Entrepreneurship 101: making lemonade from lemons
Posted on November 29, 2013
You have to work twice as hard; negotiate twice as much; and think “simplicity”at least half of the time.
Lagos is hot. In winter our temperatures average 30 degrees Celsius. You can imagine the heat in summer. Although you would see thousands of entrepreneurs and their businesses wandering the packed potholed roads of the main city, it was rare to find one that in the simplest form addressed the heat issue. That is where I came in. I took the abundant supply of fruit available to the land and mixed it with ice. Together, the simple mixture made me a million.
To me, entrepreneurship is basic. It is about finding a solution to a problem. The concept doesn’t need to be extravagant, but it does need to simply address a need pressing enough for people to want to pay for the solution. I had to be rather strategic in this journey. From an entrepreneurial perspective the market was crowded with small businesses. I trade on the streets of Lagos, thus me simply joining the market was not going to work as all I would be doing is adding noise. I had to be different. I needed to stand out. I did so by employing simple tactics: most of the traders are male, so I employed women only. Most – if not all – of the traders wear their own clothes, so I made my employees wear white. The bright uniform would set them apart in a busy street. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, instead of selling another fruit, I decided to sell it cold, and drinkable! It was these basic concepts ( coupled with the commission based salary structure for my employees ) that set us apart. To the other traders we were too many to try to compete against. To the consumers stuck in traffic, not only were we the solution to their immediate concerns, but, we were visible.
I love my business. I love it’s simplicity. But, I understand that much more will need to be done to make it global. I will have to develop a brand, and begin to market it under that banner, instead of employing the current gorilla tactics of simple trade. It takes boldness and hard work to succeed in any market. But neither of those are enough to draw market attention. You have to be different, and the first step to being different is to think differently. Ask yourself: “what is the problem in its’ most simple form?” Then, come up with a simple solution to it.