This week alone, I have received tens of emails from startup entrepreneurs like me asking me questions believing I have all the answers to the questions in their minds.
First of all, I let them know I too, am still learning the ropes, like everybody else. I am facing the same challenges every regular startup faces at this stage of business.
Most of their questions bother on sourcing funding, when to hire, company valuation and stuffs like that.
Well, I tried to answer most of them to the best of my knowledge.
For funding I always solicit starting small, with what you have personally.
When what you have finishes, then run to your friends and family. If you can't convince those that know you about the viability of your business, then how can you convince the shrewd investors who don't even care if you exist but only cares about their money.
Except you have a rich uncle like Dangote when he started, this might be your only bet. You might have to use your house as your office. Convert your mobile phone to a business line, your car to your delivery van, offer your products or service to your immediate neighbors and gain initial traction. From there you scale.
I find it difficult to understand why people find this method so hard to follow. I built a large cyber cafe from just one laptop. I started off as a computer teacher. I asked my first student to come with her own laptop. Before the day we were to start, I had to go to a friend's shop to beg him to allow me teach a student there and in return I will fuel his generator for that period. It was a good bargain.
Before I would finish her program, a man brought his pregnant wife to the same shop to enroll her. My host, impressed by my hustling spirit, opted to allow me clear one abandoned part of his shop and set up some computer table, in preparation of more students. I then paid for the small space. Before long more students came in to enroll. From the school fees, I bought 3 sets of desktop computers and a white board. Business has started.
I was having an average of 4 students registering per month at the beginning. Before I knew it, I started getting calls here and there from top company executives to come teach them computer at home. Of course their own price was different. I later got a tokunbo generator, expanded to half of the shop and before 1 year, my host moved to a free shop next to mine while I paid for the whole shop. I employed staff in addition to my computer interns. I had since graduated over 400 students in the last 4 years
I figured out that, in addition to running a computer school, I can also do cyber cafe here and other computer services. I raised like 100k and bought some non tested computers from odolowu warehouse, formatted them, networked them and voila, cafe has started. I got some fairly used computer machines like photocopier, lamination machine,etc. I learnt website design and graphics by reading ebooks and watch you tube videos
Fast forward to this day, I have moved office twice to accommodate the growing business. After 4 years running a cyber cafe, I was ready for a new challenge. During my 3 month outreach programme in Kirikiri Maximum Prison, God dropped the idea of Pukena in my heart.
All I am doing is reusing a tested process of starting a business. I used it when I was sent to plant a Winners Chapel Station at Okwelle, Imo State, which has grown to one of the biggest branches in the state. I used it to build a cleaning services business from knocking on people's doors in Okigwe and asking for cloths to wash and rugs to launder. That business also grew to handling the cleaning contracts of major banks and hotels in okigwe.
So starting small is not an option.
God started creating the world alone. He was 3 people in one. That's exactly what a startup founder must be. You must be the chief executive officer, chief operation officer, chief marketing officer, chief personnel officer, chief finance officer and any other duty that need in your company at the beginning.
You don't start off with a crowd. You waste energy and momentum. Crowd is liability, it takes money from your pocket. You need leaders, first YOU. When you have done everything and can't do it further, you then employ for the pain.
You don't employ a staff except for the pain.
I identified 5 pillars of Pukena- Operations, Marketing, Personnel, Finance and Technology. These would later be the core Management Board of Pukena Group.
But now, I can't afford the kind of talents I need in those areas. So I am forced to learn all of them! You need to see the volume of information I devour daily in these areas daily.
Now, I am never gonna to be an expert in all these areas more than the people trained specifically for those areas. But if you have to effectively lead a team of those experts, you've got to know a bit of what they know!
Every CEO knows a bit of every thing
And God said, "Let us make man...."
For God to pull of the miracle of creation, He has to be everything in one person!
So fellow startups, the race is a marathon not a sprint. So let's roll up our sleeves and get our hand dirty!
Visit www.pukena.ng and be inspired