Why do some people more easily embark on entrepreneurial ventures? They just naturally ‘know’ what to do. They have that certain spark. They don’t always get it right but they keep bouncing back.
Most often, entrepreneurs inherit that ‘something’ by exposure to other entrepreneurs. Studies show that people who have relatives or friends in business are more likely to be aware of how small enterprises work.
Family role models
According to the Sowetan, businesswoman Chichi Maponya, daughter of South Africa’s black retail icon “learnt entrepreneurship from my parents”. That gave her the confidence to start her first business importing Italian shoes for the local market. And when things didn’t go as intended, she could call on family for advice.
Eatery owner Sizwe Dhlomo, cousin to Destiny Magazine publisher Khanyi Dhlomo, told the Sowetan “It helped to grow up in a family where my dad was an entrepreneur, because business advice was readily available.”
Techpreneur Adii Pienaar did holiday work in his dad’s computer shop and Alan Knott-Craig’s dad established and became CEO of Vodacom.
From SME South Africa we learn that Patrice Motsepe was already helping his father with the family business when he was only eight years old “selling alcohol to miners in their beer hall.”
But successful entrepreneurs, in fact any type of entrepreneur, are rare in South Africa. The 2014 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report notes that our level of entrepreneurship is the lowest in Sub-Saharan Africa.
This can partly be explained by the fact that under the apartheid regime, only white people were allowed to own businesses. This resulted in what is sometimes referred to as the entrepreneurial deficit: If there isn’t a business person in your family, you don’t have a role model to show you the ropes.
Learning from exposure
Children at the feet of shop owners in other countries learn how business works by hearing their parents talk. Cousins asking one another: How’s business? at family gatherings. They do it naturally and pass on the tradition to the next generation.
So how can you make success rub off on you? It’s one of the most established business methods in the world: Network.
Do you know a family or community member who knows someone in a company that you want to do business with? Do you have a client who could pass a business opportunity on to you because they know the right person to talk to? Could he or she introduce you to the decision maker? Do this deliberately: ask him or her for the referral. It’s not just ‘who you know’, it’s what you do with that information, how you use it to get the introduction to the contact person.
Networking is an effective marketing tool. Make connections through people who you went to school with, college or university alumni. Join business networking organisations like Business Network International, Young Women’s Business Network, South African Black Entrepreneurs Forum where you learn to how to nurture your contact. BNI has more than 2250 members locally who refer business opportunities to one another every day.
first published in SME South Africa
Join an incubator like Shandula or a co-working space like OPEN or Workshop 17 and meet other entrepreneurs and share ideas as well as contacts. Maponya recommends that entrepreneurs get themselves a mentor. Nkosi says that Maponya’s advice was invaluable when was she was starting up her business.
This article was written by an entrepreneur who learned from his dad. How are you getting the entrepreneurial spirit to rub off on you?
Click here if you want to discuss how to find business opportunities through networking.