Common mistakes Kenyan entrepreneurs make: Lessons from successful entrepreneurs

In Summary

•Most new business owners think things will fall in place quickly and they will start making money almost immediately after they set up a business.

•It usually takes longer and costs more than we always expect.

Most new business owners think things will fall in place quickly and they will start making money almost immediately after they set up a business.
Most new business owners think things will fall in place quickly and they will start making money almost immediately after they set up a business.
Image: SHUTTERSTOCK

Your entrepreneurship boat is about to leave the docks, and you are bubbling with excitement. Revolutionary business idea - check, necessary funding - check, enthusiasm - check, customers - they can’t wait!

 You are ready to launch that business and catch up with Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and all the other astute entrepreneurs in your role model list. Not to burst your little entrepreneurship bubble, but a look at recent research shows that most SMEs in Kenya collapse before their 5th year. The business launch and growth journey is filled with challenges.

 To help you make the right choices and steer from common mistakes, we asked our community of successful entrepreneurs at WomenWork Network to share their opinions on some of the mistakes new business owners make and how to avoid them.

 Here are the common mistakes new business owners make when trying to get their businesses off the ground.

 “Underestimating the full cost of entrepreneurship. Most new business owners think things will fall in place quickly and they will start making money almost immediately after they set up a business. It usually takes longer and costs more than we always expect. So, if you can hang on to that job a bit longer, as your startup goes through the initial teething issues and find its ground, please do,” Mercy Mireri, Financial Consultant and Business Owner

 “Mismatched partnership motivations can be hard to manage. Getting into a partnership with someone who didn't have the same work ethic was highly disappointing!” Wanjiru Thuo, Baker

 “Proper stock management is important. Just because you are in love with your product doesn't mean it will fly off the shelf. Manage inventory with a sober mind and keep an eye on the market and trends or the inventory will drown you,” Wanjiru Wairuri of Swank Kulture

 “Ignoring business and market trends can be detrimental to a business. I started a business after doing market research, but then I based it on an old-fashioned business model. I was so deep in love with my baby that it took a few years, loss of money, and missed opportunities to realise my mistake,” Angela Uwamahoro Kamanzi, Founder of Top Achievers Network and Publisher of Mkazi Magazine.

 “For start-ups, I would advise one not to invest too much on an elaborate business plan. I had a great business idea, came up with an amazing business plan with impressive financial projections. Let's just say things didn't work out as expected and I almost went into depression. A lean canvas makes more sense for new businesses. Additionally, I know the excitement with new ideas can blind us and we become overconfident, it's always good to keep in mind things may not work as expected and always be ready to change your business model the sooner you realise that. Above all prayers and faith in God, is what kept me going when things were really tough,” Lilian Nyaranga, Founder of Elimu Shop.

 “Many new entrepreneurs are tempted to run multiple business ideas and implement them all at the same time. This is a recipe for disaster. The burnout, the stress, and the disappointment can be overwhelming! Pick one business that you are good at, according to your skills, passion and concentrate on that. Then once you have built it and it is in a good place, you can start looking at growth or diversification,” Florence Giluih Kitui, Virtual Assistant and Content Creator

 “Believe in what you are offering and don't apologize for what you charge!  Pricing for a new entrepreneur can be tricky. You are caught between attracting prospective clients with competitive rates and matching the market rates. Avoid the temptation to undercharge, ”  Wangari Kieni, Director, Global Protocol Solutions Ltd. 

 “Be patient and consistent. Business does not make you a millionaire overnight. You have to consistently put in work and wait for fruits. Do not put all your money in business expecting it to feed you from the word go especially if it's a loan. You will eat your business to the ground all the time. If you have say 1m, put 500k to business and 500k as your buffer. That way, you plough back your earnings into the business and give it time to grow,” Evelyne Wambugu

Managing Director The Toy Palace

 “They say timing is everything, we were too early in the market. Lack of other businesses in a niche sometimes means the market is not yet ready & being the first in a market is a competitive disadvantage, not an advantage,” - Susan Karanja, Growth Hacker and founder at Tellardi Solutions

 “Many new entrepreneurs fall in love with their ideas and forget that timing and product viability are critical for success. Do not just build a product and hope consumers will come. Don't ever create anything that the market has not asked for. Do your research first,”  MaryG Waithaka, Digital Business Strategist

 With this in mind, you now have an idea of what challenges to expect and how to go about them. Keep it here as we bring you more localised and practical insights to grow your business or career.  Join our community of professionals and access opportunities, networking, and training for a competitive edge as a business owner or career professional.