Scared of frauds? No wahala: 4 tips for conducting proper due diligence with global partners

Due diligence

A significant amount of entrepreneurs in South Africa are getting comfortable with the idea of doing business across borders, be it sourcing goods and services to even looking for strategic partnerships with foreign entities. The African continent has become more accessible and opportunities abound for entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises. What’s more, African businesses have been partnering with the relatively unknown East.

Social media exposes business owners to opportunities they would not otherwise have access to. This is exciting. Those who have done cross border business will tell you that in so much as the potential for business synergies is there, the risks are equally matched. Take for an example a recent case that came to my attention for assistance.

A South African business owner (who we will call James to protect his identity) in the commercial real estate industry got the shock of his life when it turned out that the Chinese businessman he had an ‘in principle agreement’ with (which was later deleted from the email correspondence) was nothing but a fraud. Mind you, James had incurred large costs in setting up partnerships with other businesses and even going as far as paying for elements of the agreement.

You might think, ‘that’s not smart!’ and I would have to agree with you. However, the need to acquire first mover advantage sometimes propels us to make an early commitment for fear that someone else may snatch the lucrative opportunity from us. In the process, we tend to skimp on due diligence with disastrous consequences for our livelihoods and credibility.

Stories abound of orders that were never delivered or were of a cheaper variant. These occurrences are not unique to South Africans and Chinese businesses; they happen throughout the continent with potential partners across various regions. Like in any business relationship, proper due diligence is of paramount importance in conducting trade or investment relations.

As more people take the entrepreneurship route, it is important to know that doing business across borders has inherent risks and one needs to be smart to avoid frustrations. Doing your homework can mitigate risks and help you make informed decisions.

Below are some considerations I take into account when I’m dealing with prospective cross border relations:

Seek out word of mouth referrals

Nothing is more comforting than finding good partners/suppliers. Like with anything these days, word of mouth goes a long way and in most cases save you a lot of hassle.

However, reviews by themselves cannot substitute for verification. Speak to those who have walked along the same path as you and where possible, speak to their associates as well.

A traceable track record is key

When you are in the early stages of your business, the last thing you need is to deal with amateurs who will promise you heaven and earth and deliver nothing. If you’re a novice, you need to ensure potential partner has a proven record for quality service.

Invest time in establishing the authenticity of such a claimed record. It may be tedious, and possibly costly, but it will spare you losses further down the line.

Courtship is the way to go

Just as when you meet a prospective life partner, you need to take your time to get to know your business partner before committing. Don’t go on impulse, court first!

Don’t be like James and fall prey to pressure tactics. Solidifying business relationships takes time so don’t rush things!

Get samples beforehand and VISIT premises where possible

Too many people have relied on assurances from a seller about the quality of their goods. Too many people have taken letterheads as proof of existence. You can make no bigger mistake as a small time buyer than to buy goods you have not sampled or not visiting the premises of your manufacturer.

You would be amazed the things some conmen will do to dupe you into buying their non-existent goods from their non-existent premises. Nothing can ever substitute for checking out the premise yourself.

If this is not physically possible, there are trade agents who can do the leg work on your behalf for a small fee. Do invest in your future success.

Trust your gut (first listen to it)

We all have that little voice that tells us from the moment we meet someone whether you can trust them or not. Most of the time we ignore this voice and many a times, we wish we had listened to our gut.

I have dealt with a number of entrepreneurs who allude to feelings of ‘something not feeling right’ and yet go ahead and invest their time and money, blaming themselves when things fall apart. Learn to entertain your inner voice and debate with it a bit. It will serve you well. Trust me!

Whether you are contemplating local partnerships or across borders, due diligence is key. Even more so for non-local partners due to the prohibitive costs of enforcing your rights. Do not be pressurized into early commitment as this may leave you occupying a reactive position and a trip down crisis management.

