little about yourself

Anne Amuzu (AA): My name is Anne Amuzu. I am the first of my siblings. I grew up in a home where my mother tried to create an equal playing field.

Though we had only one brother, my mother did not make us feel we needed to worship him and so everybody had something else to do.

We grew up thinking we could be anything we wanted to be. I grew attracted to computers after Junior High School (St. Georges JSS) so when I got to the Senior High School (St. Louis Senior High) I was really looking forward to working with the computer.

We had a computer lab and the internet was new at that time so everyone had a yahoo email although you have nothing to do on it you still check your emails all the time (she chuckles). I was quite strong in Mathematics so I decided to do Computer Engineering in University.

BA: What happened after your tertiary education?

AA: After tertiary, I heard of this opportunity to be able to start your own company by MEST (Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology). I thought it was a very good initiative because I wanted to start my own company and also thought I was good enough! (she laughs).

BA: Good in terms of computing?

AA: Yes, in terms of computing. So I joined and afterward, I started Nandi Mobile with two other group members.

BA:  So when did it start?

AA: It started in 2010.

BA: So what exactly does Nandi Mobile Ltd. do?

AA: The main idea behind Nandi Mobile is to make customer service better in Ghana and Africa, hence the tagline ‘Empowering connections’.

The whole meaning of that tagline is to help companies to connect better with their customers and so all our products are in that line.

We came up with Gripeline which is a customer support tool to enable companies to receive customer complaints and feedback using SMS because we realized a lot of people were put on hold when they contact call centers and not everybody had the internet at that time.

So from there, we moved on to have a marketing tool by SMS, Infoline, which was automated. So you can send a question and you get an automated response.

That was made for small companies that didn’t have the personnel to put behind the Gripeline. Then from there, we launched a mobile application that helps you find businesses with essential services. So, for instance, if I’m here and I want to find an ATM the mobile App will help me find that ATM machine.

BA: So, so far are these the three products you have?

AA: Yes, these are the three products we have.

BA: How successful have these products been?

AA: our most successful product has been Infoline. We have over 400 companies in Ghana using it.

They are mostly small and medium scale companies. Gripeline, on the contrary, did not have much success because the companies did not have the personnel to put behind it. But the new mobile App we launched in November (Keni) and still marketing, we believe will be a very useful tool.

BA: How do you fund your business?

AA: We received seed funding from MEST when we started our business in 2010.

BA: How much?

AA: Eeerm. We are not to disclose that amount. (she chuckles)

BA: Oh okay

AA: Yh. So that has been the only source of funding we have been working with. Since then we’ve been trying to do our businesses ourselves and right now we are looking for funding for the new App because we really need the funds. We have started the App but we just need the funds to make it bigger than what we’ve done so far.

BA: So how does MEST funding work? Do they own your company by virtue of the funding?

AA: They take a percentage of your company when they invest in your company.

BA: How much percentage?

AA: It usually depends on how much money they are investing but they are usually a minority shareholder.

BA: So what do you think about entrepreneurship in Ghana and Africa. How easy or difficult is it?

Well when I talk to some people, they say Ghana is one of the best countries to start a business but some of us don’t see it like that because we are in it and we know how difficult it is.

That notwithstanding, I think Ghana is growing. At first, it used to be more difficult and most entrepreneurs were seen as people who don’t have jobs or have anything to do so they start their own company.

But now, people are beginning to understand that it is a way to grow our economy. I think the part that needs to be developed is the financing. There are a few including GAIN (Ghana Angel Investor Network) who try to fund businesses.

But most funds in Ghana want to fund the bigger companies because the idea is that if they invest in such companies, their money would not go to waste. So we really need to work on that. Also as Ghanaians, one of our biggest problems is the know-how in terms of management.

Let me take myself, for example, I’m a software developer. I know how to develop software but do I really know how to run a business? An entrepreneur would need accounting and managerial skills to run a business. For instance, a lot of people don’t know how to register a company. They don’t get that basis so when they start a business they are not able to grow.

BA: So when you started your business, did you have Accountants and people with HR Management skills?

AA: Actually, we learnt it on the job! (she laughs)

BA: Hahahhaha. So all three of you were software developers?

