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Listen to the kids - 10 lessons from the youth

Posted by Sureswipe on 27 June 2016

Mark Zuckerberg, Siya Beyile, The Lazy Makoti - millennials are proving every day that brilliance is not an anomaly but business as usual. Here are 10 lessons from Forbes Africa’s top 30 under 30 for 2016.


“My earliest memory is selling and trading my lunch for cash, sweets and WWF stickers when I was 8 years old.” - Joel Macharia, 29, Kenya (Founder, Abacus)

When it comes to starting your own business one of the most important things is to simply start, as early as possible. Many people get their ‘big idea’ but then they sit on it because they don’t have funding yet, or they can’t find a place to rent or the exact fabric they need. Sometimes the first step to a successful business is to use the resources you have available and just start doing something.


I knew it, I was spending 16 hours a day behind a computer watching tutorials on shooting and editing.” - Isaac Oboth, 26, Uganda (Founder, Media 256)

This may seem cheesy but if you want anything, you have to roll up your chinos and put in the hard work. In order for your business to succeed you have to make sure you know as much as possible about your product, customer, competitors, supplier and industry. Then you have to find ways to constantly improve your product and the way you do business. Yes, this means you won’t always be able to go out with your friends on a Friday night - stay home.


“There was a big electricity problem and school kids were suffering not being able to study at night, so I decided to make a battery that would provide electricity to some people.” - Kelvin Doe, 19, Sierra Leone (Founder, K-doe tech)

The businesses that make it in the current market are the ones that address a genuine need, well.

Even with consumers saturated by information and products, there is always a way to make things faster or more convenient, or the next big idea that no one has thought of yet. The first step is market research, know what people need, then find a way to monetise the solution.


Siya Beyile, 22, South Africa (Founder, The Threaded Man) started out with a fashion blog for men. “We are now more like an agency, we consult, dress celebrities, sell content, style and creatively direct events and we are taking fashion to a whole new level in South Africa,” says Beyile.

When things start to go well it’s important to constantly be looking for opportunities to grow and expand the business offering. Don’t be confined to the initial business idea, find ways to better it.


“Don’t be your own barrier. Get rid of the notion that you cannot do what men in IT are doing because it is a male dominated field. Turn every barrier into an opportunity, that is what I have done and enabled me to get this far in tech.” - Catherine Mahugu, 27, Kenya (Founder, Soko)

Starting a business and keeping it alive is anything but easy, and there will always be barriers to your success. The important thing is having real faith in your ability and your product, and looking for ways to use the barriers to your advantage.


“I love the idea of creating something that is all mine, I also appreciate the creative and overall freedom of being able to decide what goes into building the business and brand.” - Mogau Seshoene, 27, South Africa (Founder, The Lazy Makoti)

When you start a business and you are confronted with the stress of overhead expenses, marketing and paying salaries, it’s easy to forget why you started the business in the first place. Especially when things are tough, try not to lose the enjoyment of what you do.


“Within three weeks, I had the app out on the App Store. I used social media to grow a community of around 30,000 in three weeks. All of this for only $10 for the domain name for my site.” - Nadav Ossendryver, 20, South Africa (Founder, Latest Sightings)

People often don’t start businesses because they don’t have capital. The rise of tech and digital is changing that in a major way. Is there a way that technology can make your idea less expensive to start or maintain? Its important to look at every option.


“I was doing grade 11 and I had to start working harder in school because my mother is a domestic worker. I knew she will not have the capacity to take me to university.” - Emmanuel Bonoko, 26, South Africa (Founder, EBonoko Holdings)

Not everyone has an easy start to life, and often this means businesses are started out of necessity. It is important to use that necessity as a motivator to do even more to succeed - failure is not an option.


“We have trained over 10,000 youth in Ghana, formalized over 50 businesses in Ghana. With no formal title, I am easily your business strategist, young investor and consultant.” - John Armah, 24, Ghana (Founder, Orios Group)

The modern world is changing from a majority of specialists to more generalists. This is particularly useful in the beginning stages of your business where you may not necessarily be able to afford a dozen specialists. This doesn’t mean doing jobs you so not have the skills to execute well, but rather, it’s about harnessing all of the talents you do have.


“I knew that I had to do my bit to make a difference. That’s why I decided to start a business to solve the unemployment problems we have and revive our industries.” - Nkosana Mazibisa, 27, Zimbabwe (Founder, Mazibisa Inc.)

Making a difference is important, it is one of the most beautiful things about days like Mandela Day or Youth Day, but there is a misconception that you cannot make a difference while making money. If you can find a way to create a business from helping other people, then do it.

For more details on the Forbes Africa top 30 please follow the link:

Topics: entrepreneurship, lessons, smallbiz, youth, Starting a Retail Business

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