What new entrepreneurs in Kenya should know

Increasing the number of youth and women entrepreneurs in Kenya is seen as a low-hanging fruit in generating economic growth. The truth is that those pushing for this have not made it easy for them to find their footing.

I’m sure you must have done some deep introspection when you came across your first major challenge as a small business owner. The challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in Kenya are aplenty.

On one hand, you have issues that bedevil every other business owner and manager in the country. You have to handle intense competition that comes with market cannibalization. You must overcome financial concerns, on your own. Good luck getting long term finance relationships.

You also have overhead costs that fluctuate widely. There is also insecurity, which limits how much business you can do. On top of these, there are gender-specific issues that women entrepreneurs in Kenya struggle with.

All these, and more, lead to the high mortality rate of new businesses in Kenya. Close to 50% of new small businesses in Kenya don’t live to see the second year. That is like flipping a coin.

What determines small business success?

One factor believed to influence success or failure heavily is experience. Women and the youth in Kenya are encouraged to gain insight on how to run a business by ascending to an administrative post in the corporate world or working for a small business.

This also comes in the form of having an entrepreneurial background, as we looked a while ago on understanding entrepreneurship culture in Kenya.

But what if you’re not fortunate enough to have these? How do you close the gap?

It is repeatedly found that success in business has less to do with your personal characteristics. You’re not successful because you’re “hardworking.” This is a point of note for youth and women in Kenya who are not confident in making the jump to apply their skills in entrepreneurship. We believe in you.

It is also something to note for those who insist that entrepreneurs are born. In fact they are made. This is explained as the Fundamental Attribution Error.  Basically, “when judging others, we tend to overestimate the influence of personal factors and underestimate the influence of situational ones”.

Knowledge can substitute experience

If you have never been a parent, you will have to get on with it when a child comes (babies are brought by white storks). The same will happen if a first-time entrepreneur opens a business.

The importance of experience comes in qualities such as making big decisions, perseverance and such. But you must be knowledgeable to handle operational issues.

This is why entrepreneurs in Kenya are encouraged to train or learn on areas they have shortcomings.  Areas of weaknesses that keep cropping up with regards to business owners in this country are marketing, pricing, financial management and growth management.

Entrepreneur themselves say funding is the biggest problem and the Government made attempts to ameliorate that by coming up with public sources of funding. They will soon be consolidated into a big bank, by the way.

I don’t think they gave enough importance to find out about access to the money or results for those who were funded. What is now appreciated, more, is that training and other business development services would be far more useful to entrepreneurs.

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If you are a new entrepreneur in Kenya, this tells you to focus on improving your competencies. This means going out of your way to seek knowledge – not trial by error. Your business is far too important for that, don’t you think?

And you are in the right place right now. A study in the UK found that entrepreneurial learning/training out of a school setting has a greater effect on how your mindset changes and how your business performs. As a new entrepreneur, you should not be intimidated by the challenge in front of you.