Courtesy: Ross Simmonds website –

We are at a time where entrepreneurship is overly glamourized and there seems to be an unrelenting fascination associated with it. It is made to seem cool and majestically celebrated. Grandiose titles are canvas painted as social media high-fives you.

However, the core of the iceberg involves long hours, financial losses, lack of sleep, disrespectful and condescending prospective clients and a multitude of operational pivoting to keep the ship afloat.

Entrepreneurship is hard and a long journey. There are no instant victories and there are more failures than there are successes.

Statistics in the West, show for every one success story there are nine failures. For every Facebook, Twitter, Uber and Google, there is an abundance of start-ups that did not take-off.

A Silicon Valley research shows engineers are financially better off seeking employment after graduation than engaging in a start-up with the hope of a buy-out or an IPO.

We, however, only speak of the success stories and they are rightly motivating but everyone wants to be successful but very few want to put in the work. We all know people who are rich in ideas but limited in execution yet quick to lay claim on others’ ideas when it takes off.

Or worse, we all know those who criticise others’ failed attempts from the comfort of their never-ending ideas development couch.

The graveyard is the richest place on earth as many will die without attempting to execute their ideas for fear of failure or fear of the process. Yet our economy desperately needs entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurship is far from easy. The risks and sacrifices scare many. Entrepreneurship is a marathon but I believe the failure rate is less in Kenya and sub-Saharan Africa relative to the higher income economies.

We undoubtedly need more entrepreneurs in Kenya. Jobs are scarce and the high level of underemployment means we are severely underutilising our capacity to bridge the huge economic potential between our status as a low-middle income nation and our vision to be an industrialised middle-income economy.

The economic potential in Kenya is widely acknowledged but it needs to be efficiently harnessed to create value, to create employment opportunities and be the backbone for an industrialised Kenya.

Contrary to popular belief, you need education in entrepreneurship to reduce your learning gap, minimise your risks and efficiently grow your business.

You need to learn from mistakes and invest in researching the opportunity to near exhaustive detail to appreciate the success factors of the enterprise.

Furthermore, businesses fail not because they do not have clients but rather they run short of cash; as such a distinct understanding between revenue and cash and the actual receipt of the cash is crucial to start-ups surviving the initial climb.

We all have examples of government tenders worth millions yet the payment is collected 18 months later when debts have accumulated and the value of the thin margin is in vain.
Entrepreneurs are risk managers. We identify opportunities, we analyse them, we identify and mitigate the risks, source the funds and plunge in if our values are content and the opportunity makes business sense.

As an entrepreneur, you are both the CEO and the janitor so be ready to embrace the grind rather than be obsessed with the title and the perceived outcome.

There are many entrepreneurship success stories, but the unspoken failed ones were the catalyst for the successful ones.

Successful entrepreneurs learn from their mistakes, they persevere, they surround themselves with knowledge and they embrace the process and not the shine.

By: Adan Ali is a senior partner, House of Major Ltd, a branding and market research company based in Nairobi, also published on Business Daily Africa.

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