Today, I would like to focus, albeit briefly, on how, in a typical Biblical illustration “the stone the builder rejected has become the corner stone” fashion, some businesses defied the odds at the beginning and have grown to their present status.
Reflecting on the humble beginnings of some of the enterprises, one quickly realises that there is greatness in every person. The difference, though, is that many of us do not realise the potential we have. We easily give up. We are risk averse. We are simply contented with what we have: employment.
There are some local experiences too which I personally celebrate. However, I will start with some examples from Nigeria as posted on the Facebook page, Information Nigeria on April 18 this year.
Basically, the post’s theme or moral of the story was that no matter what, every individual or business can rise to the top. It said what matters, is to ignore negative sentiments from people.
Emphasised the post: “Yes, you can. Success is not about where you graduated from or what grade you graduated with, but what graduates out of you. Keep the spirit up.”
The piece gave an analogy of how mobile phone network operator MTN invested in Nigeria at a time nobody wanted to invest in that country and Nigerians did not have cellphones. Reputable banks denied MTN cash to operate, but today the story is different. The same banks knock at MTN’s doors, offering credit facilities.
Another example given is that of Cowbell which introduced milk in a sachet in Nigeria. Its competitor laughed at Cowbell, saying its milk was for the poor. The result? If three million poor people could afford 10 naira a day for a sachet of milk, it translated to 30 million naira daily and 900 million naira in a month! Today, Cowbell’s competitor in Nigeria introduced sachet milk to survive!
Closer home, there are several big entrepreneurs who have made it big from humble beginnings. These include my good friend Gospel Kazako who realised his childhood dream to own a radio station by establishing Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) which today is a multi-award winning broadcaster.
The other one is Mike Chilewe, chairperson of Mike’s Trading and Welding Centre, who, after school, started off in life as a meter reader for Escom, but today is counted among the “who is who” in business. There are the Thom Mpinganjiras of this world who established FDH Financial Holdings Limited, Kenneth and Tamara Thindwa of Mzuzu with their Kentam Investments, Mr Khondowe and his Kang’ombe Investments in Lilongwe as well as Edward Kaluwa of Combine Cargo, Patrick Khembo and Dumisani Chisala of Chemicals & Marketing Limited. In fact, the list is endless.
What does it take to become an entrepreneur and a successful one at that? One should be a risk taker, have leadership skills, be honest and optimistic.
But business mogul Jimmy Koreia-Mpatsa, yet another inspiration, adds that personally to him, religious beliefs have also helped him out as he believes he could not have achieved what he has without the intervention of God. Further, he mentions family i.e. a good and understanding wife as well as supportive family are critical to the success of one in business.
Besides, Mpatsa, that humble man who freely interacts with all and sundry, says one should have some knowledge of the industry they are venturing into to succeed. Of course, this should not limit one from venturing into unfamiliar territory. Talk of risk taking!
Financial prudence is yet another key to success in business. In one of his motivational talks to prospective entrepreneurs, Mpatsa said financial prudence includes separation of the individual from the business. He said this is the reason one will still find his name on the payroll of Mpatsa Holdings Limited or indeed see him and his family paying for services at any of the business ventures owned by his Mpatsa Holdings.
From these experiences, one can see that big things come from small ventures with dedication, determination, courage and honesty.
The bottomline is never to give up in whatever endeavour one is undertaking. We need to think outside the box.
In the words of American civil rights campaigner, Martin Luther King Jr: “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”