Martin Stimela is the CEO of Brastorne Enterprises, a Botswana-based technology company that develops value-added services for the underserved. One of its platforms, mAgri, gives farmers access to relevant information and a mobile marketplace.
1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.
The balance between your dream and reality. Your dream is always long term, but you still have to live in the now. Cashflow is, therefore, always a challenge as dreams seldom generate cash but wealth in the long term.
We, therefore, had to come up with interventions that can keep the lights on while we chase our dreams. In my case, we did everything from electronic repairs to consulting and, even, tendering.
The end definitely justified the means.
2. Which business achievement are you most proud of?
Brastorne is a 100% youth employment business, with more than 65% of staff being women and 75% of our executive committee being women. We are truly showing that young people, and particularly women, are willing and capable.
3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.
… Definitely my propensity to forgive, they call me the preacher, which means I overcompensate for non-performing employees. The solution to this is ensuring that all hiring and firing decisions are made by direct line managers, of which I have no influence or involvement.
4. Which popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?
… That business is all about profit. Rather, I believe business is a deeply human institution, whose purpose is not to make as much money as possible. The purpose is usually determined by a passionate entrepreneur chasing a dream to change the world.
This, therefore, means that it usually has a social responsibility. I term it conscience profit. This is what makes a business sustainable in the long term, because it is always addressing a social need.
5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you got started?
Yes, that I am always right. As an entrepreneur, you are always right; how right you are is determined not only by your belief, but also by how much effort you are willing to invest into your idea/business.
Nobody thought a mobile phone and cars could create the biggest ride-hailing business, Uber, or in our case that a dumb/feature phone had any business accessing the internet. Only we, the founders, believed and we had to drown out the noise, with great financial and personal loss, to see out our dreams.