“The short answer to the question in the headline is, yes – with ambition, a great idea, hard work and passion, you can indeed be an entrepreneur. Being young is an added bonus,” says Andrew Maren, founder and CEO of Fintech firm ProfitShare Partners.
“What I will tell you, though,” Maren continues, “is that there is no shortcut to success – and no success without sacrifice.”
As the founder of the highly successful ProfitShare Partners, Maren urges young women and men, who have a dream and an idea that they think could solve societal or consumer issues, to start by setting up a business plan.
Says Maren: “It doesn’t have to be the business plan you take to a bank for a loan. Just write out what it is you want to create, and start asking yourself questions. How do I get from ‘Right Now’ to actually having a business or a product? Jot down the steps you believe you need to take, and how each step should take you closer to ‘The Dream’.
Maren’s own dream – is to use Fintech to give access to finance to small businesses that would otherwise not be able to get the capital they needed. Visit the ProfitShare Partners website to find out more.
Believing that entrepreneurs and emerging businesses are the drivers of almost any economy, Maren saw an obvious gap between what traditional financial institutions offer in the way of loans and capital and what ProfitShare Partners could offer.
“That was in 2017,” he says. “PSP has since given hundreds of SMEs the ability to partner on big deals by delivering a business finance solution that assisted them and helped their businesses to grow.”
Why PSP’s success matters to you
Any entrepreneur you talk to will tell you that using other entrepreneurial endeavours as a yardstick for your own growth and success is key. Many will also suggest that, as a young woman or man, you look out for successful people you can ask to mentor you while you work on your business plan and get your company started.
“Read as much as you can about how successful businesses started,” says Maren. “Go to functions where people in your intended industry may be found and ask questions. Sometimes the answers will make you tear up your business plan and start again. This is the mark of a real disruptive innovator – someone who can adapt, change, and redo the work over and over until they get it right.”
Why your age is a boon, not a burden
Being young sometimes means people don’t always take you seriously, Maren asserts. “You have to get over the age thing. Don’t make it an excuse and don’t let what others believe about age dampen your enthusiasm. Many a young person gives in because they buy into nonsense about being too young to be successful.”
Siphesihle Kwetana, originally born in Cofimvaba, Eastern Cape, “fell into” starting her own business in agriculture. After failing matric, she knew she couldn’t just sit at home doing nothing and opened a small restaurant where she cooked for patrons. In noticing a lack of vegetables available at local supermarkets, the entrepreneur in her kicked in and she started the Siphe Development and Capacitation Agency in 2014, which she co-owns with her husband.
After much hard work and a solid idea of what was needed, the Agency began to supply local supermarkets with vegetables. Today, she has over 20 employees; owns two farms in Mthatha and grows crops for large grocery stores in four towns – and Siphesihle still has bigger plans.
Another admirable entrepreneur, Siya Xuza, is one of the youngest innovators in South Africa. His story began when he was just five years old, watching a Cessna plane fly over his town to drop off ANC flyers for the then ‘94 election. That began his fascination with science and technology, and today Siya’s accomplishments have led to a number of awards and accolades – and a minor planet discovered in 2000 being named after him.
If you have “entrepreneur” written on your heart, nothing will stop you. Proof of this is Nomfundo Mcoyi, who lost everything to her first husband following their divorce in 2009. In a time of great need and desolation, Icebolethu Funeral Group was born. Nomfundo left teaching to focus on her ideas, and her KwaZulu-Natal-based business now employs over 300 people.
There are so many young entrepreneurs in South Africa, who see opportunity where others see closed doors. Google “successful young entrepreneurs” – and read their stories. “With each story you read,” says Maren, “say to yourself, ‘If he/she can, I can too’.”
Not all fun and games
In brief, Maren suggests a short list of what you should remember as you head out on your journey as an entrepreneur.
- When you need capital, look for the best deal you can get from a fintech or bank
- Persistence often outshines talent. Keep your dream in mind and work towards its success every spare moment you have
- If you love what you do, your passion will shine through and clients/customers notice.
- Avoid negative people who say “You can’t” – maybe they can’t and you can
- Many people fail when they get their first big break, make a lot of money – and spend it all on cars and clothing. Put the money back into your business or in a growth fund – you’ll need cash for lean months
- Never stop learning – from people, business news sites, books and other entrepreneurs. A day in which you learn nothing is a day wasted
“As PSP grows, we are able to assist more entrepreneurs to reach their dreams. There is nothing more exciting for us than to see South Africa’s youth seeking out opportunities for their own companies,” says Maren.
“Remember, not everyone is cut out for University and many can’t afford it. But if you are young, ambitious and have great ideas, entrepreneurship could give you the future you never thought you’d have. Believe in yourself – because if you have an entrepreneur’s spirit, ProfitShare Partners already believes in you!”