And if you are not sure about cross border regulations that govern your business, ASK. The Department of Trade and Industry (The DTI) in South Africa (and relevant in-country departments that deal with trade and investment issues) can save you from making costly mistakes!

4 simple ways to keep up on the digital inbound marketing trend

digital marketing trends

Are you interrupting your customers this year or are they on the hunt for you like a daily vitamin?

As you are trying to peacefully creep through the pages of Bella Naija, I mean do important research on the latest happenings around your entrepreneurial purists, the last thing you need are those pesky ads interrupting your research.

There are a few alternatives to those google ads and they call under the umbrella of inbound marketing. Inbound marketing practices have been taking over how we interact with users digitally. Inbound marketing is the ability to draw your customers to your site and products by creating highly engaging content. I emphasize to my clients – instead of interrupting users through traditional marketing methods, find other organic ways to flow into users’ day. .

Inbound practices are not only friendly to the user but they are economically friendly to entrepreneurs as well. It allows you to connect naturally to your users without spending a fortune on ads. Below are 4 effective ways to bring customers in.

1. Opt-in Emails

The lists built with care.

Your users visit your site and sign up to be apart of the greatness you have brewing. It’s an opt-in because they chose and verified that they wanted to receive that information from you.

It can be as simple as a “Sign up for our newsletter” box to the right or generously offering a free give away for signing up for your emailing list.

For example, if you’re a branding extraordinaire you may offer a quick and easy digital workbook in exchange for their information.  

Positive: Anyone that signed up for this emailing list is looking to have you there.

Difficulty: It takes time and strategic positioning to gather theses lists. You may have to form multiple partnerships with other entrepreneurs / businesses/ orgs to create visibility for yourself.

2. Thought Leadership

Are you an expert in your field? Do you have a niche area that you can speak about better than anyone else? Are you the new technology expert that’s going to tell me how solar powered refrigerators are going to change my life? Thought leadership has become the ultimate trend for entrepreneurs willing to share the best and most up to date information about their field.

Positive: Thought leadership opens doors for more speaking engagements and business opportunities because of your expertise.

Difficulty: You. Must. Be. Consistent. To whom much is given, much is required. Taking the step to being a thought leader, especially in a very in-demand field, requires consistency to remain relevant. If those refrigerators can suddenly teleport, I’m looking to you first to tell me why.

3. Blogs

A form of expressing the thought leadership are blogs! Start-ups to larger companies such as Price Water Coopers are utilizing the buzz. Potential customers, competitors and collaborators want to what you’re up to and where your interests lie. Fill them in.

Positive: It’s a quick and easy way to get the information to people that are already following your work.

Difficulty: There is a fine line between too little information and too much. People want to be engaged, educated and/ or entertained in a matter of a few minutes. One platform that I absolutely promote the utilization of is: Medium.com. A quick and easy platform that allows you to connect to fellow bloggers, business owners and politicians.

4. Community Building

My favorite building trend. Yes, I am shamelessly biased to this form of marketing. When you create a community, you create a space for your customers/ readers to feel engaged,included and connected.  This is the first market to sample that great item you have on display.

As your continuously building that tribe of people who are invested in your product and expertise, they give you the right to infiltrate their inbox. What will you do with that power?

Community building is also a great leverage when forming future partnerships. This community is your direct audience; this is a selling point when meeting with potential sponsors.  Who can they really reach by working with you?

In sum, goal setting and discipline are a few keys to success! Pick one that you haven’t started yet and add it to your already bubbling list of New Year resolutions. All of these items build on each other, but choosing one to focus on first will allow you to measure impact and what is and isn’t going well with how you engage your users.

This is how you get and keep investors attention over email

Entrepreneurs should always be on the lookout for investors. With Google at your fingertips, finding the contact details of a prospective investor has never been easier. That said, simply reaching out to them is not enough as there are several others like you, seeking their attention.

Follow the tips below, and you’ll soon be on your to snagging and keeping an investor.

