Brigitha Faustin is the founder and managing director of OBRI Tanzania, a company that manufactures edible oils.
1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.
[It] … was fear.
I had so many questions when I started my business. [They included] how long my business would exist; how profitable it would be; [and if] customers would like my product. [The other concern was whether] I would be able to give myself a steady pay cheque.
I have seen the best ideas, ones with the potential to disrupt an entire industry, fail to become a reality. None of those questions had a solid, reliable answer, though I strongly believed in my idea and I had almost all the necessary resources it would need theoretically.
I am operating in a competitive industry, where the “big sharks” have dominated the market for years. At times, I found myself doubting my ideas. [My] thinking [was] that I must be able to differentiate my model and rise above expectations. Creating a strong brand wasn’t easy. When I started, I had no mentor to learn from or a background in the agri-food industry. This posed another challenge.
I overcame this by mastering the art of persistence. When you are persistent, you work through the pain, the slow times, the doubt, the insecurity. Persistence was my answer to start seeing the benefits of my efforts. As a business owner, your success is 99.9% based on what you believe.
2. Which business achievement are you most proud of?
Trusting myself even when others wouldn’t share my vision.
It wasn’t easy to build a team that understood my vision and walked through the unknown towards the future … [with me].
Now, I look back and feel proud of having a team that trusts and moves toward the same goal. Getting positive results out of an idea that once was nothing, was one of the proudest moments of my life.
3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.
As a woman entrepreneur, a mother and a wife, I sometimes try to do it all: work, family, community support [and so forth].
There are times, for example, when family duties require my 100% attention. I have learned to invest in and trust my team. My team is what makes me, and I am forever grateful for them.
4. Which popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?
It’s about who you know, not what you know.
Networking is so essential. There’s no doubt about that. However, I hear from budding entrepreneurs all the time that it’s more important to connect with influential business people than it is to develop an idea fully first.
“If only I connect with the right investor/mentor, all my dreams will come true.” This is a terrible piece of advice, which forces you to abdicate any responsibility for getting the job done yourself.
The main reason some startup founders and entrepreneurs believe that success is about who you know and not what you know, is because they look at other business people as sources of knowledge, experience and opportunity.
These veterans of the business world have already succeeded. They have taken a product, made it worthwhile to a key demographic, learned from any mistakes, and then continued to grow and expand their wealth. This is absolutely true.
You can learn so much from their experiences, but the mistake is to believe if a person you are networking with is established within a niche, that they are the be all and end all. That simply knowing them will lead you to financial riches. That they can help you establish a vague business idea through investment or through some sort of partnership.
That is only true if you have done the groundwork first in terms of building a cohesive business plan. What you know is always more important than who you know. Your knowledge, talent and passion are tools to unlock your own success. If you only focus on networking, your chances of success in the business world are, at best, slim.
5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you got started?
I wish I could have had a mentor to advise on the nuts and bolts of starting a business before I started my entrepreneurship journey. I couldn’t anticipate when my business was going to take off and when it was going to grow and be a huge success. This cost me a lot of resources in terms of money and time.
If I had a mentor from day one, I could have had a plan in place that would give me a sense of how I would handle an increase in business in terms of scaling and streamlining my supply to accommodate growth.