One thing that I have learnt in my short career as an entrepreneur is that it is easier to learn life lessons by walking in the footsteps of others, especially the footsteps of seasoned entrepreneurs in your local community. This realization became even more apparent after hosting Edwin Bruno on Startup Grind Dar es Salaam earlier this month.
Here are a few lessons that I took away from interacting and interviewing one of Africa’s future billionaires as named by Forbes Africa and the founder of SmartCodes, a digital agency based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania that is behind the ground-breaking digital newsstand app, M-Paper. I believe that these lessons may be helpful to other budding entrepreneurs.
5 key lessons to take home
· Know your target market and their needs
For your business to thrive, you need to understand your target market and to meet their needs or provide solutions to their problems. This is especially helpful when it comes to marketing and sales. Target who you after and you will know how to get to them easily and how best to serve them. According to Edwin Bruno this is of absolute importance to a business no matter how big or small. In his interview, Edwin talks about ‘selling customers their dream.’ He illustrates how he used the knowledge he had about his target market to sell CDs to them and later to enter the South Africa market with the M-Paper App.
So whatever business you are in, however big or small, knowing and understanding your target market is everything. Failure to do that, means you will struggle with marketing and sales, consequently your business.
· Stop dreaming, start doing
Like many successful entrepreneurs, Edwin does not discredit the power to dream. If he did not dream big, his business would probably not be as successful as it is today. However, people who dream a lot without doing, accomplish nothing. As such Edwin advises young entrepreneurs especially techpreneurs to move beyond the dreaming part and make the dream a reality. Doing is what differentiates an entrepreneur from a dreamer.
· Go out and find a client
Pitching to potential investors may seem like the easiest way to get funding for your business but preparing for a pitching competition takes a long time and in the end there is always only one winner. So, Edwin advices that entrepreneurs should not wait for pitching competitions and investors to come to them. Instead, entrepreneurs should go out and pitch to clients and sell their services or products.
· Take risks and be smart about it
Risk is part and parcel of being an entrepreneur. If you have not taken any risk while running a start-up company then you are either one lucky entrepreneur or you are not really an entrepreneur at all. But what differentiates a successful entrepreneur from other entrepreneurs, is their ability to take a calculated risk, as Edwin did when he started out on the M-Paper project. Instead of fully designing an app which would cost a lot of money and time, he designed a framework and presented that to newspaper publishers. Luckily, he was able to convince all publishers in Tanzania to come on board after which he proceeded to design the app. The moral of the story is if his plan had not worked, he would not have lost a lot of money or time on building an app. He took a reasonable risk and he was smart about it.
· Always take the time to learn
Every entrepreneur should foster a culture of learning because growth as a startup founder is closely tied to the growth of your startup. Hence Edwin advises that entrepreneurs should make use of online learning resources such as YouTube, and Lynda.com on LinkedIn.
These are only few of the lessons I learned from Edwin Bruno but in case you want to learn more, watch his interview video here.