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Bheki Dlamini
 
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Funding challenges? Great! Rethink your business model!

25 May 2014, 16:50
I have heard it all in my few years in business. How difficult it is to start a business in this country considering the challenges that entrepreneurs face trying to raise funds, the difficulties associated with the plight of the connected few controlling various sectors. There’s just so much that can deter prospective entrepreneurs from establishing their businesses and subsequently rob those that are in need of jobs of an opportunity.

I come from a very small community and most of the people originating from Khutsong know me, and some of them have my products hanging on their living room walls. Most have seen me with a massive camera dangling from my neck while still in high school and my business touched them in a number of ways.

As a consequence, now and again I run into a young man determined to start a business and seeking some sort of advice. On listening to them I realize that there’s a notion that starting a business is an easy task. Great, we need every businessperson to be positive in order to achieve his goal. But is that all one needs?

I have heard a number of business opportunities shared with me over time, and although the ideas are great, often there’s pretty much no research that would have gone into the concept. I end up having to crush a young man’s dream, temporarily anyway, simply because I wouldn’t want anyone to take an uncalculated risk on my watch. Don’t worry; most people don’t necessarily take advice that is not inline with their expectations. They go out and try their luck anyway.

So much has been blamed on the country’s business funding model. The time it takes for the funds to be approved, the sureties and the likes, and various other requirements necessary for the processing of funding.

When I started my business I was frustrated by these obstacles, not knowing that they were there to allow me time to clearly understand what business is. I learnt that its not as easy has using a camera as a necklace and making people smile. There’s always more to it.

You see, I went into business with a number of ideas, needless to say most of them were merely ideas with little potential in the real world, and those brought a lot of frustration than success.

When I realised what I had gotten myself into, it was just too late and I was quickly running out of funds. I tried applying for funding and realize that, even if my application was to be approved, I would be eating from the dumpster by then.

I had to reinvent my business, fast!

After a number of sleepless nights researching, it took me a few days to complete a workable concept, and when it was ready I didn’t even need to apply for funding. I shared the idea with a friend of mine who immediately undertook to invest in the business… Forget the age gap, a friend is a friend no matter what his age is. Besides, I connect way better with the oldies. They always have the wisest views.

I am writing this article following a discussion that I had yesterday with a young man seeking to venture into business and after receiving an email about an event aimed at teaching budding entrepreneurs how to pitch their ideas to potential investors.

This made me realize that the funding system in the country “could” be working. Please note, I said: “could”. It worked for me albeit indirectly. It made me strengthen my business plan and secure funding that was more beneficial and promptly available.

It’s common belief that investors don’t have time and one needs to be able to pitch within at least 30 seconds. Nonsense, if the business concept is robust, there is no need to listen to all that stuff that people regularly feed us. The concept will sell itself. The moment one starts experiencing challenges raising funds, one should know that there are still a few loose ends that need to be tightened.

If funding a business was any easier, many businesses would collapse within a few months of having been established and the government, or funding institutions would lose a lot of money in the process.

Whenever an entrepreneur faces challenges with funding, one should use that as a signal that something is still lacking. By entrepreneur, businessman I mean someone that is about to start, or someone that is running a sustainable business and not a business that is only reliant on the tender system. I have very little experience in that regard to write an article about.

Anyway, these are my views from what I have experienced in the past few years. Obviously there is more that can be shared but this is meant to be an easy read.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the weekend!

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