Viola Llewellyn is the co-founder and the president of Ovamba Solutions, a US-based fintech company that provides micro, small and medium enterprises in Africa and the Middle East with microfinance through a mobile platform.
1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.
The recent civil upheaval in Cameroon was incredibly difficult for us and for our customers. We had stopped pivoting and were ready to just go viral and scale. We had to balance caring for our customers, managing investor expectations, the uncertainty of the Cameroon government and our need to survive.
What kept us going, actually thriving, was selecting the best customers and really committing to them. We explained to the investor world that Africa will go through turmoil when growth and change are on the horizon. We actually grew and exceeded our revenue goals and added an additional product line for customers. We can say that we are tempered for frontier markets in the truest sense.
2. Which business achievement are you most proud of?
We are really proud of our staff and how they have rallied to the goal to build an alternative finance solution for the informal sector. Our staff brought their culture and understanding of Cameroon so keenly that we have truly become the leader as it relates to embedding culture into technology and business solutions.
3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.
Tough one. Believing that everyone wants what we have to offer, from employees and customers to investors. It is a total liability to be so recklessly enthusiastic. It has often blinded me to some sobering realities, such as internal fraud, bad customers and misaligned investors. I am counterbalanced by my co-founder and guided by our mission, vision and values. I have learned to keep focus within the agreed parameters and not to allow my strong emotional responses to lead my reactions.
4. Which popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?
I totally disagree with the idea of multitasking – it’s impossible. As a leader, I have to delegate and I have to prioritise. I can only focus on one thing at a time and it has to be the one thing that leads to the next thing in a plan. I have tried random business and it fails every time. I also disagree with the idea that entrepreneurs build companies with the end in mind. I hate talking about exits within the first few minutes of a meeting.
5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you got started?
Yes! I wish I had known that the best time to raise capital is right after you raise capital.
The journey so far’ series is edited by Wilhelmina Maboja, with copy editing by Xolisa Phillip, and content production by Justin Probyn and Nelly Murungi.