Njuki Moments

Saturday, November 13, 2010

entrepreneurial suicide

I committed suicide!
....and with this piece,akin a visit to the confessional;Forgive me Father,for I have sinned.....I intend to recite all my Hail Mary's and atone for my sins, and I  honestly do hope I am forgiven.

When we set out to be creators,to start and build business or even to earn money out of our passions and hobbies,we sign a contract for eternity.More like 'Till death do us part.'

At first,its just us and us only.Not many people will believe you at the start anyway.Later,we get a following.People link their dreams with ours.We have employees. We have followers. We have the economy. We have the Revenue Authority. We have the charities, and we have our families either all looking on and waving us on by the sidelines or actually participating in our dream.
Some taking actually.

When God said 'Go ye forth and multiply and conquer the earth...be fruitful...', he was referring to our entrepreneurial ability....and all of us have it in a way.
 Its  therefore unacceptable.Totally and and ubeliavably unacceptable to trade this privilege and talent and dream  for a JOB. There. I have described the rope for my entrepreneurial hanging.

God knows I turned down a  number of them.One after another.Some,'permanent and pensionable..'some 'three year contact with a real possibility or renewal..'I was not interested.
I also suspect my choices are responsible for the extra wrinkles on  my old man's face. Shame of a son!
It's therefore unfathomable that I turn round and take one of them jobs,six years since I said 'NO' to those who came first.(Sorry jobs!) They have reason to sulk.

....and WHY?
Because I lost my first business?
First businesses are like first-bornes.You don't quite know what you are doing but you are utterly convinced you will  bring them  up well. More like prodding in the dark but finding the mark. You should therefore see the anger and disappointment when you declare you business ended.The employees who believed in you and gave their time or even stayed when things were tough and probably missed better opportunities will never forgive you when  you do that to them.  Its their dream too.

For my case,the irony was that after a flawless start.Thank God.I attracted more investors and partners.I never quite figured that more financing and  more men on the job would actually bring about the downfall...and so we sunk. Just like all tragic situations,we live through anger then denial then more surprise then  blame then ...sadly resignation. The entrepreneur should never wallow in self pity.He should always take responsibility(and I do)for his and others' actions. After all you were there before everyone else and you quite know the dream is only half lived.

With the failing of a business comes more work.More like mopping up after a terrible storm .Employees to look in the eye  and apologize or even pay up  the last  salary.Taxes to pay...Yes..still! Suppliers to pay and clients to manage.Contracts to renegotiate,and don't forget bills and loans to sort out They will never understand why you chose  to self destruct just like that. It's betrayal.
Then the storm settles and you find yourself broke,or to  put it more appropriately bankrupt.

For many entrepreneurs. This comes with deep soul searching.Unfortunately for many,me inclusive, we choose the easy way out.We choose to piggy-ride on someone else's  seemingly successful idea, otherwise known as getting a job. Tough times  don't end when you choose to get employed.They start. Because an employer/entrepreneurs' mindset  is totally the opposite of an employee's.As an entrepreneur/business owner you are used to getting things done your way most times.You dream the dreams.You are the boss.Nothing is impossible.We move mountains.
In your new found employment,you are assigned a desk and sometimes a computer.You start by learning the hierarchy and abiding by the rules.No matter which of your skills got you employed, you are never the same.You do what you are told, and  you go home. You don't bring your before-this-life lugezigezi and Mr fix-it attitude to your new employment.After all.Why dint you fix those which sunk  you!!

Nothing murders creativity like restriction.True,you may excel at your job because the world celebrates achievement and that's what you learn when you enter the real world. But the guilt just never goes away.
So,for months I toiled for my new employer while feeling the guilt of having abandoned my dreams and betrayed those who had put their whole faith in me. If you choose to keep on  this new employment,you are doomed!  You will always regret what what you dint do,and what yo would have achieved had you tried again. If you choose to start afresh while still at your area of refugee,you are doomed still,because these two mentalities are as far apart as the North and South Pole.;and I hear the have no intention to ever  meet and greet.
Some people have managed to balance the two.I salute  them. I tried and  failed. If your dream is to rule the world,be a billionaire,save the world,change the world.Then get on with it.Stop hiding behind other people. You come all out and expose your remaining weaknesses.You move on with all you got(sometimes you are really battered.But that is the point).You dig up new strengths and like a never-tiring pilgrim, you journey on.

So,after several months of doing my best,at a time when 'we' (employee and employer) agree that we are moving somewhere,I threw in the towel.Just to give my dreams one more shot.

