This year, How we made it in Africa spoke to many entrepreneurs across the continent – from those with budding start-ups to the founders of well-established companies. They shared some great tips and inspirational quotes for aspiring African business people and entrepreneurs. And as 2014 draws to a close, we have highlighted some of their words of wisdom.
1. “If you don’t have your own skin in the game, you will never have accountability… Once you have your own money on the table, you are just more careful. So if you are going to start your own business, put your own money down.” – Ugandan Alpesh Patel, founder of Mi-Fone
2. “The journey is forever. Do not ever let yourself feel like you have arrived, because if you do someone else will come and run right past you. You always have to keep going because you haven’t reached the mountain top yet.” – Kevin Ashley, co-founder and CEO of Nairobi Java House in East Africa.
3. “Businesses that are spoilt with too much capital make the wrong decisions… Constraints are the most wonderful things in business, because constraints allow you to be innovative and come up with different solutions.” – Michael Jordaan, South African businessman and founder of MonteGray Capital
4. “I have come to learn to be patient and not to give up too quickly. It takes patience and persistence to bring a new and innovative product and ways of doing things to a community. There are early adopters who immediately embrace the product and there are traditionalists who resist the change that the initiative represents.” – Bernice Dapaah, co-founder of Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative in Ghana
5. “Prepare for eventualities since things can change in a second. You need to have back-up plans just in case.” – Muthoni Ndonga, founder of the Blankets & Wine event in Nairobi
6. “Dreaming is good. But now your dream must be profitable. For example, you cannot find investors who will put funds in your project without them seeing the potential for profitability.” – Olivier Madiba, founder of Kiro’o Games in Cameroon
7. “In terms of expansion, I strongly believe in organic growth as there is nothing more motivating or satisfying… The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to dream big, but start small.” – Zainab Ashadu, founder of Zashadu Bags in Nigeria.
8. “I don’t think there is anything more difficult to handle than success. I think success is harder to handle than failure. In failure you wallow, you just cry and life goes on. Success has to be sustained and it is harder to sustain than to get it. So when you get your money, what is your game plan?” – Joanne Mwangi, founder of Professional Marketing Services in East Africa
9. “In my experience, in Africa there is space for innovation. And you don’t have to look far, especially when you are at a disadvantage. Look around you. You might be experiencing a problem that is a need in the community.” – Sizwe Nzima, founder of Iyeza Express in Khayelitsha, South Africa.
10. “Don’t scratch your head saying there is no financing. With what you have, what can you do to achieve your goal? Investors like people who have taken that initiative.” – Heshan de Silva, founder and CEO of the De Silva Group in Kenya
11. “My advice to young people is to firstly get their education. And once you get your formal education, get formal employment for a couple of years. To go straight into the entrepreneurial environment I cannot say is not possible, but it will be much harder.” – South African Herman Mashaba, founder of Black Like Me
12. “Teams are crucial because they combine the differing talents of different individuals, and they make the whole better than the part.” – Nigerian tycoon Hakeem Belo-Osagie
13. “Getting things done is better than having things perfect. Done is better than perfect. Whatever you have in your hands, get going with it. Just do it.” – Charles Igwe, founder and CEO of Nollywood Global Media Group in Nigeria
14. “Focus on making [your product or service] awesome. I see a lot of guys go into business with a ‘how can I make money’ approach. But if you go in there saying ‘how can I make something awesome’, the money will follow.” – Alex Fourie, founder of iFix in South Africa
15. “Do what you are good at, but do it well. If you like tuning pianos, set up a piano-tuning business. If you like baking bread, then do that – but whatever it is, do it well.” – Francis Grogan, co-founder and CEO of Zambeef Products in Zambia
16. “Work hard and be patient. The main problem I see with young African guys is they want to grow overnight. Yes, they have to be ambitious, they have to think big, but they have to be patient. Rome was not built overnight.” – Francis Kibhisa, founder and managing director of Rex Energy in Tanzania
17. “It’s not an easy road. You will get people who will disappoint you… but you need to stay focused on your dream. We all learn and become better through our mistakes and challenges.” – Malawian fashion designer, Lilly Alfonso
18. “Success depends on employees. For me knowing and connecting with my employees is very important.” – Divine Ndhlukula, founder of Securico in Zimbabwe
19. “Aspiring entrepreneurs have to actually do something that they feel strongly passionate about, and in most cases they should seek inspiration from their own experience… If you had a terrible experience, you should despise the experience to the extent that you are continuously seeking a solution for it.” – Best Ayiorwoth, founder of GIPOMO in Uganda
20. “The future of Africa depends on its young people. It is critically important for young people to study hard and get a good education in order for them to undertake whatever they want to do and to succeed on their own initiative. Courage and persistence are key characteristics needed for entrepreneurs in Africa today.” – Togolese Gervais Djondo, co-founder of Ecobank and Asky Airlines