On the evening of Friday the 13th of September, 2019, the stage was set for one of the most prestigious ceremonies in the SME world in the country—the Founder of the Year Awards. The venue, Nairobi Cinema, was adorned with red carpets and a bevy of beautiful ladies who welcomed guests with graceful smiles. Doors opened for guests at 5 PM, and soothing music set the mood as they streamed in dressed in black and gold outfits, the prescribed dress code for FOYA Awards 2019. From all indications it was clear that this was going to be a big night.
Founder’s Friday, a video production of Versatile Photographers featuring some of the most successful start-ups in the country alternated with the music on the big screen to entertain guests. The inspiring stories evoked silence, awe and sometimes cheers hither and thither in the youthful crowd. At exactly 8PM the ceremony began. Guests were given an opportunity to take selfies with each other so as to share the memory of the big night, even tweet about it in real-time. #FOYA2019, #FOYAAWARDS and #TheResilient were already trending at the time, and the atmosphere in the auditorium was simply electric.
FOYA Awards were introduced in 2016 by the Founders Magazine, a Kenyan publication that focuses on stories of starting, running and growing a business in Kenya today. The awards are meant to encourage, recognize and honour extraordinary young entrepreneurs who play a pivotal role in building our nation and creating employment through entrepreneurship. There’s no better way of appreciating people who are courageous enough to venture into business. In a world where new media and smartphones have distracted our young people, excelling in business is a monumental milestone that deserves to be encouraged and applauded. This acts as a challenge to others, creating a spirit of competition and inspiring courage to found businesses that create jobs and contribute to the economy of our country.
At FOYA Awards 2019, these words were echoed. Young people were urged to leave their comfort zones, become more resourceful. In order to succeed, the youth must be willing to try and to fail in the process, because there’s only one way to succeed: continue even after you fail. Humility is of the essence here, and as remarked by one panellist, “You cannot have a big ego and become a successful entrepreneur. You will need to lower yourself.” You must be willing to start small. No venture grows overnight. Success is a daily process that is fuelled by determination. To build a personal brand requires both time and bagfuls of resilience. The C.E.O of The Founder, Mr. Innocent Moranga, narrated how challenging it was to found his company. “We had a difficult time doing and building but we kept at it.” And resilience kept him afloat.
Most people will say they cannot start a business because they do not have the capital. But, as emphasized at FOYA Awards 2019 by Rev. Welly Odendo, lead pastor at Life Pool Chapel, money is not an excuse. “Good entrepreneurs turn things into money.” As you build your brand, package it in a unique manner. This uniqueness will help you successfully stand-out in an already competitive market. All you have to do, according to Mrs. Sylvia Mulinge, CCO of Safaricom PLC, is to “practice your pitch and be ready to seize the opportunity once it comes.”
There’s no doubt that entrepreneurship is a voyage. At FOYA Awards 2019, I narrated my own journey. How I began small, without a camera or money. My first photography clients were house-helps. This humble beginning propelled me into the successful entrepreneur I am today. Passion did not play any role because I personally disliked photographers, especially because of how they dressed. But I saw a need and I developed an interest. I came up with a sustainable business. Nevertheless, I had to go through the process. You have to be open to learn so as to sustain your idea. Starting your business isn’t enough, keeping the fire burning is the most important part. This requires sacrifice and resilience. It also requires lots of creativity because you need ideas to grow. And as I said, “You were created by a creator, you are a creative, so do not say that you don’t have ideas.” You must also be ambitious, be hungry enough to go out and do what you do, give it your best and look forward to the next job. This way, you will always give your clients value for their money and keep your brand alive in the process.
Promoting your brand
Today, we are lucky to be at the disposal of technology. In addition to all the attributes of success, we must embrace the emerging trends to take our brands to the next level. These new technologies can help us advance. For instance, we can use social media to promote our businesses. As Safaricom CCO Mrs. Sylvia Mulinge observed at FOYA Awards 2019, social media has given everyone a voice. “If you believe in your business, use your social pages to sell your idea. Do it in a creative way that attracts people’s attention.” If you do this with consistency, your efforts will pick up over time, and be rest assured; one day you will be a renowned brand.
Success is possible
The future of business in this country is in the hands of entrepreneurs. Those who have so far excelled were awarded at the colourful FOYA Awards 2019. These winners are not only a challenge to young people but a demonstration that despite the challenges that bedevil us, it is possible to succeed in entrepreneurship. And to those who lack the courage or ideas to begin a business, I leave you with these very inspiring words mentioned at the FOYA Awards 2019: “If you want to be a billionaire, find a human need and solve it for a billion people.”
PHOTOS BY: Versatile photographers