The Blessing and Curse of an Entrepreneur

Tola car

Anything acquired without effort, and without cost is generally unappreciated (Napoleon Hill – Think and Grow Rich).  Looking back at my experiences in Ghana and Nigeria I can honestly say that I am pleased with my efforts and I recognise that it was such a huge sacrifice to go out to the true motherland Africa and reap the many blessings it had to offer. It took a great deal of courage and an even bigger financial risk to quit my job and convince myself I was doing the right thing. I mean, let’s pause for a second…who are GoGetters?. ‘Who do these people really think they are that they believe they can make such an impact in Africa’, a question that without a doubt ran through the minds of many who gained knowledge about our mission. Nonetheless, we could see what others couldn’t, we were going to put the dots together where others had yet to, we could hear our continent calling when others couldn’t; If you ask me, that is what makes an Entrepreneur, the ability to spot gaps in the market, the ability to cease the angel of opportunity when she visits.

The characteristics of ambition, persistence and resilience are blessings, on the other hand these could also be a curse. Passionate Entrepreneurs are known to have this ‘I will prove you wrong attitude’, suggesting that they are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their dream. Entrepreneurs with a burning desire to succeed have this relentless energy to keep on going and obtain the courage to be able to take positive criticism. However statistics of the failure rate of entrepreneurship can cause you to think ‘What if?’  Statisticbrain.com claims that incompetence is the major cause of failure in start-ups, 46% fail because of emotional pricing, non-payment of taxes, no knowledge of pricing, lack of planning, no knowledge of financing and no experience in record keeping. Visit:  http://www.statisticbrain.com/startup-failure-by-industry/ for more information. Now, let’s summarise the key word to failure…Lack of KNOWLEDGE, In the Bible it states in Hosea 4:6 ‘my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge’ (Just thought I’d go holy on you guys :-) ).

The Flagstaff House | The Presidential Palace in Accra

The Flagstaff House | The Presidential Palace in Accra

The way of success is the way of continuous pursuit of knowledge; knowledge is the core, an essential requirement needed to attain success. If you search the depths of the ocean or any textbooks including religious books such as the Torah, The Quran and The Holy Bible; the general consensus regarding knowledge is that this is something to either be prayed for or paid for; the divinity of knowledge is unquestionable along with its partners, wisdom and understanding. One of my favourite books by George S. Clason entitled ‘The Richest Man in Babylon’ tells a story about bad investment due to lack of knowledge. In the book the characters Master Algamish taught Arkad the concept of paying yourself before paying everyone else (saving no less than one-tenth of your income), however Arkad gave his savings to a brick maker named Azmur who mentioned that he would be traveling over the far seas and would use his savings to purchase rare jewels. When Azmur returned they would sell the jewels at high prices and divide the earnings. Master Algamish stated  ‘why trust a brick maker about jewels? Would you go to the bread maker to inquire about the stars? No, by my tunic, you would go to the astrologer, if you had the power to think.’  This shows the mind frame of many aspiring young entrepreneurs today who tend to think that they have the knowledge base and know it all. This is a curse on the health of your life cycle of your business, the concept of show me how it’s done because you have done if before is very important, the notion of mentoring, self-study, becoming an expert in your chosen field of entrepreneurship is a great idea however you could save a lot more time by getting people to work with you who are already experts in the specific industry. Richard Branson once said “It’s all about finding and hiring people smarter than you.”

GoGetters Nigerian Team

GoGetters Nigerian Team

We as GoGetters did our primary and secondary research before we left for sub-Saharan Africa, each member was assigned a specific country to concentrate on, it was crucial that during our time in Africa we got to know and be introduced to key individuals as well as key organisations within the local  entrepreneurial eco system. It is impossible to say you want to achieve something in Africa without making the journey over. In my personal experiences I have met many diasporans who say that they want to go back to do business, however with the most common excuse being ‘I’m not ready’, ‘I don’t have money’ or ‘I don’t have time yet’. A famous quote by Michael Leboeuf ‘Waste your money and you’re only out of money, but waste your time and you’ve lost a part of your life.’ As humans it is very important to understand that money is just a means of exchange (enough of it can certainly change your life for the best, of course), but time is something that none of us can ever get back, that is why it is essential to obtain enough knowledge to understand how best to utilise time so that what was once an idea in the mind can turn into a prototype, and ultimately into a fruitful business.  It was through knowledge that we were equipped to execute high-profile events within a few weeks in Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

Personally, I went to Ghana & Nigeria to seek business opportunities I wanted to find out which country would be best to launch my business. When in Ghana, I visited the HealthiLife Beverage Company factory, it was an amazing experience and something to aspire to. However I found myself trying to fit a watermelon into a pinhole realising that at the current state of my business, in order to work with Healthilife I would have had to make some big changes to facilitate the partnership.

