“An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.”
One of the biggest challenges that most entrepreneurs have is taking action on a business idea. No matter how great the idea, it will count for nothing if you don‘t take the necessary actions to develop it and make it a real-life business.
In this blog post, we‘ll share six practical steps to move from the idea to the start-up phase of your journey to become a successful entrepreneur. Here they are:
STEP 1: You need a clear business concept –– and simplify!
This is very important. Entertaining too many ideas or being vague about the idea you have in mind will not help you get started, it‘s that simple. You need as much clarity as possible about your business model and if major aspects are missing, extend your research online and on the ground. Get a paper and pen and conceptualize on a daily basis (this means you are serious about your idea!), and write a business plan if you can.
On the other hand, don‘t get stuck with researching, that‘s just another trap that‘ll make you procrastinate and continue to entertain ideas that will never be implemented.
So, I was thinking of producing my own skincare range will not do it. Where exactly will you produce it and why in that particular country and location? How will you get the ingredients and the packaging; how much will that cost you? Who are you selling to and at what price? What gap or needs are you meeting, and how are you standing out from other products in the market (why would your target market buy your products or service?). Are you selling online or in a shop? Who are the strategic partners you want to win? These are the kinds of questions you need to have answers to.
Clarity is the first step toward vision and action.
When you work out your business concept – simplify! A major problem we come across regularly is that people add too many aspects to their business and want to do everything themselves.
Re-visit your concept and double check: Would you be capable of scaling from 10 to 1000 relatively easily, or would it mean you have to split yourself into many pieces to achieve it? If so, your concept is probably too complicated.
Try to simplify it – cut some aspects out (you can always add them later if needed) and outsource certain parts of your business operations to other companies or freelancers so you can focus on what counts: Selling and growing your business!
All this helps you to understand exactly what it is you are doing and where you are going next and you will pass this crucial clarity on to your target market.
STEP 2: Get your product or service ready
You need to sell either a product or a service. Prepare the product, and package it (even a service can be neatly packaged, so it sells better). Test it among friends, colleagues, or a small group of customers before launching it to avoid embarrassing hiccups later on. Make adjustments and improvements.
STEP 3: Set up ‘shop’ and a good image
Set up a base for your business. This could be your house, a dedicated office or shop, or even a simple website. Decide the name of your product and print some business cards so you are ready to a network where ever you go. You don‘t need to spend much on all that, but make sure it looks neat because it will now represent your business.
You may need to take care of infrastructural issues such as identifying your suppliers, preparing a delivery network, or building an e-commerce system that allows payments online.
STEP 4: Settle administrative issues
Yes, indeed, don‘t start with finding a name for your business and getting that registered. Although it may make you feel good, getting that done is really the easy part. Once you have gone through Steps 1-3 and you are still sticking with your plan, you will know that you are on the right path. The time has come to register your business and get a bank account to accept payments.
We regularly get questions regarding business registration procedures in Africa and we would have loved to cover it here, but frankly, the process varies considerably across the 54 African countries and can last from 1 day in Rwanda to several months in Ethiopia or the DRC. Some countries like Rwanda and Kenya, for example, have one-stop-shops for business registrations or you can even register a business online, other countries require that you run from one office to the next locally to gather or submit all required documents.
Another possibility if you live abroad is of course that you register your business outside of Africa (depending on the kind of business you want to do), it is often much easier to register a local branch office in Africa and a great number of countries do not discriminate against foreigners in the registration process.
Some African countries require that you have a local legal expert when opening a business and even if it is not a requirement it is often advised to protect you against certain risks when doing business locally. So again you need to check the local requirements and the need for legal expertise may naturally increase with the amount of money and assets you are investing.
No matter how hard it may be at first, do your best to legally register your business. This is often overlooked by entrepreneurs in Africa and it can often come back to haunt you. You don‘t have to register as a company at first, especially if you‘re starting up on a small scale. A Sole Proprietorship‘ or Business Name‘ should be fine if you intend to start out as a small business.
A registered business makes you more professional and influences customers to take you more seriously. Above all, it‘s the responsible thing to do.
STEP 5: Promote and start selling
Promote, promote, promote. There‘s no point in having a great product or service and nobody knows about it. Billboards and leaflets may work, and although they are still being widely used in Africa, they are marketing methods of the past. Here are marketing avenues that will work better for your start-up and give your business a competitive advantage:
Online marketing strategy including a social media strategy – Africa after all has the fastest-growing mobile phone market in the world and is in the throes of an Internet revolution. Make sure you learn about online marketing techniques….well, online.
Local exhibitions – this works particularly well for certain products related to food, skincare, and accessories, and fast-moving consumer products.
Word of mouth – Yes, word-of-mouth promotion is still in fashion. To enjoy the benefits of word-of-mouth, you have to provide excellent products and great services that people will gladly recommend to others. Giving out some of your products and services, in the beginning, can be a good way to get referrals from happy customers.
Networking and partnerships – Promote your products and services to people you already know. Go out there and meet new people who are in your target market. Visit places and attend events where your target customers congregate. Networking and partnerships can be great ways to find new clients and customers.
STEP 6: Build local partnerships from the start
This is true for building a business anywhere in the world, but particularly in Africa. Partnerships go a very long way on the continent in opening new opportunities, accessing new markets, and mitigating risk. Therefore get out there early on, engage, network at events in your industry and widen your horizon!