Friday, November 9, 2012

Becoming an entrepreneur

One concept that is reverberating today in Nigeria and especially among young people is that of entrepreneurship.  This might be a response to the escalating rate of unemployment but also due to the successes of some young American entrepreneurs.  In fact some higher institutions have started offering programs in entrepreneurship.  Recently the U.S. Embassy hosted an entrepreneurship program with U.S. Speaker Saul Garlick.

Saul Garlick is a social entrepreneur and founder and CEO of ThinkImpact.  The organization hosts the Innovation Institute, a summer full immersion opportunity for US students to live and work in rural Africa to end poverty through market-based solutions. Saul actually started ThinkImpact when he was just 17 years under the name Student Movement for Real Change.  He has led over 150 people to live and work in rural Africa in the past 4 years.

The number of young people that turned up to listen to him speak during his program in Abuja was an indication of the interest in the issue.  They came with different expectations; from those who just want to understand what entrepreneurship is to those who have started several businesses that failed and want tips on how they could do better.  The speaker did his best to meet these expectations in a simple way.

He started out by mentioning all the challenges Nigerians see and complain about are actually opportunities to start off business.  He said an entrepreneur has a mindset that sees opportunity where others see challenges.  An entrepreneur says where there’s a market failure somebody is not been served and there’s an opportunity to serve that person.  For example where there’s a frustrating challenge to get paper work done by government there’s a business that can be started to facilitate the process of getting paperwork through the government.  He outlined simple steps that people can take to develop their entrepreneurial skills and abilities.

  1. First is learn to listen. As you listen you’ll hear what others are complaining about and understand what people want. Business ultimately succeeds if it gets people what they want. He called it learning about your context i.e. the community and environment in which you live. 
  2. Do something with what you have learnt or the information you have acquired.  This involves identifying individuals to work with, especially people with skills different from yours that you can collaborate with.  Also brainstorm different solutions to the problems identified and find people you can share your ideas with who can help you refine them.
  3. Finally test out your product and get feedback. Maybe sell it a little less than you should and get feedback and then refine it even more. This is a lifelong challenge for an entrepreneur because to stay relevant changes must continually be made to improve the product. 

On a final note he said entrepreneurs maximize their use of time. In his words “sitting around on a Tuesday afternoon telling your friend that you are angry that you don’t have a job is a waste of time but sitting around with your friend and saying I wonder what we can do together is not a waste of time.”

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