A group of entrepreneurs learned a number of valuable business lessons from the experts – among them incubators and funders – at the first MTN Business South Africa digital entrepreneur master class.
Entrepreneurs and stakeholders in MTN Business South Africa took part in a digital entrepreneur master class, a first of its kind event hosted by the business unit of the multinational mobile telecommunications company.
Various companies, such as cellphone maker Samsung South Africa and advertising sales company Ad Dynamo exhibited some of their new products and services. MTN Business used the event, which was held on 27 October in Bryanston, Johannesburg, to teach entrepreneurs about a variety of business issues, such as how to set up a company website within minutes.
Be a rainmaker
Mike Anderson of the National Small Business Council said the council undertook a survey of more than 10 000 small business owners. “The fastest growing services among entrepreneurs are professional services. These are your doctors and nurses opening up their own practices,” he said.
Anderson commended entrepreneurs. “The animal of an entrepreneur [makes] him go from zero to hero to zero to hero again. It is better to fail a thousand times than to have not tried at all.”
Speaking about areas in which small business owners struggled, he mentioned sales and marketing: 43% found this challenging; and business and strategic planning: 26% found this challenging.
Anderson urged entrepreneurs to become rainmakers. “Give your business a digital transformation. Be brutal on money.”
David Mphelo said the master class was held so that entrepreneurs could learn the tools necessary to enable them to be the next players in the digital space. “We need to play digital as the next catalysts.”
“Digital” and “business”, he said, would be synonymous by 2018. “Global statistics show that by 2018, 1.1 billion new users will be on the mobile messaging platforms.”
The Master classes
Weiling Chiu of MTN Business Group’s SME division, gave a class on “Marketing your business on a dime”.
As an entrepreneur, she said, you should ask yourself daily why you are doing what you are doing. “People buy why you can do it, not what you do… Remember you are your own Picasso of your business.”
She showed the entrepreneurs free websites where you could, for example, check your grammar, get free stock images, create templates or newsletters, manage your social media accounts, and post a week’s worth of content on the platforms within minutes.
Zukile Nomafu of the small business enterprise support programme National Gazelles gave tips on how entrepreneurs could use incubation programmes to accelerate their businesses. There were more than 90 incubators in South Africa, he said.
Small business owners should keep in mind that incubators focused on growth and issues relating to funding, he added. “We do not focus on the normal day to day problems of your business.”
On entrepreneurs seeking funding, he advised: “Funders take little risk – they do not like taking risks. So, get your story right first. If you get your story right, 80% of you will not need funding.”
Before joining an incubator, according to Nomafu, you should:
• Research your options; this means you should ask yourself what do you want to get out of the programme, such as mentors.
• Talk to alumni.
• Assemble your team.
• Master your pitch.
• Decide what you want to give.
• Seek legal advice.
Going beyond South Africa
It was important for entrepreneurs to know what they wanted to do, said Omotayo Ojutalayo of the MTN Business Group’s SME division. “Think how is your solution to the South African market and beyond. Is your solution relevant for a country outside South Africa?”
She added: “[Your] idea will have a very low optic (vision) if it is too complex to communicate. Keep it simple.”
Ojutalayo said entrepreneurs should also think about with whom they could collaborate. “(When attempting to collaborate with someone) think about how far this partner can take you. Ask: can my potential partner add to my business that is appealing to people?
“Also, what skills does my partner have that I don’t?”
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