The prep

1. Hun, are you even ready?

Before reaching out to investors, ascertain if you require external funding as meeting investors too early may undervalue your company.

Also, you would need a business plan to demonstrate the viability and profitability of your business idea.

Remember, investors are no fairy godmothers. They’re putting their money in to get money out.

2. Make a list of who you want to meet

 Finding an investor goes beyond them cutting you a cheque. You need to research potential investors, how much money they typically invest in new businesses, the kind of ventures they’ve supported in the past, and the sort of industry knowledge they can provide you.

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For instance, if you’re starting an e-commerce company, it’s a good idea to reach out to e-commerce gurus.

3. Engage with them on social media.

This ties into the previous step. Follow the top dogs on Twitter, read and comment on their blogs, watch their speeches for advice. If you know what makes them tick, would inform you on how to approach them.

Here’s a tip within in tip: In your email to them, reference a remark they made that gave you an aha moment. They’ll appreciate it, and you’d have gotten edge over your competitors. 

#Motherland Mogul Tip: Refrain from sending invitations on Facebook or LinkedIn, because people tend to swerve on the randoms.

4. If you have connections, use them!

As competition is stiff, use every tools at your disposal. If someone in your circle, knows someone who knows an investor, tell them to ask their friend for an email introduction on our behalf.

Email introductions increase your chances of getting a response. But first, be sure to send your pitch to your friend to ensure your message doesn’t get lost in translation.

The Email

1. Identify yourself

Start by telling them who you are, what you do, and how you found out about them. If you were connected through a mutual acquaintance, mention it.

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And remember: use the tip within the tip mentioned above to separate you from the pack.

2. Get straight to the point.

Mention the name of your business, it’s aims and objectives. Then summarize your business plan and the stage of your startup.

At this point, an investor will decide if your idea is worth pursuing or not, so be sure to be as clear and interesting as possible.

3. Provide additional info

Include a link to your business website or attach a pitch deck or essay that elaborates the service or product your business provides.

Also, state how your company is solving a teething problem and what sets it apart from its competitors.

4. Why them?

Investors want to know why they’re a good match for you and your business.

Consider what your business requires to reach the next growth phase, and use it to sell your point.

Also, peruse the prep steps above for help.

And of course, we’re not done…

5. Get the ball rolling

Round up your email by mentioning you’d love to discuss in person, and provide three suitable dates. Also if you have product samples, offer to show them at the meeting.

6. Pique their curiosity a little

Finally, if you’ve already met or are meeting a influential person, mention it! This would give you more credibility and make them pay attention to you.

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But be slick about it because name-dropping is oh tacky.


Have you used any of these tips to reach out to investors? Did they help? Have you used others that have been helpful?

The one benefit of entrepreneurship no one talks about

Entrepreneur

In the early stages of starting PaintSpace Art Lounge, I went to visit a close family friend, who also owns her own business, to get advice and direction. As we talked, she said something to me that has shaped me as an entrepreneur: “Ehi, no one really knows what they are doing when they start a business. You can plan but at the end of the day, things will happen and you will have to figure it out. Trust me, whether you like it or not you will learn!”

Whether I like it or not, I learn every day.

I recently opened a mobile paint studio in the Greater Toronto Area, Canada and it has been a world of learning. I am learning about my business, industry, the clients and myself. Learning has, by far, been the most rewarding benefit of entrepreneurship.

Here’s what I’ve learned in the past year as an entrepreneur:

Be adaptable

Change is inevitable. Period. Be ready to embrace change. This is the only way you will find out if you are doing the right things or not. When you make mistakes, forgive yourself, learn from them and move on.

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I learnt how to allow myself to make mistakes. Once I made the decision to not beat myself up, I discovered a new depth of freedom.

Surround yourself with positive people

I cannot stress enough the importance of positive energy. Negative people will bring you and your spirit down.

As an entrepreneur, avoid negativity like a plague. Protect your thoughts and feed your energy with pure goodness.

