Today’s story is about a giant misconception that we learn as kids. We demonize the culture of entrepreneurship. Let me share a story about this.
I am someone who has very many crazy ideas. My friends usually come to me when they are looking for crazy ideas. I have no idea what they use them for. So anyways, I got to know about the concept of coming up with ideas and making money out of them i.e. entrepreneurship. I had the impression that entrepreneurs have very complicated ideas and they use these complicated ideas to make money. I thought they had to have flashy cars and very fancy offices in order for those ideas to come to life. I believed that these fancy things would magically turn the ideas into money. As a rather broke young man, I decided to come up with a list of crazy ideas and choose one to turn into a business.
It was something like this:
#1. A love guru.
I noticed how popular love gurus are and how much people are willing to part with money to “get their exes back.” They use the most ridiculous claims and they STILL MAKE MONEY. I don’t believe in lying and I didn’t really have the personality to bring that to life. Besides, I didn’t have any flashy lamborghinis and mansions with swimming pools so I quickly killed this idea.
#2. An airtime salesman
I knew of a few people who sold airtime and made huge profits from this. The secret was to push volumes. However, I felt too embarrassed to try out this business and quickly abandoned it.
#3. A pig farmer
If you read my earlier blog posts [insert hyperlink here gandachibvuva], I mentioned that the place I worked at was in a remote part of the country. The guys there did pig rearing. I saw how profitable it was and considered buying my own plot of land and rearing pigs. That idea died a quick death.
Donkey Years Later
#4. Super glue
This actually wasn’t my idea. In electronics, for you to make a good project, you need good casing. This could be a simple transparent plastic casing or a nice metallic body. We used simple transparent plastic, and to keep this together you need to buy super glue. For those who don’t know what this is it is glue that sets really quickly and binds things together permanently, hence, the name superglue. I went down town in Harare since that’s where it’s sold cheaply and bought a couple of tubes. After buying, the salesman gave me the receipt and challenged me to start my own superglue business. He explained the profits involved and they were certainly better than selling airtime. I smiled and left. I thought about that all night long. Selling superglue.
“Get your Maputi from me!”
This was a very confident guy I told myself. He sold maputi (popcorn) to students. I remember him carrying around scores of maputi packs in his bag and selling them all in a matter of minutes. I really envied him as he was making good money. A friend and I made a few calculations and they did prove that he (Mr Maputi) was making good money. I was making nothing. After having a few discussions complaining about how us students were very broke I decided to make a drastic change.
You guessed it. I was going to start my super glue business. If “Mr Maputi” could make good money then so could I. The problem was that I was really scared. We believe in entrepreneurs with ferraris and custom made furniture in their offices. The society really looks down upon vendors. I found myself in a pretty tight spot because I had realized that vendors are actually entrepreneurs – small scale entrepreneurs but I knew that not many people saw them in that way. I thought about what people would think of me if they were to hear that I was selling super glue. “Mr Maputi” passed by my room with his big bag and after seeing myself unconsciously giving money to him I challenged myself to start the business. If he could do it, then so could I.
I did what any entrepreneur would do. I went on google, looked for a nice template of a super glue business, carried out research about my ideal target market and the right approach I needed to take. I spent days choosing the right logo for my super glue business. After a week I Donkey Years Laterhad successfully done NOTHING. No customers approached. I had packs of super glue in my drawer just staring at me begging to be sold. I spent another week doing nothing. After finally realizing that the business was going nowhere I realized that there was a need for drastic action. I opened a microsoft word document, created a short advert and got it printed. I then waited till 00:30 when everyone was asleep and put my flyers on all noticeboards. I then went to sleep.
From those packets of glue, I managed to buy a Mercedes for my parents, buy myself a plane ticket to Dubai and donate 5000 dollars to a charity organization. Yes. This all happened in my dreams. In the real world, things were different. The business was a success in the end as I managed to sell a whopping 40 packets of super glue in 2 months. I believe that it was almost a miracle that I managed to sell so many of them. My advert had no location (address / house number / room number), and no name. It just had a short statement saying that I sell super glue and a number to call.
So What Went Wrong?
Well, its simple. We demonize entrepreneurship. We believe that we will make money in the first week of starting a business and live in fantasy land. We heavily discourage those who are starting out and instead of supporting them, we laugh at them and give them nasty labels. We refuse to buy their products because we deem them to be inferior.
Why do people demonize entrepreneurship? You may ask. It is because we are scared. It took guts for “Mr Maputi” to sell maputi to other students. All of my friends that I talked to greatly envied the guy and wished they had the courage to do so. This experience left me with one very valuable life lesson. I was not alone. Many people were crippled with fear just like me. It is fear that that murders many people’s dreams and leaves them saying “I wish …” and spend entire lifetimes being afraid to try out entrepreneurship.
That brings us to the end of the blog post. Which entrepreneurial idea did you send to the grave because of fear? Share your answer in the comments!