What does it require to be an entrepreneur?

Be your own boss; Create your dream; Do what makes you happy. These are but some of the buzz terms we see and hear daily. The drive is on to make everyone live their ‘authentic life’; a life where instead of working for a salary you are creating your own opportunities, setting your own pace and earning what you have managed to receive from service or craft.

Be your own boss; Create your dream; Do what makes you happy

These are but some of the buzz terms we see and hear daily. The drive is on to make everyone live their ‘authentic life’; a life where instead of working for a salary you are creating your own opportunities, setting your own pace and earning what you have managed to receive from service or craft.

 

Nowadays, more than ever, we are seeing a push for more persons to join the ranks of entrepreneurship. Whether or not this is the best thing for developing societies is a question up for debate among economists.

 

For the rest of us, it seems like a logical and well-meaning strategy. But, support is needed – it is essential that governments and private sector provide support and guidance while budding entrepreneurs develop the requisite skills, traits and ways of being. A good idea is not enough.

 

Here in Rwanda, the drive to promote entrepreneurship is in full swing. A visit to the Rwanda Development Board’s website will show where the country’s mind-set is, as it relates to promoting small and medium enterprises.

“At RDB we believe that building a young generation of Rwandan entrepreneurs will ultimately lead to vibrant SMEs and also contribute to creating decent jobs and reducing poverty. This programme is also aimed at preparing students to start thinking without the box (business, innovation etc).

Overall goal: To build a critical mass of young Rwandan entrepreneurs in the next in the five years.

General objective: Seeks to provide existing and potential entrepreneurs with the right skills and knowledge to become competitive players in the local or global market.”

A further exploration of this and other pertinent government websites will highlight information on how to access funds and training. The Business Incubation Centre, the BDF, Women Guarantee Fund and the Private Sector Federation are a few of the options. Through these entities, a Rwandan’s dream of entrepreneurship can get well underway.

Nevertheless, as can be seen from global rates of business accomplishment, entrepreneurship needs more than an idea, access to funds and training. There is a need for softer inputs. These inputs often separate success from its less loveable colleague – not a success. These softer inputs start with identifying traits needed.

A quick check using any search engine will show articles touting these relevant traits but for me the most critical ones are passion, appetite for risk, being decisive yet flexible, being nuanced and knowing when to speak and when to remain silent.

If one has done the assessment and the majority of the traits exist then it is time to get that business plan developed and begin the steps towards creating that life outside the 9 to 5 box.

But, as mentioned earlier, it is more than the idea and the access to funds and training. There are several other soft inputs which studies have shown are important to succeeding in the business world.

1. Mentorship provides an opportunity to learn from someone who has developed skills and attributes needed for success. This person should be willing to share their experiences and help you to achieve your goals.

2. Read every day. The need to acquire information and to learn strategies is paramount to business development and sustainability. Turn off the television, forego an extra hour of social media and grab a book, magazine or relevant online article which speaks to what you need to know and learn.

3. Networking is an age old strategy that never becomes irrelevant. Here in Kigali, get on the mailing list of the Impact Hub and the Goethe Institut. Attend that event for which you have received an invitation but it coincides with the latest episode of your favourite show. Keep, store and utilise business cards.

4. Be selective. If the goal is to create and grow a successful business then surrounding yourself with folks of a similar ilk is important. Those persons who are pushing to also build their dream and who drive you to be your best self may be most right for your core group.

5. Reputation. As the world evolves so do ideas and concepts. Back in the day many parents taught their children to be conscious of how they are viewed at school, church and especially by the neighbours. Today, with the rise of individuality, there seems to be less concern for how one is viewed. In business, this ought not to be so. Individual reputation as an entrepreneur will undoubtedly impact your business. How you deliver on what you set out to do. How transparent you are with your business dealings. These are some of the considerations for building a reputation.

The environment is right with the access to funds, the support systems in place and a collective effort to promote entrepreneurship. Ideas are abound and opportunities are lurking, both in the shadows and in the open.

Rwanda is ready for an even bigger surge of small and medium sized enterprises. The question is, ‘are Rwandans ready with the softer inputs’?

The writer owns and operates Forrest Jackson Relocation Services

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