Fireside Chat

It was a dark Friday evening. We had had our team building session that left us sweating and panting. After a brief break to catch our breaths, we had promptly gone in for dinner. Then we had sat down to enjoy the mellow performance by none other than Makadem the musician.

The evening was going as planned. Everything was coming together perfectly. And one more activity awaited us after the performance: A fireside chat.

The chat started well before the fire was lit, but that was not to deter us from getting knowledgeable. On the panel was Manoj Changarampatt, Mikul Shah and Isis Nyong’o. The moderator was none other than Kennedy Kachwanya, the BAKE chairman. The topic of discussion was ‘Investing in Online Enterprises’

The discussion started with the panel addressing the need for people to face their fears when it comes to entrepreneurship. Many people fear taking the plunge into entrepreneurship because of the fear of failure. Instead of thinking of it as failure, we were advised to take these as learning opportunities instead.

Mikul Shah encouraged that one should not be afraid of failing. Give your idea a chance, he said. If you are to fail, then there is a skill to it as well: Do it as quickly and as cheaply as possible. From that failure, you will carry lessons on what not to do and these lessons will come in handy in the long run.

Isis Nyong’o pointed out that the risk of failure for online businesses is quite low and that should be the impetus for more entrepreneurs to be bold and get into online entrepreneurship. She was of the opinion that this is the opportune moment for anyone who wants to get into entrepreneurship to take that first step – the time is now.

“Having an idea is great. But everyone has an idea. It is the execution of the idea that will set you apart from the rest”, Manoj added.

Words of caution were also not spared by the panel. As you think about going into business, weigh the sustainability of your idea. It will do you good not to focus on making money but on keeping the business afloat as you start off.

For a startup to kick off, it must have a good team rallying behind it. There should also be structures put in place to ensure that it looks genuine. Follow that up by focusing on your niche and on the consumers of your content, invest in marketing and you have a solid enterprise in your hands.

You don’t always have to go it alone. We were advised to believe in the power of numbers, and in partnerships. A good team is always a plus for any startups. Structures also have to be put in place to ensure that you look and sound genuine as a business.

It was pointed out that building a team means that one is also building a culture. Sell your idea to those you will be working with to ensure that you are on the same page because this will play a big role in your success. Before getting into a partnership, it is very important that you put down the terms of engagement outlining every person’s mandate to avoid future wrangles and misunderstandings.

It was agreed that not everyone is cut out for entrepreneurship. That while there are those that are good in implementing ideas, there are those who get into entrepreneurship simply as investors and one should therefore identify where their strengths lie. It is rare that one would have both the money to invest and the idea to invest in. Most of those who have great entrepreneurial skills sometimes do not have the financial ability to implement their great ideas, and vice versa.

A few participants joined in to add their contribution to this engaging discussion. Marvin Tumbo advised bloggers to always be strategic “Follow the money, change accordingly to make sure you stand out in what you do” he said

Tyrus Kamau chimed in to add that entrepreneurship is not for everyone. “If your business can’t see the sense of organic growth, you are better off staying in employment”, he cautioned.

There you have it; lessons on entrepreneurship offered to us by the best in the business. I believe I was not the only one feeling so enlightened after this session.

Oh, and at this point, we converged around a bonfire and whiled the night away until eventually, one by one, the participants retreated to their tents for the night.

Good times!

Isis Nyong’o:  @inyongo

Mikul Shah: @mikulshah

Manoj Changarampatt: @Changarampatt