Where there’s a will there’s a way

Let your passion burn and colour every thing your do. Willpower is the fuel you need to move your business idea from abstract to concrete.

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If you can’t exercise your will, forget about being an entrepreneur.

Develop your interpersonal skills

I manage a team of artists and from experience I have had to learn to listen and communicate with tact.  

 

Empower your team

As a new entrepreneur, my business feels like a newborn. I cannot imagine anyone else more capable of keeping my baby safe! But I have had to learn to delegate.

I now spend time training my team so they can take on more responsibilities. This not only demonstrates I trust them, it makes them feel they are part of the business. Empowering my team has made them more effective.

Gratitude

This has been the hardest lesson for me. Learning to be thankful for the wonderful things I have now and not focusing on the things I didn’t have was difficult.

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But once I embraced true gratitude, I found a new kind of happiness.

 

Quick 1 Min Guide: Tips to quality, engaging social media content

Social Media

Are you looking to improving your business? How do you engage your audience online?  

Below are 7 tools SLA Cofounder, Afua Osei, shared on enhancing social media strategy at SheHive Accra 2016.

1. Determine the objectives of your business

How can social media meet the goals of your brand?

 

2. Choose the platform(s) for your target audience

social media explained

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

 

3. Conduct research to help you generate content

What hashtags, pictures, and or videos are trending?

 

4. Be consistent in your approach to branding

branding guidelines

Use the same format (font, colours, logos, etc.) and language to communicate to your community every time.

5. Develop material that is unique to your business

unique-really_o_1463341Be clear about who you are and what you are trying to accomplish.

 

6. Proactively interact with audience

You can use an app like Crowdfire to manage your subscribers and tag photos of followers that use your product/service.

 

7. Gather and analyze data from your social media to see if your strategy is working.

You can use analytics from Facebook, Twitter or platforms such as Iconosquare and Bitly.

Top 5 digital marketing trends to stay on top of the wave

digital marketing trends

Digital marketing is the wave of the future. Many millennials are creating brand awareness online, and there’s no reason African women shouldn’t capitalize on this trend in our journey towards becoming industry leaders and entrepreneurs.

If you’re a techie, then this post isn’t for you. But if you’re a newbie looking to stay ahead of the curve, then these 5 trends are right up your alley.

Mobile in motion

We use these devices to chat, search for deals, get directions, and read our favorite blogs. In 10 countries, including the US and Japan, Google found most searches take place on mobile devices. So, you see going mobile is the future.

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Many brands are making their webpages more mobile-friendly to accommodate the growing use of hand-held devices. Mobile payment technologies such as PayPal, ApplePay, or Google Wallet are making it easier than ever to purchase items online.

Paid social media marketing

We’ve all seen the word “sponsored” with a post directly under it or adverts on the right side of the Facebook homepage. Paid social media marketing simply means paying a social media company to advertise your web content on its platform.

The goal for many brands is to create a “conversion funnel,”  a series of desired steps that converts a visitor to a loyal customer. The process works like this: social sharing of web content –> exposure of brand to online user –> online user visits website –> user becomes potential customer –> user converts to customer –> brand loyalty established.

Paid social media is not limited to big corporations only. Smaller firms are reaping the benefits as well. Paid social media allows brands to reach their defined target audience.

Brand humanization

Many brands are beginning to understand that connecting to their target audience on an emotional level is more likely to generate leads. No one wants to be seen as just another number, and customers love to feel valued. Brands are finding creative ways to demonstrate their personality by engaging with customers via company blogs, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.

Many YouTube vloggers for example,  have achieved financial success and a host of other opportunities because of their engagement with their audience.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, 76% of online customers will share personal information with a brand they trust if they believe it will upgrade their experience and interaction.

In summary, a humanized branding strategy is the way to go.

Video advertising

Video advertising is on the rise on desktop and mobile devices. According to Business Insider, “video ad revenue will increase at a three-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.5% through 2016.” Even Facebook and Twitter have gotten in on the video ad action, letting brands reach customers through ads.

