Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

By Dolapo Adeyanju

In 2019, Anzisha Prize joined other notable delegates across the globe in Sham El Sheik, Egypt for the African Economic Conference on “Jobs, Entrepreneurship and Capacity Development for Africa’s Youth.” Dolapo Adeyanju, a young scholar and researcher at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and winner of the best paper award at the conference share her thoughts on what fuels a young entrepreneur

Success as an entrepreneur has been principally placed into two broad categories: while some say success is a mind-set, others believe it comes with hard work. These assertions are born out of real, practical experience and, although they are true, success is ultimately attained by other factors aside these behavioural traits.

After several attempts to become a business owner in 2014, I gave up on the dream and concluded business was not meant for me. I had the idea, will, and considerable resources but, I still failed!

This inspired my research, in collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), on youth entrepreneurship development in 2019. I was eager to know some of the dynamics that would have contributed to my success as a young entrepreneur in a complex society (read more here).

For many years I questioned myself and wondered what I didn’t do right. After careful thoughts and my empirical study, I concluded that idea, will, and resources are just basic requirements for becoming an entrepreneur. Many other factors determine the success or failure of a business as it applies.

Asides behavioural qualities such as mindset, willingness to take action, risk-taking ability, entrepreneurial intention, creativity, intelligence, hard work, persistence, just to mention a few, my analysis identified four major factors which are critical to the success of any business start-up.

These factors, which I also labelled “fuel”, are some of the most critical and important things to consider in the journey to creating a successful enterprise.

An innovative Business Idea

What fuels customers’ loyalty and prolonged product survival in the market is real value. If you are going to survive in a rapidly changing and competitive business environment, you need an outstanding business idea that fills the real needs of your target customers.

This is one area where I failed woefully during my entrepreneurial journey. I thought I had to have an entirely new product that the world had not seen before. However, I was wrong! “Unique” is not equivalent to “New”.

Innovativeness is often misconstrued as coming up with an entirely original idea while, in the real sense, it entails studying current market trends, identifying gaps, and filling those gaps.

Customers’ acceptance will determine the success of your product in the market and the best way to stack the odds in your favour is to identify what appeals to your customers and design your product accordingly.

Either you are creating a new product or reinventing an existing one – just make sure you stand out.

Training/Education and Information

The motor pattern of becoming better is in the act of acquiring and mastering skills. Becoming a successful entrepreneur requires adequate knowledge about your line of business and acquiring relevant, exceptional skills to implement your know-how.

In my study, I found that entrepreneurship training/education has important implications for skill acquisition, behaviour development, and performance motivation. These three key elements are effective multipliers of entrepreneurial performance.

Taking the testimony of Adewumi Samuel, a young entrepreneur and the founder of Gwise Group Nigeria who concluded that the several training programmes he attended greatly sharpened his business skills and led to better business performance which he measured as a multiplicative function of revenue and number of employees.

Without proper training/education and the right information, you may not go far as an entrepreneur. Blunt as it may sound, it is a fact!

Mentorship and Technical Assistance

Unarguably, many young entrepreneurs lack the experience to survive in the labour market. But the good news is that there is a new substitute which could help prevent the death of youth-owned enterprises. Yes! You read that right.

Mentorship and technical assistance could fill the experience gap that many young entrepreneurs lack. These factors could guide them through their entrepreneurial journey and help them to avoid some costly business mistakes.

“I am still in business today because I have mentors who are constantly encouraging me and giving me the needed support and balance to advance my business,”

said Aduragbemi Fasakin, a young system entrepreneur and one of the Transforming Change Fellows.

So, as a young entrepreneur, you need to identify and connect with professionals in your line of business who could guide you through your entrepreneurial journey.

Finance and Credit Facilities

I know this is a bit out of the control of very young entrepreneurs, particularly those who are from humble backgrounds. However, your enterprise expansion depends on this important factor. The christening of any business idea is based on finance.

There are existing policies in Africa which aid credit access for young entrepreneurs (read more here). However, as a business owner, you have to make an effort on your part. An important one recommended by my study is joining a youth borrowers’ group or what is called “cooperative society” in some countries.

Prof. Maureen Kilkenny, a Senior Fellow at the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy highlighted how Borrowers’ groups have worked efficiently in the United States and believes it can be replicated in developing countries as a means to ease credit access for young entrepreneurs.

“The members of the borrowers’ group enforce their credit contracts among themselves – solving the problem of moral hazard associated with obtaining credit. Very effective and efficient, with no subsidies required,” she said.

As an entrepreneur, when it comes to creating a successful enterprise, you – the business owner – are ultimately the “first secret” to your success.

Featured image: Attendants at the 2019 Anzisha Prize Tour in Kampala, Uganda (Photo Credit: Mfundo Mbanze)