In celebration of Youth Month 2016, some very successful young entrepreneurs share how they’ve made it to the big time… in record time.
Stick to what you know
Sibusiso ‘Skinny Sbu’ Ngwenya (Skinny Sbu Socks)
“Even though Skinny Sbu socks are all unique creations, they aren’t produced by us in-house. We only focus on design as a company, and have the actual sock production outsourced. Skinny Sbu Socks are made from high-quality materials and need to be perfect, so we leave the production to a company that really knows what it’s doing when it comes to manufacturing. Design is our area of speciality, not production.
The lesson: As management guru Peter Drucker succinctly puts it: “Do what you do best, outsource the rest.” Diversification is risky for any business, but it can be disastrous for a start-up. For a young business like Skinny Sbu Socks to try and take on the expensive and complex task of manufacturing would be folly.
Related: Sibusiso Ngwenya of Skinny Sbu socks started a company with no money
Great founders often come in pairs
Garth Barnes and Fabian Sing (Tigerfight)
“I have a background in numbers, which gave our start-up a massive advantage,” says Garth Barnes, who studied accounting at the University of Johannesburg. “Fabian is the person who is the real creative force behind Tigerfight. He has amazing musical talent and technical expertise. Meanwhile, I crunch the numbers and manage our money properly. It’s important to have a partner with a different skillset who can balance you out and bring skills to the table that you lack.”
The lesson: There are very few people who possess all the attributes needed to be a successful entrepreneur. Because of this, great founders often come in pairs. Think about Larry Page and Sergey Brin from Google, or even Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak who founded Apple together. In order to be successful, you need to be honest about your own shortcomings. Know your own limitations and find a partner who can bring those lacking skills to the table.
Related: How Garth Barnes and Tigerfight learned to embrace criticism
Know your own worth
“As the saying goes: Investors back the jockey, not the horse. This means that you need to be someone that an investor can have confidence in, which comes down to knowing your own worth. After appearing on the Big Break television show, I launched a speaking career at the age of 20. I set my fee at R20 000. I believe that if you want something from the world, you have to actually ask for it.”
The lesson: As a young entrepreneur, you will sometimes be quizzed and condescended to. People will doubt that you have the knowledge and experience needed to make your business a success. This has happened to every successful young entrepreneur, even people like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs. The important thing is not to let self-doubt creep in. Believe in yourself. Sure, you’ll sometimes doubt yourself – there’s nothing strange about that, it’s part of the entrepreneurial journey. But don’t devalue yourself. You’re the person who’s going to make your business a success.
Business should be fun
Brent Lindeque (Chaos Theory)
“I started my brand activation, events and marketing business, Chaos Theory, about six years ago. I started out from my garage – the typical start-up story. Along the way, I’ve worked with wonderful people – both as clients and as employees. You’ll be happier if you work with people you truly like and enjoy spending time with. Adding value, both when it comes to clients and employees, should always be more than a simple business transaction. Ultimately, money shouldn’t be everything. You should also be happy with who you are and enjoy what you do.”
The lesson: Passion is a term that gets thrown around a lot, but it really is important. Long-term success most often depends on you really enjoying (and believing in) what you do. Money is important, of course. If you’re business isn’t profitable, it won’t be around for very long. However, building a business is time-consuming, so you might as well enjoy what you do. Otherwise, it’s no different from working at a job you don’t like.
Related: How Brent Lindeque of Chaos Theory became ‘the good news guy’
Trust in other people
Ezlyn Barends (DreamGirls)
“It is important to let other people in your business take the lead at times. I’m involved in a lot of initiatives, so it’s impossible for me to make every important decision personally. Generally speaking, entrepreneurs have a need for control. Do want to have a hand on everything. If you’re start-up is going to survive, though, you need to cede control to others in your organisation. You need to hire the right people and empower them to get things done.”
Lesson: Entrepreneurs struggle to let go of control – that’s why they become entrepreneurs in the first place. But a start-up can only evolve and grow if it takes on employees and expands. This means not micromanaging every little thing. The key is to let go and trust your employees.
Related: Ezlyn Barends Of DreamGirls On Igniting Passion
Learn how to network
“I often speak to students in poor areas and I’m always surprised by the fact that they know nothing about the concept of networking. Not knowing how to network places you at a terrible disadvantage when it comes to building a business. If you want something in life, you need to attract it. I’ve always made it a priority to get close to people I admire and asked them to mentor me.”
Lesson: Success can often be as much about who you know as what you know. As an entrepreneur, your job is to get other people as excited about your business as you are. This means networking. Never let an opportunity to ‘pitch’ your company go by.