2 September 2010

Top tips from Africa's entrepreneurs

What is the secret of success in business? During Africa Economy week, BBC News asked entrepreneurs across the continent to give us their "top tips".

Market seller with strawberries, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Running a business in Africa's harsh economic climate can be a real juggling act.

You have to think fast in business.

If someone asks - "Are you selling your blouse?" Sell it!

You can always buy another one.
You need lots of patience and nerves of steel

The first day I opened my shop, I only had five bunches of roses.

My first customer didn't see the flowers I had - all he saw was water.

So he asked me: "Are you selling water?"

I told him - "Yes!" That 20 cents he gave me was my first income.

You have to be brave. You have to be aggressive. Don't be embarrassed.

Nigeria is driven by nepotism.

But you have to hang in there.
When you have the right product and you wait long enough, the rainy day will come.
Also, putting in the street style works well for me.
Formal training can help. But businesses are driven by passion and innovation.
Even if I'd been to the best business schools, my business would still be driven by my goals.

Sylvia Banda, Zambia
Sylvia Banda's first restaurant had no tables. She now owns 16 eateries.
My advice - persevere.
I remember very well the first day I opened my restaurant.
I did not have any chairs. I did not have any tables.
My customers had to eat in a standing position. I told them - you're going to have a "standing buffet".
They laughed and continued eating, and that's how my catering business was born.
Today, we have 16 eating places in Lusaka and we have opened a college training students in hospitality.
It is important to say to yourself - I am as good as the other person. If that person can do it, then so can I.

You don't need to save a huge amount before you start your business.
You can begin working from your house, or even under a tree.
We started with a small amount - buying two or three dryers, chairs and other equipment a customer might need.
Anybody who came, we gave them good hair.
Then, by managing well, we have grown bigger.

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