No-one gets it right the first time. Mistakes are a part of life. And, if you think about it, the only real mistake you can make is not learning from your mistakes.
Unfortunately for new business owners, entrepreneurs, and agripreneurs, a single mistake can mean the end of a successful venture. So, it is always a good idea to find out what mistakes other businesses have made, and what lessons they have learnt that have led to success.
Let’s look at three big mistakes that can cost you time, money, or even your business…
1. Do it all yourself
The urge is great when you just start out to do everything yourself. It just makes sense, because you need to be frugal and try to save as much money as possible.
For a short while, it may even be a good idea. But every company will reach a point where there aren’t enough hours in the day, or enough skills and expertise, to get everything done.
Agriculture crowd-investment platform, YouFarm, talks about learning this lesson when they were running 5 pilot projects in Zimbabwe.
“There was one common denominator in the 3 failed pilots. US! We were trying to do everything from providing the finance, to managing the farmers, to providing extension services. We ended up over stretching ourselves as opposed to focusing on one thing and doing it well.”
Analysing their failures, they realised, “instead of trying to do everything, we needed to focus on providing a platform that allows people to invest in crops and livestock and share the profits with the farmers when the produce goes to market and leave the management of farmers to the experts.”
Founder Johan Paul Matenga and Co-Founder Kudzai Zhanje went back to the drawing board and created the YouFarm Franchisee Model. By outsourcing the hands-on scouting and farm management to community-based entrepreneurs, their franchisees, they could focus on what they do best.
And the result? “This has profoundly changed the way we now operate. We can now scale faster and reach more farmers,” they say.
2. Go full throttle without a market
South African farmer Bongani Zulu says, “Before planting any crop you must secure a reliable market and plant according to the demand of the market,” in an interview with Food for Mzansi Journalist, Duncan Masiwa.
This is a lesson Bongani learnt the hard way.
Bongani, a maize and sugar bean farmer, correctly predicted a change in the local food markets and a higher demand for vegetables as COVID first started spreading.
So, without ensuring he had a market in place, he planted 30 000 heads of cabbage, anticipating a lucrative sale to government nutrition programmes.
Come harvest time, schools were closed for lockdown, the nutrition programmes didn’t need his cabbages, and “his local informal market was also being flooded with cabbages and spinach.”
Bongani says, “Competition was just too high, and sales were not as expected. I had hoped to sell the cabbages for R10 per head but I was forced to bring it down to as low as R6.”
“I have a business to run, so I can’t dwell on one mistake. Farming is all about taking risks and sometimes they don’t work out. Risks are everywhere, but I can’t give up just because I didn’t like the results. That would make me a coward,” he tells Food for Mzansi.
3. Don’t do the research
Nigerian food producer, processor and delivery service, Simply Green Limited has a slick operation. They provide farm-to-table fruit, vegetables, spices, herbs and organic juices. But it didn’t start off that way.
“I make mistakes every day but not having done enough research when I initially got into agriculture was probably the biggest.”
Speaking to Nelly Murungi from How We Made It in Africa, Simply Green CEO Shola Ladoja, says, “I had to acknowledge I didn’t have a broad knowledge and lacked experience. I was naïve and thought agriculture was about throwing a seed in the ground, leaving it there and it would grow.”
Understanding your industry, your market, and your investors takes lots of research.
Shola says, “I soon realised agriculture was a science. I had to learn about the weather, rainfall, temperature and how to test the soil. I had to know about fungal infections and bacterial infections and what breeds those types of infections. I travelled out of the country for summer breaks and found small farms where I could work for free. I gained knowledge and experience and when I came back to my country, I used it to improve my own farming.”
What mistakes have made you the agripreneur you are today? Are you more positive, more effective and more profitable because of the lessons you have learnt?
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