AA: No, although were all involved in the MEST programme, one person was in charge of the business.

Even that person had little knowledge in business so we all had to learn it on the job. As time went on we appointed an accountant to help us. So from my experience, I think most entrepreneurs need a little knowledge on how to manage their business.

BA: So how easy or difficult is it getting the right people to work with you grow your business?

BA: I think what we look out for is someone who is committed to a start – up. The company may not have a lot of money at the moment so when we interview people we find out if they are committed to the vision of the company and are ready to work to gown the company as if it were theirs. That has helped us a lot.

BA: So the two others you started the business with are they still around?

AA: No they’ve moved on to start their own companies.

BA: What do you think about software development? Does it thrive in our part of the world?

AA: We still have a young IT market. I think one of the most difficult things is getting people to understand that they need IT in the first place.

You have to give people trial periods and train them over and over again before they get what you are selling to them. So it’s still a young market. The people who understand software don’t trust Ghanaian software because they think it’s not of good quality. That perception needs to change.

BA: How do you see your business in the next 5 years?

AA: In 5 years we want to expand our business to other African markets and see how we can take over.

BA: Apart from Nandi mobile, are they any other businesses or activities you are involved with?

AA: Yes, I involve myself with ‘women in tech’ events to help young ladies also see programming as an option. So I try to avail myself during any training that involves getting young ladies exposed to technology.

BA: If you had the chance to send a message to the president. What would it be?

AA: There’s been a lot of talk about made – in Ghana goods but I think it about time the President made sure that government actually consumes made – in – Ghana goods. For instance, IT contracts should be given to local IT companies.

This is because government is the biggest spender and their money could help develop a company in Ghana and the country at large.

So the government should be consumers of what we produce here. Also there are a few initiatives to help start – ups in Ghana but the government needs to do more in terms of structuring the training.

Another thing is that programming in school should start early. In some parts of the world, students are taught programming at the Junior High school level. I think we should adopt that here.

BA: Any message to fellow entrepreneurs?

AA: The path of an entrepreneur has never been smooth. There are days you ask yourself why you even started in the first place. But I always say that when you have a big vision, you will need endurance to achieve that vision.

So when you go through rough times just keep your mind on that vision and don’t be afraid of any failures that may come your way. With Nandi Mobile, for instance, we would say that gripeline was our biggest failure. But it won an award. So when you encounter a failure, you don’t give up. Restrategise and keep going.

BA: Thank you for your time

AA: Anytime.

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Editorial – It’s go time!

“The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something … A lot of people have ideas but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week, but today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.” –Nolan Bushnell
Your visit to this site means either you are a person who has an interest in entrepreneurship or you are just curious to know what BizzAfrica is about.

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Well, this is a magazine specifically cut out for young African entrepreneurs; a magazine to showcase what young persons are doing all around Africa; a magazine to buoy up startup businesses and also to inspire creativity.

This is to help curb the perennial challenge of unemployment.
There is currently a new wave of startups. Young persons all across Africa are getting ingenious with their minds and hands and doing something for themselves.

A few examples are: Ghanaian Sangu Delle of Golden Palm Investors; Tanzanian Ally Edha Awadh of Lake Oil Group; Ugandan Isaac Oboth of Media 256; Nigerian Uche Pedro of bellanaija and so many others.

These persons have gone beyond just having ideas and have set up their own companies and organizations.
There is the Anzisha prize that awards young African entrepreneurs who, through creativity and initiative, are making a difference in their communities.

There are also groups and societies such as Young Entrepreneurs, Africa; African Entrepreneur Collective and Association of African Entrepreneurs, who bring together like-minded individuals and support their businesses to grow.
So, don’t be a recluse; talk to someone; try to do something with your hands; start something with that brilliant idea.

That is sure to make you a more happy and fulfilled person.
In this maiden edition, we showcase financial institutions, venture capitalists and investors who fund start – ups; interviews with people sharing their experiences as struggling business persons; interesting facts about different countries that you never knew and many more!
It promises to be a remarkable journey. You are sure to learn a thing or two as you flip through these colourful pages.
Come with us on this journey!
Contact me: praba@bizzafrica.com

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