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Companies understand that people using mobile devices are usually on the go, so the length of a video ad can’t overshoot the 30 seconds mark. However, on a desktop, since the user is stationery it is assumed that they have more time to view lengthier video ads.

Ephemeral marketing

Social media platforms such as Snapchat, which allows you to put on posts for a few seconds before it vanishes, encourages users to pay attention to the message presented to them.

Companies are using ephemeral marketing to post exclusive offers such as coupons and promotions. In a recent poll conducted by marketing company Sumpto, over 50% of college students indicated that they would purchase a product or service from a brand that sent them a coupon through Snapchat.

Many brands believe that it will provoke an immediate response on the part of the audience to take a call to action.  A call to action (CTA) in marketing refers to brands motivating their audience to take an immediate desired action upon request.

For example,  “click here” or  “Buy Now” buttons incite an urgent response on the part of the audience.

There is a significant level of excitement about ephemeral marketing, and companies are tapping into it to engage with customers.

Which trend are you looking to follow? Which won’t live up to its hype? Tell me below.

Young African women should start investing through equity crowdfunding

In 2015, investments in African startups grew by over 100 percent. Approximately half a billion dollars was invested, notably through large funding rounds for technology companies like Jumia, Konga and Takealot.  Konga raised a $3.5 million seed round in 2015. The startup reportedly grew its 2014 revenue 450% from 2013. In 2014, Konga finalized a $40 million Series C round at a $200 million valuation.

While there’s no doubt that African startups are growing tremendously, we are also at risk of leaving an important sector of the society behind.  Amid this impressive growth in technology startups, equity investments in companies founded or run by women are infinitesimal.

Imagine if you, yes you, lady, had invested in Konga in 2012 after founder Sim Shagaya accepted his first seed round, your portfolio would have done better than the Nigerian, Kenya and South African Stock exchange combined.

Impressive statistics right? Well, here are some not so great ones:

  • 90 percent of women will have sole responsibility for their finances within their lifetime, yet 79 percent have not planned for this.
  • 3 out of 4 elderly living in poverty are women (80 percent were not poor when their husbands were alive).
  • 50 percent of marriages end in divorce (and women usually end up with the kids).
  • After divorce, a woman’s standard of living drops an average of 73 percent.
  •  As of the year 2000, women are expected to live an average of 7 to 10 years longer than men.
  •  Only 29 percent of women know where to invest in today’s market.

Of the world’s 1,826 known billionaires, only 197 are women. Studies show that the majority of women believe they don’t have the money, background or risk appetite to make angel investments. However new technologies and inventions have pushed the frontier for people from various financial abilities and backgrounds independent of gender.

Building an investment portfolios can help a woman take control of her financial growth and security and avoid dependency.  Taking control in a world where the markets don’t care whether you are male or female can really build self esteem.

The richest women in the world hold their wealth in equity holdings in companies (whether inherited, worked for, or acquired- worryingly only 29 of the word’s 197 female billionaires are self made, the rest are inherited from husbands or fathers). Christy Walton, inherited a stake in retailer Wal-Mart, and retains the title of world’s richest woman.  In China, investments are the second highest source of income for its wealthiest women. Our African sisters are not left out. Folurnsho Alakija’s $6.44 billion net worth comes from a 60 percent stake in one of Nigeria’s most prolific oil blocs.

The controversial Dos Santos’ portfolio includes a 25 percent stake in UNITEL, 7 percent in Portugal’s Galp Energia, 19 percent in Banco BIC, an initial $200M investment in Efacec power co, and a controlling stake in Portuguese Telco Nos SGPS, to name but a few.

Self-made women billionaires have even more intriguing stories. Doris Fisher cofounded gap with a raise of $63,000 to open their first store, today the company is worth $16 billion, of which Fisher remains a large shareholder.