I sincerely believe ,that the amorphous and undefinable world of  fellow journey men welcomed back,just like the Biblical prodigal  son. And  I chose to be the other  guy who shall ,with all  my might put my talents to use,like the master expects,and with my hand  on the Holy Book,I pledged my all.
So Help me God.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

the bar-code experience

My second calling was as a Social worker, and my duty was to fight poverty, (not mine though) with all I had.  I diligently fought this fight for two and a half years….and you could say I lost the battle! This is because I chose to fight on, not for others like before, but for me. Kind of selfish, if you ask me! It’s at that point in my life that I plunged into the deep sea of business.
My first calling had led me to the Seminary, and into the business of saving souls. In this business, you expect a hefty payment, but not what we earthly souls are used to. The payment will come later, and not here, but I in heaven. I was progressing well...but I left before the deal was sealed. If I had stayed on and ran the race to the end, I would have made my vows, probably of poverty, certainly of humility and chastity.
I would like to refer to my accidental plunge into business, or farming as the other calling. My first product on the market was the yellow-yolk egg, from free range chickens. I had moved quite a lot from door to door, supermarket to shop, and even sold some to my former place of employment.
My experience was pilling high, because either out of superstition or just a bit of psychology, I would never make calls on new clients on Monday. People are so moody and grumpy and don’t easily welcome anything that will take money away from them, even if it will repay if resold.  You could interprete this to mean that I was getting quite an enviable number of rude rejections! I knew my product was rare, then, and it was more expensive (aren’t all rare things expensive?), than the average grey or while yolk egg, but quite noteworthy, not many   had ever sold a local chicken egg on a Supermarket shelf (not in Uganda anyway),or maybe  I just didn’t know!
During these ages, eggs would be sold on paper trays of 30.Quite an open affair. One lucky Saturday, I manage to convince a supermarket manager to stock my eggs. Their first order was impressive, and maybe because I consider Saturdays my lucky days, my stock run off the shelf in two days, hence the second order. Between the call to order and the second delivery, the Supermarket manager had noticed an interesting happening. One client went to the eggs section, picked a few of ‘my’ eggs and mixed with the others and declared all as the ‘others’,i.e the grey yolk-cheaper type.
This prompted the manger to ask me to repackage differently, or else the business relationship was over. Even before a week!!
Within three weeks I had found an alternative, the plastic six egg pack. It was more expensive, but held the eggs nicely against breakage and, well, they looked different….and then the Bar code came in.
I didn’t know what the word meant then, simply because in my previous vocations, we didn’t use bar codes. You don’t code souls!!  My search led me to people who dint know a thing, just like me, to considered computer whiz’s who knew everything about codes but dint know what it had to do with eggs….to useless advice and questions.
By the time I found the Bar-codes, paid in dollars (for someone looking for his second sale),and added a nice green label to my pack,I was in business, so to speak.
I had never quite dreamed of the line where farming and technology meet. Now, when someone talks about technology, I will occupy the front seat. Not because I intent to understand everything, but hey, a little of something is better tat a lot of nothing,…and you never quite know, we may someday pick our manure from the moon.

Copyright: Emmanuel Njuki 2010

Njuki moments: new bar requirements

Njuki moments: new bar requirements

challenges of a young entrepreneur

In this blessed country of ours, not many people set out to create something of their own, especially if they have had the advantage of going to school. For most young people, bigger dreams are made and sometimes hope to be realized in multinational companies where we dream to take over with time as top management.

Therefore if you ever found yourself on the other side of trying to be an entrepreneur, you shall get a cocktail of feelings and comments, most of them not necessarily encouraging. A lot of people find it hard to understand why a young man or woman who has had the advantage of a university education should choose to be ‘lazy’ and instead of looking for a good job, settles for a small business. In effect, they are implying you need to have your head checked.
It will be harder therefore if they are the same people you have gone to for business. On top of doubting your ambition, not many people trust people who don’t fit their picture. Say, we are both 28 years of age, life demands that we should be at the same level, so if you claim to be the Executive Director of some non- heard- of -business, while the other is in the proper big business structure, one of you must have a problem, and most probably, it is the self proclaimed entrepreneur.

The outstanding challenge therefore is to get the benefit of trust form age mates and older people alike. It is not in our culture to do small business if you can find a job.

Other than being the only one who shares your ’vision’ of business and better times ahead, it will be made harder by the process of raising funds.
Every business has a funny way of needing more money than you budgeted for in the beginning. Therefore sooner or later you shall find yourself in need of more cash to keep afloat.
Yet the average young entrepreneur has no machinery, no plants, no land and a lot of times, no car…and yet the above is exactly what is needed as security, or for positive appraisal even before a friend will trust you with their money.
Ever tried moving a flat- tyred trailer up hill? It can be harder for a young person in business for themselves to raise finances.

