Rahama Wright is a successful social entrepreneur, supporter of business development on the continent and in the diaspora, and founder of Shea Yeleen, a company that promotes sustainable economic development in rural sub-Saharan Africa while empowering and training women-owned shea butter cooperatives. Here she shares 5 of her top tips for aspiring entrepreneurs to help you overcome challenges and discover your unique path to success.
Tip #1: Take responsibility for your vision
If this is a business you’re trying to create, know your market. Know who your consumer is, really spend some time doing your research, becoming an expert. When I first started Shea Yeleen, I spent most of my time researching, going online. I spent those early years learning, taking advantage of free resources. Going to the small business administration, sitting through seminars and workshops they were offering. Getting a mentor at the SBA who reviewed sections of my business plan and gave me feedback. Basically know your stuff. Understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, what is motivating you?
Tip #2: Push beyond your comfort zone
When no one thinks your idea is that great, how do you handle that? Issues around confidence, self esteem, I think those are things that when you have a bad day or when you’ve pitched your idea 50 times and 50 times you’ve been rejected, how do you deal with that? Being able to handle that is really important to being able to sustain yourself.
If you get 50 ‘nos’ is that going to make you quit? If you’re the only person who believes in your idea will that make you give up? Ask yourself, “if it’s gonna take me ten years to be successful, am I willing to start today?” Because then it doesn’t become a matter of whether or not you’re committed or whether or not anyone will be able to influence you to not do what you’re doing. Because from the beginning you’ve committed yourself. So I think that it’s really important to understand your level of commitment and then from there, be persistent.
Tip #3: Invest in building the right network
Really create a strong network of people around you because you cannot do anything by yourself. When you don’t have any money, when you don’t have a skill set, you just have an idea you believe in, you have to be able to talk to people. Tell people your vision and your idea so they can get behind it.
Tip #4: Use available resources
When it comes to young people in Africa wanting to become entrepreneurs, what are the resources? The Young African Leaders Initiative is now creating training centers throughout Africa. There’s one in Ghana, there’s one in Senegal , there’s one in Zambia. These are centers that are there to help young Africans who have ideas, who want to change their country, help them gain access to mentors, gain access to training, gain access to networking with other people in their countries.
For women, there’s also the African women entrepreneurship program. Business is about relationships, period. If you have the relationships, you can figure out the skill set.
Tip #5: Change your beliefs about failure
Often times people think about an idea and then a problem comes up and they’re like, “oh yeah I can’t do it.” If you’re going to be a successful entrepreneur, there’s no problem that can’t be solved. That’s what your mindset should be like. If you try one thing and it doesn’t work, try something else. I’m not an idealist but I 100% believe every problem can be solved.
It might not be solved immediately , it might not be solved on the first try, it might take ten times for you to do it. You might talk to someone else about the problem for them to give you an idea or solution but if you do not believe every problem can be solved, you cannot be a successful entrepreneur.
The amount of problems that will be thrown your way that you’re completely unprepared for will be tremendous, so you always have to have the mindset that this problem can be solved.