With technology disrupting the hotel and transport industries with Uber and Airbnb , it is now also playing a disruptive role in the finance sector. No longer do you need millions to be an angel investor. The emergence of the equity crowdfunding sector now allows businesses sell shares to users for as little as $10! Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 6.11.12 PM

The idea of raising finance from a group of people is not new, however the Internet has made it easier by reducing transaction costs and increasing the pool of financiers. With Africa’s rising GDP, our continent’s hosting of six of the world’s fastest growing economies, and our immense population- we have an environment that can play host to start ups with the potential to be the world’s next blue chips.

Equity crowdfunding is like donation crowdfunding, except as opposed to just donating money, you get the opportunity to buy shares in early growth businesses. European and North American equity crowdfunding platforms have raised over a billion dollars for local startups in the last few years and created millions of jobs in the process.

Equity crowdfunding is poised to do the same for Africa with the launch of Malaik. Malaik is Africa’s first impacted focused crowdfunding platform. Malaik gives  investors access to the continent’s opportunities, and mediates its risk with a four step due diligence process. The combination is a fresh application of technology that can unlock massive potential in the world’s most promising markets.

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Malaik’s unique lead investor format allows the crowd to piggy back on deals by notable investors who act as leads, conducting their own due diligence and investing their own money, opening large scale investments previously reserved for experienced investors to the crowd. Malaik makes it possible for everyone to diversify their investment portfolios.

So now, with the click of a button, women can take control of their financial futures.

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Sign up today and invest in your future and perhaps your portfolio will be highlighted on The Forbes List one day.

 

 

How one company defied the odds and is grossing almost $1 billion in revenue… in Nigeria 

[Editors Note: This post was originally published on Medium and is republished here with the permission of the author.]

Nigeria in 1988 — Not a premier investment destination

In 1988, Nigeria was not a premier investment destination. Life expectancy for the country’s 91 million people was 46 years; gross domestic product (GDP) was about $23 billion; GDP per capita was about $256; 78% of people lived on less than $2 per day; about 37% of people had access to sanitation while roughly 58% had access to improved water source; Nigeria had experienced six coups in its short 28 years of existence as a republic. It was also under military rule so technically and literally anything could happen.

Then in 1993 Nigerians woke up to the news that General Sani Abacha, one of the most corrupt and brutal dictators Nigeria would ever know, had become the military Head of State. If you were an investor, Nigeria was just not the place to go.

Yet, executives at Tolaram Group paid little to no attention to those statistics. Tolaram began importing instant noodles into Nigeria in 1988. Since then the company has vertically integrated in-country and grown their Indomie Noodle® instant noodle sales to a staggering $700 million a year. A packet of noodles cost about 18 cents.

They sell more than 4.5 billion packets of noodles per year. In 1988, Nigeria did not have an instant noodle market. How was Tolaram able to set up and sustain operations in one of the most difficult countries to do business? After assessing Tolaram’s strategy, I cannot help but highlight the following attributes and impacts of their business — business model targeting non-consumption, interdependence, patient capital, and job creation and tax revenue.

Business Model Targeting Non-consumption

Tolaram entered Nigeria with a mission to target non-consumption. The company’s vision is to “bring affordability and quality to the lower socio-economic segments” in the country. In order to execute that vision, Tolaram developed a business model that allowed it sell its product profitably for as little as ten cents (due to inflation and currency depreciation, Indomie instant noodles now sell for 18 cents).

Tolaram developed the necessary distribution infrastructure and relationships to get its product to as many Nigerians in virtually every corner of the country as possible. To target non-consumption in a country without the necessary infrastructure — roads, reliable electricity and water supply, etc. — Tolaram had to integrate across multiple components in its value chain.It had to build an interdependent architecture.

Most innovative companies, especially in emerging markets, have to build interdependent architectures because most of the components they need are usually not available.

