Having recently adopted a baby girl I have once again had the privilege of watching the development process taking place first hand. First teeth come with sleepless nights and grabbing something out of reach comes with painful face plants. It has reminded me of the old maxim that the magic of life is in the journey as much as in the destination.
Working with Entrepreneurs has provided me with the privilege of witnessing another development process. This process also comes with pain, and, like a baby learning through experience, an entrepreneur has the ability to reflect on the pain, to learn and to grow.
In the South African Entrepreneurial development environment we are currently facing the danger of wanting the results without valuing the journey that gets us these results. Unfortunately by placing more value on the outcome than the journey, we not only hamstring the ability of our Entrepreneurs to learn how to develop, but we potentially miss out on valuable innovations along the way. This innovation underlies the foundation upon which the growth of our economy depends.
We cannot simplify the Entrepreneurial start-up process, but the difference between an Entrepreneur wanting to start a business and an Entrepreneur wanting to solve a problem is a significant indicator of success. When I first met Patricia she had a passion for becoming a journalist and telling the real-life stories about the Diepsloot Township she lives in. Diepsloot has been associated with crime, violence, strikes and protest action, yet Patricia also saw the good news stories. The stories of encouragement and hope.
The first time myself and Patricia met, she was optimistic about being a positive voice in the community but unsure of how to take the first step. “I need a few months’ salary to start printing a community newsletter,” she said. “I don’t have that money.”
We spent some time together and I explained to Patricia the concept of ‘Minimum Viable Product’. Patricia’s thoughts started changing. She started thinking small. We explored the concept of starting a freemium blog site to start her on the journey. Most people would ignore this, but Patricia’s eyes lit up. She went to purchase some data to get started on her sister’s computer, but that evening a software update took the only data she could afford.
We met the next morning and I could see something had changed from the previous time we spoke. She was close to tears and told me that it was time to give up. We spoke about it for a while, but she was adamant that it was the end.
Two days later I received a message on my phone. It was Patricia. She sent a message saying that she wanted to go on and asked when we could meet again. With the help of, the Wot-If Trust, a local development organisation, Patricia has received access to a basic laptop and internet access. She was in business! Over the next two weeks Patricia started writing stories furiously and her readership base slowly began growing. Two weeks later Patricia was approached by two companies wanting to know if she sold advertising on her site. She then registered her own domain and is now generating cashflow.
Patricia’s challenges are not over. She is facing obstacles every day that involve load shedding and intimidation among the regular challenges of starting a business. Yet Patricia is willing to take the journey. And like my little girl who will soon be learning to walk, every failed step is a way of her strengthening her legs and training her to walk this entrepreneurial journey.
About Diepsloot Times:
The Diepsloot Township is a community on the outskirts of Johannesburg and is growing by 30 people a day. Unofficial numbers puts it at a community of between 500000 and 800000 people. Diepsloot times is a young online community newspaper, but its readership base is growing daily. Read more about Diepsloot Times as www.Diepsloottimes.co.za.