21 quotes on how to be a better entrepreneur: By Africans for Africans

This year How we made it in Africa spoke to entrepreneurs across the continent who shared their experiences and advice with the hope that it would help others get their own business ideas off the ground. Here are a few quotes worth remembering:

1. “Discipline yourself, pay yourself a salary, and whatever other revenue you generate, put it back into the company. Do this for at least the first five to eight years before you start looking to buy a Lamborghini.” – Basilio Makendengue, co-founder of NomeX in Equatorial Guinea

2. “It is all about creating value for customers. And if you can’t do that, then you shouldn’t be in business.” – Nadir Khamissa, South African entrepreneur and co-founder of Hello Group

3. “Entrepreneurship does take a toll on your social life. You are always focused on the business, thinking about work, even when you’ve taken time off to unwind… You need to be passionate about what you are doing. Then you need to have a purpose – for me it’s building a legacy and having a positive influence in society. Then you need perseverance to stick through the tough times; a plan to get you where you want to go; and good people to walk with you.” – Trushar Khetia, CEO of Society Stores in Kenya.

5. “As an entrepreneur I believe that no one can do it all. Never try to be a jack of all trades. But the lesson I’ve learned the hard way was never count on someone else to make your business a success. It’s your dream, your passion. If you want to succeed you have to make it happen. Don’t try and do it all yourself but be involved.” – Johan Meyer, Nambian entrepreneur and founder of Wallettec

6. “There is always an alternative way to doing things and it might end up being simpler, easier and cheaper than conventional ways. So as long as you have that mindset you will be able to innovate. And if you have passion, it will drive you through the whole difficult process of bringing it to success.” – Olufemi Odeleye, founder of Tryctor in Nigeria

7. “We have had a lot of issues in the past with people we have worked with because people over-promise and under-deliver. So the biggest lesson has been to always do a trial run before entering into a formal relationship.” – Moira Johnston, co-founder of EventRoom in South Africa

8. “The first lesson I learned was that patience and perseverance overcome mountains. Niger, like some other markets, is nascent and complex. The lack of frameworks, infrastructure and information demands a lot of patience in dealing with setbacks and delays. What truly defines success in such challenging markets is the ability to recreate oneself from one failure to another.” – Rohan Garg, co-founder of Belvie in Niger

10. “Surround yourself with people that really believe in you… I found, especially when I was working while starting this business, that there will be moments when you are really down, scared or worried, and just aren’t ready for some of the challenges and the setbacks. It demands a lot of patience and courage, but that courage comes from the people around you.” – Saheel Shah, co-founder of Adpack in Kenya

11. “I think the first mistake we made was thinking we could be our own accountants. We did not hire an accountant right away and that led to some mistakes in our financial system as we mixed up personal and company resources.” – Pascal Murasira, co-founder of snack label Winnaz in Rwanda

12. “[Entrepreneurs] need to get a business plan. And that is a term that is easily misunderstood. People think this is a sheet of paper that people go the internet and download and fill in the gaps. What they need to do is outline their business. You need to understand what you are selling, who you are selling to, why people will buy from you and how much people will pay you.” – Kehinde Oyeleke, founder of Seedvest in Nigeria

13. “Life is about having something to give in order for you to receive. And what is it that you have? You’ve got the brains, the intellectual capital and that will actually open many doors for you. So the first capital that you need, more than money, is intellectual capital.” – Lufefe Nomjana, founder of Espinaca Innovations in South Africa

15. “Sometimes you fix one problem and another arises. So you have to be focused, be flexible, and be willing to adapt to changes. Going into employment can be tempting – but I stay put knowing that I will achieve my goals one day, even if it takes 10 years.” – Sam Turyatunga, founder of Tursam Investments in Uganda

16. “Our biggest mistake was perfectionism. For months, we did not want to go out without having a perfect and fully-finished product. But we realised that our main source of improvement would be customers’ reviews. And thus we decided to go out with a MVP [minimal viable product] and gather customer feedback. This made us progress a lot more quickly and efficiently.” – Ted Boulou, founder of Somtou in Cameroon

17. “The secret is in paying your debts. When an investor or a bank gives you their money, just pay it back. They will trust you and help you in future. Even with suppliers, if you build a tradition of paying on time, one day when you’re in trouble they’ll be willing to wait because they know you’re not a conman…. Do not get caught up in trying to impress people with things you can’t afford. Don’t take all your profits and buy a big car to show off. I have been able to work with the same investor, and grow my business because I don’t waste funds trying to live a life that’s not yet mine. I believe any money saved is money earned.” – Obado Obadoh, founder of Café Deli and Delicatessen in Kenya

19. “Younger people are always in a hurry to do things. They want to become billionaires in two years, but in another two years, they collapse. That is why I always advise business people that only time allows you to [get there].” – Mike Mlombwa, founder of Countrywide Car Hire in Malawi

20. “No matter how good a product you have, still in Africa it is your reputation that counts.” – Ivan Mbowa, co-founder of Umati Capital in Kenya

21. “There will be a lot of obstacles on the way. But I never look at failure as failure – I look at it as: ‘What have I learnt from what happened – so that next time I can do things better?’” – Alfredo Jones, founder of Alduco in Equatorial Guinea


Abacus is the result of over 10 years market experience and is licensed as a data vendor by the Nairobi Securities Exchange

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