Interdependence

Whenever a product* or the delivery of that product is not good enough**, the company providing the product has to create an interdependent system. In other words, the company has to integrate across multiple components in the value chain. It does this so that it can manage the interfaces across the different components in the system. Consider Tolaram.

The poor state of infrastructure in Nigeria necessitated Tolaram to integrate multiple components in its value chain. The company has had to provide its own electricity; manage a fleet of more than 2,000 trucks for its logistics; and build a palm oil factory (palm oil is one of the products needed to make instant noodles).

Creating an interdependent system can be expensive, especially when compared to a modular system. In modular systems, there are other players (either the government or private enterprises) that provide the necessary components to build or deliver a product.

For example, if Tolaram were set up in the United States, the company could leverage electricity, water supply, and logistics from existing companies or government entities. This would greatly reduce its cost of doing business.

Interdependence, while typically more expensive, is not all bad. The fact that Tolaram has had to develop these components has enabled it offer those products to other companies in Nigeria.

Tolaram now has 17 manufacturing plants in Nigeria (including noodles, flour, palm oil, seasoning, etc.); a packaging company; and a logistics company. Building an interdependent system enables companies to offer products to other companies once they satisfy their demand.

Stay tuned for part 2 to learn about how Tolaram used patient capital to build their company.


* product here refers to product or service

** not good enough here refers to products that don’t yet meet the performance standards of most customers

Dziffa Ametam: Tools and tips for building an e-commerce site

From Amazon to Alibaba to Jumia, ecommerce has taken the global retail market by storm. Data suggests the trend is here to stay. With internet penetration improving across Africa, we expect ecommerce industry to expand.

Dziffa Ametam of Dziffa is on a mission to create an online marketplace for authentic handmade African goods. For any one who had spent time on the continent Africa, this is no easy feat. Internet speed and pricing are two of several hurdles ecommerce business have to surmount.

In this piece, Ametam shares tips that have helped her build her business, and pitfalls to avoid.

Can you give us some insight to some of the important tools you started out with?

1.  Stick To Your Principle

At Dziffa, our principle was simple: sell authentic handmade African goods that add value to our local economy and expand the global reach of our local artisans. We started by combing Ghana for artisans who made high quality goods from locally sourced raw materials.

We partnered with them, providing professional photography, branding, and marketing services free of charge. As they had nothing to lose, they agreed to the partnership, and that helped stock the site with products that are aligned to our principle of creating a store with authentic African goods.

2.  Focus on the Supply Chain

Most ecommerce sites fail because they are unable to meet demand. It was very important for us to maintain consistency by fulfilling all orders. This sounds very basic but it is actually the hardest part of our job. We work with artisans from various regions and each has his or her own challenges with getting the products to us on time.

I moved to Ghana to ensure that all orders, no matter how small, would be fulfilled. Fulfilment is crucial to turning curious customers to loyal customers. Someone could buy a bookmark out of curiosity, but if she received it on time and is satisfied with it, she just might become a loyal customer. Plus, her friends will know about her new discovery.

Pitfalls to avoid

Getting heavily involved with manufacturing. Because we work hand in hand with artisans, we are always tempted to get involved with the manufacturing process.

This was a big distraction in the very early days of Dziffa. We would get consumed with the manufacturing process that we didn’t have time to focus on our core responsibility, which is selling.

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What are some tools you started without that you soon realized were necessary?

Social Media, Blogs, and Magazines.

Stories matter and we underestimated the power of storytelling in the very early stages of Dziffa. We communicate to our audience through our weekly blog post and bring them along with us on our journey. We reach out to magazines to share our discoveries. We also leverage social media to brand and sell beyond our immediate market,Ghana.

What is your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs trying to get into the e-commerce space?

1. Do your research

I cannot stress this enough. As an entrepreneur, every mistake you make is costly. Do your research or speak to someone who has been down a similar path. Make sure you thoroughly research the market you are going into and fully understand the opportunities and challenges.