A lot of business thrives on credit, form either suppliers or clients. This is not the easiest to do when you are young and have decided to fly on your own. Young people in our society don’t get trusted that much especially if they have a particular sparkle in their eye. To them, you could either be a very bright young man, or a very bright con-man (not necessarily in that order though). I mean, what do you have to show?

The picture changes though as time passes and success finds you. More people now believe you and some even foretell your future success.

In all this, the hardest part is sticking to your belief that you are doing the right thing, despite negative circumstances and opinions.
My biggest challenge so far, when I chose to set out on my own (as a farmer, of all businesses) was to convince myself that I was on the right track. On a given Monday when every one has either gone to work or to school and the neighborhood is as quiet as a graveyard, and you are the only one still at home because you have no work that day, you pinch yourself to determine if you are actually doing the right thing not to move with the rest of the world.

All said and done, I have never found better freedom, than setting out on my own in business (or is it   farming! I am a farmer, you know)
When you stick you what you see, with your eyes closed, the rest of the world follows. There is respect for having stuck on, and more now comes much easier that at the start and as time goes by, you have more time and peace of mind.

Still as time goes by, you get some employees too and then you can designate yourself as the ‘official brain’ of  the company, and get paid for just thinking while the rest do what you did earlier to make you rich.
And who wouldn’t want to be there?

Copyright:  Emmanuel  Njuki 2008
                  Published in ZETA Business Magazine October 2008.

Friday, November 5, 2010

new bar requirements

 A brotha feels  thirsty and goes to the nearest help point, like Doctors advise.
Recently though,the list of  people- you- need- to-be -friends- with has drastically changed.At the last count,Bouncers and Security guards at Bars were on top of the list.
These guys will make you do whatever they  fancy,including scrutinising our sacred wallets,and they may ask why you carry around a near-empty wallet....and it gets more interesting with the gals...

How do you,for example, explain why you carry around  a 14' TV,laptop,printer and groceries in a bag which is supposed to be just an over-nite bag while you enter a bar? Those stylish bags ladies carry these days have those contents my dear.
So they will ask a 'sista' to step aside for special attention,and pour out all contents to be scanned!!! Of course some items will make noise!! But they are not bombs!! It is here that the said who -you- know status comes in handy.If you smile nice,or you know the bouncer or even pretend well to know him,you can pass.

News just coming in is that New Bar security measures now require one to sign in and provide info like this:
Full names....
Mobile  number..
Home number...
Photocopy of ID.
Time in..and Time out.( like I know!)
Reason for visiting...(Thirst).
 Now,all your spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend can do is visit your favourite hang-out a week later  and reconclie the time you left  with the time you got home.

I wonder if Al-Shabab planned for this torture ripple effect on even those who missed or rather were missed by the bombs. Dont say I didn't warn you. Move with your passport. Just like at  the border

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Memory loss!

Till now, I am still trying to recollect my thoughts. That alone should tell you how
good some sessions of the conference were. Savanna Coffee lounge: forgot to tell you that the conference was held in Gigiri, the leafy neighborhood of Nairobi, at
The UN centre. So we were delegates there, you know.

So with the expected state of the art UN conference facilities and the greenery mentioned before, we managed to find a Members only bar and that is where some ‘sessions’ took place! But that is the other side of the conference! Before that, we arrived in Nairobi and up to Sandton Palace hotel, we went (I am speaking for myself) you must have noticed.

The conference started on Thursday, but before that we had missed a promised cocktail, which was not there any way, I was told later, and we had sang and danced at the Karaoke competition on Wednesday night. That was good stuff.

As I said, the conference started on Thursday and half the audience was half asleep. I was alert enough to notice that it was opened by the Kenyan Vice President, Kalonzo Mushoka, and then tea, and then lunch, and then the Savanna afore mentioned.

Back to the Conference, my highlights:
The DG nominee is someone whose progress I have been following, at least in entrepreneurial circles, a great man, with inspiration every time he speaks,       Rtn, now DGN Eric Kimani (you remember that speech  about personal branding?)
But this is already Saturday, with the Rotaract Conference having been officially closed the previous day, when the announcement was made. (I wrote my disclaimer earlier).So…..eeer, before that, MalcomTwino is confirmed as DRR nominee, and we had gotten a brilliant presentation from Rtn Kimbowa about Social entrepreneurship, and the END Polio campaign from DRR Lawi.

Haven’t I said enough?

The night life: You know Nairobi!!

Way forward: Addis 28th April-1stMay 2010. Your ticket by Ethiopian
Airlines will be 50% discounted.
Friends, that was my conference. Well organized and attended mostly by Ugandans as usual.

Copyright: Emmanuel  Njuki
Article first appeared in the ‘City Wheel’.
A monthly publication of the Rotaract Club of Kampala City;
May 2009.