Meeting with HealthiLife Beverage Company factory

Meeting with HealthiLife Beverage Company factory

I also took my beverage to Shoprite in Ghana, the lady we met stated how much she enjoyed the taste and was fund of the packaging. When we had a meeting with the Business Development & Communications Manager for Acumen West Africa she loved the concept and packaging of Kokoriah and queried why I would be producing Kokoriah in the UK, advising that business is currently booming in Ghana and Nigeria and that I could get great support from Acumen Fund and the Government because of the links to agriculture. At this point my mind was in overdrive, I was weighing the pros against the cons and could see Kokoriah in bright, shiny letters causing a storm in the West African beverage industry. As stated in my last blog entitled The Angel Of Opportunity, I prefer to listen to my inner self, and at that point I could envision myself moving to Ghana to commence trade, however there was another prominent voice saying be patient after all I was yet to experience Nigeria.

Kokoriah bottle

Kokoriah bottle

As an entrepreneur it is very easy to convince yourself that anything is possible, however this can prove less fruitful  because it can open doors to irrational decision making. One of my goals for going to Africa was to meet an investor that would invest in my project, in Ghana I met 2 investors, Acumen Fund and an Angel Investor Erik Osiakwn. Acumen is a non-profit that raises charitable donations to invest in companies, leaders, and ideas that are changing the way the world tackles poverty, however a big social impact affecting 1000’s of people is what they seek before they invest. Erik Osiakwan is an angel investor and technology entrepreneur from Ghana who has founded and built companies and organisations including GNVC, GISPA, AfrISPA, Internet Research, InHand, PenPlusBytes, African Elections Portal, FOSSFA, Ghana Connect, Ghana Cyber City, WABco; and serves on the board of Good Morning Africa, Kuzima, SMSGH, VC4Africa, Seed Engine and Appfrica. Eric is a Harvard Fellow and a TED Global Fellow  (impressive I know), however Erik has a keen interest in technology, nonetheless birds of the same feather flock together, therefore investors know other investors. Just because this was not applicable to me and my business did not mean that this meeting was of no use.  Erik introduced us to Tomi Davies who is an angel and business mentor. He is the CEO of TVCLabs, and sits on the Boards of Sproxil, Baas Online Properties, MBO Capital, Strika Entertainment, TechnoVision Communications and PeoplePrime. He is also a member of Governor Fashola of Lagos State Nigeria’s Innovation Advisory Council and Chairman of Mobile Monday Nigeria (I know impressive), however he too was only specifically interested in technology. I also met Michael Ugwu who is the founder of Freemedigital.com and Michael is also currently a Spark.Ng nominated Investor/Director of Nigeria’s first online urban fashion website Giddimint.com and you guessed it…they only invest in technology too. (At this point I had begun pulling my hair, the hair on my face as there is not so much on my head).

Erik Osiakwan and Hannah Acquah (Acumen Fund)

Erik Osiakwan and Hannah Acquah (Acumen Fund)

Now this is what I mean by the blessing and curse of an entrepreneur, I was meeting investors, that’s what I asked for but none were interested in FMCG’s. Then 1 week before I depart to come back to London, I was introduced to an Investor that has invested in a lemonade beverage business as well as a moi moi (vegan beans cake) in a tin business in the UK. I was over the moon, I saw this as a great opportunity and the start of a beautiful relationship. I sent him a sample of the product and he enjoyed it, he called it unique. I learnt that investment is about trust and relationships, Tomi Davies stated that investors invest in people and not in the idea itself.

Now Investment for Kokoriah beverage Ltd is still in the pipeline, I started off by meeting investors who had specific industries to which they invest in. This was because they had extensive knowledge about that industry. I did meet the Investor I wanted to meet on this journey and he helped me conclude where business should be done for my product, we decided that the UK are really developing into this growing craze of healthy products and are willing to pay for it. I had thoughts of doing business both in Ghana and Nigeria; it will still happen but it won’t be for starting Kokoriah, Kokoriah will start off in the UK and expand based on sound judgement. It is important for entrepreneurs to have a clear goal and direction, however we should not be afraid to explore other emerging markets to do business, the most important thing is for us to do our research and make sound judgements based on our findings. Until next time guys…

Tola crossing the bridge at MEST

Tola crossing the bridge at MEST

Tola James-Odukoya

About Tola James-Odukoya

Tola is a recent graduate (BA Commercial Studies) and the founder of Kokoriah. Tola’s unique abilities were first spotted by SERCO directors when he partook in a business challenge and was awarded the highest prize. With his keen interest in international relations, GoGetters has given Tola the opportunity to unite with like-minded individuals in search of opportunities to aid prosperity in Africa and encourage fellow entrepreneurs.

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