2.  Embrace the struggle

Entrepreneurship is not easy. You will be faced with a lot of challenges. Embrace the struggle; they teach you a lot about yourself and your potential. Remain persistent and always remember why you chose this path.

You can learn more about Dziffa? You can find out more on her website and social media pages – Facebook and Instagram.  Want to learn more about ecommerce or running an ecommerce business? Comment below and let us know.

 

Building networking relationships that last

I don’t remember ever feeling comfortable in networking situations and when I had to introduce myself to a group of strangers. 

But the thing is, these nerve-wracking conversations could lead to critical personal and professional opportunities. Think about it! You are probably where you are in your career or as an enlightened person due to communal effort. The contribution of those around us in our individual advancement cannot be downplayed.

Your network is your net worth…

And we’re always one or two persons away from getting what we need. All we have to do is reach out to people we know. Mildred Apenyo, an entrepreneur and the founder of FitcliqueAfrica, was able to secure space for her women’s only gym through her network, for example. One of the trainers she worked with connected her to a family that owns a hotel and they agreed to let her turn one of their conference rooms into a fitness space. This saved her a lot of time and the resources that would have gone into searching for a usable space throughout her city.

Whatever you do, don’t network just for the sake of it. Most of us are consumed with attending all the events out there and collecting as many business cards possible. Post ‘networking’ binge, we always find ourselves stuck in a rut, wondering if it was all even worth it. The key is to be deliberate about the events you attend. Show up ready to mingle. Once you get the contact information you need, don’t let it sit there gathering dust. Take action. Remember that networking is a process that requires on to be proactive.

What keeps us from taking action?

The fear of rejection

There’s always a chance that our attempts at fostering relationships will be rejected. It’s only natural for us to avoid instances where rejection is a possibility. The thing about life however, is that nothing is certain, so you might as well try. The worst that could happen is that they’ll say ‘no.’ But remember, with every ‘no’ you are one step closer to a YES!

Being stuck in our comfort zones

Networking takes time, effort, energy and resources – things that a lot of us unfortunately see as ‘doing too much.’ “They have my contact information, if they are interested they will reach out,” we say. “Why should I follow up with an email or a call?” we wonder. We think that just attending the event and putting in face time is enough. It is not, unfortunately. You have to nurture the relationships. Make initial contact, follow up with in-person meetings and grow from there.

Getting things done

As Martha C. White outlines in TIME, it’s increasingly becoming clear that for networking to work, we have to shift from the ‘What’s in it for me?’ mindset. It is imperative to understand that there is a mutual exchange in this process. Networking is not just about accumulating a list of contacts that you can reach out to when the need arises. It is more about building real relationships that involve active participation of give and take between both parties.

Depending on your situation, you need to first identify the people you would like to connect with. It could be someone you want to learn from professionally or an investor who you think might be interested in your business concept. Once the individual has been identified, the first step you take in approaching them could either seal the deal or break it. You might be tempted to bombard them with information about yourself or your potential business, but it is not about you. Remember?

Your first introduction should be about connecting with that person. Show them that you are genuinely interested in what they do and what they have to say. Create an atmosphere that compels them to talk about themselves. Ask thoughtful questions and actively listen to their responses. This will build a good rapport that will seamlessly lead to a conversation about you.

You have connected, what’s next?

At this point, there’s only one thing left. Follow up. Follow up. Follow up! The sooner you hit the ground running, the better. Business etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore asserts relationships take time to be built. In order for you to build a strong professional network, mastering the art of the follow up is necessary.

A quick email post the event will do. It doesn’t have to be long but it should contain the fundamentals. Begin by thanking the person for their time. If you had a very nice conversation about a particular topic, this could be the starting point to setting up the next meeting. Apart from that, it is also important to keep in mind a few details about the conversation you had. What were the other parties’ needs and how can you be involved in meeting those. Always seek out ways you can help your new contact without expecting anything in return. The level of trust will build over time if you do this.