Seize the Opportunity!

Published on 29th August 2006

Choosing the kind of business that will work for you entails considering a number of important factors. To ensure that the business is viable, you need to identify a product or service with a market that you can develop. In other words, you not only need to be selling something that people want, but also make them see the need for what they may not want. Being competitive with your business also calls for deliberate effort to acquire skills that add value to your product. The business should also suit your personality; otherwise you will soon lose enthusiasm for the venture.  

Make an inventory of your own skills and knowledge. Are you good at writing? Why not consider contributing for a magazine? Are you good at crafts? Why not make a range of creative furnishings? Do you have facts that most people don’t know? Why not set up a consultancy? Are you well connected? Why not set up networking services? I know of someone who knows many heads of learning institutions. He has specialized in introducing students who want to secure chances in these institutions to the heads at a fee.

If you are employed, think about what part of your job you could perform as a business. Successful businesses are frequently started by people with practical experience in the type of work that the business is in, but who find that they want more independence in their working lives. Your hobby could be turned into a business. A love of gardening could be turned into a horticultural or even home landscaping business, for example. A talent for cooking could lend itself to a catering service.

Another aspect you should consider is your personality. Does your personality or physique suggest any business ideas? If you have persistence, charm and the gift of the gab, you might be a good salesman. If you are good at dealing with people, you might be just the person to take up a retail franchise. Purpose precedes design. The fact that you are the way you are means you can fulfill your purpose in life using the status quo.

Many aspiring entrepreneurs lament that they do not have space. You need not fall before you start walking. If you have a home that you could work from, this could be a valuable resource in starting a business. You could set aside space to carry out your business. I have seen many private schools that begun in living rooms. In Hurlingham-Nairobi, on the outskirts of Nairobi, many Ethiopians are using their homes as eateries and exhibition stores for Ethiopian outfits. Many people go to those places to eat and purchase Ethiopian products. Many offices overseas are located in homes. As communications technology develops, there are more and more opportunities for people to do office work at home using a computer and modem, such as word processing, book-keeping, freelance writing, research or translation. I know of a 19 year-old who decided to make use of her bedroom as an art workshop. She also figured out how her parents’ computer could generate income and guess what? She’s churning out scores of cards for sale. The trick is to discover how your available resource can generate income.

People often ask: Where will I get the market? A good place to start is in your local neighbourhood. What goods or services are needed locally? Think of the problems and difficulties that you have experienced in getting things for your home, or at work, or in your leisure activities. What problems cause you most inconvenience or cost you most to correct? What service is not available when you most need it? What products are difficult or impossible to obtain locally? What do you, your neighbours and friends most frequently complain about? Is there any way of providing a local service or product for any of these markets, at a fee?

When I was in the National Youth Service, it was mandatory that we have our uniforms ironed daily. Some people, who were used to maids doing this work for them at home, had a terrible time. There was severe punishment for creased uniform. I saw a business opportunity in this and started ironing services at a fee. Do people move around market areas with no bags to carry what they buy? Why not supply bags? Do people have to walk long distances in places where vehicles can’t access? Why not set up a bicycle or motorcycle transport? Do a majority of people in your estate work- and have trouble minding their toddlers? Why not operate baby care services? Does your market center and bus stop lack adequate toilet facilities? Why not set up loos for pay?

Be alert and seize available opportunities. When roads and buildings are being constructed, the manpower will definitely require food. Set up a mobile canteen to serve them. New legislation is often a rich field for business opportunities. Every new piece of legislation generates opportunities in terms of administration and compliance. There may be a need to supply parts to adapt an existing product or process to meet new safety or health regulations. When the seatbelt legislation was introduced in Kenya, there was scarcity of the product. Most of them had to be imported from abroad. Why? The entrepreneurs were slow in seizing the opportunity. Currently, 14 seater vehicles are being faced out to decongest the city. Is somebody smelling an opportunity? Elections are around the corner. Designers- are you bracing up to print and sell T-Shirts and posters?

Discover your strength and sniff opportunities. Stop wallowing in a morass of self pity. East Africa is gradually opening up national boundaries. Africa is slowly moving to a one market Africa. Shun the village mentality and embrace a whole world of opportunities at your disposal. See you next week for more tips.

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