After working for someone else for eight years, I do believe that the way forward for me is being my own boss, or at least working in a family business where my boss is someone I share the same bloodline with.

I do find the challenge of a start-up exciting, especially when it’s something you love to do. But it’s not easy, especially if you’re not blessed with buckets of money. Balancing the love of what you do and trying to make money from it can be a challenge. More so when you have to go to banks who only want to look at your financial statements to ensure you’re worth investing in.

I know the bottom line is the bottom line in your business, but understanding the vision and people behind a brand is just as important. I get excited when I talk about the work that I do and the opportunities for growth. But most of the financial institutions I was talking to weren’t interested in hearing about that. After awhile I thought, hold up, I might need the capital injection right now, but equally I need a bank or financial institution that believes in what we’re doing and wants to be there supporting our growth.

Too often SMEs, that is small and medium enterprises, are treated as unimportant, because their annual turnover is less than (by the standards of the banks I saw) $500,000. Though in a market where the majority of people live on less than $1 a day, I don’t think a turnover of $500,000 a year is not too bad. Plus there are so many examples of companies that were SMEs and are now the biggest companies in the world – pretty much all the biggest companies in the world!

The challenge of resource mobilisation can put a dampner on your mood and the mood of your staff in the office – if they ever get wind of what you’re going through. And that low feeling can suck the soul out of you. Yet your soul is exactly what you need to keep pushing forward.

Entrepreneurs can help stimulate the economy, not only because they are willing to take risks and innovate in markets that might not be stable, but they can also create jobs and new technologies to develop markets. This is something that the west is more comfortable pushing, but in Africa, where we didn’t even have the bulk of the economic recession, we’re still of the mindset that entrepreneurs are too risky to invest in.

In a market with limited job opportunities and a defunct welfare system and virtually no pension plan, what is there for the mass market to do if not to create their own employment? And if that employment can create more employment and stimulate the economy, the government should be investing in that. And the smart, creative and risk-taking banks should also be driving that opportunity.

It’s funny that even now, when there is more competition among banks, with European, American, Zambian, South African, and Nigerian banks in the market, they still act like there is nothing to compete for – like they are the only players in the market. I’m big on loyalty, so if I find a bank that is good to me now when I’m in need, I’ll be loyal and stay true to them. But that requires working with a bank that is like-minded, and preferably one that can make decisions locally. It doesn’t help me if your bank makes its decisions from the UK, where they only care about businesses with an annual turnover of $1 million.

So I’m trying to stop getting frustrated with the banks, but rather re-think my strategy, I’m not looking for a bank who can help me, I’m looking for a bank who I can work with to grow my company, and therefore their business too.

I may ‘only’ be an SME today, but as Chris Bridges said, here’s a binoculars and look out for me!

Peace and love

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