“When I started my business, I had the passion, but I didn’t know how to start, or where to go,” relates Lesego Serolong, CEO of Bokamoso Foods in South Africa. Does this sound familiar?
Starting a new business, especially a FIRST business is stressful. Many entrepreneurs don’t even know what questions to ask. That is where entrepreneurial communities, like GoGettaz and Nourishing Africa – one of our influential collaborators – come into play. Bringing together agripreneurs to share their hard-earned experiences in agribusiness can smooth the way.
Lesego has a food packaging company. Presenting on the popular Nourishing Africa First Thursdays webinar, she says, “Not rushing into an idea, making sure you have the proper structure, that you have done proper research, it will enable you to thrive in your business.” This is her advice on setting up your agribusiness the right way.
1. Really Understand Your Idea
What are you trying to solve?
Every business starts with a problem that needs solving. Do you really understand the needs of your customer?
“Maybe you are frustrated by the fact that you can’t get you produce to a market as soon as you would like. It’s very important that you identify the problem you are trying to solve,” says Lesego. If the problem is poor roads, perhaps you can turn it into a winning business idea.
For your customer, poor roads are not the problem. They need your produce to have a longer shelf-life. You might not be able to fix the roads, but perhaps you can solve the problem by finding ways to extend the shelf-life of your fruits and vegetables like the team at StixFresh.
Are you committed to your idea?
“Not everyone will get excited like you are excited. You need to stay committed to your idea, and tied to that, you need conviction in your own beliefs. Even if it takes ten years, which is the average for most start-ups before they really take off, you need to believe in your own conviction and stay focussed,” says Lesego.
2. Do the Planning and Research
Structure your ideas into a business plan.
Creating a paper model of your business will help you think through the different parts of your business. Use the business model canvas, and the 8 parts of a business plan to get to know your business. You will quickly see (identify your) blind spots that will require a bit more research.
Research the Market
Read about the industry you are in. Find out who else is doing what you are doing, and where they are doing it.
“What makes you different? In my case, with packaging, we realised there were not as many packaging companies specifically located in Gauteng. You need to find that specific spot that will act as your competitive advantage,” Lesego says.
“You need to do so much research that when you take your idea to the bank or to financiers, they need to have confidence in you, that you understand the thing you want to build,” is Lesego’s advice.
Gaining Economy of Scale
Lesego says, “Develop your market entry strategy and data analysis,” then “find a small market in which you can get a monopoly and scale quickly.” This niche in the market is closely linked to your unique competitive advantage.
She continues, “Think about market growth and ways your business might evolve.” Think ten years into the future and ask yourself if your market will still be there. Will your current customers still need your current product, or will you need to innovate to stay relevant?
Your customers are always looking for solutions. It is your job to supply them with it.
Building Your Product
Lesogo’s advice is, “One thing I have learnt the hard way… Instead of starting with a million products, you need to focus on one thing that you do, and make sure you do it really well. Your customers will always remember you for that.”
3. Execute Your Plan
Running a business has many nitty-gritty bits. Join Dolapo Adeseye, Accounts and Admin Manager at Sahel Consulting in Nigeria as he talks about business registration and compliance, contracts, and bookkeeping.
Lesego says, “You don’t have a business if you don’t have customers. … Never underestimate the power of customer engagement.” By building a strong personal and professional relationship with your customers you ensure that your customers will be loyal.
The same is true of your relationship with your vendors.
“I think it is better to stick to local suppliers to build up goodwill. I build relationships with my suppliers because even if they don’t have enough stock… if I call and say I need sugar today, they will make sure I am the first person on the list,” relates Lesogo.
Get the Right Machinery
Do your homework. Machinery is expensive. Before you buy, make sure the machine’s output matches your production requirements. A poorly researched investment can hold back your business.
“If you are running a restaurant, it takes time to get the right spot. You need a busy place. You need a place that is accessible. Engage with real-estate agents that will help you finds a suitable location,” is Lesogo’s advice.
The food industry is regulated to protect people. Find out which certifications govern your business. Especially when you supply retailers, they will not do business with you unless you can prove you are meeting regulatory standards by presenting the right Food Safety Certificates or HACCP Certificates,
Create a Credible Business Identity
Your branding, logo, website, and social media presence all count towards trust. Can people find you, and do you look legitimate?
Lesego continues: “You, as an entrepreneur, are also a brand. Think about how you carry yourself and how you engage your customers because that speaks volumes.”
4. Build Your Team
The last major part of your business is the people you work with. Lesego says, “You can’t do it alone. Establish a board of mentors and advisors. Get legal and financial advice on how to start a business.”
When you bring on partners and employees, have a clear direction and a collective vision of success that everyone can believe in.
Be clear about roles and responsibilities. Make sure you explain to team members exactly what is expected of them, and how they will be assessed.
People should express passion and motivation for the work. They have to buy in to the dream and take ownership.
Retain Key Staff
Who can really do the work? Bring in people with expertise, who add the essential skills you need to grow. Creating an ecosystem that supports their ideas and innovations. Employees can bring you ideas that will take your business to the next level.
Measure Performance and Give Rewards
Consistently conduct performance reviews and accountability. Get the best out of your employees by rewarding achievements.
Are you following Lesego’s advice to build an agribusiness? Then, embrace the biggest opportunity in Africa! Bring your energy, courage, and creativity to the GoGettaz Agripreneur Prize Competition and grow your business.
The 2021 GoGettaz Agripreneur Prize Competition is open, and we want to hear from you.